THE RARE BIRD PICTURED HERE WAS MADE IN
1967 or ’68 at the Micro-Frets plant in Frederick,
Maryland. How rare is it? Like Sasquatch
rare. According to Craig Stang, a collector specializing
in Micro-Frets guitars, this particular
model is so rare that even ex-employees of
Micro-Frets have never seen one. Will Meadors,
who is the current owner of Micro-Frets and
holds all of the tooling and schematics, has
never even seen a picture of one! He estimates
that given the low serial number, less than a
dozen were made.
The Voyager’s compensated
nut is just one of the guitar’s
The Voyager sports a wood body that is
actually made of two halves; a top piece and
a back piece. There is a 10" chamber in the
middle of the body that gives it a semi-hollow
sound, and at the same time makes it quite
light for its size. The pickups are DeArmonddesigned
models similar to those used on
Gretsch, Guild, and National/Valco guitars in
the ’50s. This guitar, as with all Micro-Frets
models, has a 52-piece, adjustable, compensated
nut that allows for individual string
height and length adjustments. And this is
decades before Buzz Feiten, Paul Reed Smith,
or Earvana started moving nuts around to
sweeten intonation. Wild!
But if you want to talk wild, take a look at
the Jetsons-esque antenna on the Voyager’s
upper horn. That, my friends, is an onboard
wireless FM transmitter. Voyagers came with
a little FM receiver that sat on top of the amp
(which sadly I don’t have), but this thing plays
loud and clear through an FM radio tuned to
90.3. Did I mention that this guitar was made
back in the ’60s?
Okay, so it has cool advanced features, but
how does it sound? How does it play? The
answer to both of those questions is, great!
The rosewood-on-maple neck plays like a sexy
Tele. The tone is very musical and complex and,
not surprisingly, reminiscent of an old Guild
or Gretsch. Then there’s the intonation, which
is amazingly good.
A few popular (and enlightened) people
have played Micro-Frets over the years: Mike
Rutherford of Genesis had a couple of their
baritones converted to 6-string basses. Mark
Farner sported the model called the Signature
while he was with Grand Funk Railroad.
Rockabilly legend Carl Perkins played a Spacetone
and a Swinger for years. Most recently,
Martin Gore of Depeche Mode can be seen
playing a cool green Spacetone. But none of
them played a Voyager. Was it a prototype?
Well, as it turns out, the Voyager morphed
into the Golden Melody, which turned into
the Stage II. Nobody knows for sure why this
model was abandoned. The original founder
and creator of these axes, Ralph Jones, died
back in the early ’70s, just as the company
was getting off the ground. Four years later,
Micro-Frets went out of business. All told, less
than 3,000 Micro-Frets guitars were made,
and to buy one from the ’60s or ’70s might set
you back about $4K! So, here’s hoping that
Will Meadors will be able to get the company
back on its feet.
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