Other Guitars

Rondo’s Douglas WNO-series hollow-bodies are back!

1
They don't really look like gretsches, but I assure you they're as good or better than electromatics, they're cheaper and great for modding. http://www.rondomusic.com/product1242.html
2
Same model in cherry-burst, also comes in a lefty: http://www.rondomusic.com/product1243.html these 'bursts would actually look gretschier, because the black stripes on the binding (on the soundboard) aren't visible like they are on orange ones.
3
And this here thingy (Kurt of Rondo confirmed that it's fully hollow-body, not semi) looks like a poor man's Casino: http://www.rondomusic.com/product724.html Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ... GAS.
4
I am not affiliated, just a very happy customer (2 instruments of experience, plus countless reviews I've read). As to the fake bigsby above, I have the same thing on my solid-body guitar - it works just fine (as you would expect a pressure-bar model bigsby to work). I have a b-stock orange WNO-630 and I couldn't be happier. Rondo is notorious for low-res pics, but the WNO family guitars have pretty figuring on sides and back. My orange one has the top with grain of acoustic-grade spruce. They look much better in person.
5
These guitars are made by Saein in China (WNO is their "in house" line). See The WNO Lineup Here >> The fit & finish is usually decent, but I've seem some really sloppy finish work from them, especially when scraping the bindings -- electronics and hardware are poor. The Electromatic line is much better as QC is well-addressed by FMIC. ***Years ago, while still in Korea, Saein was the principle mfg for Epiphone (they made a vast majority of Epi LP's for 5-6 years and the quality was very good). Now, since the move to China, their quality is "average to low", and they no longer do any work for Gibson/Epiphone. That tells me something... Like someone once surely said, "what do you expect for $200"? Yup.
7
Their solid bodies are a little better, no doubt. Still, they have the same hardware & electronic issues. The fretwork is "average to low", the rosewood boards are so bad they need tons of dye - and I'm talking dye that keeps on giving after they leave China - and the nuts are just plain bad (rarely slotted correctly & plastic). PLUS, most of their Teles are not string-thru (IMO, an integral part of the Tele sound) and feature basswood, etc. IMO, it's tough to get the snap of a tele without being a string-thru build, ash, alder, etc. My buddy is a large importer & he worked with Saein for years -- that's why I know about the inside issues. He gave me a few of their Teles, but everything had to be stripped down to the "core" and replaced. Could of done the same with Allparts, etc. The necks all needed work, had to replace the nuts, and ALL hardware & electronics had to go... One was so "off", it had to be plek'd. But for $130, it can be a place start your mod skills and try your hand at fret levels & dressing, hardware & electronic replacement, etc. For app. $450 and your time, you'll have a decent player. You could go with Fralins, Lollars, Rio's -- PLUS Kluson Hardware -- with a quality, USA pre-made wiring harness with pots, etc. For me, it needs to be a string thru and NOT basswood. Those "issues" are hard to overcome if you're looking for a traditional Tele. If not, for $130, I agree: Give it a try. YMMV
9
truthtellerspook: Interesting to hear about your experience with the SX series. They are interesting models. Seems we share some opinions - others, not so much. With respect to the Teles, what are your thoughts about construction -- basswood, not a string-thru, etc?
