SX Lap1 NA Lap Steel Guitar Review

SX Lap1 NA Lap Steel Guitar Review

SX Lap Steel Features

  • A full size 36 fret lap steel guitar
  • Mahogany body with rosewood fretboard
  • Width at the Nut: 2 1/16", String Spacing: 3/8"
  • Diecast chrome tuners, pickup covers, V and T knobs
  • 22 3/4" Scale
  • Single coil pickup w/ 8K ohm resistance
  • String Sizes: 0.35mm, 0.42mm, 0.69mm, 0.90mm, 1.15mm, 1.40mm (not on the one I have!)
  • A protective carry bag included
  • Length: 33", Body Length: 13", Width at Lower Bout: 8 1/4", Width at Upper Bout: 5 7/8", Body Thickness: 1 1/2"

    Initial Impressions

    I had two small disappointments upon removing the instrument from its packaging:
    First, the natural/clear finish is matte, rather than the gloss (or at least semi-gloss) that it appears to be in the photos on the Rondo Music website.
    Second, the instrument had very light-gauge strings on it. The website lists the string gauge as starting with .35mm (.013”). It came with strings starting with .009”, which are far too skinny for use with a shortscale lap-steel. I had to make a Guitar Center run right away for some properly-gauged strings, as it felt really weird trying to play it with those skinny things on it.

    Beyond those two things, it’s a real beauty! There is one suggestion I’d make to the manufacturer, though. The wraparound intonable bridge/tailpiece is just overkill. There’s just no need for that much complexity on a lap-steel bridge. Most lap-steels I’ve ever seen have a very simple, straight-across (non-intonable) bridge, and they work just fine. I just don’t see the need for adjustable saddles or adjustable height.

    The bridge could be made much simpler and much more inexpensively. But that’s just the mechanical designer in me talking. My guess is that the manufacturer used the type they did because they most likely have jillions of them in stock, for use on several of their regular electric guitar models.

    Same thing, I guess, with the bridge cover, because it looks very suspiciously like their Jazz-Bass-clone bridge covers. But it functions and fits perfectly over the bridge and pickup, although I had to put some tape on the inside of it to kill a ‘ring’ that, if the cover was tapped, was transmitted in the output signal via the pickup. Not a problem if my hand is anchored on it, but still….

    At first, I thought the ‘nut’ was a piece of molded plastic with chrome plating on it, because it just had that look to it, with visible molding marks. But as it turns out, it’s actually a cast piece of metal of some kind (zinc, perhaps) with chrome plating.

    Action, Fit, & Finish

    As for ‘action’, there’s not much to say as regards a lap-steel. This one, however, seems to have the strings a bit higher above the body than many lap-steels I’ve seen and played. As it is, the entire pickup sits above the body. But that’s of no consequence at all. It certainly doesn’t affect the instrument’s playability.

    All the parts are well fitted-up and centered, etc. No issues there at all. I had read some comments elsewhere about this instrument having issues with misalignment of the pickup pole-pieces under the strings, but mine is spot-on; no issue there.

    I’ve already mentioned the fact that it has a matte clear finish over the Mahogany wood. Given that, the finish is flawless, much as I find on virtually all the SX instruments I’ve had my hands on so far. I just think that a gloss finish would really bring out the grain of the wood more to the eye.

    Tone & Playability

    The single-coil pickup placed close to the bridge gives a tone much like the bridge pickup solo’ed on a Stratocaster; very trebly and punchy. I find myself rolling back the tone knob quite a bit to cut down on slide noise and to kill off some of the treble response. Being a single-coil, it picks up 60 Hz hum, of course, but it’s not to excess.

    A good mod for this instrument would be to install a hot-wound dual-rail pickup, something like the GFS “Lil’ Killer” or any of that style pickup. Something hotter is definitely in order, to pull out some more low-end from the strings. It sounds beautiful as-is, very clear and clean, but I think I want a little more low-end and overall power for playing rock & blues slide parts; when I want to apply some overdrive/distortion.

    I really like that the tuner knobs point upward for easy access, and the instrument is laid out well for easy playability. I personally prefer not to have the bridge cover on, so I can palm-mute when playing, and pick closer to the bridge. But I’ve made myself get used to playing it with the cover on, and find it’s not really a problem.

    Final Thoughts:

    I would have gotten the P-90 (pickup) equipped model if it were offered in the natural Mahogany finish. For this one time, though, the finish won me over the accoutrements. But it wouldn’t be very difficult at all to modify this instrument to accept a P-90, or even a humbucker. If one is halfway handy with a router, it would be a piece o’ cake. As I said earlier, though, a hot-wound dual-rail pickup would cure the hums and give me what I want out of it in terms of tone, with no woodwork mods at all.

    This is a very pretty little guitar, with excellent ‘high lonesome’ tone, and it is very well constructed. It even has strap buttons on it, on the ‘butt-end’ and behind the headstock. I haven’t tried playing it on a strap, but I can see how that would work.

    There are, as I mentioned, a couple of tiny things I’d have done differently in designing this instrument. But overall, it’s perfectly functional, plays well, looks gorgeous, and sounds great. To find an instrument of this quality (including a nice little fitted gig-bag) for the $99.95 price is just a steal!

    Again I say; the SX/Agile/Douglas lines imported from China by Rondo Music, Inc. offer the very best value for the money, in my opinion. The quality is quite good, and seems to be getting better & better with every one of their instruments I get my hands on.