As a rather careless and physical “gig player” who is very hard on guitars, I have a healthy fear of handling expensive, exquisitely crafted instruments. Normally, the gorgeous Knaggs Doug Rappoport Signature would scare the crap out of me—just as the company’s Steve Stevens model did when I tested it in 2014. However, like the Stevens, the DR is such an inviting and comfortable guitar to play, and it sounds so ferociously glorious, that I couldn’t resist putting it into the clunky blasphemies that are my hands. And I’m happy to report that it was not harmed during the review process. Whew.
Well, maybe I didn’t need to worry so much. Despite the lovely Indian Red finish over a stunning curly maple top and the classy gold hardware (see inset photo), the DR is actually quite the bruiser. It’s lighter than my beloved and tank-like 1976 Les Paul Heritage, but it’s just as tough. Knaggs battens down all the hardware as if the DR were going to cruise through a few meteor showers in outer space, and everything about the guitar feels robust, durable, and resilient. I didn’t dive into the drums or bounce off the speaker towers while playing, but I think that I could have, and, except for a few unavoidable nicks, the DR would probably stay in tune and keep rocking.
As you’d demand from an instrument at this price point, the workmanship is perfect, with smooth and rounded frets, spotless inlays, beautiful binding, and a flawless finish. A handwritten Build Sheet even informed me what number DR I was playing (#16), and when its construction was finalized (September 9, 2017)—a nice touch.
Now, all of this sophisticated glitz is fabulous if you plan to display the DR over your fireplace mantle. It would look marvelous there, of course. But this guitar is a player, and one created to deliver the distinctive blues-rock tones—round, clear, and articulate with a bit of grit and grease—that Rappoport deploys in his gigs with Edgar Winter, his own releases, and his session work. The test model never failed to apply its tonewood combo of mahogany, maple, and ebony to produce incredibly coherent notes with a taut low end, very sweet yet punchy mids, and a refined treble that’s clear but not overly bright. In fact, I couldn’t get notes to blur significantly even if I played through a wildly saturated practice amp with my most heinous fuzz pedal set to maximum Drive. Notes still sang with authority and presence. While using more sonically conventional rigs—such as a Vox AC30 or a Marshall JCM900—the DR speaks so clearly that you can really focus on the subtleties of your phrasing. Furthermore, the guitar’s acoustic sound is so delightful and inspiring that you might find yourself practicing and writing songs for hours on end without ever plugging in.
The Seymour Duncan pickups Rappoport choose for his model are very dynamic—whether you like going from a whisper to a scream and back with your attack, or by adjusting the guitar’s Volume. I enjoyed the kill switch (you can also order a DR without one), because I love doing stutter effects on the fly. I’ve used more hair-trigger and rapid-fire kill switches on other guitars that I can more easily “drum” my fingers over, but the stiffer DR switch is still very functional and fun.
The Knaggs Doug Rappoport is quite simply a magnificent instrument. You’ll drop some hefty bucks for the privilege of playing it, but it pays that investment forward with outstanding playability, tone, and vibe.
DR on the DR
“I had one request for my signature model,” explains Doug Rappoport, “and that was it had to be a ‘player.’ It had to be a blue-collar, hungover, straight-ahead rocker, but still elegant. I don't want people to buy it and wipe fingerprints off it after every 18 seconds of use in order to keep the nitro pH balance at a perfect .02 percent. I want it to be played, sweat on, drooled on, bled on, buckle rashed, scratched, and worn down. The DR should look like a million bucks, but play like your old, trusted friend.”
MODEL Doug Rappoport Kenai T1 Indian Red
PRICE $4,500 street, as tested
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", bone
NECK Mahogany, set 24.75" scale length
FRETBOARD Ebony, 24.75” scale, 12” radius
FRETS 22 medium
BODY Mahogany with curly maple top
BRIDGE Knaggs Influence 2-in-1
PICKUPS Seymour Duncan SH-2 (neck), 78 Zebra (bridge)
CONTROLS Two Volume, Master Tone, kill switch, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario NYXL, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.8 lbs
KUDOS Simply superb on all levels.