Given that Gibson's original Roy Smecks had whopping 2.25"-wide Hawaiian-style necks which were often later cut down for non-slide players, this is the first aspect of Santa Cruz's ‘conversion' that merits attention. While the neck has been appreciably scaled down for regular playing, at 46.5mm across the nut and 59mm at the octave it's still quite a handful.
With 59mm string spacing at the bridge, its forte is fingerstyle-led flatpicking - and though the neck's rounded profile is reasonably moderate in depth, the overall configuration isn't one you'd instinctively choose for everyday strumming. The guitar definitely favours a specialist technique, especially when you take the 12-fret neck join into account as well.
Nevertheless, the RS is a fabulous instrument in the J-45 mould. Like the H13, the deep-rimmed body is sitka spruce and mahogany, the top sporting a superb dark sunburst, the central yellow portion serving to highlight the spruce's rich cross-silking. The back and sides are stained a plain tobacco brown prior to the gloss lacquering, which is immaculate - amazing on a top that, being largely near-black, is unforgiving to any buffing imperfections.
Trim includes tortie body binding, contrasting light-colour rosette rings, and black binding along the 20-fret ebony fingerboard. Up on the curlicue-topped spade headstock sits a set of Santa Cruz-branded Waverly-style gold tuners which look the business.
One interesting aspect on all Santa Cruzes is that neck pitches are set to give steep break-angles for the strings over the saddles. This aids good string tension and ensures you're never going to run out of adjustment at the saddle, even with the most fret-hugging action.
This guitar really has the Gibson-redolent sound firmly nailed. The delivery is big and bold, lushly warm and deep in the lower reaches but not so fulsome as to undesirably skew or overly dominate the clear-toned high end. It's just a great Advanced Jumbo sound, one whose sense of maturity from new is both impressive and hugely enticing.