Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
Faith Nomad: hands on review
Travelling is fun. Breaking your beloved six-string is not. Acoustic guitars are quite fragile creations which need to be treated with care and respect, like an elderly relative or a flaky croissant, and even the best hard case will only provide so much protection. And who’s to say your travelling buddy or lead singer will be happy to help lug around your presidential-car grade, adamantium-reinforced flight case? No, sometimes the precious guitars need to stay at home.
The solution for this has always been travel guitars, but they get a bad rep. Up until now, they’ve always drawn comparisons to their full-size kin and, being primarily three-quarter sized (or smaller), that’s quite unfair – they’re simply too small to achieve any amount of low end, warmth, body, or volume. They don’t sound like your treasured all solid-wood dreadnought, or your parent’s vintage Martin, and they never will. But I think we need to move the goalposts a little.
Let’s introduce the Faith Nomad Mini Saturn and Mini Neptune: two brand new solid-wood body electro-acoustic travel guitars that come complete with a fitted gig bag for just under £400. Firstly, there isn’t another travel guitar on the market that matches those specifications for that price; they’re even enviable for a standard acoustic. It’s understandable, given that these models are essentially shrunken versions of the Faith Saturn (dreadnought) and Neptune (mini jumbo) respectively.
The design and feel of the Nomads will be immediately familiar to anyone who owns or has played the aforementioned Naked series. What Faith have done here is focus on sound quality first and worry about aesthetics later. You’re trading predominantly visual features such as a gloss finish or binding around the edges to retain the nuanced sound and characterful ageing of solid spruce and solid mahogany at a lower price. Couple that with a 23.2” scale neck that joins at the 12th fret, ensuring that they feel compact, and the build quality that carries across the entire Faith range, and suddenly you have a high spec, budget friendly travel guitar.
Faith Nomad Saturn review
Being a fervent dreadnought fan, I immediately picked up the Mini Saturn. This diminutive dreadnought comes with solid spruce as the tone wood, and the sound is accordingly bright and defined. I found the low end struggling to come through on big open chords, the spruce exacerbating the high-end already prevalent with smaller body sizes. However, that same clarity and light tone lent itself to digging into the strings with some lead lines, as well as melodic finger-style playing.
I was left a little disappointed, as I’m not really a lead player (I’m a lefty, so the guitars are upside down, and I started on drums, and shut up). I didn’t feel like I could get the best out of this guitar, whereas anyone who wants to keep their solo chops up on the road, and will happily take lead when jamming with friends, will.
Faith Nomad Neptune review
Moving to the Mini Neptune, and things got interesting. The mini jumbo (mini mini jumbo, if we’re being exact) shape has a little more air and resonance than the dreadnought, and the pronounced curve in the waist felt more comfortable to sit with. In contrast to the spruce, the mahogany tone wood of the Mini Neptune alleviated the brightness in favour of warmth, and a woody midrange punch which sustained well and really responded to rhythm playing. Honestly, it has a charm and character which I did not expect from a travel guitar.
Remember when I mentioned moving the goalposts? The Mini Neptune is what I was talking about; it’s equally as impressive as a travel guitar as it is a standard smaller-bodied electro acoustic. It offers a unique alternative to the standard Naked series (particularly the parlour-sized Mercury) so it’s not hard to imagine someone picking this model for playing in the house based on how comfortable it is to play. For a lot of players it’s not going to be a replacement for their mainstay acoustic, it was never meant to be, but I think for others it could be, and that’s quite exciting.
Both models come fitted with a piezo pickup at the bridge which runs through the Faith CnR3 Preamp System, complete with a three band EQ, chromatic tuner and phase button. It’s a pretty comprehensive preamp for a travel guitar, and the core sound unplugged is already enjoyable…basically, you’ve got a lot to work with. Truth be told, once I picked up the Mini Neptune I never spent much time with them plugged in – I was sold on the package without the electronics. At this stage, they’re a welcome bonus.
I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the Mini Saturn and say that I’d have to play one after it’s been travelled with and the solid spruce wood has been played in to pass fair judgement (I’d take it on the road myself but I don’t travel much, and I’m a lefty, and shut up). The Mini Neptune’s mahogany will take ever longer to develop it’s true sound, but it appeals to me straight out of the box and will only improve with age. If Faith releases a Nomad Mini Saturn with a mahogany top, or even a Mini Mars (drop-shoulder dreadnought) with a cedar top, then count me in.
It would be a shame to leave my opinion unchallenged, given how I’m a big Faith fan already and I had to play them upside down (sigh). Do the Nomads inspire you to don your favourite boots and go adventure? Are travel guitars even on your radar? Let us know in the comments, and come down to your local Red Dog Music store so you can play them better than me!