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Music: Sound Goods

Bailey S. Barnard

"Why don’t you play something for us?" asked Dan DeMars, owner of DeMars Guitars, an instrument maker from Norwich, Vt., that was among the roughly 1,500 companies displaying their wares at January’s International Music Products Association trade show (commonly known as the NAMM show) in Anaheim, Calif. I initially declined the invitation, but when DeMars persisted, I picked up an acoustic Viridis guitar, which has a 2-inch-thick, chambered solid body. One of DeMars’ colleagues connected the guitar to an amplifier, and in front of a small crowd that had gathered in front of the DeMars Guitars booth, I began to play the one Creedence song that I know—or thought I knew. Halfway through the second verse, I forgot the words and mumbled my way to the chorus. At that point, DeMars and his staff applauded enthusiastically, signaling the end of the performance.

DeMars had unveiled the Viridis, along with the acoustic Long Trail bass, at the 2006 NAMM show. This year, DeMars debuted the electric Equinox guitar ($4,000) and the electric Long Trail Mag bass ($3,800 for the four-string model and $4,000 for the five-string), both of which are based on their acoustic predecessors.

While the acoustic Viridis ($3,400) and Long Trail ($3,300 for the four-string and $3,600 for the five-string) are audible without the use of electronics, the full measure of their sound quality becomes evident when each is routed to an amplifier through the outboard equalizer and direct box. Within each of the instruments is a dual-channel, 9-volt preamp, which allows you to adjust the balance and EQ individually. "This creates a tonal richness free of airflow and thus feedback—a luxury not typically achievable with traditional amplified acoustics," said DeMars, who is 49, holds master’s degrees in business and pathology, and was working in the biomedical industry when he began designing instruments as a hobby some 20 years ago. He established his own guitar-making business in 2005.

DeMars Guitars strings each of its instruments through the back of the body, which, in addition to directing string vibration to the under-saddle piezo transducer, also alleviates hundreds of pounds of tension from the neck by transferring the string force downward onto the bridge saddle. Both the acoustics and the electrics also feature Earvana compensated tuning, which ensures that the intonation is accurate along the entire fingerboard by compensating for the imprecision of traditional fret spacing. DeMars offers basses with or without frets, and its electrics are available in a variety of finishes.

"Dan has an incredible business savvy and a great love of music," said Ned Steinberger, an instrument designer with whom DeMars used to work. "His guitars are beautiful, soundly built, and include some very unique design elements." DeMars holds a number of patents for his designs. Most notable is his use of a second piezo transducer under the neck heel. "Having two pickups allows for a fuller, brighter range of sound," explained DeMars.

Another DeMars patent, the F clef–shaped sound hole in the Long Trail basses, is such a striking design element that it drew many people to the DeMars booth at the NAMM show. Either they came to look at the instruments, or maybe they came hoping that I would perform an encore.

DeMars Guitars, 802.649.2098, www.demarsguitars.com

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