Aaron is a man of discerning tastes and exacting standards, who always brings me classy instruments to work on. This time around he brought by a new instrument for a pickup install and setup, an Aristides 070 which is a new company based out of The Netherlands. The most interesting aspect of this futuristic new guitar is it’s core construction, a material called Arium, which is moulded and sandwiched together with carbon fibre to make a complete one-piece body/neck unit. In fact, just to keep some traditional aspect included, the only wood to be found on the entire instrument is the fingerboard, which in this case is ebony. You can read all about these guitars in more detail here:
Being the first time I’ve seen one of these guitars – along with the required work to be done – my inner tech geek will always make me crack out the calipers and fully dissect it in detail, fully inspecting all aspects of it’s design and construction.
The first thing you’ll notice about this guitar is it’s futuristic body design, which is kind of reminiscent of an oversized Ibanez S, and the prominent ‘scoops’ moulded into the guitar’s face. The finish, which I love, is a maintenance-friendly matte poly in very striking orange.
Flip the guitar over and it reveals a large control cavity cover, nicely recessed and finished the same.
The moulded process obviously allows for a smooth, seamless neck/body join is similar to guitars constructed with through-neck design. It’s perfectly done and feels fantastic, allowing complete and comfortable access to all of it’s 24 frets unhindered.
Instead of using individual body ferrules, Aristides has went with a beautifully-milled, solid piece of stainless steel as it’s string anchor. Finished in brushed satin, this solid block goes all the way through the body and attaches to the Hipshot bridge plate on the front of the guitar, which greatly adds to the sustain of this already resonant instrument.
The sleek, in-line headstock with it’s chrome logo, is distinctive enough without stepping on any design copyright toes.
The tuners are Hipshot open gear locking, which are one of my favourites – they’re very light, smooth operation and have among the least backlash of almost any tuner going. Good choice guys 😉
The action as presented was a bit on the stiff side, and later re-setup much lower.
For many years now, it has been getting increasingly difficult to obtain perfectly black, streak-free ebony, usually from Cameroon or Gabon; which in most cases ebony is usually streaked with grey or light brown in it’s natural form. To appease the ‘it’s got to be jet-black, man!’ customers, most of the large companies like Gibson, Martin, Taylor, Jackson, etc., resort to dying the ebony slabs with black dye to achieve this, usually with an alcohol-based leather dye like Fiebing’s. So it’s really nice to companies starting to come around and use natural cuts of wood with the streaking included.
The stock pickups were the Seymour Duncan Sentient/Nazgul combo, and what was great to see was the pickup cavities themselves; finally a company with the forethought to realize that many guitarists will regularly swap pickups, and to make the cavities large enough to easily accommodate even covered pickups (as you’ll see below) – which more often than not require some extra modification to the cavities to make them fit, and Carvin guitars in particular come to mind. Large enough for some wiggle room, but not too large as to look sloppy. Bravo Aristides!
Now removing the back cover is where things start getting really interesting, and it’s also usually the hidden areas where I often find shortcuts, cheap components or sloppy work. As you can see, the large back cover is slightly flexible and reveals two large chambers, one for the electronics and another empty one displaying the serial number. Without getting into the details of chambering affecting tone, I feel that chambering does add a certain ‘airiness’ and resonance to the overall tone almost similar to a semi-hollow design, which this guitar has in spades. There is little doubt in my mind that these large cavities contribute to this.
Although no extraneous hum or noise was detected during the work through the bench amp set dead clean, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible under the right circumstances. Being near florescent lights, transformers, bad lighting rigs, etc., can suddenly introduce all sorts of buzzes, hum and noise if the guitar’s control cavity isn’t fully shielded. The best choices for helping with interference protection are copper foil, aluminium foil, or at least the convenient shielding paint applied in at least two coats. I’m a big advocate of full shielding, and see far too many companies and builders skimping on doing it…as beautiful as this design is, full shielding would have been the icing on the cake in my opinion and certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Yes! Builders and small companies take a good look at this picture..now this is what I expect to see on any instrument costing over $2000 – genuine quality components and neat wiring that looks like the builder actually takes some pride in their work 😉 This control cavity is among the cleanest and most logically laid out that I’ve seen from any builder in some time. The pre-moulded cavities for the individual controls just reinforces the overall impression of much forethought with it’s design. Super job Aristides!
Let’s take a closer look…
Great! No cheap Asian Alpha pots here, as I usually see on the majority of ’boutique’ and custom guitars that cross my bench. These audio taper 500k MEC pots are fantastic units made in Germany with the usual precision that they’re known for. The only thing I would have changed would be the capacitor to a Sprague orange drop (which would match too, lol) or a glorious Emerson paper-in-oil. Nonetheless, a very classy pot choice guys!
Wow. Again, no cheap plastic Asian switch here either. Behold the most rugged and robust 5-way blade switch you can get: the German-made Schaller with a thick steel housing. Pure class.
Whoever does the wiring at Aristides clearly takes some pride in his/her work, and I really appreciate seeing this. And so should any customer buying one of these 😉
What separates the pros from the rest is all in the details folks…raised contact turrets made from tinned, braided wire for connection – nice touch guys. Impressed.