11
Although a little off the beat, I bought a Brice AS-1 semi-hollow bass from Kurt at Rondo and have been extraordinarily pleased with the fit and finish. The bass is unbalanced so I can't stand around without a hand on it due to the strap placement. However, I put flatwounds on it and it sounds like a Hofner - super fat, thick, rich and chocalately tones. It was well worth the $350 I payed and I look great playing it (when I'm not playing ole 5129er)!!! JB
12
Gretschman, I hear what you're saying, but... 1. Electronics and hardware issues are non-issues for people who mod these anyway. Just like people mod Electromatics - they need it, especially pickups. 2. The people who recently reviewed Douglas WNO-630 as well as Brownsville WNO-630 (older cousin, a discontinued "brand") have reported consistent quality across the board (except pickups and wiring, which are not "bad", but just wrong for the guitar, it's a throw-away placeholder, a typical stock pickup). 3. Kurt at Rondo has a generous return policy, he'll even eat shipping or give a generous discount in case of something being wrong (this is great for DIYers). No loss. No risk. So really, one can have a $250 mod base (after shipping) or a $600 mod base. Some people will embrace the Douglas due to their particular budgets (like me). Others will prefer to have a "real" Gretsch and I can dig that too - it has a truer look/shape and "vibe". Although, I'll admit, I heard they're not even made of wood (electromatics), so that had me suspicious. There's a forum at AgileGuitarForum.com, where you can ask questions about all of Rondo brands. Rondo also offers Douglas "beatle" basses (like the aforementioned Brice) and those too get consistently good reviews. I have a "cousin" of that too, a Brownsville, a great value. A better value than the "cheap" Hofners. Btw, the fact that the Brice and Douglas (and Brownsville, and Rogue) "beatle" basses have neck-dive is because they have heavy larger tuners (unlike Hofners), that's nothing to do with quality per-se.
13
The virtues of Agile/Douglas/SX models from Rondo are many. I swear by my Agile all-mahog LP and maple-over-mahog P90 doublecut from 2004 or so. I would consider their inherent quality of materials and build to be equal to solidbody Electromatics (or Epis, for that matter). I like them as well as Gibsons, for my purposes. And Kurt does provide exemplary customer service. Haven't played SX or Douglas, but I'm confident that Kurt hasn't repealed the laws of economics, so - good as some might be at their price points - there ARE reasons for their low cost. I know both tts and Gman36 as consummate players who know tone and its application, and their views are pretty consistent: tts allows as how you MIGHT get a good-to-go SX/Douglas right out of the box but ought to be prepared to either do your own basic finish and tech work (mods/upgrades possibly optional) or have it done, while Gman says the "perfect" SX/Douglas would be the exception rather than the rule. Surely they have different perspectives coming from their current places in their musical journeys, and that's reflected in their comments, but both those guys' recorded work speaks for their credibility. The take-away is that Douglas and SX models are worth a look and not to be dismissed out of hand on account of price. But I'm not sure comparison to Electromatics can be much closer than apples to oranges. Even if the quality and consistency of the Douglas hollowbodies were equal/superior to the Electromatics (evidence is mixed), there's a fundamental difference in the design and marketing of the guitars. Electromatics are based on (though not identical to) traditional and current Gretsch designs of proven merit, and (with the exception of the not-particularly-Gretschy dumbuckers) sport Gretsch-unique pickups. The shapes of bodies and headstocks, the appointments, the hardware are all identifiably Gretsch. The Rondo products, as far as I can tell, don't try to knock off Gretsch designs. The 630 is orange – always a nod toward Brooklyn in electric archtops – but every other detail of the spec is more Gibson than Gretsch. (It's a handsome guitar, I think.) The 650...I'm sorry, but that's ugly to me! It doesn't much suggest Casino, despite its dimensions...and by the time you put some kind of P90-likes in it (I suppose GFS Dream 90 humbucker-shape would be the natural choice), you'd have as much in it as in a used MIK Casino, which WOULD be a Casino. My point is not that they're bad guitars – they appear great value for the money, and a good modding platform – but that they might not be the best place to start on a Gretschalike project. If your intention is to get to Gretsch territory, you're much closer starting with an Electromatic, with proven and pretty consistent quality control and a more thorough complement of Gretsch features and details. Too, there's a difference in purpose between a line of frank copies of other brands, and a line of original guitars bearing its original brand name. It's not a coincidence that the Rondo guitar which has gotten the most positive press – the JTM-62 – is also a design unique to Rondo and not a direct clone of any other product. I went the mod-your-way-to-a-Gretschalike route when I first explored the Gretsch world, and ended up with something over 600.00 in a very nice Artcore, GFS pups, and labor. I still have the guitar – I like the guitar – but for the same money I could have had a deal on a 5125-5129 or a pickup-modded 5120. There's no doubt you pay something for the brand name on a Gretsch, but there's real value in design, spec, and components along as well. Also, the headstocks aren't ugly! (I don't think I'll buy another Agile as long as it wears the current asymmetrical waving flag design.) Oh. GearJunky him say: Although, I'll admit, I heard they're not even made of wood (electromatics), so that had me suspicious. That's an old canard there. As far as I know, all Electromatics at least since 2003-04 have been all-wood construction. Some bolt-neck Jet-shaped guitars from the early 2000s, bearing both the Electromatic and Synchromatic names, may have been some composite mystery material – but I haven't heard or seen evidence of anything but wood since then.
