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Henman Rocka Guitar Review

The gold-painted Rocka is equipped with twin Seymour Duncan humbuckers and an optional Skyway bridge.

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Clips recorded with a Blackstar HT Stage 60 amplifier, Shure SM57, Apogee Duet, Planet Waves Custom Pro cables, and GarageBand.

Half a decade ago, Henman-Bevilacqua

asserted itself as a formidable name in

boutique guitars. Far from typical knockoffs

of classic electric models, Henman-

Bevilacqua guitars were created by Graham

and Paris Henman, a husband-and-wife

team that brought a fresh aesthetic to

the guitar via their backgrounds in commercial

design and fashion. Luthier Scotty

Bevilacqua helped realize these elegantly

minimalistic axes, which featured updated

functionality, including a dramatic rethinking

of the traditional truss rod.

Now known simply as Henman, the

company has enlisted the legendary master

luthier Rick Turner to oversee the small

team that handmakes its instruments at

Turner’s facility in Santa Cruz, California.

(Turner’s Renaissance guitars are also built

here.) The Henman line includes two solidbody

electrics, the Rocka and the Mod, as

well as a bass guitar, the Rolla. We checked

out a sweet gold-painted Rocka equipped

with twin Seymour Duncan humbuckers

and an optional Skyway bridge. And to be

sure, the modern virtues of this guitar are

more than skin deep.

Subtle to Stylish Innovations

At a glance, with its double-cutaway asymmetric

body and offset waist, the Henman

Rocka owes something to the Leo Fender-school

of styling. But the comparisons

really end there. The Henman is made from

a special combination of woods, including

an eight-chambered one-piece African

mahogany body with a two-piece American

maple cap, a three-piece African sapele neck

and macassar ebony fretboard. And clearly,

the mahogany-body-and-maple-cap construction

is more influenced by Gibson’s Les

Paul than anything out of Fullerton.

The Rocka features some subtly unconventional

design details. The contoured

headstock—which looks a little like a nod to

Martin’s ill-fated, but super-cool ’70s solidbodies

channeled through a future-tech aesthetic—

is attached to the neck via a bell brass

nut mount. A tension-free square truss rod is

epoxied directly into the headstock and fits

into a metal channel in the neck—a configuration

that Henman says enhances the instrument’s

resonance and sustain by absorbing

string tension. Henman claims the design

improves stability and requires less periodic

adjustment than a traditional truss rod.

Other inspired design moves on the

Rocka include a 5-pin connector system

for changing pickups quickly and easily

without soldering. The instrument is

also almost entirely devoid of plastic

parts—even the fretboard position

markers are made of aluminum.

Henman even refinishes the Skyway

vibrato units—like the one found

on our review model—to match

the rest of the hardware, and

fabricates its own whammy-bar arms. Most

of the hardware is proprietary too, and

Henman makes its own pickup rings, control

knobs, and logos out of anodized aluminum.

Not only do these parts look really cool,

many of them are tuned to specific pitches

in the manufacturing process to further

enhance the resonance of the instrument.

The craftsmanship on our Rocka is

impeccable. The 24 nickel-silver frets, .084"

wide and with a .039" crown, are flawlessly

seated and polished. Made from an exclusive

composite of graphite and glass, the

1.7" nut is perfectly cut and doesn’t catch

strings, even under heavy whammy bar use.

All of Rocka’s solid finishes and stains

(most of them earth-toned) are named

after James Bond girls. And our Honey

Pale Gold (inspired by Ursula Andress’

character Honey Ryder in Dr. No) is both

reminiscent of the opulent lacquer on

1950s Les Pauls and almost as pretty as

Honey herself on the silver screen. Entirely

devoid of imperfections, the Rocka’s satiny

surface makes it a joy just to hold.

The Rocka comes in aluminum hardshell

case made by John Dixon cases in Hull,

England. Opening the case, I found some nice

bonuses that are included with each Henman

guitar: a deluxe leather strap, plus three

wrenches, for adjusting all of the hardware.

Sound Performance

Where Henman-Bevilacqua guitars were

known to be a tad hefty, our Rocka was

light at just under eight pounds, thanks to

its new, chambered construction. Given

the guitar’s factory-perfect setup, the action

on its 25.5"-scale bolt-on neck (with compound

10"–14" radius) felt low and slinky.

Our Rocka had a Seymour Duncan

’59 neck pickup and a Duncan Custom 5

bridge pickup. Controls include a 3-way

selector and master Volume and Tone controls.

(Other pickups, including Lollars and

Fralins, are available, or customers can send

their own to be installed.) The Tone control

also functions as a coil tap for the pickups,

and the Volume control works with the

same push-pull action to boost the gain.

To experience the amplified sound, I

plugged straight into a Blackstar HT Stage

6 and was wowed by the Rocka’s complex

and singing tone on all settings. Cleantoned

altered chords sustained with great

clarity, and overdriven lead runs played with

bends and legato phrasing sounded rich and

defined. The Skyway vibrato helped me add

everything from a subtle shimmer to more

dramatic fluctuations in pitch, and I was

impressed by its responsiveness, smoothness,

and stability—a trio of attributes

rarely found on the same tremolo unit.

Splitting the coils added a luscious chime

to some ringing arpeggios à la Jeff Buckley,

and the notes merged together with great

definition and dynamic balance. Boosting

the guitar’s gain via the Volume knob,

on the other hand, made an explosion of

pentatonics sound downright mean. This

is definitely a guitar that can fit almost any

situation—and one that players of all stripes

would find inspiring.

The Verdict

Henman’s Rocka is an uncommonly good

boutique electric built around tastefully

streamlined and adventurous design, and

packed with thoughtful features like a reengineered

truss rod and tuned aluminum hardware.

It plays extremely well and its expansive

range of complex tonal colors is very impressive.

While not cheap, it is a high-performance

guitar that can become a mainstay in

a player’s arsenal. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine

much the Henman Rocka can’t do.

Buy if...
you’re looking for a thoughtfully designed, marvelously versatile, and almost perfectly executed handmade modern guitar.
Skip if...
you’re a traditionalist or are not ready to splurge on a boutique guitar.

As reviewed: MSRP $5150 ($4850 w/ custom Mono gigbag) - Henman Guitars -