AMI offers classic designs at very affordable prices During his 20-year tenure at C.F. Martin, Ed Golden built thousands of guitars on the workshop floor, heading up sub-assembly manufacturing and quality assurance operations before becoming the lead designer and manager of the revered Martin Custom Shop. Drawing on his skills as a gigging guitarist and studio musician, he was also a Martin artist and clinician, performing throughout the country and around the world. Safe to say, the man knows guitars.
Though Golden had recently retired from Martin to launch Golden Guitar Gallery, a vintage guitar shop in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in 2010 he seized an opportunity to expand his business into distribution—and again there was a connection, albeit looser and indirect, with Martin. The offer came from German luthier and designer Günther Lutz of AMI GmbH, a successful Martin Guitar distributor whose newly revived Sigma Guitars brand, registered in nearly 50 nations worldwide, featured instruments meticulously based on classic Martin designs. But unbeknownst to AMI and Martin, another company registered the Sigma trademark in the U.S., leaving Lutz no choice but to create a new brand for the American market. After selling some 30,000 Sigma acoustic guitars and basses in the brand’s first year, starting over was incredibly frustrating, but Lutz was armed with timeless instrument designs, the good will of scores of satisfied customers worldwide, and now, industry veteran Golden’s purpose-built distribution firm, Golden Ark Inc. Lutz incorporated Kindred Guitars (by AMI) in early 2013.
Manufactured to the highest quality, fit, and finish, Kindred guitars deliver playability and tone associated with guitars costing much more, filling lower to middle price points under $1,000. They are available in a wide array of shapes, sizes, materials, and appointment levels. Cutaway models feature Fishman electronics and are offered in everything from all mahogany OOO-15M through the premium DC-15E, which is “perfect for stage and studio applications but available on a busker’s budget.”
All Kindred guitars feature solid spruce or mahogany tops, some with solid back and sides, some models in wood laminate. Highly sellable details include bone nut and saddle, high-quality tuning machines, herringbone inlays, pearl trim, snowflake fingerboard inlays, a thin finish, and Martin SP strings.
In designing the original line, Lutz worked tirelessly with the factory to faithfully represent the classic instruments the original Sigmas were intended to emulate, addressing everything from total weight and fingerboard width to intangibles such as tone and feel. For example, much attention—and many “near-miss” prototypes—were devoted to refining and lightening the instruments’ bracing.
“Kindred guitars’ price points, quality, and dealer margin make them an attractive product for retailers,” notes Golden. “It’s a perfect development brand because it suits a customer who wants to spend between $250 and $1,000 for a quality instrument that plays well, sounds good, and will last.” He identifies the target market as “the customer who needs a solid tool to gig with, or have “out on the stand” in the studio or living room.” The variety of styles, sizes, and shapes provides “an endless palette of sound opportunities for customers’ particular needs: for example, the customer who primarily flat-picks his dreadnought but doesn’t want to spend as much on a small-bodied guitar to experiment with fingerpicking. Many Kindred guitar players are gigging musicians on a budget, looking for that classic American design and sound and needing rugged guitars suited for the rigors of the road.”
As the sole distributor of Kindred guitars in the U.S., Golden Ark Inc. is pursuing a quality-over-quantity approach to building a dealer network. Ed Golden hopes to achieve sales volume as dealers and customers discover that a Kindred is “a high-quality guitar, outstanding among its peers, that represents tradition while offering a great value.” Golden Ark will support the brand through market advertising as well as festival attendance and, in some cases, sponsorship to encourage potential customers, in cooperation with its dealers, to seek out the brand in their local music shops.
Golden Ark will officially launch Kindred Guitars at the 2014 Winter NAMM Show, where its products will be exhibited in booth 1116.
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