Posted: April 25, 2013
Made in Colorado 2013: Music & soundEric Peterson
Carbon fiber guitars
“I met Diego Grinfeld while traveling to Israel in 2008,” says Josh Jacobson. “He was in the aerospace industry using carbon fiber. On his own, he’d come up with an exact replica of a Les Paul guitar made out of carbon fiber.” Jacobson was blown away by it and he subsequently co-founded Viktorian Guitars with Grinfeld in 2010.
Jacobson outlines the three main benefits of a carbon fiber guitar: sound quality, durability and weight. “Old guitars weigh a ton,” he says. “It’s like carrying around a tree trunk.” Carbon fiber guitars tend to weigh about half of wood ones.
Viktorian Guitars aren’t cheap – the suggested retail is $4,450 – but they are in demand globally, says Jacobson. “We just shipped one last week to Australia.”
Mullen Guitar Co.
Pedal steel guitars
Since the early 1970s, Mullen Guitar has been the country Western world’s go-to manufacturer for pedal steel guitars. Founder Del Mullen is the man behind the Cadillac of pedal-steel guitars and today his grandson, Mike Mantey, helps guide the company.
Most materials are sourced from Colorado, says Mantey. Each guitar requires about 100 hours of work. But there’s a reason country superstars from Kenny Chesney to Jason Aldean are customers. Even after four decades, “We’re revolutionizing the industry,” explains Mantey.
Mantey says the company has shipped more than 2,000 guitars in 40 years and business is especially brisk in 2013. Two years ago, interested musicians waited up to six months for a Mullen guitar, but thanks to a 2012 expansion from four employees to six, customers no longer have to wait quite that long. “We’re getting better and better,” says Mullen. “We’re down to two months now.”
Chuck Ogsbury is the Stradivarius of the banjo. He launched his first banjo company, ODE Banjos, in 1960 as folk music took off in the U.S. He made about 1,900 banjos before selling ODE to Baldwin in 1966, giving into wanderlust, then launched OME Banjos in 1970 from the mountains west of Boulder.
Today, 43 years and another 6,200 banjos later, OME is entrenched in music lore and more popular than ever. “I consider what we’re doing a lost art,” says Ogsbury. “It’s pretty much a labor of love for my guys.”
And it shows. OME’s five employees tend to stick around – Rich Sharples, master luthier, has been with the company for 25 years; Gustavo Silva, master woodworker, has been with OME for 22 years, and Jose Prado, associate woodworker, has been there for eight years. Chuck’s daughter, Tanya, has worked in sales for OME for 15 years. “We keep building our skills, including myself,” says Ogsbury.
Sales have been going up thanks to the popularity of bands like Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers, says Ogsbury. But that’s not the only key to the lasting appeal of the banjo. “You can play them really easily and carry it with you,” says Ogsbury. “You can play it in your dorm room, you can play it around a campfire and you can play it when you’re old and retired. And if you have to, they’re recyclable.”
One of many high-end audio manufacturers in Colorado, Avalon’s speakers can cost $90,000 a pair.
High-end amplifiers and more
Hand-built in Boulder, Ayre is part of a significant Colorado cluster.
On the cutting edge of hi-fi since 1984.
Variable efficiency speakers
Innovative speakers for rock guitarists who want to go to 11.
Green Mountain Audio
Green Mountain touts its speakers as the most “time-coherent” on the market.
Amps for jazz guitarists.
Jeff Rowland Design Group
Rowland’s amps and preamps are works of industrial art.
iPhone and iPad accessories
Koostik’s wooden accessories amplify your iSpeakers – no electricity required.
High-end digital-to-analog processors
PS moved production back to Colorado from China in 2007.
Rock On Audio
Makes the unique Rockbox headphone amp.
Rocky Mountain Slides
Ceramic guitar slides and tone bars from “Doc” Sigmier.
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com