The shimmering chime of a 12-string is one of life’s great experiences. Doubling the string count by adding two unison and four split-octave courses does incredible things for the tone, not to mention that the slight tuning inconsistencies inherent in this configuration create a natural chorusing effect that makes everything you play sound, well, huge. Now if you think your taste for the 12-string thing outstrips your budget, think again. Daisy Rock’s new Retro-H 12-String makes it possible for just about anyone to get in on the fun, as it’s an affordable, well-made guitar that plays and sounds well above its incredibly low price.
The Retro-H features a nicely finished double-cutaway body that offers semi-hollow construction for enhanced resonance. The black “binding” stripe around the top is very clean, and the neck pocket grips the butt end of the neck snugly. The bridge, tailpiece, and pickups are solidly mounted, and the strap buttons are even fitted with little felt pads so they don’t mar the wood. Some roughness on the inside of the f-hole is the only downer. One of the things that impresses me most about this guitar is its fretwork. All of the 22 medium frets are smoothly crowned, highly polished, and nicely rounded on their tips. You couldn’t ask for more at twice the price, and even the black synthetic nut is perfectly fitted and accurately cut for consistent string height.
The Retro-H tunes up easily and sounds very in tune when chording in various positions. While the die-cast Grover tuners are totally happening, 12 of them together add a fair amount of mass to the Retro-H’s black-faced headstock, making the neck tend to drift South whenever you let go of it. In terms of stability, however, the combination of these tuners and the stop tailpiece give the Retro-H an uncanny ability to stay in tune while adding a lot of solidness to its tones.
Strum the Retro-H acoustically and it rewards you with a big, ringing sound that sustains like a piano. It would have been surprising if this guitar didn’t sound good when plugged in, and through a selection of test amps, including a Fender Twin Reverb, a Vox AC30, and a THD Flexi-50, the Retro-H delivered warm, rich tones in both clean and overdriven settings. Besides looking very vintage with their chromed covers (as if they were pulled off a ’60s Gibson Firebird), the mini humbuckers offer strong output and their narrow aperture provides better articulation and detail than you’d normally get from standard-sized humbuckers. Still, the Retro-H isn’t overly bright by any means. For example, I needed to peg the Cut and Treble knobs (in the opposite directions, of course) on the AC30’s Brilliant channel to obtain Rickenbacker-style Brit-pop jangle. And even with the JBL-loaded Twin, I had to flick on the Bright switch and turn the Treble to 7 in order to really summon the sparkle. Personally, I think it’s kind of cool that the Retro’s high strings don’t sound as zingy as they do on some 12s, however, I also wish that the tones didn’t darken so dramatically when you roll down the Volume knob. If you want full shimmer, plan on running this guitar wide open. You might even want to consider using a volume pedal so you don’t have to turn the Retro down.
The Retro-H is a lot of guitar for the money. Its white pearlescent finish looks fantastic, it plays superbly, and it sounds great. If you’ve been contemplating a 12-string electric and want maximum satisfaction for a minimum investment, this guitar is tough to beat.
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