14
While I agree with you there as far as the Rondo stuff goes, the company (WMO/Saein/Shine Guitars) that actually makes Douglas/ Rondo guitars do rip off Gretsch thumbnail inlays directly on their Orleans Series...That to me is a bit more than just a nod... http://www.saein.co.kr/2007/archtops/sno686.php
Proteus said: The Rondo products, as far as I can tell, don't try to knock off Gretsch designs. The 630 is orange – always a nod toward Brooklyn in electric archtops – but every other detail of the spec is more Gibson than Gretsch.
EDIT FWIW: I'm not knocking Rondo at all here; just trying to point out that with some of the overseas mfrs. copies etc. can be a slippery slope. Those Teles that truthteller showed look really tempting (potential mod wise) for the price (especially with the three barrel bridge).
15
Nice take on things, Proteus. All good points and thoughts... As stated, the Korean Saien products were very good. Like most Korean-based shops, it's no longer profitable to be in the MI business = China. Like most products made overseas, once the country of origin prospers & the dollar/exchange rates start to shift AWAY from the dollar, US-based companies look for the "next country" to set up shop. Recent guitar mfg examples: Japan was first, then Korea, now China with Thailand, India and a few others in the mix. Given the above, I'm amazed how much guitar you can get from FMIC with the 512X series and the corvette. They've done a great job. The other brand that does a very good job is World (Korean-based makers of the PRS SE Series and the Breedlove imports). Both brands are REALLY nice and require no real mod to be a nice player.
16
bobbyrivera said: While I agree with you there as far as the Rondo stuff goes, the company (WMO/Saein/Shine Guitars) that actually makes Douglas/ Rondo guitars do rip off Gretsch thumbnail inlays directly on their Orleans Series...That to me is a bit more than just a nod... http://www.saein.co.kr/2007/archtops/sno686.php
Saein takes their design cues from Gibson, Gretsch, etc on their hollows. After all the years making soild and hollows for Gibson/Epiphone, Saein has that "look down" and they "borrow" traditional appointments. Their solids are clearly Teles, Strats and now, PRS (they call it the PS Line). The PS headstock is CLOSE to a PRS, too. Wait'til Paul sees them babies...
17
for a 110 bucks some of those tele's look awful tempting as a project. http://www.rondomusic.com/stl50vwh.html
18
General body shapes, pickup configurations and finish are something that really aren't "TM-able" at this point. What budget guitar mfr. doesn't take their cues from the other major mfrs? Most companies (USA as well as Asian) take their cues from the original innovators. The electric guitar after all, isn't really that old of an instrument and really hasn't changed too much (from the basics) over the past 60 years. The designs of Fender and Gibson have really stood the test of time and are the archetypal guitars of their respective types. Keep in mind I'm saying that these weren't the most innovative (I still think that the Rick Frying Pan, and Bigsby Merle Travis, and Les's log had more to do with the genealogy of electric than just about anything), but just the most produced and purchased and widely accepted. Pretty much every guitar out there is some variation (Gretsch included). I personally think that the use of "Thumbnail Inlays" constitutes a bit of infringement upon Gretsch (I'm not sure if the inlays are trademarked or not). It may not constitute outright fraud (as Shine/ Saein still puts their own name on the headstock etc.- which looks nothing like a Gretsch headstock), but still seems a bit lame to me and, is the first company besides Gretsch to use these fret markers on their guitars (from what I researched- which only amounted to a 5 min google search, so I could stand corrected:).
