Unparalleled playability and rugged stability from a sweet-sounding, boldly styled composite 7-string.
For folks who embrace the notion that electric guitar design begins and ends with classics such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Les Paul, materials beyond wire, wood, and metal are sacrilege. Maybe that’s why—in spite of their stability and consistency—guitars made from nontraditional materials like carbon fiber have never really managed to seize the guitar-playing public’s imagination in numbers as large as instruments made from traditional materials.
But with the popularity surge of high-profile prog-metal virtuosos who explore forward-thinking designs like headless guitars and fanned frets—as well as a growing contingent of guitarists who favor mathcore over “Mustang Sally”—the demand for envelope-pushing guitars is also increasing.
Dutchman Aristides Poort is an engineer who bases his instrument designs on Arium—a material made from a mixture of resins and microscopic bubbles that approximates the cell structure and acoustic properties of wood. The company says Arium took 15 years to perfect, and was created with help from scientists at the Delft University of Technology. The first Aristides model—the 010—was designed in collaboration with Adrian Vandenberg of Whitesnake and introduced at Musikmesse 2009. At winter NAMM 2014, Aristides introduced its first 7-string, the 070.
Synthetic Yet Soulful
Like its siblings, the handbuilt 070 is crafted from a hard, hollow exoskeleton made from multiple layers of glass fiber and carbon, which is then filled with resonant Arium. The only wood on the guitar is the ebony fretboard. The neck and the body start out in liquid form and are shaped in an aluminum mold that the company says has been engineered with absolute precision. The resulting single piece that incorporates the body and the neck is intended to allow vibration to resonate through the whole guitar without impediment. In the midst of this body-forming process, they also embed a security microchip with a scannable code inside the body—nice!
The hardware on our review model might seem a bit staid in comparison to some of the other details, but it’s still high quality: a Hipshot hard-tail fixed bridge with an Aristides stainless-steel tone block (a Floyd Rose-equipped model is also available,) and a GraphTech Black TUSQ nut. The Seymour Duncan Pegasus bridge and Sentient neck pickups are controlled by a 5-way switch and volume and tone knobs (the former of which is push-pull for outer- and inner-coil tapping options,). You can also order a model with Seymour Duncan Blackout or EMG active pickups.
Looks That Kill
Outwardly, the 26.5"-scale 070 is daring and distinct—a look that some will love and some will loathe. Though I’m by no means averse to an outside-the-box visual vibe, I’ll admit I never completely warmed to the “matte anthracite” finish or the sleek, stylized indentations in the guitar’s top. And given how functional the 070 is, I can’t help but wonder if splitting the difference between radical design and tradition wouldn’t make the guitar appealing to a wider audience. That said, plenty of innovative designs (Steinberger comes to mind) made a splash precisely because their look was as bold as their functional departures from tradition. And players who feel there’s a lot of stylistic homogeneity among guitars aimed at heavy players will no doubt find the 070’s distinctive aesthetics refreshing.
One of the biggest advantages to using alternative materials for guitar making is increased stability. So I wasn’t too surprised when the guitar arrived perfectly in tune after a long trans-Atlantic flight from the Netherlands to Premier Guitar headquarters in Iowa, and then back to my place in New York City. How many other guitars could you take out of the shipping crate after trips across two continents, and use them at a gig that night without any adjustments? The intonation was perfect, and the factory setup was great.
The 070’s playability is fantastic, too. The C-shaped neck’s 24 medium-jumbo frets and 12"–16" compound-radius fretboard offer great balance for lower-register chords and soloing in the middle and upper registers. Even with the larger 7-string neck, it wasn’t really any more difficult to play than a 6-string shred axe. The heel-less neck joint is contoured to allow excellent upper-fret access, and deep bends rang true without choking. After vigorous and prolonged bending episodes, the Hipshot Grip-Lock locking tuners held tuning remarkably well.
The 070 has a punchy, lively sonic character. Even unplugged, first-position chords sounded and felt noticeably more full than other electric guitars in my studio. Through an Ampeg SuperJet Reissue, the 070 exhibited a modern, focused sound almost like what you’d expect from active pickups—but with a lot more warmth and soul. With a clean tone, I tried some tapped, Tosin Abasi-inspired contrapuntal figures and was surprised at how notes articulated only with left-hand hammer-ons had such a precise attack and maintained their robustness however long I held them.
When I used an MI Audio Tube Zone pedal to add some dirt, the first thing I noticed was that the 070’s sustain is unreal. Notes lasted so long—even without any finger vibrato to keep them going—that it almost felt like I was using an EBow. The Aristides website claims Arium facilitates sustain on the low E for “easily 45 seconds.” I tested this and got between 25 and 29 seconds with the dirt box on, and about 20 seconds with a clean sound. Still, that’s a damn long time.
To see how the 070 would handle harmonically complex chords with a lot of gain, I played a second-position Bsus2 chord with the open low B and an F# on the low E. The result sounded three-dimensional and in-your-face—with huge bottom end and a crisp top. Unsurprisingly, I could get sharp, percussive attack perfect for djent rhythms, but I was impressed to find that, by varying pickup and pedal combinations, I could get an almost vintage, PAF vibe for rock or blues tunes.
At slightly more than three grand, the Aristides 070 is upscale—though you do get some nice extras, like a leather strap, Schaller strap locks, and a Gator XL hardshell case. But it’s a serious professional axe that seems destined to withstand a lifetime’s worth of the most grueling touring. It’s also a surprisingly versatile guitar—sonically, there aren’t many styles that it can’t cover. Visually, it seems more at home in a metalcore or prog-metal setting, but then again, since when have modern 7-strings been known for tame styling? Most importantly, judged on tones, playability, and stability, it’s a near-flawless instrument with very few peers.