The Big Review: Does Rivolta’s Regata VII offer the perfect blend of vintage and modern?
The latest instrument in the Dennis Fano-designed Rivolta range is this stylish 24-fret offset twist on the traditional semi-hollowbody.
Whether it’s had Novo or Rivolta emblazoned on the headstock, we’ve consistently been wowed by the sheer quality of everything we’ve played from the Dennis Fano stable. Needless to say, upon sliding the new Regata VII from its sturdy Rivolta-branded gigbag, the anticipation is palpable… and we’re not disappointed.
Despite being a sizeable guitar with a pressed maple top and back, mahogany frame and weight-relieved centre-block, the Regata VII’s clever offset design means it nestles comfortably when seated but also balances superbly on a strap. All controls intuitively sit within perfect reach, and you’ll also find roadworthy touches such as shielding on the rear cavity control plate (whose mere existence on a semi will have techs the world over jumping for joy) and the output jack plate.
Atop the set mahogany neck, the two-tier headstock design is new to Rivolta but a clear nod to the eponymous brand with which Fano made his name. The six-a-side, back-angled design also offers a straight, unimpeded string path behind the nut and lends the Regata VII something of a Trini Lopez vibe. Never a bad thing.
Despite its semi-hollow construction, unplugged the Regata VII airs more towards a solidbody tonality than the delicate airy charms of a vintage ES-335. That’s not to say it won’t be just the ticket for smooth jazz, but there’s a robustness to the construction and tone that begs for more of an aggressive approach that’s more Foos than blues, if you will.
Plugging into a cleanish tweed combo, the Brevetto humbucking pickups have a sophistication you don’t often find in this price-range, with PAF-like sweetness and an airy top end, with plenty of bite in the lower strings. Step on a gain pedal and the best-of-both-worlds 25-inch scale length makes perfect sense; the added snap and tautness gives low-position rock riffs a defined, punchy edge. Drop D riffs exhibit a snappy transient attack with ample sustain and clarity aplenty again from the excellent humbuckers, even under serious additional pedal or amp gain.
The comfortable C-shaped neck is adorned with striking aged pearloid markers on a smooth 12-inch radius ebony ’board, and 24 superbly crowned medium-jumbo frets. In addition, it offers improved upper-fret access, meaning the Regata VII is able to excel not just as a rhythm instrument but as a lead machine too, allowing you to venture into territory usually inhibited by ES-style designs.
To create a new design that feels instantly familiar and is diverse enough to cover just about any gig from a jazz bar to a rock show is no mean feat – we applaud Rivolta’s efforts here. In addition, there’s a traditional tonal palette on offer with few of the playability compromises that make handling a big semi an unwieldy prospect for some players.
In this gorgeous Camino Burst and with such outstanding pickups and playability, the Regata perfectly straddles the divide between modern practicality and vintage tone. It seems to be something that’s bread and butter for Dennis Fano, but few other contemporary electric guitar designers manage this.
Our only gripe would be that, as with any twin-humbucker guitar and especially with pickups as good as these, there are a wealth of subtle flavours that could be unlocked if the Regata had been fitted with independent volume and tone controls for each pickup. Here’s hoping for a traditional four-control circuit on the Regata VIII!
- PRICE £1,425 (inc gigbag)
- DESCRIPTION 6-string semi-hollow electric guitar, made in Korea
- BUILD Pressed maple top and back, mahogany frame and weight-relieved centre-block, bound ebony 12” radius fingerboard with 24 medium-jumbo frets and aged pearloid block inlays
- HARDWARE Nickel Nashville tune-o-matic steel-saddle bridge and stoptail, vintage-style staggered tuners
- ELECTRONICS 2 x Rivolta Brevetto humbuckers, master volume and tone, 3-way toggle switch
- SCALE LENGTH 25”/635mm
- NECK WIDTH 43.1mm at nut, 51.6mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 21.7mm at 1st fret, 24.2mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 36.0mm at nut, 51.9mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 8.3lb/3.8kg
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- FINISH Camino Burst (as reviewed), Rosso Red, Acero Glow, Toro Black, Toro Black with gold hardware
- CONTACT rivoltaguitars.com, coda-music.com