Review: Rivolta Combinata Standard

April 7, 2017

Two innovators of gorgeously wacky guitar design—Dennis Fano and Mike Robinson of Eastwood Guitars—have partnered to launch the new Rivolta line. Fans of Fano’s work will immediately recognize the whimsically off-kilter (those bouts!) look of the Combinata Standard, which still manages to offer wonderful ergonomics for real-world performance needs. And, if you know anything about Eastwood’s revival of unique and distinctive ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s guitars, then the Combinata’s blended echoes of Rickenbacker (especially in the Autunno Burst finish) and Gretsch Duo-Jet silhouettes—as well as its inspiration from a 1954 Combo Model—fits right into Robinson’s wheelhouse.

Dennis Fano’s original design sketches for the Rivolta.

But this partnership isn’t just about Fano’s designs being run through Eastwood’s production facilities and distribution network. It’s also an opportunity for players who have ever lusted after a Fano guitar or his new Novo line to actually afford one of his models. For example, a Fano Alt De Facto ML6 can run from $2,995 on up, and a Novo Serus J starts at $2,799. The Combinata Standard, however, goes for $1,199 with a hardshell case. (The Combinata Deluxe with Dusenberg Les Trem II is $1,349.) Ya gotta love joint ventures that bring joy to the guitar community!

Of course, a $1,000+ guitar isn’t an inexpensive proposition for most players, and, for that price, you should expect well-dressed frets, an impeccable finish, good intonation, and sturdy hardware. The Rivolta gives you all of those features. Even the chunky, full-width block inlays—inspired by ’60s guitars made by luthier Roger Rossmeisl—are beautifully rendered, with no filler, cracks, or jagged edges to spoil the lovely aesthetic touch.

We did have a little shipping calamity, where the 3-way selector was somehow punched through the extended pickguard and into the control chamber. This obviously isn’t a fault of the Rivolta, but if you’re an aggressive basher that likes to rudely smack the pickup selector, just be warned that there’s air under that switch, and treat it accordingly.

Ergonomically, the Rivolta is a player’s dream with a wide yet comfy neck, and easy access to all 24 frets. The body shape feels good, and weight is not a problem. I played a four-hour rehearsal with it, and I didn’t feel any fatigue at all. The generous string spacing might put off shredders, but I found it very appealing, as fingering chords and riffs in all positions was near effortless. The Master Volume is well-placed for pinky swells, but then there’s no way I could reach the Master Tone for manual wah effects. Although it’s also a bit of a reach to grab the 3-way selector—and it’s positioned between the Volume and Tone knobs—I had no difficulties switching pickups on the fly.

Acoustically, the Rivolta sounds pretty loud and balanced—thanks to the chambers, I’m sure—and, in a pinch, it could be miked up and used for acoustic parts if you forgot to bring your favorite steel-string to the studio. I tested the Rivolta’s electrified tones with a Vox AC30 and an Orange Tiny Terror with a 1x12 Mesa/Boogie cabinet. The Rivolta Novanta P90’s are very articulate pickups, and with great dynamics. Wherever you set the pickup selector, you can derive myriad tones simply by adjusting your pick attack, or switching from pick to fingers to thumb, or knocking down the Master Volume knob. I loved the Rivolta’s shimmer when using clean amp sounds, and the snap and pop of each note while playing single-note lines—even when rocking punk-style overdrive tones. The guitar’s wide neck and super-clear sound makes it easy to play open-chord arpeggios in the first position without (much) fear of tanking the parts while jumping around stages. In every way most players rate a mid-price guitar—comfort, tone, playability, versatility, and looks—the Rivolta scores gold medals.

SPECIFICATIONS

COMBINATA STANDARD

CONTACT rivoltaguitars.com
PRICE $1,199 street
NUT WIDTH 1.687"
NECK Maple, set, C+ profile
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25" scale, 12" radius
FRETS 24
TUNERS Kluson-style
BODY Chambered mahogany with German-carved maple top
BRIDGE Compensated vintage wrap-over
PICKUPS Two Rivolta Novanta P90
CONTROLS Master Volume, Master Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.2 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Comfy. Articulate tones. Looks rad.
CONCERNS None.

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