Not the first name on anybody’s lips when considering purchasing a guitar, so let’s take a closer look at Rogue acoustic guitars.
They are constructed in South Korea by Sunbo. They are a brand identified with Musicians Friend, who had a center near the Rogue River in Oregon. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Musicians’ Friend themselves has now grown enormously and have warehouses and centers in various US cities.
Rogue guitars are still their house-brand and are still manufactured in South Korea. They not only make acoustic guitars but also electric and bass guitars.
They produce guitars at the lower end of the market and have an online presence for sales and marketing. And we’ve got the opportunity to take a closer look at one of these budget Rogue acoustic guitars. We, therefore, introduce to you the…
The Rogue RA-090 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
The cheap acoustic guitar market is a minefield. There are some decent instruments out there, but there is an awful lot of… well not so good models. Some are dressed up in fancy clothes to make them look good. You buy them to get them home and only then realize they are useless.
So the question is, how do you choose a decent budget guitar, especially if you are buying online? Is it a reputable name? Usually, they provide a good guitar, though certainly not always. They do tend to be more expensive.
So if you are on a tight budget then a lesser-known name might be the answer, Rogue to many will be a lesser-known name, so let’s see what the RA-090 is all about…
The Rogue RA-090
This is described as an introductory acoustic guitar. It fits into that description very well. Their no electrics to worry about and no cutaways. It’s just a plain and simple Dreadnought design. The price is set very low and is, therefore, within just about everybody’s budget.
It must be said that first impressions are favorable. It looks the part and is aimed at the beginner market, but it will only suit some learners. Being a Dreadnought size will make it very difficult for a very young player to get to grips with it. It is probably best suited to a teenager or adult.
Rogue seems to have decided very early on in the design of this guitar that it will be cost-effective. They do not try to hide the fact, as some companies do, so credit to them. To do that, some corners have to be cut. If you are designing a guitar that is a first instrument, it must be playable. But it won’t be used at the Royal Albert Hall or Madison Square Garden. So a little of the sound quality can be sacrificed to keep the costs down.
For the body construction, Rogue has decided upon using Laminated Whitewood for the top. Whitewood is a slightly misleading name; it is actually Tulipwood and is very common. It is known for its strength and ease of use, but not so much for its sound qualities.
With the Dreadnought and most other guitar styles, there are the usual woods used for the top. Spruce, and sometimes you will see Maple but rarely Tulipwood or Whitewood. Cost is the issue. Spruce and Maple are far more expensive. However, they do sound a lot better.
The body is made from Mahogany, and it is put together quite well. However, there are some small issues with the build. You just need to keep in mind the price and who it is for, and you won’t be too disappointed. These issues are mainly wood blemishes on some instruments, not all. Certainly not anything that is going to make it fall apart.
There is a standard black scratchplate which with the whiteness of the body color, gives it a nice authentic feel. One very nice addition is the decoration around the soundhole. This really does draw your attention and makes the guitar very attractive.
The body then is sufficient. A nice look and with a reasonable build quality, it ticks all the boxes for a guitar in its price range.
As with the body so with the neck. Nothing top of the range just a solid build. The neck is made from Nato wood, which is a fairly common wood used on some instruments. The neck is nice, C-shaped, and is an asset for a beginner. The C-shape is known to be comfortable to play for most people.
The neck is joined to the body at the 14th fret. No cutaway, so that is as far up the fingerboard as you can comfortably travel. There are a total of 20 frets. The neck has an adjustable truss rod, which is a big plus and is not found on a lot of lower-priced acoustics. There is a Rosewood fingerboard, which is also what you would expect even on the most expensive guitars.
The neck is well put together and has a secure, stable fit. The inclusion of the truss rod allows any initial or future neck adjustments, therefore, ensuring a great playing action for years to come.
Though there is an acoustic-electric version of this guitar, however, this particular model has no electrics at ll. The nut and saddle are plastic as you might expect, and the bridge is maple wood but painted a dark color presumably to match the scratchplate.
It has nickel-plated tuners that are sealed units. However, they do offer a slight concern because they are quite stiff to turn. This will make changing strings somewhat difficult, but they also feel uncomfortable to use. Usually, things you have to turn that feel stiff have a habit of snapping. These do not, but they still feel a little awkward. Maybe a touch of oil might solve the problem?
If we were to isolate one area of this guitar, we do not like; it would be in the hardware. We should, though, consider the price point first. But still, a little more effort in this area may not have put the price up much if at all. But, it would have put the credibility of the guitar up.
How Does It Play?
So now we get through to the most important issues. How does it play, and how does it sound? Let’s deal with playing the guitar first.
The answer to that question is surprisingly well. We all tend to pick up budget line guitars expecting the worst. With the Rogue RA-090, it doesn’t happen.
The first thing you notice is how lightweight it is. The second how big it actually is. As we said earlier, this guitar might be aimed at the beginner but not for a younger starter. It really would be too difficult for them to hold comfortably.
Comfortable & Balanced…
But it is nicely balanced, and the feel of it is quite comfortable. The neck plays well, and the action certainly not too high. If it were adjustments can be made. We have to say there was a little bit of fret buzz, but it was hardly noticeable. That could be remedied with raising the strings a fraction. Talking of strings, the set that comes as standard is well, not very good; a better set is going to improve the feel and of course, the sound.
So the answer to how does it play? For the money very well indeed. No complaints and for a student a good buy.
How Does It Sound?
To some, the most important of the issues. If you are expecting a top of the stack sound, you are in the wrong place. But we have to say that it is not bad at all.
We mentioned earlier that we would return to discuss the sound and woods used. The Whitewood construction has had an influence on the sound that this guitar produces. You cannot argue with that. It lacks a certain crispness at the top end that Spruce will give you.
Also see: Epiphone EJ-200SCE Review
Good But A Little Lacking…
Likewise, at the bottom end, it lacks the warmth that more expensive woods provide. The mids are prominent, and there the sound is quite good. A restricted top and bottom end mean the sound maybe a little dull. But then we remember the price point. For the actual cost of this guitar, the sound is good. It does lack a little of what the more expensive models will give you.
But the sound is clear, and the tones whilst not being well-balanced are still there. It really is OK and just perfect for a beginner. It is certainly a lot better than most of its competition in the price range. If it lacks a little in tonal excellence, it certainly makes up for it in volume. The big Dreadnought body punching out a big sound. This is going to fill the room.
We keep mentioning the price, but we do so on purpose to keep everything in perspective. For the money you are paying, the sound is better than you might expect. It gets our vote and is easily one of the best cheap acoustic guitars under 200 dollars currently available. As well as one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners you can buy.
This Rogue acoustic guitar is an instrument that has been designed and made for a beginner. It was made to be as cost-effective as possible and to play as well as it can. And it wasn’t made for the concert hall or the Pro; it was simply made to sound adequate, and it succeeds in every way.
They could have used better materials, but what they used does the job. They could have made improvements in many places, but that defeats the purpose and would certainly have raised the price. The Rogue RA-090 was created as a cost-effective guitar for the starter. It would play well and sound ok. The guitar does exactly that, and it looks nice as well.
If you are stuck in the minefield of trying to find a cheap guitar for a starter. One they will learn on before moving up to a higher quality model, then take a look at this. You will not go far wrong.
We have no hesitation in saying it will be one of the best of the cheaper guitars you will find. Just put a set of the best acoustic guitar strings on it, and you will have found a not-so-little beauty.
The Rogue RA-090 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar. Well worth a look!