February 16, 2010 - ModGuitar Senior Editor
Agile 3000M Single Cut Electric Guitar
The Agile brand name has become synonymous with high quality imported guitars. For the price they are hard to beat.
Agile branded guitars are the import guitar to look at, particularly for Gibson inspired designs. Agile guitars peaked in popularity due to exposure and praise from message board users. In the gorilla marketing world, Agile is the 800lb silverback. Since that peak in 2006 new brands have emerged as contenders, as well as familiar brands making the changes required to compete in this new phase of imported guitar sales.
In Depth Review
The model we have in for review is an off the rack (or out of the box) 2004 Agile AL-3000M in Honey Sunburst. A transitional instrument, it has an older headstock design and a rounded lower horn. Newer Agile guitars have a more attractive redesigned headstock
The AL-3000M has a nice set of features, offering a blend of vintage styling and custom options not found in other brands at this price point.
Agile AL-3000M features at a glance
- 3/4″ carved Maple top (solid, multi-piece)
- Mahogany back (solid, multi-piece)
- Mahogany neck
- Ebony Fingerboard
- Jumbo frets
- Abalone Inlays (laminated)
- Flame Maple veneer on the face
- Slightly thinner neck width
- Grover Tuners
- Bone Nut
- Vintage style pick-ups
- Polyurethane finish.
Straight out of the shipping packaging this instrument is adequately set-up. The fret work is comparable to any other import we’ve played including Epiphones and Ibanez.The neck is readily adjustable via the truss rod and the supplied hex wrench. This guitar has a hex bolt at the headstock for truss rod adjustment
The 3000m features a real flame maple veneer over a solid (multi piece) Maple top. The back and neck are Mahogany.
The neck on this guitar has a fairly flat profile, and like most of the Agile line has a slightly slimmer width at the nut 1.67″/42mm compared to vintage instruments. Comfortable for younger or smaller hands. The frets are jumbo, so bending is a breeze and fretting chords are easy.
The bridge is a Tune-O-Matic style with individually adjustable saddle inserts. The stop tall is a standard design. The hardware for this guitar is Gotoh brand. The finish is blemish free, aside from a few tiny specs under the clear coat. The Honey Sunburst is more of an Amber Sunburst to our eyes. The pick-guard and truss-rod cover are both cream plastic with a pearloid top layer. The back and neck are tinted a reddish brown.
We were just a little disappointed to find that the maple top is in three pieces, clearly visible since this model has a natural maple edge binding. We’ve seen other imports with up to seven pieces making up a maple top, so this isn’t a big deal, though it’s not ideal. The neck has black binding on the fret board with white side position markers. The abalone inlays are colorful and seem to be cleanly installed without excessive filler.
We reworked the nut for a perfect custom feel and look, with optimal slot depth and a rounded and polished surface.
The Ebony fingerboard isn’t as smooth as we’d like it to be having a definite graininess that is difficult to address once the frets are installed. The fingerboard radius is 12°, a comfortable middle ground between flat shred and rounded chording profiles. The strap buttons are fairly large and can probably hold a strap almost as well as strap locks. The nut is bone, and is shaped in a traditional slanted top style. The nut slot depth was a little high from the factory making open chords a little uncomfortable to play and making the action seem stiff overall. (see note, above)
This particular model shipped with Wilkenson, vintage style Alnico magnet pick-ups with metal braided single conductor shielding. At the time this review is being written the Agile guitars are available with stock and Seymour Duncan branded pick-ups, as well as pick-ups similar to the one tested. They have a pleasant clean sound with leads and chording standing out nicely. Distorted, they tend to have mid range overtones. We found ourselves turning down the mids, and turning up the treble a bit on our test amp. The bass comes across clean but a bit muffled even under distortion. You could compare these stock pups to a Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB set with a little less sparkle. Good for clean sounds, jazzy licks, on into classic rock tones, but falling shy of modern crunch or deep metal tones. Definitely a Mod worthy guitar. In fact, we had a Jazz/JB set in this instrument for awhile and found it still lacked something, so back to stock it goes as we keep it in mind for that perfect pick-up combo to compliment this guitar’s tone. Played unplugged the tone is a little thin, probably due to the heaviness of the guitar overall. This guitar isn’t very loud acoustically.
