Attending the 2018 edition of Helsinki Tonefest I first came across a new Finnish guitar company, called Raato Custom Guitars.
Raato Custom is a one-man company, run by Mika Ruotsalainen, which combines a number of fresh ideas, modern technology, and traditional handicraft in a range of boutique grade solid-body electric guitars with a very distinctive look. ”Raato” is Finnish and means ”carcass”, which stands in intentional humorous contrast to the firm’s very beautifully sculpted designs.
As the company’s name already gives away, all guitar models can be customised to a client’s requirements, and this includes fanned fret versions and seven-, eight- or even nine-string instruments.
Kitarablogi.com was very lucky to secure two different instruments from Raato’s Raadotar range for this review.
The Raato Raadotar 6 (review guitar: 4,790 €; prices starting from 2,690 €) we got for this review represents the company’s view of what the ”ultimate six-string” should be – this is a guitar that is meant to do it all. This isn’t your daddy’s guitar by a long stretch.
The Raadotar 6 is a very involved and intricate design, featuring a sandwiched body comprising a core made of claro walnut, black alder and wenge. The chambered body’s top and back are carved from bookmatched ambrosia maple. Ambrosia maple is not a a maple species per se, but rather maple which sports fungus ”damage” due to a prior ambrosia beetle infestation (similar to spalted maple).
Mika Ruotsalainen manages the difficult feat of using the same bookmatched maple blank for both top and back, and of making the tops of the pickup covers and all the back plates from the same pieces of wood. This gives the guitar’s body a very uniform and cohesive look.
The main length of the Raadotar 6’s neck is a five-strip maple and ebony construction. The headstock is spliced on and consists of rosewood, maple, koa and wenge.
The fretboard, as well as the gloss-finished headstock veneer, are crafted from highly-figured African ebony. The Raadotar 6 has a scale of 25.5 inches, and it offers 24 jumbo-sized frets.
The machine heads are top-drawer Hipshot Grip-Lock tuners, while the nut is made from Graph Tech’s Tusq.
The Raadotar 6 features both magnetic and piezo pickups:
The custom-made wooden covers contain a Bare Knuckles Ragnarok humbucker set. The Ragnarok is an ideal choice for progressive Rock and Metal guitarists, that delivers an aggressive, tight output, while still managing to sound round and juicy.
The locking vibrato system is a Graph Tech LB63 Ghost system, which incorporates piezo pickups in the bridge saddles. The piezo signal is connected to a Graph Tech Ghost Advanced preamp.
The control set-up is very logical and easy to understand:
The large toggle switch is a regular three-way switch for the magnetic pickups. The first mini-switch is connected to the bridge humbucker and gives you the traditional humbucker sound (coils wired in series), a split option for singlecoil tones, and a slightly lighter humbucker sound (parallel wiring). The second mini-switch lets you choose between magnetic only, magnetic plus piezo, and piezo only modes.
The switches are followed by two volume controls – magnetic and piezo. The piezo volume contains a push/pull-switch which lets you choose between a brighter and a darker piezo tonality.
The prototype version of the Raadotar 7 Multiscale (review guitar: 3,700 €; prices starting from 2,990 €) we’ve received for this review is an eye-popper in more ways than one:
The multicoloured finish is one of the coolest ideas I have seen recently. It is not a simple pain job, though – this finish is achieved by painstakingly arranging a multitude of different wood splinters in an eye-pleasing fashion, and then adding epoxy resin mixed with metal flakes. The result is nothing short of stunning in my opinion.
In addition to the flashy finish this Raadotar’s frets all sit disconcertingly askew on the fingerboard, which is what the word ”Multiscale” in the model name points to.
If you’re new to multiscale (aka fanned-fret) guitars (or basses) then here’s a short explanation:
Traditionally guitars have been built with a single, common scale length for all strings. True, there are always incremental differences to account for the intonation of differently gauged strings, but the theoretic scale length is the same.
A common scale length is a compromise, though, because the different tuning and the different gauges of the strings on one guitar results in each string ”feeling” slightly different. Generally speaking the bass strings feel softer than the tighter treble strings.
The current fashion for ultra-low tunings has also highlighted issues regarding string definition and intonation, especially with the wound strings, when using instruments with traditional scale lengths. Some of these problems can be counteracted by using thicker string gauges with low tunings, but there is a limit to how thick you can go. You could also build instruments with longer-than-standard scales for use with ultra-low tunings and/or seven strings, and some companies do this, but the trade-off are much tauter treble strings, which can make bends uncomfortable.
This is where multiscale instruments come in. A multiscale guitar combines a distinctly longer-than-standard scale for the lowest string with a much shorter, more standard scale for the highest string. The result is a much more even string feel across the whole guitar, and better definition in the bass register.
The correct distances for the nut, the bridge, and the outer strings’ fret positions can then be calculated accordingly. The fret positions for the lowest and highest strings are then connected with regular straight frets, which results in a fretted fingerboard with fanned out frets, and a different scale length for each string.
The Raadotar 7 Multiscale features scale lengths ranging from 27.99 inches (low B) to 26.46 inches (high e). The fingerboard sports 24 jumbo frets.
The body has been crafted from alder, while the bolt-on neck is a five-piece maple and wenge affair.
