Lowden F25C f/f 2010
In the Lowden parlance, ‘F’ means a mid-size flatpicker’s body; ’25’ means rosewood/cedar woods; and ‘C’ means cutaway. But it’s the ‘f/f’ that interests us here: ‘fan fret’.
It’s a strange quirk of the compromised even-tempered scale that a fretted instrument can never really be ‘in tune’ for all keys — yet it does an adequate job, so we mostly leave it alone.
But a violin, say, where the player physically makes each note by controlling the length of the string, has the potential to be perfectly in tune — ironically, because of bad technique, it more often sounds out of tune .
Fan frets seek to make use of differing scale lengths to improve overall tone and to balance string tensions. The result is a guitar that appears to have distorted perspective; like an optical illusion (note the extreme angle of the bridge versus the nut).
They are a challenge merely to look at, let alone play.
The Lowden boasts bell like trebles and booming bass depth. And one of the more noticeable advantages is that the G (3rd), which normally feels a bit tight and bright, loosens and warms up considerably under the shorter scale.
Novax are the primary luthiers of fan fretted electric instruments, while custom makers such as Greenfield and Fylde are supplying the boutique acoustic market.
Despite being flavour of the month, this design has actually been around since the mid-1600s when orpharions (small citterns) featured non-parallel saddles/nuts (as well as Yngwie’s favourite: the scalloped fretboard).