Review: Novo Guitars Solus F1
Proof positive that a single-pickup guitar can be much more than a one-trick pony – especially when it’s been designed by a modern-day master.
Prior to 2020, Dennis Fano’s much-admired Novo line consisted of a variety of models built around the same double-cutaway, offset-waist body shape. But back in January, the Novo team headed to the NAMM Show with a pair of prototype examples of something new: the Solus.
This stripped-down, single-pickup solidbody is another offset design but it features a slightly more compact, single-cutaway silhouette with a 24.75-inch scale length and 22 Jescar 6125 frets as standard. Two flavours are available: the Solus M1 comes loaded with a wrapover bridge and a P-90, while our review model, the F1, features a Fralin Tele pickup and a Gotoh In-Tune bridge with compensated brass saddles and cut-down sides.
Although custom options on both Solus models are limited, the vibe is very much of a world-class Custom Shop instrument. The lightweight tempered pine body has a Surf Green nitrocellulose finish that’s been aged beautifully with scuffs, dings and fine lateral checking, while the neck is simply as good as it gets in contemporary guitar-making. Thermal treatment has given the subtly flamed maple a deep caramel hue, and it smells every bit as sumptuous as it feels. Gloss nitro gives way to smooth satin between the first and 12th frets and, along with the fret ends, the edges of the rich rosewood ’board have been rounded over for player comfort.
Though it leans towards Fender aesthetically, the Solus F1 is wired Junior-style, with Emerson Custom master volume and tone pots and a paper-in-oil tone capacitor. The snug combination of a Gibson scale length, bolt-on neck and T-style bridge makes for an appealing acoustic flavour with just the right blend of depth and snap. Together with the balanced sustain and sheer acoustic volume, it leads us to expect great things when we plug into our trusty Lazy J combo.
Are we ever going to be disappointed by an electric guitar designed by Dennis Fano? Certainly not today. Although many players assume that single-pickup solidbodies aren’t particularly versatile, you might be surprised by just how much range a simple, uncluttered circuit such as this can offer. With everything wide open and a robust pick attack, you get knockout-punch first-position chords with more than a hint of Townshend in his windmilling, angst-ridden pomp. Biting, raunchy, articulate but never brittle – as a power-pop and punk-rock rhythm machine, the Solus aces its audition. For many players, that would be enough, but there’s more light and shade here than that.
Roll back the volume knob a few notches and switch from pick to fingers and you’ll discover glistening chords and arpeggios, while taming the tone control a little introduces a woody, muscular quality that’s ideal for percussive R&B. Grab that pick again and dial some volume back in and you’ll find everything from Revolver to Keith Richards, to The White Stripes.
While truly authentic neck pickup tones are off the menu, there are plenty of fat lead sounds to savour – experiment with the full range of the tone control and attack the strings with the flesh of your fingers at the end of the fretboard to find them. It may appear simple but this is an extremely addictive, expertly built instrument with hidden depths to explore.
- PRICE £2,699 (inc. Mono M80 gigbag)
- DESCRIPTION Offset-waist solidbody electric guitar, made in USA
- BUILD Tempered pine slab body, tempered maple neck with ‘beefy C’ carve, 9.5” radius rosewood fingerboard, clay dot inlays, 22x Jescar 6125 frets, unbleached bone nut
- HARDWARE Kluson Supreme tuners with staggered posts, Gotoh In-Tune bridge with 3x compensated brass saddles and through-body stringing
- ELECTRONICS 1x Fralin Tele single-coil pickup, Emerson Custom master volume and master tone pots, Emerson Custom paper-in-oil tone capacitor
- SCALE LENGTH 24.75”/629mm
- NECK WIDTH 42.9mm at nut, 52.1mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 22.4mm at first fret, 24.4mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 35.2mm at nut, 54.0mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 6.4lb/2.9kg
- FINISH Distressed Surf Green nitrocellulose lacquer finish with matching peghead
- LEFT-HANDERS TBC
- CONTACT coda-music.com, novoguitars.com
Like this? Try these
- Eastman SB55/v £1,239
- Fender 70th Anniversary Esquire £1,899
- Gibson Custom 1957 Les Paul Junior Light Aged £3,799
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