The first chord I strummed produced a brilliant, clear sound with great definition. There is a dimensionality to the tone that is quite rare in this price range and the high end is particularly sweet on this guitar. It showed up with a good setup that was easy to play but not so low that it buzzed or sacrificed bass. The sound in the room was lively and musical, with great string-to-string separation.
The amplified tone was a little trickier to dial in because the RD8 features just Bass and Treble sliders. I was able to get a nice sound but doing so entailed more adjustments at the amp than with some guitars. Once set, the tone held up well under heavy strumming and, because of the great balance from string to string, worked beautifully for fingerpicking. Full-contact acoustic techniques like slapped harmonics sound great on the Alvarez because the musical treble makes them just jump out. Cosmetic conundrums aside, this guitar is my favorite of the bunch and would be tough to beat in this price range, especially when you consider that it comes with a hardshell case. It might not have a lot of bells or whistles, but it has the most important bell of all: good tone. Nicely done.