I’ve been aware of Guitarfetish for a number of years now. Over the years, I read the ads for their GFS pickups in various guitar magazines and heard the company and products discussed on a number of forums. I mostly knew them to be pickups and a modders resources company. I found out that Jay Abend operates Guitarfetish out of my neck of the woods so a few months ago I got in touch with him and we began talking. He invited me out to see his company in action. What I saw both amazed me and gave me a sense of pride. It’s still possible for someone to start up a business with next to nothing, working hard to make it a success. Jay would be the first to tell you that the hard work was coupled with some happy accidents along the way. But I have to say, that to his credit, he took advantage of good fortune and has put together a growing concern.
I have been out to Guitarfetish a few times in the past year and I have to say it’s been in the middle of some exciting developments, not the least of which, was the explosion of their Xaviere guitar line, an inexpensive instrument that rivaled guitars at more than twice the price. What impressed me most was that Jay and his staff operate an R&D component from their establishment. The staff is comprised of musicians who are currently or have been recently gigging. With these guitars, as is the case with the pickups, a tremendous amount of R&D went into their development. They experimented with materials, manufacturing plants and designs with the ultimate goal of producing an easy to play and tuneful instrument. They did not go to a manufacturer and ask for a couple of guitars from their catalog with a Xaviere name slapped on them. In fact, part of the development took Jay overseas to the plants to show what he wanted done for these guitars. The Xaviere line include his now well known quality pickups which have already been the pickups of choice for many modders wishing to get away from the stock pickups usually found in an inexpensive guitar. These pickups are so good, they also find their way into replacing stock pickups on pricier guitars. I also like going out to Guitarfetish because Jay is one of the most knowledgeable guitar people I have ever met. He is a player himself who appreciates the instrument but also has a mind for the nuances of the business of guitars.
My latest trip out there was this past week. I went to the new loading dock area which is currently being remodeled. He has grown out of the spaces he has had over the past couple of years into much larger accommodations. They are adding new office and storage space as well. There are workbench areas for R&D and a professional photography area as well in the building. I mentioned as we were walking along that I’d like to video the various work areas. I think it would be great for everyone to see how it all gets done there.
While I was there I got to talk to Jay about upcoming plans and how the economy was affecting his business. Jay handed me a Fender strat that was plugged into a Ceriatone Overtone Special with a 412 cab loaded with Celestion Greenbacks. But that wasn’t even the best part. The guitar was loaded with GFS’ newest addition, noiseless pickups! They are called Neovins. They look just like a regular single coil pickup. The amp setup I was using was set at a lot higher than bedroom volume. There was no single coil hum. These are quiet pups, so quiet that I startled myself when I began playing. What came out of the speakers was amazingly vintage single coil tone. I was playing clean and it was just gorgeous, as sweet a pickup as I’ve heard at any price, noiseless or not. Jay explained the technology to me and just like I did in high school, I hoped that this part wouldn’t be on the test. Luckily there is something on their website that explains what’s going on.
“By utilizing carefully tuned narrow aperture coils, thoroughly shielded, we're able to achieve a hum-bucking tone that faithfully replicates the best single coil sounds. By using specific alnico and neodymium magnets, we've tried to dial in the best single coil sounds, from 50's vintage to 90's hard rock. We've applied a fine-tuned metal filter to the top plate of the pickup to notch just the right frequencies, and the entire assembly is epoxied into a traditional single coil shell.”
I have a Fender strat with Gold Lace Sensors and I had a Fender Deluxe Player with the Vintage noiseless. I will be getting a set of these for one of my strats!
All of the GFS pickups are developed here by hand. After the specs are approved the search for an appropriate manufacturer goes on for production. For years, the GFS secret to success was to be able to produce these at a price the average modder could afford. Jay has been working on a lineup of active pickups as well. Always something going on!
Guitarfetish also has a boutique, hand made in the US, collection of effects pedals that are highly appreciated in many forums I visit. The Jetter pedals are made in Atlanta by Brad Jeter. Brad and Jay were partners in bedrock Amplification, one of the original “boutique” American Amp companies in the 80s. Jay mentioned that he’d like to get the pedals spec’d out in order to be able to produce an inexpensive version of these for the weekend warriors like myself!
Within the next month, we should be seeing the next wave of Xaviere guitars. Our discussion of the economy brought us to talking about shipping and freight. Those prices are rising daily. Guitarfetish is fortunate to be able to ask for orders large enough that they can be shipped by sea. That will help keep the costs down for now but will bear some watching over the next couple of years. The Xaviere guitars themselves have been improved on. They now have graphite nuts, better tuners and Jay went to the manufacturer to teach the employees just how he wanted the painting done. I saw a couple of the new f-hole style guitars while I was there. Nicely finished! There are also a couple of new styles available that will be knocking socks off.
Talking about socks, for the modders out there, there are new guitar bodies and necks in the works! I picked up an ash tele body that was just beautiful.
I look forward to the construction finishing over there, so that I can give a video tour of a company that is making it, even in an economy that has been showing signs of slowing down. They’re making it with a commitment to creating a quality product at a reasonable price. I can’t ask for more!!