Review: Fernandes Retrorocket Pro Fretless Guitar

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I was in the market for a guitar for some studio work and I wanted something that would help me in soundscaping and design. I was looking for something with MIDI capabilities and came across a Fernandes Retrorocket Pro Fretless Guitar with Sustainer Pickup and GK3 Pickup (modified). I think this was a custom build that was being resold. I had always wanted to try a fretless guitar but they seemed prohibitively expensive. But this one was well priced in the range of a standard Ibanez and had a sustainer pickup and a mounted Roland GK3.

Specs:

  • Body: Ash
  • Neck: Maple, Bolt On
  • Fingerboard: Maple, 25 1/2″ Scale,
  • 22 Jumbo Frets, 16″ Radius, Center Dot Inlays
  • Nut: Composite 1 5/8″
  • Tuning Gears: Die Cast Vintage
  • Bridge: Synchronized Tremolo
  • Features: FERNANDES SUSTAINER SYSTEM
  • Controls: 5-Way Lever Switch, SUSTAINER ON/OFF & Mode Switches, 1 Volume, 1 Tone
  • Pickups: Neck: SUSTAINER, Middle: Vintage Single Coil, Bridge: High Output Humbucker
  • Colors: Black, Vintage Cream, Tobacco Sunburst, Cherry Sunburst

First Impression:

The guitar is surprisingly light. The Tobacco sunburst is well suited to a retro look, like its name implies. The neck is thin and extremely playable and well suited for shredding. The action is impossibly low, owing to the absence of frets. There was no buzz and the fretboard plays like butter.

The controls are comfortably placed for live and studio playing. For the pickups you have a volume and a tone control with a 5-way selector switch. The Retrorocket Pro has a humbucker in the Bridge pickup that makes it ideal for heavier sounds. The Sustainer has 2 switches. One is for switching the sustainer On and Off, and the other is for the sustainer Mode. The Sustainer has a Standard Mode and a Harmonic Mode, similar to what you would find on the E-Bow.

Sound:

The guitar has a slightly darker sound than a comparable Fender model. This, however, does not affect its clarity. From clean funk to clean arpeggios, this guitar delivers on the tones. The high output humbucker is well suited for heavy riffs.

That being said, it is a fretless so you do have to change the way you play and approach the instrument. Your fingerings have to be on point and playing your regular movable chord shapes may not yield good results. This is an instrument that you generally need to spend some time on, before you get the sounds you’re looking for.

Where it shines, is in the range of tones you can get from this instrument. It’s perfect for a studio and for musicians looking for something more to add to their sound.

Starting with the basic fretless, you’re able to get some amazing sounds from large interval slides to microtones. If Indian, Persian or other microtonal music is your cup of tea, you will find this instrument a welcome addition to your arsenal. The additional bonus is that the gear heads are mechanical so the strings don’t slip, and you do not have to tune every 20 mins, unlike an Oud for instance. Riffs and licks can take on a whole new dimension with large interval slides and vibrato. What’s most satisfying is that you can elicit a more vocal quality to your playing by the phrasing you choose on a fretless instrument since you’re able to smoothly glissando your way between notes and add a very even vibrato to them.

Moving on to the Sustainer, you can harness its potential for solos. This is particularly useful in sound design when combined with long delays and reverbs. The fretless aspect of the guitar gives some very unusual timbres one will not find in other instruments. Holding multiple notes also makes for interesting soundscapes.

I also ended up trying to hear the difference in sound between using the Sustainer pickup and using an E-Bow. There is significant difference in the sound and the fretless aspect again, adds a whole new dimension to the E-Bow sound.

The Roland GK3 pickup was used to connect to a Roland GR-33 unit and I was able to utilize everything from Flutes to Trumpets and even a synth for an industrial sound. The fretless aspect again adds an added dimension to the sound that you wouldn’t necessarily get from a fretted guitar.

Verdict:

In summary, the guitar by itself is a great instrument. The make and build quality is comparable to most guitars in its price range. Where this guitar absolutely outshines the others is its application as a tool for the gigging and studio guitarist. The options offered by this instrument are not easily found elsewhere. And for the price, it is literally a steal. I would highly advise checking out this instrument for your studio and for trying something different.

Visit their website for more at:

http://www.fernandesguitars.com/retrorocket/retrorocket-pro.html

Rahul Mukerji is a composer and guitarist. Check his solo work through the official website or follow him on Facebook. He also plays in a band called Iritis. They are on Facebook too.