Welcoming a new world
order in the manufacture of guitars.
Welcoming a new world order in the manufacture of guitars.
If you’ve followed FRET12 for any amount of time, you’ll know that we like to do things a bit differently here. When it comes to things with strings, we love a unique brand that challenges norms, defies convention, and blends supreme engineering with inspirational art. We’ve long prided ourselves on stocking some of the best guitars the world has to offer in our store and bringing great gear to players around the world. You may also know that we love a great sound and a great story. So, if you’re like us, and love learning about new gear that excels at being the best in a whole different way, make sure to read on about the latest addition to our Chicago shop: Aluminati Guitars. From our Salt Shed store to your hands, worldwide.
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Guitars, for better or for worse, are instruments that are steeped in tradition. For many, guitars peaked in the 1950s. You know that saying: “They got it right the first time”? Well, that certainly applies to the world of guitar. There’s no denying that the pioneers of guitar building got it VERY right on their first try. Whether it was Leo Fender nailing the purity and elegance of the first Teles and Strats, or Les Paul bringing his vision of a humbucking singlecut to life, many guitarists will live and die by the fact that the best guitars came from the late 50s, and will pay an arm and a leg to get these holy grail instruments of tonal lore.
But you know as well as I do that there are plenty of amazing instruments out there that aren't from this era —you just have to know where to look. You may have even tried vintage Strats and Les Pauls, and found out there was something (or many things!) lacking in these instruments that have such high praises sung about them. It may have happened on a visit to a guitar store, and seeing that elusive instrument hanging on the wall, or maybe upon seeing an inspiring live musician nailing a tone you’ve always heard in your head – but there are a plethora of ways for us to find out about new instruments that not only nail the design and sound but do things a bit differently in the process. After all, if everything was just a copy of a copy, where’s the fun in that?
Your next favorite piece of gear might look or sound totally different than you might envision. Hell, it might be MADE of something that seems completely foreign. It’s 2023, and we really are living in a golden age of guitar and gear. There are more brands to choose from, more sounds to make, more styles of music to get into, and more companies than ever trying new things and doing things differently.
Enter the Aluminati. While we can’t guarantee you’ll be blindfolded and taken to a Masonic lodge or initiated into a secret society, we CAN indeed confirm that Aluminum is quite literally in their name, and for very good reason — it's the chief ingredient behind their revolutionary guitar philosophy. We can hear the groans from the tonewood section of the audience from here, but bear with us, stringed brethren, as this material may be the cure to what ails you.
Wood is the de facto standard that guitarists are accustomed to because it's, well, the way it's always been done. It's a hill that many will surely die on, but wood has as many drawbacks as it does advantages. Wood, being an organic cellular structure, is both natural and stunning to look at (if it isn’t painted over) but it’s also not robust — being very susceptible to changes in temperature, UV light, and humidity, as well as having some strength, but not an immense amount. Wood can also get quite heavy (or light!), and can hinder/alter resonance in certain instances, but these are more subjective aspects. So, let’s learn why exotic guitar materials are cool, and why it’s worth diving into an instrument that might check more of your musician boxes than you might think.
Aluminati CEO James Little, who once was a punk rock musician/bike messenger right here in our hometown of Chicago, was a self-admitted Strat addict, but not as much a fan of the instrument’s persnickety tuning stability, inconsistent feel, and overall weight. When he relocated to North Carolina, he began work on high-end cycling components. Now, in the world of bicycles, motorcycles, auto racing, aviation, aerospace (basically anything high performance where top-notch engineering is paramount), you’ll find two materials are king: carbon fiber and aluminum — both thanks to their incredible strength to weight ratio.
It was at this point that James began to envision a guitar built out of these amazing materials and the spark for Aluminati began to ignite. Lightweight smooth materiality boasted a strength and material predictability that would far surpass any wood. The boost in strength and overall reliability would eliminate all the annoying tuning and intonation quirks that plague wooden guitars, and the material’s lightweight and metallic structure would alter the feel, resonance, and tone in ways that wood cannot. After all, we all know (and likely) own guitars that are in dire need of better tuning stability, better weight and balance, and could use a boost in resonance.
