This commemorative version of Ralph Novak’s original Fanned-Fret wonder is easy to play and sounds fantastic.
The history of guitar is defined by reinvention, and when it comes to getting the geometry of 6-string sonics right, Ralph Novak’s fanned-fret instruments are some of the most beneficially imaginative guitar evolutions of the last three decades.
But at first glance, fanned-fret guitars are not everyone’s cup of tea. To the uninitiated, they can seem unnecessarily odd or even hubristic in comparison to traditional designs. But it’s the science behind this fanning that makes believers out of many skeptics—there’s a method to what may outwardly look like madness. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s not just the frets that are splayed out in a funky-looking array: Each string’s bridge saddle is also staggered across the face of the instrument in order to conform to careful measurements optimized for that string. In layman’s, terms the objective is to get uniform harmonic content across the fretboard, and the fullest possible frequency range that can be generated from each note. The benefits aren’t all sonic, however. Varying string lengths also contribute to more consistent-feeling tension across each string. Once players get past the initial adjustment in feel, they often remark that the Novax feels easy to play and more in tune across the fretboard.
This year the Novax Fanned-Fret solidbody is 25 years old—an occasion Novak is commemorating with the release of 25 handbuilt anniversary versions of the innovative instrument. In the time I spent with this guitar—which included sharing it with some great players and guitar experts—it was hard to not be struck by what a versatile instrument it is.
Feast of Design
The 25th Anniversary edition Novax is available in two U.S.-made models: the Sassy Annie and our review guitar, the Sweet Annie. Sweet Annie has a mahogany body, maple neck, ebony fretboard, and two hum-cancelling Bartolini soapbar pickups, while Sassy Annie has a swamp-ash body and a choice of three Lollar or Bartolini single-coils.
Thoughtful design is evident everywhere on our test Annie. The tuning machines are situated for straight string pull past the bone nut—a fact that should decrease tuning issues due to reduced friction. The electronics cavities are shielded with copper foil and leave plenty of room for modifications. And the 500k pots, 5-way switch, and .02?F capacitor are all high quality—although the volume pot’s taper felt like it could be a bit more nuanced.
Surprisingly Easy to Know
Unsure about how effectively muscle memory would serve me on the unfamiliar Novax fretboard, I made a point of not looking down as I played. I was surprised how quickly my fingers found their mark, and it wasn’t long before I felt almost totally at home. It may seem wildly counterintuitive, but ultimately the fanned frets felt easier for me to play than a traditional guitar.
Typically, I play a fairly ordinary Stratocaster through a ’67 Fender Super Reverb. Comparatively, the Novax is louder at the same amp settings, but also much clearer. And though the Annie sounds big, it’s also very controllable and responsive to playing dynamics. Bang on it, and the attack is loud and immediate. Play gently, and notes have a blooming quality. It is also remarkably noise free. The detail and dynamic sensitivity really reward articulation and precision. And the even tone response and output across the fretboard highlights the nuance and detail that come from a sensitive touch. A cool secondary effect of all this clarity is that it makes pedals feel more detailed and full of range, too.
I work in a busy guitar shop (Gary Brawer Guitar & Bass Repair in San Francisco) that sees a lot of traffic from high-profile players. It was fascinating to hear impressions as I gave a few of them a chance to play the Annie. Jerry Harrison (formerly of Talking Heads) enjoyed the ease of playing around the middle of the neck, though he noted that barre chords were awkward at first. Jim Martin (formerly of Faith No More) plugged in Sweet Annie and fell into a fifteen minute, dreamlike flamenco reverie. Gary Brawer, who counts Joe Satriani and Metallica among his clients, remarked on the quality of the fretwork and how effectively the .110" x .057" frets work with the setup. (One interesting aside: The popular PLEK computerized fret-mill system cannot be used with a fanned-fret instrument like the Novax.)
If you’re looking for the slightly out-of-control, teetering-on-feedback sound of a Les Paul through a 50-watt Marshall half-stack, an instrument like the Sweet Annie is probably not your first choice. It’s controlled and precise. It rewards a technical touch. That said, it’s not so civilized that it sounds sterile or innocuous. It’s sonically robust and loud. Most surprising, it’s truly easy to play after a short get-to-know-you period. Indeed, it’s the kind of guitar I could play all night.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.