Feb 19, 2017

Rogue RA-100D Acoustic Guitar Review


          At under $100, the Rogue RA-100D is a step up from the lowest tier offerings of this very affordable brand, and one of the cheapest playable entries into the acoustic guitar market.

          Initially I was put off by it's plastic smell and feel, but after giving it a setup, some care, and a few months, it's grown on me.  It would be too generous to compare it to ageing like a fine wine , but could be likened to a cheap wine which, after a few months, matured into something you wouldn't mind having around the campfire with some friends (to stretch the analogy a bit).


Pics, mods, and full review after the break:



          I purchased the Rogue RA100D from Musicians Friend a few months back, after GAS'ing for any sort of acoustic guitar to sing along with.  The Rogue RA-100D looked a step higher than Rogue's $50-$60 offerings, and with a combination of a sale and some rewards points, didn't cost over $70 even with several extra sets of strings.  


Initial unboxing thoughts ran something like this:

"Hey it actually is a full size, and looks like an acoustic guitar should"

"Mmm, the box held in that Chinese factory smell"

"Very shiny.  Stratocasters should be shiny, acoustic guitars should not" (super subjective and mostly irrelevant opinion)

"It's kind of in some sort of tune, I think"

"Is that grease in the fretboard?"

"Sounds cheap as hell, hope it's just the strings"

Shiny finish, for better or worse

Close up of grease-smeared fretboard
Scratches show up worse in shiny.  Semi gloss is gooder. (more opinions)
Back is shiny too.  Yay polyurethane.

          So, obviously not the best first impression ever.  But not an unfair one, or one that I was really unhappy with either.  Given the low cost, it was pretty much on par with expectations (minus the fretboard grease - that wasn't necessary!)  So, after strumming around on it and abhorring the clanging cheap strings, it was time to break out the files and Scotch Brite pads for the usual tune-up.



First order of business was to give the neck a satin finish, as a matter of personal preference.  Gloss I can deal with on most of the body, but a smudgy, sticky neck just won't do for playing.

After a bit with the Scotch Brite
A green Scotch Brite pad is a cheap, easy, and reliable way to bring down the gloss.  Wet it and run it up and down the neck until it loses that sheen.  Micro scratches will show badly at first, but as the neck is hit more evenly, they will become much less noticeable.


After getting the neck generally smooth and silky, you can take a lighter "grit" of some sort to minimize the scratches and make it a warm satin.  I used a kitchen sponge with very little bite to it and compensated with a bit of elbow grease.  It essentially mellows out any visible scratches and makes for a more professional appearance.

Ta-da - smooth and comfortable!
Initial action

Next order of business - lowering the action for more comfortable playing and better intonation.  Right out of the box, it was playable and not bad (maybe even good by acoustic standards), but I'm an electric player at heart and I like the action low.


Unfortunately, acoustics aren't as easy to adjust and it's somewhat more permanent.  To lower the action, remove the plastic / bone saddle from the bridge and file down a bit from the bottom.  Careful not to go too low - if you end up with fret buzz, you might end up buying a new saddle.

Afterwards
Not a huge difference was needed, but it was a nice improvement, especially towards the higher frets.


The frets were okay stock, but again could unsurprisingly benefit from a bit of improvement.  A simple fret leveling and minor recrowning afterwards did away with most of the fret buzz remaining.


If you haven't done a fret leveling before, it's as taking a (very) flat file and sliding it back and forth evenly over the tops of the frets.  Don't push down, but let gravity give it just enough force to grind away the high spots.


After leveling, I rounded the tops (recrowned) and gave it a minimal polishing before cleaning and oiling the fretboard.  Some people might argue that it's not even worth putting in all this effort into such a cheap guitar, but I don't have a lot of money and could use the practice anyway.


A set of new strings and it's looking good to go.  The biggest difference in sound honestly came from just swapping out the cheap factory strings.  However, the other mods added up to a substantially more comfortable and faster playing guitar, at least in my opinion.


What's more, after a few months of playing around, it's grown on me quite a bit.  Could be change of tastes, could be that the wood has actually changed/settled a bit over time, but it feels nicer and sounds richer than I ever would have expected at first.  It's still far from a top-of-the-line instrument, but I'm happy with it and with just a bit of work is an eminently playable guitar at a fraction of the price of most competitors.

1 comment :

  1. Great write up, I am thinking of picking one of these up, looking at the black model. Great idea for taking off the shine on the neck. I've heard about doing that but never really considered it until now. Thanks for sharing.

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