Stuart Monk’s Fican Guitars is a new brand driven by a unique vision. Monk’s guitars aren’t based on those 50s-derived legends we all know and love: instead he follows his own path. He began building guitars after an injury to his finger made it difficult to play C-shaped necks. He built a D-shaped neck that felt more ergonomic.
TWO TONES ARE BETTER THAN ONE
The Tornado is a solid body electric guitar designed to offer both acoustic and electric sounds, and blends with two input jacks and two tones of acoustic. It goes out of its way to tell you this by referencing certain visual aspects of an acoustic guitar, in the form of the curvy outline, the soundhole-like circular centre section and the laser-etched pickguard.
The body of the review model is Fijian mahogany, but Fican can use all sorts of woods, even bold-grained tulipwood. You can also choose your fretboard wood including rosewood or maple on a maple bolt-on neck. The headstock is a little – okay, a lot – unconventional, using banjo-style tuners for straight string pull.
On the review model the pickups are a pair of WSC humbuckers in the basic PAF low-output style, paired with a Graph-Tech Acousti-Phonic preamp, a deceptively powerful system with two modes, mid and dark, which are accessible via a push-pull volume pot. The default mode is the dark setting, which is designed to give you a full-bodied tone, which is quite unlike the typical harsh piezo voice. The mid mode has more bite in the upper midrange for enhanced clarity and detail. The magnetic and piezo systems each have their own volume controls and output jacks, so you can send the acoustic and electric signals to separate processors or amps to optimise the sound of each. It’s worth pointing out that you don’t necessarily have to go with the colour scheme and pickup choice of the review model. You’re able to personalise your guitar with any colour scheme and pickup configuration you please.
This guitar is very playable, and with a very lively and detailed sound. In fact, it’s surprising how playable it is given the heavy gauge strings it comes supplied with. It’s great for clean tones with lots of character and nuance, which makes it especially suitable for fingerpicking and country styles. The bridge pickup has a tight low-end, warm upper mids and singing treble whereas the neck pickup is smooth and rich. The overdriven tones work best at medium gain levels for classic rock rhythm and lead tones, but it’s not suited for high gain. The acoustic voice is full and punchy, and the two different settings come in very handy for balancing the sound with the magnetic pickup signal.
When you pick it up and play it you’ll find a well-made, very adaptable, very musical and very playable guitar that will inspire all sorts of ideas that you might not otherwise have thought of. In fact, that’s one of its biggest strengths; it doesn’t mimic anything that’s come before, so you can play it without the baggage of knowing what you’re ‘supposed’ to play with a particular body shape.
For more details, head to ficanguitars.com.au.
Hits and Misses
Comfortable neck shape
Wide variety of sound
Shape might be a bit out there for some players
No tonal control