GT: Winter NAMM Awards - Best Innovations on an Existing Product or Design Print
Tuesday, 03 April 2007 19:05
ImageToday’s award category is “Best Innovations on an Existing Product or Design”. This is a tough category because it means taking a stagnated product or design and taking it to the next generation, by making a dramatic improvement.

First up is Hohner’s upcoming Eclipse series round back acoustic guitar, shown in Figure 1. Ovation has enjoyed huge success with their round back acoustics and they have been favorites among many stage performers and amateurs alike. The round backs are extremely comfortable to perform with, as they are lighter than a full bodied acoustic and they hang much better on the body. The down side has always been that the resin backs on the guitars detract significantly from a natural acoustic tone.

Hohner has solved this problem with a very ingenious design. The Eclipse line of round-backs will feature an all wood back constructed with a patent-pending Cross Woven Spherical Alder parabolic bowl-back. Looking at the guitar, it is really quite amazing as you can see the woven wood, producing a basket weave effect. Figure 2 shows this pattern clearly. The process results in a body that is 30% lighter than a comparable resin-back design, but that produces the natural warmth of wood. There will be five models in the line with various combinations of mahogany and maple necks, rosewood and ebony fingerboards, and a selection of tops that include laminated spruce, solid spruce, bubinga, and other popular tonewoods. All models come with the ANP-41 Preamp system that is mated to a Nono-flex style pickup.

I checked out a couple of models and they look, play and sound great. I was extremely impressed with the tone and how much of an improvement the wood back provides over resin. I think Hohner will have great success with this as it will be a favorite among people desiring the comfort of a round back without sacrificing the tone of all wood.

Next up is the new pickup line from Lace.

There are great pickups, good pickups, and not-so-good pickups. But, by and large, the pickup industry hasn’t changed much over the years. The designs are basically the same as they have been for decades. Enter Lace Pickups Alumitone series and the new Alumitone Humbucker and Aluma 90 (P 90). This radical new design is aluminum based, rather than copper, and runs on a “current driven design” rather than voltage. As you can see in Figure 4, the inside of the pickup is radically different. Without the traditional magnets and wiring, the pickups are roughly 70% lighter, which means that a three pickup guitar is going to be a full pound less than with traditional pickups.

Another cool aspect is that because the tops are aluminum, they can be made to look dramatically different from one manufacturer to another. Picture 4 shows one of the designs that Lace had at the NAMM show, which is very ornate, and a very different look on the Alumi 90s shown in Figure 5.

I had an opportunity to try the Alumi 90s out at NAMM and they are great pickups. Very full and clear with terrific tone. If the design catches on, and it certainly should, these pickups will have a very real effect on the guitar industry because the look of pickups has always been handcuffed by the technical design. With the handcuffs off, manufacturers can get much more creative with the appearance of their products. It should prove to be very exciting.