Matt McPherson’s twin passions—flattops and archery—led him to revolutionizing the compound-bow industry and creating some of today’s most forward-thinking boutique acoustics.

Acoustic luthier Matt McPherson has twin passions—guitars and archery. Since his youth, McPherson has been fascinated with the physics of wood, but his seemingly polar-opposite interests turned out to complement each other, leading him to develop forward-thinking designs in both realms: He’s founder and CEO of Mathews Inc., an archery equipment company that’s world-renowned for its light carbon-fiber compound bows, and the lessons he learned about bow tension and dampening translated to intriguing designs in his flattop acoustics—including cantilevered necks and offset soundholes that facilitate a lengthened soundboard, and his trademark “overpass-underpass” bracing, which he says improves sustain by minimizing vibration-absorption points. Today, McPherson leads a team of six luthiers who craft 150–200 exquisitely made boutique acoustics per year in their shop in Sparta, Wisconsin.

Factory Tour: Part 1

In part one of our McPherson shop tour, we see how two luthiers oversee the entire construction of a McPherson acoustic’s body, how the company’s custom-machined solid-aluminum side benders contribute to consistency, and how their weather-impervious carbon-fiber neck inserts eliminate the need for a truss rod.

Factory Tour: Part 2

Part two of our McPherson Guitars shop tour in Sparta, Wisconsin, goes behind the scenes on the multistep process of final setup for each acoustic, from carving of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System saddles and nuts to filing and dressing frets. We also get an up-close look at three incredible McPherson Custom Shop instruments—one with an incredibly intricate Picasso inlay, one with a nautical theme, and one commemorating the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

Matt McPherson Interview

In this one-on-one interview with Premier Guitar’s Shawn Hammond, McPherson demonstrates the beautiful tones of his old-meets-new designs and talks about how a 1970s Tonight Show interview with a Japanese Johnny Cash impersonator got him thinking about how he could deconstruct bow physics to improve acoustic designs.

The author’s Collings D2H rests on his favorite Fender amp combination for acoustic guitar: a Bandmaster Reverb atop a 1x12 extension cab with an Eminence Maverick inside. The amp has a custom-made baffle board with two 8" speakers, so can go it alone for smaller gigs.

Interested in plugging a flattop into your favorite silver- or black-panel beauty? Here’s what you need to know.

Have you ever tried to plug your acoustic guitar into a classic-style Fender amp? There are some hurdles to overcome, and this month I’ll provide some advice on how to get past them. But first, some background.

Read More Show less

A lightweight, portable amp series developed after months of forensic examination of vintage valve amps.

Read More Show less

Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

Read More Show less