Metalin’ Guitars based out of St. James, MO, made their debut at this year’s Tritone Expo, and were definitely one of the companies that stood out to me as I hastily inspected all of the hand built gear from booth to booth. I had hoped to get back to their booth before the end of the show and really spend some time with the guitars, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I recently caught up with Metalin’ and they were nice enough to send over a few pieces for me to review.
Using aluminum as a material for instruments isn’t a new idea. The concept goes all the way back to The Aluminum Musical Instrument Company at the turn of the century. You are probably most familiar with the Travis Bean guitars of the ‘70s, though they were primarily wood bodies with aluminum necks and center pieces. These days there are only a few companies that produce aluminum guitars and basses, but the concept does seem to be gaining popularity.
Metalin’ Guitars was conceived in 2010 by owner Ken Wolfert, who runs a machine shop and is an avid guitarist. After reading an article about the demise of global tone woods, Ken began the process of designing some prototype instruments with the help of his shop manager, Dave Bast. The first Metalin’ guitars turned out aesthetically beautiful, but were a bit heavy and tonally, not up to par with what Ken had hoped for. Ken turned to Jeremy Tessaro, a local guitar tech and luthier to help refine the concept. The team began to experiment with the design, making the guitars lighter and more resonant, and opted for a carbon graphite neck to insure the density of the material would be an optimal marriage to the aluminum bodies.
In 2013 the first TOC ( Traditional Open Chamber) was finalized. Weighing in at 7Ibs, 8oz, the tele style guitar became their flagship model! One year later the AOC(Archtop Open Chamber) was born, offering a Gibson scale length and 24 fret neck, weighing just 8 Ibs!
Soon Jason Adams was brought on board as the day to day operations manager for Metalin’ Guitars. Jason set out to refine the sound further by tweaking the wiring components, employing passive treble and bass controls, coil tapping, and series/parallel switching options. Jason also sets up each instrument for optimal playability, and insures the final fit and finish before shipping. Jason offered up this explanation of the fundamental attitude toward the manufacturing process of Metalin’ guitars and basses.
“The science we are pushing forward is 3 fold.
1. The incredible density of the materials used reduces the mechanical impedance of the guitar and thereby increases the sustain dramatically. Aluminum’s density is 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter where even the hardest tonewoods are .5 to about 1 at the most.
2. Aluminum’s paramagnetism allows its resonance to be heard through magnetic pickups creating an amazing level of harmonic content and liveliness unique to aluminum.
3. The aluminum is a natural shield making our instruments very resistant to hum. Even with single coils, they have an incredibly low noise floor. “
Jason recently brought three guitars by the shop this week for me to test drive and my first impressions of all three instruments was overwhelmingly positive! I was amazed out how warm and defined the instruments sounded, while retaining a nice high-end chime. The stock Seymour Duncans sound great and the passive bass control really makes the instruments tonally versatile. All three where set up well and stay in tune amazingly well. What really knocked me out was the sustain! My overall opinion was, they stay in tune so well, it would easily be my first choice on a traveling gig, they are dead quiet, a perfect choice for the studio, and they look and sound great, perfect for the stage!
Metalin' guitars range from $1599.00 starting for the TOC, and $1799.00 starting for the AOC. They also introduced a bass this year starting at $2199.00.
Be sure to check out Metalin' Guitar's website to keep up with everything that is happening with this cool, local company!