Price paid: $ 145
Purchased from: eBay
Features: The Douglas Spad Pro took me a long time to locate. I had read about this model in a forum and tried to locate one to purchase. I don't know if Rondo Music is just out of stock or this model has been discontinued, but I eventually located one in mint condition in a natural finish on eBay. On the Rondo Music site these go for $209 if they ever come in stock again, but I got mine for $145 on eBay. I will have to take the seller's word for the fact that this guitar came just as he received it from Rondo Music and he has not attempted to do a set up and hasn't really even played it. It is a very attractive guitar, though I would have preferred the natural finish to be a little darker. The reverse headstock was what made me decide on this model over others I know, not a good feature to make a decision on, but I wanted it.
The Spad Pro has 24 Jumbo frets, a set in mahogany neck, a mahogany body, bound rosewood fretboard, Wilkinson tuners, reverse headstock and EMG Select humbuckers with coil-tapping via 5 way pickup selector. The Rondo Music page describes the Spad Pro as weighing 8 lbs., but I think it is inaccurate. I haven't actually weighed the Spad Pro, but I would bet it is a pound or two lighter than 8 pounds. It is a lot lighter than my Xaviere XV-599. The Spad Pro has one volume and one tone knob. The Bridge is "offset string-thru body". This guitar has sustain in spades. I can't find an "official" measurement of the radius but the neck radius looks and feels like a 12" radius.
The back of the neck has the same type of lacquer or whatever it is, which feels kind of bind-y to me, and was unpleasant. I took some very fine grain sandpaper and just went over it smoothly and lightly several times and it ended up feeling a lot better (though it makes the back of the neck look like crap), and it ended up feeling almost like a "satin" type finish. I'm afraid I may have to go back over it again at some point in the future until I eventually will get down to the mahogany of the neck. I'd read that someone else who had one of these completely stripped the finish off the back of the neck, but it looked horrible and I'm not sure it is a better alternative than what I did by just lightly sanding it. The glossy, bind-y lacquer on the neck is the biggest negative I have to talk about and it will impact the rating in "Action, Fit and Finish". // 7
Sound: The pickups in this thing are passive EMG Select humbuckers with coil-tapping, and they are okay. I personally do not like EMG's passive pickups, and I do plan to replace them if I keep this guitar. Don't get me wrong, this is a nice guitar especially for the price but I ended up being disgruntled about having to sand the neck and not being happy with the pickups just adds to it. If I do keep this guitar I will probably replace the pickups with some GFS Crunchy Rails just to try them out. I haven't run across a GFS pickup that I don't like yet. The Spad Pro absolutely has an un-paralleled amount of sustain, and that is its greatest strength. With some good pickups in here it is going to be a great guitar for hard rock and metal.
I've maybe kind of ranted about the EMG Select humbuckers too much. They aren't horrible, and they are actually nice for the pickups of most guitars in this price range. I tested the Spad Pro through a Blackheart Little Giant, a Vox Pathfinder 15R and through my Line 6 TonePort UX2 using the Gearbox software. I've used it with and without an EHX Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi, Ibanez DE7 ToneLok, and a Vox Tonelab ST. The sound is pretty good and suitable for just about any style from light pop to heavy metal. Probably need a better pedal to get good extreme metal tones than what I use. Or else hotter and better pickups. // 6
Action, Fit & Finish: As shipped, I have to assume I received this in relatively the same shape I would have received it directly from Rondo Music. The action was low with no buzz and ready for shredding. I was actually really impressed with the action, as usually when I buy a "budget" guitar the action is so low it buzzes or it has to be lowered a great deal. The intonation was kind of off and I spent a while replacing the strings and setting the intonation to my liking. The strings on it were beginning to show corrosion, but I think this is because the seller on eBay bought this guitar and then just set it aside and it just sat and the strings aged. Again, the neck needing to be sanded to give it a good feel was pretty extreme to me. Maybe this is something about my personal preference and maybe some people like a glossy finish on the back of their guitar necks, but I am absolutely not a fan of it. Unfortunately, this is an actual design flaw of the guitar and they will all come like this. I guess it isn't horrible, but again it wasn't to my liking. After some light sanding, however, the neck feels really nice, but the lacquer looks cloudy and bad on the back of the neck. Luckily I don't care what the back of the neck looks like as long as it feels right. I was surprised as the fret wire seemed really smooth on the edges, which isn't my usual experience with budget guitars. Really, for a budget guitar only requiring the intonation to be set and some light sanding on the back of the neck, that is pretty good. // 7
Reliability & Durability: I've had the Douglas Spad Pro for less than a month but we are talking about a mahogany neck, mahogany body and simple controls with passive electronics. This guitar will last. I would trust this for a gig, but I would wait until I put some pickups in it that I'm happier with. The finish looks tough and I know from my sanding experiment on the back of the neck that the lacquer is pretty thick and tough. The strap buttons seem adequate. Not much to say here as have only had this about a month, but it is built out of mahogany and I think it will last. // 7
Overall Impression: In the realm of comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, I wouldn't compare this to a Schecter or even a lower end Ibanez RG, but I will compare it to my Xaviere XV-599 which is almost exactly the same price new. To put it simply, the Xaviere's pickups sound MUCH better (Crunchy PATs), but the Spad Pro has better sustain and the coil-tapping is really nice. I can't decide which neck I like better, but as shipped the Xaviere was better. Since sanding the Douglas Spad Pro I have a hard time deciding. The Spad Pro is lighter and feels better when playing it while standing up. The weight difference makes a huge difference in comfort, and the Spad Pro comes out a clear winner here.
If I keep this guitar, I will absolutely put some new pickups in it something from GFS, haven't decided for sure yet. While I do like this guitar, I am not necessarily a "shred guitarist" but someone more into that genre would appreciate this guitar more than me due to the awesome combination of the super low action and the 24 jumbo frets. When I am rating for Overall Impression I am taking into account the price vs. quality and I'm not comparing this to a Gibson Les Paul or a $1000 plus guitar. It isn't a fair comparison. I am rating this guitar based on its own merit, the quality and the price. As it is for the price it sells for, the Douglas Spad Pro absolutely deserves a high rating. // 8
- Brandon East (c) 2011