REVIEW: Fernandes Ravelle Deluxe Baritone

In some circles, Fernandes is known for the high quality copy guitars it made in decades gone by. I have a rather impressive Fernandes Jazz Bass copy, for instance. For others the Fernandes Sustainer, a pickup system that provides infinite sustain and controllable feedback by interacting with the string itself, is a thing of legend, the key to a sonic Eden populated by the likes of Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Reeves Gabrels and Adrian Belew.

Fernandes calls the Ravelle Deluxe Baritone (discontinued in the USA but still available in some markets, or check eBay) the most aggressive axe it’s ever made, and it’s easy to see why. Apart from the distinctive Ravelle styling, which looks like some kind of medieval weapon concealed within the lower half of an otherwise subdued looking 50s solidbody guitar design, this mahogany-bodied beast features fire breathing EMG pickups and an extended scale length designed for maximum impact when tuning down.

The Ravelle Baritone came tuned to B and was strung with heavy D’Addario strings selected to get the most out of the extended 27” scale length at such a low tuning. The hardwear, in classic metal tradition, could be ‘none more black.’ The Gotoh-made Tune-O-Matic bridge and Stop tailpiece good choices for maintaining tuning stability, while the break angle of the bridge to the tailpiece seems to add its own little mojo in terms of sustain and fullness of tone.

Electronics consist of a pair of EMG 81 pickups, a 3 way toggle switch, and volume and tone controls. The fretboard has a 14” radius, with a 5 1/8” Graph Tech Trem nut. What? A trem nut? Hang on, bucko, there’s logic behind this lunacy. Sure, at first it would seem like an odd choice – why would a nut designed for keeping vintage tremolo systems in tune be used on a fixed bridge guitar? But it makes perfect sense when you consider that there’s no ‘standard’ string gauge or even standard tuning for baritone guitars, so this self-lubricating nut is a great way of covering all bases and coping with the demands of a player who may change string gauges and tunings several times before settling on their preferred setup.

Ravelle Baritone, meet Marshall DSL50. The Ravelle is a straight up ass kicker from the very first chord. Those used to tuning down on standard scale instruments, or even dedicated 7-stringers like myself, will realise very quickly that they’re missing out by playing lower tunings without the extended scale of this baritone. The extra length keeps the string tension tight and makes the note definition sharp and punchy. On a down-tuned standard scale guitar, play a chord and the notes drift around a little bit, especially if you’re using lighter strings. On this baritone, the tuning remains solid, but more importantly, there’s a punch and oomph to the note attack that you just can’t get with a standard scale length. The EMG pickups add some bite and fizz to the top end, so not only does the Ravelle thud you in the chest, it also takes off some skin – metaphorically speaking of course, unless you get a bit too wild with that sharp treble side cutaway during live performance…

The Ravelle Baritone has uses for everything from metal to country, though pickups with a coil split option might enhance its use for the latter. While I thought I would generally pretty happy to stick with my 7 string when I need to get down to low B, now I’m not so sure.

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