Ask just about any seasoned guitarist what gives an instrument that special something and you'd be lucky if the reply wasn't "wood." Yet manufacturers have made numerous axes over the years with claimed great tone, but without so much of a splinter of exotic tonewood in sight. Few have been so bold as to say that their material of choice doesn't just equal vintage wood, but improves on it. Aristides Instruments out of the Netherlands is one such upstart, and will be showing off its latest seven-string Arium creation at the NAMM 2014 show in January.
The search for a new material with perfect acoustic properties began in 1995 when the company's Aristides Poort partnered with the Technical University Delft. Looking closely at the acoustic properties of tonewoods used in traditional guitar manufacture led to a technical study of cell structures, with a view to synthetically creating an ideal structure. 15 years of research resulted in a new tone material called Arium.
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Arium is created using a secret recipe of resins and solid particles chosen for the overall tonal quality, brought together to form "millions of tiny sound chambers that can resonate freely in all dimensions." The company says that having no fiber structure results in increased volume and sustain, and the material is also less prone to seasonal changes.
Each Aristides guitar is made from an outer skeleton, which consists of multiple layers of glass fiber and carbon and different finishes, and an inner core made of Arium. The liquid core is injected into the exoskeleton to create a stable instrument that's then finished to a high level, and the electronics and hardware added.
The process is said to result in an instrument that allows sound waves to resonate throughout the whole of the guitar, and so lead to an improved sound, for player and audience alike. The latest Arium guitar to join the company's line-up is the seven-string 070.
The guitar features a 26.5-inch scale ebony neck with 24 medium jumbo frets. Hipshot Griplock open gear locking tuners are used to bring the D'Addario XL strings to pitch, and held firm at the opposite end by either a Hipshot Hardtail or Floyd Rose bridge.
Passive models pack Seymour Duncan Pegasus (bridge) and Sentient (neck) pickups selected by a 5-way toggle, and feature a master volume push/pull pot and a tone knob. Guitars with active electronics come with Seymour Duncan Blackouts or an EMG81/60 combination chosen using a 3-way selector, and a volume and tone knob.
The 070 comes with Schaller strap locks, the hardware is available in chrome, black or gold, and each model features a microchip that can be scanned to reveal the instrument's unique code.
So what about superior tone? "We’re talking about psycho-acoustics, meaning we can measure the sustain of our guitar but it doesn’t tell you fully how people experience this sustain," the company's Erik Nieuwenhuisen says. "For example: We know our guitar has a longer sustain (about 45 seconds) than a standard Stratocaster, but a lot of people are used to the well-known sound of a Strat and want this specific sound more than sustain. And this goes for a lot of stuff. Therefore we will not suggest we have the best sound, because you simply can’t. But we’re different that’s for sure."
"Furthermore we experience a lot of differences in building quality between different guitars of one brand," he continues. "So we try to build a guitar that is stable and good, but doesn’t have the negative cold tone of a lot of composite guitars. We know from experience (20 years of development and working with the feedback of professional artists) that we’ve got something special. And people who play the guitar for the first time are often surprised by its character, resonance, high output, definition in all the tones and no 'dead spots' on the neck. But how to measure this? I’m working on a measurement method to give an objective review about guitars, but we’re not there yet I’m afraid."
The Aristides 070 is set to make its first public appearance at NAMM 2014 in Anaheim, California, but customers can place orders through the company's website now. The guitar carries a suggested retail price of US$2,998.
Source: Aristides InstrumentsView gallery - 11 images