Can you tell us a bit more about the twisted neck design?
Don: Well, it’s a neck that we have several patents on. The Helix has a gradual twist in it, but on the initial ones, there was a 20-degree difference from the nut in relationship to the bridge. This was very beneficial to the wrist and for playability, however, we found some geometric problems because it still has to be a straight line to be played. At that drastic of a twist, there were some problems that caused the guitar to fret out or buzz.
Jeff: Even though the neck was 20 degrees twisted, relative to the bridge, the relationship of the string to the fret right below it was the same as a regular guitar.
Where are your pickups manufactured?
Don: They are made here in the States, in Huntington Beach, California.
That must be great for controlling production, but how do you keep a reasonable price point?
Don: We are the only pickup manufacturer with a patent on everything we make. We take pride in that and we put a heavy emphasis on our intellectual property, including the Alumitone, the Lace Sensor and all the various iterations. We are able to build them here and protect them because we’re right next door. We’re not too worried about copycats out there, because there are a lot of nuances and only we know how to make them.
So if somebody was trying to copy these, they could make something that looks like it, but they’d have a hard time making something that sounds like it?
Don: That’s correct. It’s a bit of black magic – it might look black and white on a piece of paper, a patent application or a drawing, but as a pickup designer, you just kind of have to go with your gut on how to make them right.
What guitar companies are using Lace pickups in their guitars these days?
Don: Obviously Fender, and Godin just launched a line of guitars with the new Alumitones on them. National Reso-Phonic uses our products and there are some small boutique builders using them – you can check the website for that list. We have about two dozen major and boutique manufacturers road-testing them right now. We are really excited about the acceptance of our Alumitones across the board. The Lace Sensor has been our best seller to this day, and it’s the Fender players that continue to support these products.
So is the Alumitone an attempt to draw a broader range of players?
Don: Really, the Lace Sensors could probably cover a majority of players’ needs, but we needed something new out there.
Will you continue to develop Lace Sensors?
Don: We are still working on developing the Sensors. We just introduced two new models: the Emerald version is designed for the neck position and is like a Fender Texas Special without the noise, with a corresponding Purple version for the bridge.
Jeff: That’d be like a hot P-90.
Don: And then a reverse-wound Silver in the middle. It’s a little three pack that we just launched, and it’s starting to take off. There are always little integrations being done at Lace. We have it all the way to our Drop and Gains, which provide punchy drop D tuning without losing any articulation in the transition.
You guys always have a presence at guitar shows, both vintage and new. Do you feel sense a stewardship in supporting the industry?
Don: For sure. We feel that we have something to contribute – more so than other companies out there, because we actually offer something new for players. We also notice pedal and effects manufacturers using our Alumitones for showcases because it demonstrates the product better. Everything that engineer wanted in that stompbox or amp, they can hear. The sound or effect isn’t being choked by a coil or certain tonal signature. You maximize what you have with the Alumitones.
So what’s on the horizon for Lace?
Don: We’ve got a lot of different Alumitone models launching soon. We have four, five and six-string soapbar models for basses and a new split-coil Alumitone coming out. Basically we have a full plate of items, pickup-wise, coming out, and we’ll continue with our bass line, with the eventual release of our guitar model.
Sounds like you’re going to have new products every week from now until Summer NAMM.
Don: Pretty much!