The Big Review: Rivolta Mondata Baritone VII
Will this do-it-all baritone prove to be another chart topper for the Dennis Fano hit factory?
We first reviewed the Rivolta Mondata back in 2018 and were mightily impressed with this Dennis Fano-designed mashup of Rickenbacker and Firebird stylings. NAMM 2020 saw a baritone version join the growing Rivolta family, and we couldn’t wait to spend some meaningful time with a model that was one of the highlights of the show.
Built around a 28-inch scale length, the Mondata Baritone VII retains the body outline and construction style found on Rivolta’s 25-inch scale Mondata VIII and XVIII models. The chambered and double-bound offset mahogany body features a German carve and Firebird-style raised centre, though the neck is set maple rather than a neck-through design. The full-width aged pearloid block inlays set into the rich chocolate-brown ebony ’board are a stylish touch reminiscent of European instruments of the 1960s, while the twin gold pickguards and Fuoco Burst finish make for an alluring combination.
Though baritones have earned their place in the modern heavy rock and metal player’s arsenal, the presence of slider switches for phase and coil split modes hints that this instrument has much more to offer than chugging powerchords – likewise the presence of Rivolta’s Novanta neck P-90 alongside the Brevetto humbucker at the bridge.
“The Baritone VII is supremely versatile and too good-looking to be condemned to life with a studio tan”
The flared centre section offers enough space for a Bigsby B5, but our desire to wobble is curtailed by the presence of a stop tailpiece behind the Nashville-style tune-o-matic bridge. At the headstock end, the strings are anchored by a smooth and trouble-free set of Kluson-style Wilkinson units, while including ‘By Novo Guitars’ on the peghead decal leaves no doubt that this is a production instrument with boutique pedigree.
Although the Mondata Baritone VII is strung with medium-gauge 0.014-0.068 strings and tuned B-B at the factory, the wound D doesn’t prove too much of an impediment to executing blues or even country bends. Thanks to domed fret ends and softened binding edges, the feel is fast and slinky, while the neck dimensions make the acclimatisation period for regular six-string players mercifully brief.
“Though baritones have earned their place in modern heavy rock and metal, this offers far more than chugging powerchords”
The pickup voicings ensure that while overdriven chords, riffs and lead lines can get fantastically thick and greasy, there’s still plenty of clarity and upper-harmonic interest, especially when boosted with a Klon, Tube Screamer or both. Clean things up and add some reverb and tremolo and you can easily nail Wichita Lineman and Twin Peaks atmospherics, while it’s even possible to generate convincing 60s bass tones. These can be enhanced further by using a dedicated bass amp or plugin.
If the baritone register’s depth presents mix issues, the Mondata VII comes loaded with two ways to hollow things out and slice off some bottom end. Flip the coil split slider switch (closest to the tone control) to the up position and it’s a passport to vintage twang – just add slapback and Brylcreem. In the middle position the pairing of split-coil bridge ’bucker and neck P-90 works beautifully for indie arpeggios and fingerpicking, with an airy sweetness complemented by long natural sustain and an even decay.
With the phase switch pushed into the down position (this can cause an audible click, so be careful with your timing) the middle setting takes on a more strangled and nasal quality perfect for those doubled ‘tic-tac’ bass parts. There are two flavours available depending on how the bridge pickup is set – engage both phase and coil-split switches for maximum bass cut and cocked-wah quack.
Used to create a variety of bass, rhythm and lead voices during a recording session, the distinct tones on offer stack up very nicely in the mix and never feel like a compromise. Yet although the Mondata Baritone VII is supremely versatile, it’s surely far too good-looking to be condemned to life with a studio tan – happily if you decide to take it out into the wild you’ll notice that it balances well on a strap too. The complete package.
Rivolta Mondata Baritone VII – 9/10 (Editor’s Choice)
- PRICE £1,168
- DESCRIPTION 6-string offset-waist baritone electric, made in Korea
- BUILD Chambered double-bound mahogany body with German carve and raised centre block, set maple neck with C+ profile, 12” radius ebony fingerboard with aged pearloid block inlays and 24 medium-jumbo frets
- HARDWARE Wilkinson vintage-style machineheads, tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece
- ELECTRONICS Rivolta Novanta P-90 (neck) and Brevetto humbucking (bridge) pickups, three-way toggle pickup selector switch, master volume, master tone, coil split and phase switches
- SCALE LENGTH 28”/711mm
- NECK WIDTH 43.1mm at nut, 51.7mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 20.9mm at first fret, 23.0mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 34.8mm at nut, 50.8mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 7.9lb/3.58kg
- FINISH Fuoco Burst (as reviewed), Toro Black, Laguna Blue
- OPTIONS Premium soft case (£97)
- LEFT-HANDERS Yes (Fuoco Burst only, no upcharge)
- VERDICT Versatility, style and a secret weapon for recording
- CONTACT coda-music.com, rivoltaguitars.com