Price paid: $ 499
Purchased from: http://www.fernandesguitarshop.com/
Features — 9
I bought this guitar brand new a little over a week ago, Feb 2014, during an overstock sale. The guitar was made in Korea and has the traditional single cutaway specs (mahogany body and set neck, maple top, rosewood fingerboard 24 3/4" scale, TOM bridge).
The guitar has a nice heft to it, weighing in at a little less than 10 lbs. I chose the gloss black color, and it looks very classy with a deep shine and the thick cream colored single binding all around. All the hardware is black. The tuners are no name, but they are locking and seem to be good quality. It also featured a GraphTech Tusq XL nut.
It has three metal knobs, two volume and one tone that control the EMG 81/60 pickups. As far as specs go, you'd be hard pressed to find a better combination of quality and features at this price.
Sound — 9
This is the first axe that I have bought of the net. I took the chance though because of the sale price and the good reviews, plus I just fell in love with the body shape. I have two other guitars that are similar LP style knock offs, so I knew what I liked in a guitar. This guitar fits my playing style perfectly, and offers exactly the things I want and nothing I don't, simple and effective.
Without even being plugged in this guitar is surprisingly loud for an electric, notes just seem to jump from the guitar and sustain for quite a long time even without amplification. Being a heavy solid mahogany/ maple guitar, it does have a darker sound. I have two amps that I play through, a Peavey 15 watt and a ValveKing 100w 2x12. Through my practice amp the guitar sounds very good, but through the VK it sounds just epic!
The EMG pickups are what they are, love em or hate em I guess. I like them, and at the same time see their weaknesses. This is the first guitar I've owned with actives BTW. You can get some awesome, even iconic tones out of them, and pinch harmonics just scream. They also remain surprisingly clean and articulate at very high gain. They can at times however sound slightly cold/sterile. I don't plan on changing them any time soon though. I will probably attempt the 18V mod sometime in the future. Finding a place to mount an extra battery will present a challenge but should be worth it.
One thing I would like to point out is the control knob configuration on this guitar. There are three knobs, two that control each pickups' volume, and a master tone. This is the perfect configuration for me because I like to mix the sound of both the neck and bridge pickups sometimes, which can sound very good with these pickups. Some guitars I don't like the sound of the neck pickup at all, but I like it quite a lot on this one. The EMG's are also very quite when not playing as well.
Bottom line: if you can't get this guitar to sound good, then you're doing it wrong.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I goth this guitar direct from the distributer. Fernandes states on their website that they take pride in setting up the instrument at the factory. The action was actually set a little too low, and there was some buzzing at the lower frets. I raised it just slightly and that took care of it. The action is still very low with no buzzing now. I believe that it came with D'Addario strings, I replaced them with a set of Dunlop 10's which is what I prefer.
Fit and finish was great, with the only imperfection being a small white mark on the back of the neck. Everywhere else the paint is flawless. The frets felt great as well, no sharp edges anywhere. All of the electronics function perfectly, the guitar came with a battery. The pickups were setup perfect, clearance is at 1/8", the volume of both is equal. I got the guitar shipped in a case. The case was $50, very nice case, looks good and it holds the guitar securely.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I've only had it for a little over a week, but I have no reason to believe that this is anything less than a solid/reliable axe. I did replace the strap buttons with straplocks, but I do that with all my guitars. I also removed the finish on the back of the neck with steel wool, like I do with all my guitars, and the finish is definitely durable. I wouldn't gig without a backup if I didn't have too, but I would trust this guitar as much as I would any out there.
BTW after I removed the finish from the neck, I rubbed it with a cloth and some natural colored shoe polish. This way the wood isn't unfinished. This is a tip I got from somewhere, and it actually worked really well. Your hand just flies up and down the neck now.
Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing this guitar in mostly standard tuning, playing anything from Zeppelin to Pantera. Most of my playing is heavier stuff with distortion. You can absolutely nail Metallica tones with this guitar, not a surprise with the EMG 81/60 combo. Like many LP style guitars you can get nice/warm clean sound, I'm sure you could play Jazz on this guitar too if you so choose. If you don't like EMGs, they offer this guitar with passives as well, or you could just trade em for some SDs. Whatever your opinion the 81/60 set is one of the most iconic over the last 25 years, I only wish it would have come with the newer 81/60X pickups, which are suppose to sound more organic/less sterile.
I've been playing for over 10 years now. I've played/owned more guitars than I can remember, from cheap Epi/Squier, to Ibanez/ESP, PRS even LP Customs, and this guitar is as nice as any of them IMO.
Obviously this isn't a guitar for a strat/superstrat player. If you do like a single cutaway short scale guitar, that has a little bit of a nasty side though, then this guitar is definitely one to consider. I honestly didn't even know that I wanted this guitar. I've never owned a Fernandes and I didn't really need this guitar. Now that I own it though, I realize it has filled a hole in my life/heart... A weirdly shaped, gloss black, hole.