Rathbone No. 3 Rosewood Acoustic

Evidently, GAS* has set in over the last 2 years. In addition to my old faithful Kasuga, I’d acquired a Fender, a Gibson, and now an electric 12-string. With GAS, you soon realise that there is always another type of guitar you don’t own. For me, it was a hollow-body. So, not long after the strings had been broken-in on my last purchase, I was back to the guitar shop in search of an electric archtop, like a Guild, a Gretsch, or a Hofner.

It didn’t work out that way. There was only one archtop in the shop, and I didn’t like it. I tried a couple of semi-hollow bodies, but they didn’t make enough noise unplugged. So, we tried a different approach, and looked at acoustic guitars.

Rathbone #3 SRCE

For some unexplained reason, I’ve never been a fan of acoustic guitars. I’ve owned two: an entry-level Spanish, and a 12-string dreadnought (RIP), which I upgraded with a pickup. If I was going to buy an acoustic, it had to be plug-in ready.

So, Jason at Fab Music Store started handing me guitars from the wall, and I started rating them — warmer, colder, warmer, HOT, colder, warmer…

I settled on a Rathbone No. 3 Grand-Auditorium from Barnes and Mullins. This particular model has a Sitka spruce top, rosewood back and sides, and a mahogany neck. Unlike most of the other guitars, it had plenty of balls, but without being boomy or muddy.

It has a sub-bridge piezo pickup, wired up to an active preamp with 3-band EQ (parametric mid), notch filter, phase inverter, ‘brightness’, and an accurate tuner.

Apparently, Grand-Auditorium is the biggest size there is before you get into Jumbo/Dreadnought territory. And this understated guitar can certainly belt it out, but in a crisp, clear and controlled manner. The cutaway means that I can reach the top frets too. Out came the credit card again, and as soon as I got home, the now well-used cardboard box of guitar tools came out too.

Being used to electric guitars with low action, I was struggling a bit with the Rathbone, with its high action and 15 inch fretboard radius, even after adjusting the neck relief. A bit of research, and I decided to risk lowering the bridge. The only way to do this was to sand the underside of the bone bridge, being careful to keep it perfectly flat. A couple of 0.5mm sandings later, and it was where I wanted it. No buzz, plays nicely, and the pickup still works fine.

All I need now is to learn a few party songs.

[* GAS = Gear Acquisition Syndrome ]

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