Soundroom: Fano Alt de Facto PX4 and Alt de Facto GF4
By BRIAN FOX
Wed, 17 Apr 2013
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Alt de Facto PX4
 
Alt de Facto GF4
IN HIS ALT DE FACTO LINE OF BASSES AND GUITARS, BUILDER-DESIGNER DENNIS Fano seeks to build historical replicas of instruments that never actually existed. With the PX4, Fano repli-creates a 32"-scale bolt-on non-reverse Gibson Thunderbird; with his semi-hollow GF4, it’s as if he’s spliced the genes of a Gibson EB-2, a Fender Coronado Bass, a Guild Starfire Bass, and Höfner 500/2. Twisted? Perhaps. Hip? Undeniably.

NON-REVERSE ENGINEERING

First, a bit of history: The body style of the Gibson Thunderbird, introduced in 1963 and made famous by such players as Simon Gallup and Nikki Sixx, was flipped from 1966 to 1969, in response to a legal suit brought by Fender. Though less common than the original body style, “non-reverse” T-Birds have been seen in the capable hands of players like John Entwistle and Mike Watt. Unlike their EB-series brethren, which generally have a scale length of 30.5", both styles of T-Birds were 34"-scale.

Enter, the Fano Alt de Facto PX4. With its heavily distressed “Pink Mary” finish and aged nickel hardware, the PX4 looks as if it’s been ridden hard and put away wet. Though some relic’d instruments can feel faked and forced, the PX4 feels like the real deal; the wear patterns on the back of the neck are legit, and the instrument plays as if it’s actually been broken in.

Though I have and play a number of (shortscale) 30"-scale basses, I hadn’t spent much time with (medium-scale) 32"-scale basses before these Fanos came to town; I’m a huge fan. While I still love the massive fundamental present in short-scale basses, the medium-scale Fanos felt more substantial. And whereas string tension on a short-scale is often spongy, the medium-scale Fanos felt stable, yet pliable.

The PX4’s electronics are Spartan—with a twist. Next to the volume and pickup blend knobs, the PX4’s tone knob controls a Stellartone ToneStyler. While a conventional tone control utilizes a single capacitor to roll off high frequencies, the PX4’s ToneStyler uses 10 discrete capacitors for an expanded range of sounds, all while preserving the midrange often lost when rolling back on a normal tone knob. [For more on the ToneStyler, check out our full review in the August 2010 issue.]

For pickups, Fano turned to Jason Lollar of Lollar Guitars. Good call. With a bridge pickup slightly over-wound for a better balance, the Lollars sounded awesome—big and beefy in the neck position, well-balanced when blended, and thick and barky at the bridge.

SEMI-HALLOW

In some respects-scale length, electronics, fit and finish—the semi-hollow GF4 shares a lot in common with the PX4. But without a doubt, the GF4 is a beast of a different breed. One of the vibiest basses to pass through the BP offices in quite a while, the GF4 displays the same degree of expert craftsmanship and attention to detail as the PX4—and then some. With its off set dual-cutaway body—accented by a marvelous faux-tortoiseshell pickguard—the medium-scale GF4 balances beautifully on a strap and in a lap. Strung with D’Addario XL Half Rounds, the semi-hollow Fano is woof-y as wolfhound with the bite of a pit bull. While some semi-hollows are prone to sound muddy, the GF4 speaks clearly at all settings. And for what it is—a passive semi-hollow with two pickups and a tone control—the bass is remarkably versatile.

Whereas the PX4 uses Lollar Thunderbird-style pickups, the GF4 has pickups modeled after Gibson’s Firebird guitar pickups. Don’t scoff —it actually makes perfect sense. At their best, semi-hollow basses off er warmth, woof, and bite. But that woof can turn into a murky, muddy mess with the wrong pickups. The brightness of Lollar’s Firebird-style pickups off set the darker acoustic character of the GF4 brilliantly. Again, well played.

For their fresh takes on would-be classic basses—let alone their superior quality and thoughtful pairings of pickups and electronics, the Alt de Facto PX4 and GF4 earn Bass Player Editor Awards. Bravo!

SPECIFICATIONS

FANO

ALT DE FACTO PX4
Street $2,800
Pros A stellar re-creation of a bass that never existed—but should have.
Cons None.

ALT DE FACTO GF4
Street $3,895 (as tested)
Pros A medium-scale semi-hollow that's beautiful, booty-full, and articulate— what's not to love.
Cons None.

SPECS

Contact fanoguitars.com

Alt de Facto PX4
Construction Bolt-on
Body Ash
Neck Maple
Fingerboard Rosewood
Scale length 32"
Width at nut 1.5"
Pickups Lollar Thunderbird
Controls Volume, pickup blend, ToneStyler tone control
Weight 8.5 lbs
Made in U.S.A.

Alt de Facto GF4
Construction Bolt-on
Body Swamp ash
Top Swamp ash
Neck Maple
Fingerboard Rosewood
Scale length 32"
Width at nut 1.5"
Pickups Lollar Firebird
Controls Volume, pickup blend, ToneStyler tone control
Weight 9.5 lbs
Made in U.S.A.

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