So for the installation of the pickups, I had to unfortunately mess with the nice wiring job. After removal of the shrink tube, even the ganging of the ground wires was done neatly and carefully.
Now after removal of the stock pickups we find a slightly unusual way Aristides used for supporting the pickups and tensioning for height adjustment; four springs under each pickup that connect to the baseplate instead of the customary screw springs or small bits of foam. Aaron was having some minor “woooo-wooo” feedback issues at volume with this guitar (similar to the type from semi-hollow guitars), and I suspect that maybe these springs vibrating directly against the pickup’s baseplate under high volume along with the empty space under the pickup – much like the undampened ‘ringing’ within the springs in a Strat trem cavity – were a possible contributing factor with the low frequency feedback experienced. I have seen similar cases over the years in which this or loose, wobbly pickups were culprits of vibrational feedback as opposed to the high pitched feedback from unpotted, microphonic pickups.
To help combat this feedback (which was successful) and to have perfectly firm support with added stiffness and direct contact with the body, I always like to use medium-density foam cut to cover the entire pickup baseplate, and at the right height for proper adjustment travel.
Also shown is a really good feature in keeping with this cool guitar: threaded body inserts for the pickup mounting screws. Nice. Way classier than the usual little wood screws
As mentioned earlier, Aristides apparent forethought also allows covered humbuckers to fit the cavity routes perfectly without modification. There’s the right amount of clearance for pickup movement without looking oversized. The new pickups are a set of the excellent Bare Knuckle Juggernauts, a British boutique company renown for it’s pickup’s high-gain clarity. These also look smashing in this guitar with black covers and bolts which matches the rest of the hardware perfectly.
The nut is clearly made from an excellent Graphtech Tusq XL blank, which is my favourite nut material to work with after actual bone. While completely functional with no binding whatsoever, I would have liked to rather see them use a very slightly higher nut which would allow the nut slots to be cut just a little deeper, cleaner and more evenly.
Now here’s where we come to an area of my own personal focus: the fretwork. Aristides utilizes a neck jig when levelling their frets, which allows fretwork to executed with the utmost precision while under actual simulated string tension. This is the way I also always do fretwork, and you can read more about the process here. The results are stellar and the fretwork on this guitar is top-notch. The frets on this guitar are a med-jumbo nickle/silver type, all of which were well seated and glued-in. I’m a huge advocate of gluing the frets for best vibrational transfer during contact (which = best tone & sustain) and minimizes the possibility of lifting in the future if there’s any fingerboard shrinkage due to dehydration, which ebony is very prone for.
After cleaning the board and frets, we also can see the MOP ‘070’ inlay at the 12th fret, which was cut absolutely perfectly with zero filler or evidence of slop. I suspect this was maybe lazer cut – it’s just that clean of a job. The crowning, end dressing and polishing of the frets was excellent, with pretty much zero trace of any tool marks or levelling scratches. Thumbs up Aristides!
Here’s another area that, from a repairman’s perspective, I often have issues with many companies and certain guitar models: poor truss rod access and/or functionality. This is critical to the ease and good setup on any guitar, and the Aristides design is very clean, with open clear access. The dual-action truss rod functions smooth and flawless, responding positively to even slight adjustment in either direction. Bravo again guys.
And while I’m on this subject, after decades of rod-tweaking, I’m of the firm belief that due to the very wide climate fluctuations we have in our Northern hemisphere, ALL guitars should be equipped with dual action rods, just in case. There’s few repair hassles worse than having to deal with a back-bowed neck on a guitar fitted with a single-action rod and no tension on it. This opens a real can of worms, of which certain methods of heat clamping and such are required to counteract it, and not always with guaranteed results either. :/
The bridge fitted to the 070 is the very good Hipshot, pretty much an industry standard now for many ERG companies and builders, it’s well made and solid. My only concern here in this case while re-adjusting the action down to fast and low levels which Aaron prefers, the about of saddle travel was only a few thou shy from bottoming-out on the high E. As you can see, this also allows the adjustment hex screws to protrude slightly on a few of the outside saddles, which can be a bit uncomfortable on the side of the hand when palm muting or resting your hand on the bridge – aka “cheesegrater bridge”. Either using a thinner baseplate for slightly more saddle travel or shorter screws would address this minor issue.
In Conclusion : I’m always excited to see new instruments, and particularly those which are taking strides to try using new materials in it’s construction – especially in this age of fast-disappearing sources of sustainable wood. Aristides represents a new breed of companies aimed at addressing this head-on, and is doing a fantastic job at it. This guitar feels great, has a nice, airy tone that also cuts very well, particularly on single notes and soloing. There’s a very good, rigid feel to it, which doesn’t feel flimsy or wonky when standing and moving around with it. This, combined with it’s easy-to-clean durable finish and after a good setup, will definitely make for a solid road warrior that should last. Aristides are clearly setting a new benchmark in modern, durable guitar design, of which should hopefully see other builders follow suit in some aspects seen here and step up their game to keep up. Only the couple of very minor issues are what prevent me from giving this guitar a perfect 10. A great, solid instrument – colour me very, very impressed.
RATING : 9 / 10