The electronic components are of decent quality. In the years since this guitar came to the studio the three-way switch has occasionally developed intermittence, which we will eventually need to fix. The pots have worked fine, and haven’t developed any scratchiness or noise. Being standard import quality the feel isn’t the same as you would get from CTS or similar components.
Before we pass verdict on the Agile AL-3000M, let’s consider some of the reasons this particular guitar, and others like it from other brands, tend to sound – how to say it, worth their price?
- Wood: Yes it does affect the tone of electric guitars, the weight and density of the wood, including the fingerboard affects the tone of the instrument, however subtly.
- Finish: The thicker poly finishes found on just about every import instrument tend to act like a plastic shell which effects tone. It’s not always a bad thing, but it’s there.
- Quality of the components: The metal parts, the material they are made out of, their weight, all these factors effect the sound. For good or bad.
We’re not out to knock the Agile AL-3000M, far from it. These guitars are great all around instruments worthy of professional use and affordable ebough to be first guitars, back-up guitars, gig, and practice instruments. They are definitely worth a look, compared to other guitars in the same price range.
Check out our youtube review-jam of the Agile 3000M
The Agile AL-3000M can stand on it’s own, delivering a tasty version of a traditional look and sound for a reasonable price – while also offering many stand out custom features. When compared to similarly priced Epiphones the competition gets stiff, the differences are cosmetic as much as anything. Compared to the premium Epis’ such as the discontinued Elitist line, the gap widens due the higher quality over all of the Epiphones.
Follow up – After the Honeymoon
We’ve had this guitar around for awhile and we’ve done a few mods to customize it to our liking.
At one point we swapped the pick-ups from the stock ones to a set of Seymour Duncan (jazz/jb), while the tone improved a little, we decided that much of the ‘character’ of this guitar was inherent in the build (a thicker dark mid-rangy tone), so the stock pups went back in, and we’ll live with it.
Please note that individual guitars vary quite a bit, and our particular reviewed instrument may not reflect the exact tone of another from the same line. Our hands on reviews are mean to reflect our general impression with one particular instrument, in comparison to others we have had access to.
The thick poly finish can hinder tone a little. One of our standard mods for imports is to thin the poly a bit by re-sanding, and then using rubbing compounds to bring up a fresh deep gloss. This can really improve the look and feel of factory poly finishes. Thinning the finish generally improve the tone of the guitar by slightly altering the resonant frequencies that are dampened as the instrument is played.
The stock nut had the vintage style long deep slot that you can find on Gibsons, which in our opinion is one of the main reasons for tuning issues. The nut was re-profiled, the nut slots adjusted and then polished.
The fret work from the factory was adequate but not ideal. We did a level, dress and polish to even things out and improve playability. We took this fret dress as an opportunity to sand down the fret board a little to get rid of some of the unsightly grain the stock ebony fingerboard had. Sanded smooth, and treated with a fingerboard finishing oil, it looks better than ever.
The pick-up covers have shown a tendency to tarnish over time, to the point of developing some pitting and stains that don’t polish out easily. We’ve settled for polishing with a modern guitar polish and just living with them showing their age. We haven’t had this problem with any other guitar, so we have to conclude that it’s an issue with the pickup’s materials.
Conclusion: If you’re looking for that Les Paul recipe at a budget price, and are willing to give an Import a try, the Agile line of guitars are worth a look. Many thousands of satisfied customers can attest to Rondomusic.com’s customer service and the Agile brand being a high quality import, suitable for just about any player looking to add another guitar to stable, or starting out with an affordable alternative.
Agile guitars are imported and sold by: Rondo Music
Modguitar.com is not affiliated with Rondo Music.