Dragonfly Elite review by Fernandes

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 7
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (10 votes)
Fernandes: Dragonfly Elite

Price paid: £ 465

Purchased from: Just Music - Loughborough

Sound — 9
Those that are unfamiliar with the Fernandes "Sustainer" system may feel that I have been over-zealous in giving the guitar's features a ten, but those that are familiar with it will understand - It's nothing short of awesome. I purchased this guitar in order to have a high-quality fixed-bridge type guitar to compete with my Carvin DC-127 (which has a locking Gotoh-Wilkinson Tremolo system), and I've since discovered it does so much more. My need for a fixed-bridge guitar stems from my recent passion for re-tuning, thanks to the advent of receiving my "This Town Needs Guns" tab-book. My musical style is eclectic, but is currently orientated upon my own music, which belongs in what is quite disgustingly described as "Math-Rock" - the music I like to play are predominantly that of This Town Needs Guns, Maps And Atlases, Minus The Bear, The Fall Of Troy, Tubelord, Years Of Rice And Salt, This Will Destroy You, Look Mexico, Oceansize, and many, many more. Nowadays, it's pretty easy to play pretty much anything, on any guitar - so long as you have the right set-up. My set up consists of my guitar, plugged into my front-of-panel effects (Boss CS-3->EHX Nano Small-Stone->Boss OD-3 [used for lead-boosts]->EHX Little Big Muff->Boss TU-2) which is then fed into my all-tube 40 Watt Marshall DSL-401 (Special Edition Blue Model, in which I have put a Celestion Vintage-30) with a Boss DD-7 running in the Effects loop. With this setup, you can pretty much do anything (to a certain degree, at least) and when paired with this guitar I am able to nail all of the post-rock, post-hardcore, prog-rock, and math-rock tones you can imagine. When clean, the neck pickup (Sustainer) has a nicely compressed, warm tone that is simply ideal for the tapping and finger-style techniques employed by TTNG, M&A and MTB, moving into the more bluesy territory of LM when paired with some light gain (not too much, mind, it's only the bloody neck pickup). When clean, the Seymour Duncan Bridge pickup shimmers, providing all the tones lacking in the neck - it has a jangle that is lacking in most humbucking pickups, when played through a valve-amp creates a lovely amount of tube-breakup. When driven, the SD packs more than the necessary amount of welly needed to play the likes of FoT, or indeed anything else that is remotely heavy - possibly even being able to achieve some metal tones, though don't quote me on it. The middle position too is more than usable, providing lovely airy Jazz tones when used with the appropriate clean settings. The volume and tone pots are good quality, and very responsive, and although the guitar has no coil-tapping capabilities, I don't exactly pine for single-coil tones (probably due to my Carvin's coil tapping capabilities, and my Lace Holy-Grail loaded Japanese Fender Stratocaster) though this fact may be a feature that some may miss. Now it is time to discuss the Sustainer system. It's nothing short of... Well, awesome. To describe, it's essentially a built in E-Bow. When the "on" Switch is activated, the pickup selector is bypassed, and the Bridge pickup is engaged for output purposed. Meanwhile, the neck pickup (Sustainer), with the aid of some circuitry and a battery, begins to emit magnetic pulses that cause the strings to vibrate indefinitely. The second Sustainer Switch alters the mode of the effect, alternating it between the actual pitch of the strings, and the 5th Harmonic. The latter of these settings is fun to use, and interesting, though as a default I almost always use the Standard setting. Those that have used an E-bow will be familiar with its effects (though in this case you do have to be careful when muting your strings, in order to prevent noise), and those who are not should search for a video demonstration in order to fully understand how great this effect is. It's completely analogue, in that the effect is actually a physical process that can be heard even when the volume is turned down. It produces an effect that swells and sings, that - when paired with a little compression, some delay, some reverb, and a good glass-slide - will have you kicking yourself for hours at not discovering it sooner. Spacey prog-rock sounds, a-la Pink Floyd, Oceansize, Sigur Ros, and Years Of Rice And Salt fly from the fingers like pigeons from a coop... And oh, I could go on for days. It is a rare addition that is not stock in many guitars (yet), that adds a little something special to an otherwise great guitar. I've gone on too long, so now to the next bit.

Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing for about eight years now, and play past a grade 8 standard. I've already been into great detail about many things in this review, and am finding it difficult to go on much more than I already have. It's a great bit of kit, and I have frankly been blown away by it. Its competitor in my affections was a Tokai Love-Rock II, and to be honest it was no contest. If it were stolen then... Well I don't know, I guess I'd cry for a bit, have a little ceremony and then go buy something else - you all know how it is.

