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Author Topic:  Review: Rondo SX LG1 NA lap steel
Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 12:03 pm     Reply with quote

How good can a $99.00 lap steel guitar be? Pretty good, although you get what you pay for. This is a pretty good beginners' model lap steel.

Pros:
- excellent hard shell case
- solid construction
- good tuners and hardware
- decent sounding pickup

Cons:
- pickup is misaligned, making overall sound very weak
- bridge cover has to be removed to change strings
- Unnecessarily complex Tune-o-Matic-style bridge instead of simpler bridge

I received this lap steel for review courtesy Rondo Music. The lap steel comes with a very high quality hardshell case with five latches that fits the guitar exactly, a strap (why, I don't know, but it's there), and two keys for the case. The strings appeared to be new strings, covered with a paper wrapper to protect the strings (from what, I don't know). All the chrome was nice and shiny, and it had that "new instrument" smell.

As the Rondo web site says, it's a 22.5" scale instrument made of mahogany with a rosewood fretboard. This is a far better designed and constructed instrument than the Artisan lap steel I bought a while ago. The tuners, pickup, knobs and other hardware are a definite improvement. It's a very stylish instrument, one that holds its own with vintage instruments. I think it looks better than the recent Fender FS-52 personally. The rosewood fretboard has three full octaves of real frets, with circular markers made of shell at the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, and twelvth frets. This pattern is repeated for all three octaves, but the highest octave has a fret marker at the tenth fret rather than the ninth. This is a very minor complaint, as hardly anyone will be playing up that high on the neck.

The bad news is that the pickup is not aligned with the strings. It's just about an eighth of an inch towards the treble side, so the bass pickup pole is almost halfway between the sixth and fifth strings. In spite of that, the SX LG1 manages to put out quite a nice tone. Because of the misalignment, though, the overall sound is very weak. Pickup hum can be audible in some situations but not that bad, typical of a single coil pickup.

The beautifully shiny metal bridge cover is unfortunately in the way. When you remove the two Phillips head screws holding it in place, you are presented with a Gibson style Tune-o-matic tailpiece. They could have saved money by making a fixed tailpiece with holes for the strings like the old Valco-made lap steels have. I don't understand the use of an adjustable tailpiece on a lap steel.

Here are some demonstration MP3s from my web site. The SX LG1 was tuned to C6th tuning (bass to treble C E G A C E ). I recorded it directly into a Digidesign MBox2 Pro using Apple Soundtrack Pro software. The result was saved to AIFF format, then imported to Apple iTunes and converted to MP3. The strings are brand new D'Addario strings, so there may be some tuning issues on some of these MP3 files. That's okay - they were intended to give you an idea of how the lap steel sounds, not how I play.

Audio sample 1
Audio sample 2
Audio sample 3
Photos

I also tried playing in open G tuning (bass to treble G B D G B D) with similar results.

Summary: If I owned this, I would change the pickup and bridge. If I kept the metal bridge cover, I would install thumbscrews rather than the Phillips head screws, because although this cover looks great, it gets in the way when you want to change strings or adjust the bridge. With these changes, I'd have a pretty decent lap steel.
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Last edited by Brad Bechtel on 23 Apr 2007 12:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bill Leff


From:
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 12:16 pm     Reply with quote

I like the stand! Is that part of the $99 deal?

-Bill

PS Nice to finally hear you play Brad! Wink
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 12:19 pm     Reply with quote

I've posted a separate review of the stand.
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Tom Pettingill


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 12:20 pm     Reply with quote

Thats pretty cool for $100, thanks for the review Smile
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Dave Sky


From:
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 5:24 pm     Reply with quote

Brad, I received my SX lap today. It is just as you described. I am keeping mine.
I am impressed with the body of this lap. The quality of the tuners, body and case are worth more than $100.

What would be a good replacement pickup?

Where can I get a different bridge?

Thanks for taking the time to review this lap and for the improvement suggestions.

Dave
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Bill Hatcher


From:
Atlanta Ga. USA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 5:52 pm     Reply with quote

The bridge is designed for a curved fingerboard guitar. Are the saddles just cut deep on certain strings to try to give a flatness to the strings??

Decent wood body, strange choice of a guitar bridge and a Fender Bass pickup cover to cover it all up?!?
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Gary Stevenson


From:
Northern New York,USA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 6:08 pm     Steel tester Reply with quote

Brad, do you get many steels sent to you to test-drive?Sounds like it would be fun to do!!!!
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Bill Creller


From:
Saginaw, Michigan, USA
Post Posted 23 Apr 2007 9:38 pm     Reply with quote

That looks like a heck of a deal for a hundred bucks. If the pickup was tweeked into position it would likely sound a little better, but it's not all that bad as is.
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 8:10 am     Reply with quote

Quote:

What would be a good replacement pickup?

