Now in the third generation, this family-owned business has been hand-crafting guitars in Toledo near Madrid since 1905. Manuel Rodriguez's reputation is richly deserved, with superb build quality and sound produced from the classically proportioned European acoustic guitars - Eric Clapton, Paco de Lucia, Andre Segovia and Sting are amongst its list of high-profile clients.
Manuel Rodriguez and Sons adheres to a strict eco ethos, with all the power for the factory machinery and lighting provided by solar panels covering their factory roofs. Not a scrap of material goes to waste with all its heating, courtesy of shavings, sawdust and other small pieces - burnt in special eco boilers.
Many of the larger off-cuts from guitar production become component parts for its cajons - parts such as the extensive internal bracing, sound hole reinforcement, snare adjusters etc. This cajon is standard sized and with a rectangular box construction.
The Soleá II is one the more expensive models in the range, and it also shares its name with the most basic of the 12-beat Flamenco rhythmic patterns. It's made entirely from birch ply. To the front there is a small 'MR' signature logo but the main feature of the frontplate is from the two decorative strips of marquetry. This follows down the far left-hand side, occupying the entire length of the tapa or frontplate.
There's a sound hole to the rear, Phillips screw fixings for the tapa, small rubber feet found on the base, snare-effect wires and a large guitar graphic on the tapa..
Inside is a label of authenticity - similar to those found when peering in through the sound hole of any Manuel Rodriguez guitar. The printed label has 'Manuel Rodriguez e Hijos' together with handwritten model designation, serial number and date of manufacture - awarding the cajon with an extra touch of class and credence.
With a full-on slap to the middle of the tapa, the Soleá II responds impressively with a deep, resonating bass tone. You can hear a significant difference between this and less expensive models in the range, which don't quite match the low end of the Soleá II.
The rattled snare effect and other higher percussive voices are easily attained with almost any loosely placed slap. When accuracy is required, this model shows a clear distinction between the various striking areas to produce a range of musical percussion sounds.
Though this cajon originates from a country steeped in the tradition and passion of the Flamenco, creating rhythms from almost any part of the world is feasible.