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 forward-thinking features.
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.