And now class, allow me to present this balanced chemical equation for study & examination:
AlGr = Gr(luth) + E(ms)
(Aluminati Guitars) = guitar-making + engineering & material science
James also spent time working for Moog (yes, the legendary synth god), where he did point-to-point hand wiring and soldering. In an interesting tie-in, the electronics in Aluminati guitars are still hand wired with a custom, pristine attention to detail that you’ll notice, especially on their clear instruments. After all, the details matter. James made sure to enlist the help of some of the best luthiers around, so that the “guitar” side of the equation would be held to the highest standard possible. After all, it’s one thing to make something out of aluminum, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to make it feel and play like a magic guitar.
But don’t think that the company is just run by a bunch of musicians messing around with high-tech engineering tools. Just like the String Thing we wrote about the art+engineering marriage between Paul Reed Smith and John Mann; many of James’ machinists are engineers by trade, refining the other side of the equation to its highest possible degree and ensuring that the engineering is the best it can be. This all leads to better products and a process that is constantly evolving and improving over time. It’s one of the beautiful things that happens when you combine engineers with artists.
In addition to using the obvious material in their name, Aluminati is blazing new trails by bringing the world of 3D printing to the world of crafting guitar bodies. The company is using 100% recycled carbon fiber filament, which again leads to an ultra-lightweight, resonant, and super strong body. Not only that, but since no 3D printers were up to the task, the Aluminati crew actually built their own bespoke 3D printers to accomplish the programming tasks and print speeds they demanded.
Furthermore, the company makes their own guitar hardware. One of the first pieces of eye candy you’ll see on one of these guitars (besides the neck and fingerboard) is the bridge. They construct the bridges out of 7075 T6 aluminum, which is light, stiff, and anodizes well. They also incorporate a 3-degree bevel so that players have a noticeably more comfortable piece of metal with which to interact.
And now for the grand prize: the necks. Aluminati guitar necks are probably the thing you’ll notice first. whether it’s visually or through your hands. This is important, because the neck is the part of the guitar you interact with most. Being that most of human beings’ tactile interface is through their hands, neck feel is super crucial to an instrument that feels great in the hands, for hours on end.
They offer two versions of their proprietary necks, one of which is all aluminum and another which is an aluminum neck with a carbon fiber fingerboard! The necks are also hollowed out, a trademark the company refers to as “Hollowcore” - which again reduces weight. Coolest of all? There is NO truss rod.
Yeah, yeah, take a seat, take a deep breath, read it again, no truss rod!
Because there is no truss rod, the company cannot allow even the smallest degree of sloppy, untrue fretwork, so a massive amount of time is spent on creating perfect fretboards so that no adjustments are ever required for the life of the guitar. The frets are also stainless, not nickel, which adds even more permanence and stability to rely on. In fact, like high-end German cars with handmade engines, the artist that does the fretwork signs the heel of the neck, to prove that it was done with passion and extreme attention to detail. Lots of people talk about “handmade,” but this takes an often-used marketing phrase to an entirely new level of detail, precision, and honesty. All of this, of course, pairs nicely with the fact that these guitars are guaranteed for life.
Some other fun facts? The company also makes bass guitars and baritone guitars — both of which benefit greatly from this engineering stability and durability. You can also buy necks only; in the event you want to hot-rod one of your existing guitars into the world of truss-rod-less stability and precision. Furthermore, these guitars all come pre-strung with Stringjoy strings, which is another awesome small guitar business in Nashville, TN that uses high-end quality materials, innovative design, and labor-intensive winding processes to create durable, long-lasting strings.
If you’re ready to try one out, then make sure to stop by our shop in Chicago to get your hands on one of these! As cool as these things are on paper, we promise you; they’re infinitely cooler when you get one in your hands. Yes, we’re already being asked about stocking some basses too, so keep your eyes peeled for that! We have two guitars in stock that help represent the range of looks and vibes you can get from this company, and we just might have some really crazy one-offs coming our way as well. We’re also taking orders for custom guitars as well, so if you’re ready to inject some Formula 1 into your 6 string, this is a company you’ve got to check out! We hope you love the story just as much as we do, because the sounds will leave you floored. The future of guitar is here, and it’s looking awesome.
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