The headstock’s back has received a figured maple overlay finished to match the body’s back…
…while the face’s counterpart has been finished in red metallic.
Once again Hipshot Grip-Lock machine heads and a Graph Tech Tusq nut have been employed.
The fretboard is made of African ebony.
The Raadotar 7 Multiscale comes with a Hipshot Fixed 21 Degree bridge, especially designed for use in multiscale guitars. By the way, Raato Custom imports Hipshot products.
The single slanted humbucker is a ceramic version of Bare Knuckle’s Nailbomb model. The Nailbomb is a contemporary humbucker designed for a wide range of applications. Turned up full it will deliver aggressive modern tones, but the pickup will also work well in more traditional genres, when reigned in with the guitar’s volume control.
A single volume control makes the Raadotar 7 Multiscale a no-nonsense workhorse.
The workmanship on the RCG Raadotar 6 is at the stunningly high level you’d expect from a boutique grade solidbody in this price bracket. This is a stunningly beautiful piece of art that will get connoisseurs of stunning woods all steamed up and drooling. But putting the Raadotar 6 in a display case would be missing the point completely – this is an instrument meant to be played.
Multi-laminated guitars can sometimes have a tendency to be weighty, but the Raato Custom Guitars Raadotar 6 is refreshingly moderate in weight. Sitting-down and strapped-on balance is excellent.
The review instrument comes with a neck profile that is geared towards progressive shredders. I’d describe the profile as a flat-backed D, which nonetheless manages to steer clear of being too thin for comfort. Remember that this is a custom maker, though, so tailoring your own guitar to your specific wishes and needs should be easy.
The fretwork and set-up, too, were second to none. Even with the ultra-low action the Raadotar 6 came with (low E: 1.5 mm/treble e: 1.2 mm), the guitar played without any fret buzzes or other problems!
Acoustically this instrument has a big, clear voice with bags of sustain and plenty of warmth.
Played through a clean boutique combo (a Bluetone Shadows Jr.) the quality of the Bare Knuckle Ragnarok humbuckers is obvious. Even though we’re talking about modern, ceramic humbuckers with a very hot output, the Raadotar 6 sounds beautiful, with the pickups retaining all the guitar’s warmth, midrange detail and treble sparkle.
The following clip gives you the following settings: neck, both pickups, bridge in series, split bridge pickup, bridge in parallel.
The piezo pickup gives you surprisingly realistic acoustic guitar tones. The following clip was recorded direct (push/pull down and push/pull up), but you can also use the piezo tones for interesting mixed tonalities.
Chunky, fat and aggressive are the words that spring to mind, when you play the Raadotar 6 with distorted amp settings:
Again full marks to Raato’s Mika Ruotsalainen for the workmanship and finish displayed on the Raato Guitars Raadotar 7 Multiscale. The guitar’s relatively high price is reflected in the flawless execution. I especially enjoy the combination of gloss finished body (or top in the Multiscale’s case) and very natural feeling satin neck displayed on these Raato instruments.
Being an overall larger guitar than its six-string cousin, the Raadotar 7 Multiscale is a little bit heavier, but manages to stay on the right side of moderate in terms of its weight. Its balance is fine, both seated and standing up.
Playing a multiscale, fanned-fret guitar isn’t as weird in practice, as you might expect. The adjustments needed in fingering are not such a great deal as you might think, which means I got to grips with the Raadotar 7 Multiscale very, very quickly.
The set-up was, again, nothing short of excellent. Due to the longer-than-usual scale lengths, even on the top e-string, the action feels a little stiffer in standard tuning than on a standard scale guitar. The huge advantage lies in the more uniform feel of all seven strings and the much clearer response, even when taking the tuning down a couple (or three) semitones.
The Raadotar 7 Multiscale has a strong acoustic voice.
Through a clean amplifier the Raadotar 7’s Bare Knuckle Nailbomb humbucker sounds huge with a healthy dose of midrange girth:
The same midrange punch is also present in distorted sounds:
The demo song was recorded with a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo (except for the piezo parts, which were recorded direct), and it contains the following parts:
• clean rhythm guitar tracks – Raadotar 6 (piezo pickup)
• rhythm guitars – Raadotar 7 (left channel) & Raadotar 6 (right channel)
• lead guitar 1 (cleanish) – Raadotar 7 Multiscale
• lead guitar 2 – Raadotar 7 Multiscale
• lead guitar 3 (middle eight) – Raadotar 6
• lead guitar 4 – Raadotar 7 Multiscale
• lead guitar 5 – Raadotar 6
There’s a large segment of the boutique guitar market that is filled with ”updated Strats” and ”expanded Les Pauls”. Those may be great instruments for the traditionally-minded guitarist, but many players would like to leave the beaten path.
This is where companies like Raato Custom Guitars come in, offering first-rate quality and plenty of custom options for the guitarist who needs the ultimate modern electric guitar.
Raato Custom Guitars – Raadotar 6 & Raadotar 7 Multiscale
Raadotar 6 – prices starting from 2,690 €; reviewed guitar: 4,790 €
Raadotar 7 Multiscale – prices starting from 2,990 €; reviewed guitar: 3,700 €
Contact: Raato Custom Guitars
Pros (both models):
+ handcrafted in Finland
+ lots of custom options
Cons (both models):
– this level of quality is never cheap