One particular model that has been quietly gaining attention is the Fernandes Nomad. It is similar but not identical to the Fernandes Zo-3 in Japan. Fernandes ships only one Nomad model to the US, with 4 variances on the color and graphics. In Japan, there are 8 distinct Zo-3 models, including Zo basses!
Some of the early (pre-Nomad) Zo-3 versions made it over to the States, and I would like to introduce 2 identical versions of the Zo-3 to you, and I'll take you on a fun walk with this guitar!
Fernandes Zo-3, in original light blue (with matching Fender-style blue volume knob!)
The Zo-3 is a short-scale travel/practice electric guitar:
- 24" scale
- 22 frets
- 14" flat radius fretboard
- One humbucking Fernandes pickup
- Single volume knob
- Alder body
- Fixed, string-thru body adjustable bridge
- On-board 5 watt amplifier, 9v battery powered
My wife found an "original" Zo-3 in light blue, and another identical Zo-3 in light pink. We bought both of them, and I immediately discovered, upon holding the Zo-3 that this was no "student" or lower quality model. I also bought a newer Nomad US version in black.
This is a professional instrument that is truly designed as a backstage, easy access travel, practice or student guitar for anyone, from beginner to pro. It will fit in an overhead airline compartment and the padded gig bag has shoulder straps, making this a very easy guitar to transport. The quality of the fretwork, neck, and assembly is also impressive for the price of this guitar. The action is very low and NO fret buzz. The 14" radius fretboard assists the set-up with this low action capability.
The blue and pink Zo models are straight-ahead electronic set ups that are easy to work when using in practice mode, or through an outboard amplifier via the 1/4" jack. The mini switch activates the internal amplifier and turns on the red LED to indicate you are on internal mode. When you insert a cable into the output jack, the internal amp is automatically bypassed. You operate the guitar like a standard electric guitar and use the onboard volume control to adjust the output level. When you remove the back plate covering the internal speaker and electronics, you notice the selection of high-quality components. Fernandes also supplies some little assembly extras, such as foam pieces set around the speaker to avoid vibration and give added protection from the surrounding electronics.
Fernandes offers a wide variety of configurations, and my black US Nomad has a slight variation as follows: The volume control now has a off/on click in the "0" position. Turning the volume control forward turns the internal amplifier to the ON mode, and the red LED lights to indicate power is on. The mini 2-way switch is now a distortion mode switch on this model, with a clean and overdrive selection. Fernandes has 3 trim pots on the internal circuit board that can be adjusted to set the master volume, normal and overdrive modes. The other change is the addition of a second 1/8" output jack that is intended for a set of headphones for private practice. Perhaps it may be my version, but when you insert a 1/4" cable for play through an external amp, the volume control does not go to a full "off" mode, and basically stays in an amplified version of the practice mode. Consequently, this guitar does not fully transform from a practice/travel guitar to a stage adaptable version with the same ease as the Zo Japanese original. Of course, this guitar was designed with travel/impulse use in between sessions with your performance guitars. I would assume that Fernandes was trying to continue to develop this guitar as an ultimate practice guitar, and not try and compete with the full size performance guitars.
The sonic quality of the built-in amp on the Zo-3 is louder and cleaner than I expected - a good basic amp that will give the player a noise-free, clean, honest response with enough power that will not hide or color a player's style. As a practice guitar set-up with the built-in amp, it's perfect for private practice sessions, or small gatherings where an outboard amp is not practical or available. It does what was intended, with cool styling that will turn a lot of heads. If I were to suggest any upgrade to the Nomad/Zo, I might suggest a second pickup for more tone variety - either a small single coil near the neck, OR the addition of a piezo pickup for some acoustic sounds and electric/acoustic blends! In Japan, they offer magnetic pickups, OR piezo, but not both on the same Zo guitar.