Any Fender style pickup should fit. I thought the pickup sounded pretty good; it just wasn't aligned to the strings properly.
Quote:

Where can I get a different bridge?

Stewart-MacDonald or AllParts or any fine guitar store in your area.
Quote:

The bridge is designed for a curved fingerboard guitar. Are the saddles just cut deep on certain strings to try to give a flatness to the strings??

No, they don't do anything special to the bridge as far as I can tell.
Quote:

Brad, do you get many steels sent to you to test-drive?Sounds like it would be fun to do!!!!

This is the first one in a long time. I am thinking of posting a review page on my web site though.
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Dave Sky


From:
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 9:56 am     Reply with quote

I am going to replace the pickup in the SX and wondered if anyone had any experience with the rail pickups?

I was thinking of using the Duncan Performer Scorcher Pickup ($30)?

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Duncan-Performer-Scorcher-Pickup?sku=300136

I thought if I used a rail type pickup, it would reduce the hum and compensate for the off set of the stock pickup.

Any thoughts?
Dave
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Tom Pettingill


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 10:07 am     Reply with quote

Dave Sky wrote:
I was thinking of using the Duncan Performer Scorcher Pickup ($30)?

For $30 it looks like it is worthy of a try.
With a ceramic magnet, it should be a little hot and maybe a bit bright, but in a mahogany body, it should balance well.
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 11:26 am     Reply with quote

Fortunately Rondo has the schematic for the lap steel here in case you need it.
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Dave Sky


From:
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 2:43 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks Tom. I was hoping the rail pickup it would balance the sound and reduce hum.

Brad-Thanks for the schematic! It makes replacing the pickup much easier.

Thanks to this forum, I have a great looking cheap lap steel, a microcube amp, put eyeglass pads on my finger picks and found an open E blues lap steel book.
This is the place!

Dave
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Jeff Au Hoy


From:
Honolulu, Hawai'i
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 4:34 pm     Reply with quote

Brad, thanks for posting this review. For a direct sound, I think that's excellent!
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Randy Phelps


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 7:32 pm     Reply with quote

sweet. i'm buying one and the stand!
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Mike Maddux


From:
Cerritos, CA
Post Posted 24 Apr 2007 10:41 pm     Reply with quote

Im interested in the stand...I dont see it on their webpage. Is it included with the steel for $99?

It looks like they are sold out on the steel right now so your review worked!
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Regular Rig: Twin Reverb, Sho-Bud LDG
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Dave Sky


From:
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 25 Apr 2007 5:56 am     Reply with quote

Got a few of these in for you

http://www.rondomusic.net/LG1na.html

kurt


Just recieved an email that Kurt has more laps (9:30 am est)
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Tom Taylor


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post Posted 25 Apr 2007 6:17 am     Reply with quote

Brad, great review. What's the string spacing like?
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 25 Apr 2007 7:46 am     Reply with quote

The string spacing is 3/8", which is pretty much standard for most six string steels. It's a fine playing guitar - I just wish it sounded better.
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Mike Clark


From:
West Virginia, USA
Post Posted 30 Apr 2007 1:47 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks for the review, Brad. I ordered one right after I read your review and just got it today. My initial impression is that it is well worth the 100 bucks. The only problem with the model I received was that the pots were loose. Unlike the model they sent you to review, the pickup on mine is almost perfectly aligned and has decent volume and tone. I'll probably replace it (and the pots) sometime soon, but for now it'll do!
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Del Ray Grace


From:
Toledo, Ohio, USA
Post Posted 1 May 2007 6:37 pm     Rondo lap steel Reply with quote

Hello Brad,
I ordered one of these lap steel guitars about two weeks ago and the string and pickup alignment were not a problem on my model.One of the screws that hold the pick up down was missing, but I later found it inside of the case.I also had some minor issues with the stand being hard to tighten.

Inexpensive quality steel guitars are so hard to find. I think this attractive model is what many people(beginners)have been waiting for,I hope they sell plenty. I plan to post some pictures on my website to help spread the word within sacred steel community.
www.sacredstrings.com
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Howard Tate


From:
Leesville, Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 2 May 2007 6:37 am     Reply with quote

I've been trying to order one since I first heard of them but they are sold out. I keep checking but no luck yet.
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Howard
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 25 May 2007 9:02 am     Reply with quote

These seem to have been sold out for a long while now. I have written to Rondo inquiring whether more will be available.
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A web site devoted to acoustic & electric lap steel guitars
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 26 May 2007 9:15 am     Reply with quote

Kurt from Rondo Music replied:
Quote:
Yes, I expect more back in this fall.

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Roger Shackelton


From:
MINNESOTA
Post Posted 27 May 2007 12:07 am     Reply with quote

Brad, are these lap steel guitars made in Asia? I wonder if Rondo has plans to offer an 8 string lap steel guitar. I must say this guitar looks very attractive and well worth the money.


Roger
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