Inspired by the FaceBook page “Awesome Cheap Guitars” I decided to take the plunge and see if you could get a reasonably playable fretless guitar for less than $500. There was a Bryce Fretless Guitar on ebay for £185 + postage which is roughly $250.
The guitar arrived very well packed inside 2 cardboard boxes and as I expected it was basically just a fretted guitar setup with a fingerboard blank. This means the action is very high, almost .08 of an inch, that’s around 2mm. If it had frets that would be very good, but for fretless you need a nut height of around .004 of an inch, or around 0.1mm to make it really playable.
To do the setup correctly see the page on How to setup a Fretless Guitar.
However this guitar does not have a regular nut, it has a Floyd Rose style locking nut. To lower that you either have to file the neck or file the nut. So I took off the locking nut to see which would be easiest and to my surprise there was a shim under the nut. Removing the shim and replacing the locking nut made the nut height acceptable with no additional work!
The neck itself was dead straight so there was no need to touch the truss rod, just adjust the bridge to a reasonable height.
After this modification the fretless guitar played really well, I was tempted to fit some flat wound 12s on but have left the original round wound 10s there for now.
There was another factor that was a hangover from the fretted version of the guitar, the fret markers on the original fingerboard would sit behind the actual frets. On specifically designed fretless guitars the markers sit exactly where the frets should be, so you can correctly hit the desired note. I played some really bum notes and chords until I figured this out. The solution would be to dab some red nail varnish where the actual frets would be or just compensate knowing that the markers are a little flat from what they should be.
Bryce Fretless Guitar – Review and Setup (switch settings to 1080p HD)
A reasonably good instrument once correctly setup. For the price it is just right if you are thinking of exploring fretless guitar for the first time.
Country of origen – China
Finish – High Gloss
Pickups – HSH (Humbucker – Single coil – Humbucker)
Weight 2.74 kilos (6 lb)
Scale length 65.5mm (25 3/4 inches)
3 allen keys
Short jack to jack lead
Pros & Cons
Double Octave fingerboard equivalent to 24 frets
Very nice finish
Good value for money at this price point
Good tonal variation from the H-S-H pickups
Middle single pickup quite strong
Very high action, needs to be setup correctly
Fine tuners on bridge difficult to turn
Stained grey fingerboard
Dots on neck not correctly positioned
Cannot fit Gk3 pickup or Gizmotron, bridge too close to bridge pickup
Distributer: Instruments 4 Music
I had intended keeping the guitar but my financial controller insisted on no more new guitars in the house, so it was her or the guitar, she would not have fit in the cardboard box so, sadly, I returned the guitar.
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