Reliability & Durability — 8
This guitar is built nice and sturdy. It's probably too soon to assume too much, but after a month it doesn't look as if much is going to go wrong. I'm pretty careful with my gear, and have an insurance policy anyway... Straplocks. I fitted them immediately, everyone should - if you don't you're an idiot. I'd gig without a backup and probably not regret it, though it is important to mention that the guitar's electronics are active, even when the Sustainer system is off - so if your battery is flat, so is your guitar. Sorry, but that's sometimes just the way of things. Fernandes say that this guitar has a battery life of about 50 hours, though I've played this thing all day, almost every day since I've had it - and its not dead yet, so go figure. The battery life is entirely dependent on how much you use the Sustainer effect, and whether or not you leave the guitar plugged in (as with any active guitars, or most effect, the circuitry is active as soon as you plug it in), so bare that in mind if you purchase a guitar with it installed. Though this is normal in any guitar with active components, I'll drop it a few marks here due to the guitar having a lifespan.

Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I've little to no idea about the factory set-up, but the guys at the shop set it up well with some 9's, nice and low with perfect intonation... It's just a shame that 9's are simply awful. As soon as I got home I put some 11's on the guitar, and gave the truss-rod an adjust, and re-setup to action nice and low. There is not a single bit of buzz on the guitar, and it has a lovely fast neck, with a shape and scale that is not too dissimilar from my Carvin - so there was extra comfort in that. The only thing that bothers me is that the guitar is not completely shielded inside the electronics cavity, though this is easily fixed. Due to this, and the aforementioned amount of adjusting in regards to the re-string, I'm going to give this section a seven, to be fair.

Features — 10
It's kind of difficult to describe this guitar's origins in any great detail, as this particular model is an older Dragonfly, now discontinued. I assume that is was either made in Japan or in Korea, though this has yet to be clarified despite my research into the issue. It came to me new, at a hideously reduced price (the shop manager reckoned that it'd been forgotten at the back of the supplier's warehouse, but either way these guitars retail at around about 1000 pounds) in a lovely translucent green finish (one that is still available in the current range) that really shows of the quilted maple cap. The shape of the guitar is reminiscent of PRS's guitars, with the scoop in the lower cutaway, and the general offset-DC-LP shape. The top appears as though it is bound, but upon closer inspection there is simply a layer of clear lacquer around the ridge of the body that shows off the layer of maple, which I must admit is no bad thing (you may be able to see in the picture what I mean). This maple cap is also paired with a mahogany body and neck. It has a 24 fret, 24-3/4" scale, 14" radius set-neck, bound with ivory with a rosewood fret-board, and offset abalone inlays. It also features a genuine graph-tech nut, with Grover (non-locking) tuners, coupled with a Gotoh tune-o-matic Bridge (both coloured in a chrome-black finish, much like the strap-buttons and volume/tone knobs). It also features (as the clincher) a Fernandes "Sustainer" pickup, paired with a Seymour Duncan SH-4JB. The pickups are controlled by a Master Volume, a Master tone, a 3-way selector switch, and two "Sustainer" control switches, that I'll go into later. The guitar also came with a Fernandes hard-case, with all of the paperwork and tools necessary to alter the guitar to your liking. The hard-case actually came with the handle broken off (probably another reason for the dramatic price-cut), but my dad and I managed to bolt on a hardy leather strap, and it works just fine. As guitars go, it's pretty packed with all the extras a working guitarist might need, and with the addition of the Fernandes "Sustainer" system, you've got yourself a rather neat little package... So much so that I'm even willing to overlook the fact the hard-case was bust.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I love fernandes sustainers, sadly i can't get anything like it in my country i love the colour of your gat man!
    Cheers, the one pictured isn't quite like mine though - I've just uploaded a picture of my actual guitar onto my profile, in case anyone cares (Please ignore the bad music).
    Glad to see ppl noticing the Fernandes brand. I also have this guitar, it's an '09 with a duncan custom in the bridge instead of the JB and it's awesome. Your review nailed it. I've had mine for a year and a half and it's held up great. Also from what I understand the elite model Fernandes guitars are all made in Japan (I could be mistaken). I hope you enjoy yours as much as I enjoy mine.
    If you're into sustain and getting effects beyond that aspect, check out www.vibesware.com (the G1-Resonator). I plan on doing a review on this in the near future.