As a Fernandes bass owner myself I was looking forward to checking out the Ravelle Bass Deluxe, although it’s much more of a modern instrument than my vintage-style J-type bass. My beloved four-stringer is great for old-school R&B, Led Zeppelin riffs and the occasional Audioslave moment, and its modern equivalent is the Retrospect 4 X, an alder-bodied, maple necked bolt-on with single coil pickups.
In contrast the Ravelle is a much harder-edged beast, both physically and in musical intention. Shaped like its six-string guitar brother (also called the Ravelle), this bass has a sleek single-cutaway body with subtle bevelling and a few aggressive points that just scream ‘metal!’ The neck is of the bolt-on maple variety. It has a rosewood fretboard with a relatively flat 16″ radius, 22 jumbo frets and distinctively Fernandes pearl split trapezoid inlays, which will help you find your way while also linking the Ravelle thematically to other unique Fernandes designs like the Vertigo. The headstock features a hardy Graphtech Trem nut at 1 3/4″ spacing, and die cast tuning gears with buttons that kinda remind me of knee bones for some reason. Brutal.
At the other end you’ll find a sturdy vintage-style bridge and two EMG-35DC humbucking pickups, each with its own volume control and tied to a lone master tone control. There’s no active tone circuit, because frankly this isn’t the kind of bass that you want to play at a gig where you stand there and dial in your tone like a scientist. It’s designed to rock!
The black satin finish is comfortable and it feels pretty hard-wearing too, which is a plus because there’s nothing worse than a sleekly bevelled instrument with finish problems. Some guitars can handle chips and dings and still look cool. Some can’t. This one, you won’t have to worry.
Unplugged, the Ravelle Bass Deluxe has a great natural compression that occurs when you hit the strings really hard. This is plenty of fun when you’re playing around the house, but it translates even more strongly when amplified. It’s almost like having a limiter across your sound before it even hits your amp. This is a quality that will be great for hard rock and metal players who need to really lay in with a pick, and although the Ravelle Bass Deluxe is not the kind of bass you would immediately default to when playing slap and pop styles, it works well for this too. Although fingerstyle playing is effortless and toneful enough, the Ravelle is really at its best when played with a pick, and there’s plenty of treble cutting through to give your riffs definition and edge whether you’re playing clean, overdriven or mega-distorted. It’s also an incredibly playable bass, and I’d highly recommend it for players who feel the need for speed. Thrash and progressive players in particular will really benefit from just how easy it is to play accurately at high tempos.
The Ravelle Bass Deluxe is not for everyone. It’s obviously and unapologetically aimed at the metal market. And that’s what I like about it. Metal bass playing requires a specific approach that isn’t really suited to my old J-style, 1980s Fernandes. The Ravelle Bass Deluxe excels at this kind of stuff and I’m going to be sad to hand it back after this review, because it does a lot of great stuff very well that I just can’t do authentically with my current instruments.