19
Points well taken, guys. I'd say I mostly meant the 5120 with dumbuckers vs. WNO-630. I realize that other Electromatics with more gretschy pickups can be good stock. It's just that for me a 5120 would end up being about $700 after mods (if I went with GFS pickups). WNO-630 would be about $450 - that's adding pickups and a bigsby - the difference might not be huge to some people, but for me it's the price of a used tube amp. Plus, I like gold hardware, so instead of paying for a chrome bigsby and then replacing it, I'm really starting with "bare bones". I didn't deny the value of 51xx being "Gretsch", not even for a second - that's a great value for someone who wants to get into a Gretsch without dropping thousands. BTW, for those of you who want tele/strat mod bases - I would really recommend SX over Douglas - pretty much the same price range, but better, more correct woods.
20
Japan was first, then Korea, now China with Thailand, India and a few others in the mix. If we don't slide from the Greater Depression into the Darker Ages and go back to sailing the seas in dugouts (putting a slight crimp in the import/export business), you can count on seeing Afghan guitars eventually: "how'bout insteada y'all growing poppies, you make these guitars for us?"
21
Yes, many have used "thumb" markers and they date back. As far as body shape and the like, so much has fallen into public domain that little, if any, ip protection is in place today other than headstock design. Out of the big Mfgs, Gibson and Ric are the most diligent with respect to infringement actions and can document such practices over a long period of time. On the other hand, Fender, after decades of non-action with respect to its Strat & Tele body designs, is in litigation seeking protection of those 2 body styles which, if successful, will stop the production of Strat & Tele bodies by others. After 20+ years of protecting only its headstock design - NOT its bodies, I doubt FMIC will prevail. It's been a battle of "experts" to date and starting to get ugly. I agree they are unique and FMIC should get royalties in the same manner they do for licensing Tele & Strat headstocks. However, the problem is it's too late. After 20+ years of looking the other way, its hard to argue their position now ( in all fairness, this happened during the CBS watch, so....). IMO, if FMIC was not in the process of trying to go public, I doubt this action would occur. Guess we'll see if you CAN close the barn doors after all the horses have left...
22
I've been very pleased with my Agile LP double-cut. Certainly for the price it's worth it, I'm not sure if it's quite at the same quality level as the 5120s I've seen, but I think they are pretty good. Those teles look pretty good also, but are about the same price as a Squier...i wonder which is better?
23
Shetland said: Those teles look pretty good also, but are about the same price as a Squier...i wonder which is better?
I don't have personal experience with Douglas solid-bodies, but the current SX are way better than Squier. I bought an SX P-bass (SPJ-62, also has a bridge j-pup) - it was superb - upgrade the pickups and it would be as good as a MIA. Stock it's as good as a MIM.
24
Proteus said: If we don't slide from the Greater Depression into the Darker Ages and go back to sailing the seas in dugouts (putting a slight crimp in the import/export business), you can count on seeing Afghan guitars eventually: "how'bout insteada y'all growing poppies, you make these guitars for us?"
but poppies grow by themselves, don't need no tendin'... guitars - them need buildin' ... nah, we'll stick with the poppies, thanks. plus, it's customs-free.
25
The Shetland said: Those teles look pretty good also, but are about the same price as a Squier...i wonder which is better?
IMO, they are about the same. Each has issues, so it's pick your poison as far as where the short-comings are.

Register Sign in to join the conversation