There's a decent sprinkling of 12-string dreadnoughts and jumbos on the market, but it's much harder, regardless of price, to track down ones based on smaller-bodied instruments. Even Martin, for example, who offers an extensive roster of 000 and OMs, doesn't do a 12 variant within these two designations. It's as if there's an industry-wide perceived wisdom that sufficiently punchy jangle must overwhelmingly be the preserve of big-box acoustics.
Perhaps intending to prove otherwise – and at the same time appealing to the cost-conscious buyer – Rosetti has added to its Adam Black range a 12-string version of the O-5CE electro. This Venetian-cutaway design sits squarely within the auditorium category, having a lower body span of 389mm (roughly 15.3"). One potentially important concession to extracting as much unplugged volume as possible is that our 12-string's rims, at 110mm across the baseblock, are deeper than those of your average folk, which tend to be around the 100mm mark. In this respect the O-5/12CE has shades of a mini-jumbo about it, but without involving an overall increase in body size.
Though modestly priced, the guitar comes cosmetically very well specified. The solid spruce top includes an abalone-inlaid, multi-ringed rosette, while the laminated mahogany back and sides feature a wood-mosaic centre strip. The body's white-bound purfling is echoed by the similarly-coloured binding around the neck which extends around the crescent at the top of the fingerboard, rather than simply ending beyond the last fret. Along with the smart, black-faced peghead it lends an attractive air of completeness to the trim. The standard of finishing is praiseworthy too, whether it's the all-over gloss lacquering or the internal strutting and linings where everything is pretty much clean as a whistle.
Apart from slightly abruptly bevelled fret ends that could do with rounding off for ultimate comfort, the only minor handling downside – common on 12s, especially smaller-bodied ones – is slight neck heaviness on the lap caused by the weight of that double complement of machineheads. However, the guitar balances fine on the strap, for which a second button at the heel has thoughtfully been provided, so you won’t be having to get involved in a do-it-yourself retrofit.
Twelve-string necks can straddle the extremes – from slim-Jim Rickenbacker types to some that are offputtingly plank-like and hence very hard, painful work. This Adam Black, using a full 25.5" scale length, sensibly steers a middle course, with a nut width of 48mm – roughly the average for acoustic 12's – and a fairly shallow, flat-back profile that helps reduce the sense of bulk. Our sample has a low, electric-like action yet despite this it is refreshingly free of buzzes and rattles, which is a tribute not just to the set-up but to the straightness of the neck and the fretting's even top dressing. Of course, the slinky action also helps both playing ease and intonation, the latter often being decidedly iffy on 12-strings. Not here, though: it's a reassuringly in-tune example of the genre.
Spacing within the double string courses can vary on 12s, and not just relative to neck width. Here, the paths are well defined for chording at the nut end of things and along the fretboard, though they arguably run a tad wide by the time they reach the bridge. It doesn't impinge on strumming accuracy, but picking styles – admittedly not something that 12-strings are inherently suited to – can feel a little imprecise. In fairness, however, when you're drilling for two staggered rows of bridge pins there's very little leeway on how they can be positioned, and we're only talking fractions of a millimetre here.
The Belcat-made preamp fitted to the O-5/12CE is a Prener (a series favoured, incidentally, by Ashton for its electro-acoustics). This one is the LC model, providing four-band EQ and an onboard tuner. Despite the system's association with budget instruments, the tuner is a really quite sophisticated affair. It's chromatic for a start, can be used in Auto or Manual mode (plugged in or unplugged), and the usual array of three (flat/on-pitch/sharp) LEDs is supported by a large LCD that displays not only the note information but a representation of an analogue pitch meter where the needle indicates tuning within a range of +/-50 cents. This might seem a gimmick, but the twin visual references actually do come in handy and, importantly, they work accurately together. The tuner powers up in the Auto mode, and switching to Manual is a simple prod of the Note switch which then allows you to scroll through the entire chromatic scale. Returning to Auto is done by holding down the switch for a couple of seconds.
Build Quality 18/20
Value for money 20/20
Description: Cutaway folk-size 12-string electro-acoustic. Made in Indonesia
Build: Solid spruce top, laminated mahogany back and sides. Mahogany neck with 20-fret bound rosewood fingerboard. Rosewood bridge, chrome mini Grover tuners, two strap buttons. Undersaddle piezo pickup; Belcat Prener LC preamp with Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence, auto/manual chromatic tuner with LCD/LED read-out, Power and Note switches. Separate quick-release battery holder
Options: Six-string O-5CE (£199), acoustic O-5 (£149). The other Adam Black 12-string is the solid spruce/mahogany
S-5/12 acoustic dread at £169
Left-handers: Not as electro 12, but try the O-5CE/LH at £199
Finish: Gloss natural
Scale length: 25.5"/648mm
12th fret 58.5mm
Depth of neck:
First fret 21.5mm
9th fret 23mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 1.5mm
12th fret bass 1.7mm
Max rim depth: 110mm
Max body width: 389mm