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Specifications for Montreaux ® and Newport ®
Welcome to the world of Stromberg ® jazz guitars. Here's some info on the first two models, the Montreux ®, which is a traditional 2 pickup single cutaway guitar, and the unique Newport ®, which is a non-cutaway jazz guitar with an integrated floating pickup/pickguard assembly. We currently have stock on both models for immediate delivery.
Stromberg's mission statement is affordable excellence. Stromberg believes that there simply is not a better guitar made in this price range. Please understand that these guitars are in no way intended to be replicas of the famous Strombergs from a bygone era. One simply does not duplicate a Rembrandt or the Venus de Milo. What we have done is create a terrific jazz guitar that won't break the bank, but is certainly worthy of use by any professional musician. These guitars are an extraordinary value and play and sound like instruments costing far more.
These guitars feature maple back and sides, with a laminated spruce top. Kent Armstrong ™ Pickups, Kluson ® tuners and all top notch components throughout. Every guitar is individually set up with LaBella ® flat wound Jazz strings and comes complete with a deluxe archtop hard shell case. The instrument is guaranteed for 1 year.
Ed Roman Guitars will not be undersold. These guitars are a steal for the price.
This is a fully self-contained floating pickguard assembly-
It features a beautiful bound pickguard to compliment the guitar, Kent
Armstrong's unique Slimbucker ™ floating jazz pickup and a hidden volume control
under the guard.
STROMBERG: A Fabled Name Born Again
In June of last year Larry Davis released the first in a series of moderately priced jazz guitars, rekindling the fabled Stromberg brand name. The three models currently being offered - Montreaux, Newport, and Monterey - are intended to provide premium-quality design and construction while maintaining a relatively low price tag. MMR recently sat down with Larry Davis to discuss his plans as keeper of the Stromberg flame in the new millennium.
"Some years ago, I did work on a project with Bob Benedetto [respected luthier, author of Making an Archtop Guitar] and I developed an interest in the jazz market. I felt there was a price range that was not really well served," explains Davis. "That's what we started to think about targeting. I just always had an interest in the jazz market and most of the larger producers don't pay much attention to it because there's not a lot of volume there. The Stromberg name was available and we acquired it."
How does one go about obtaining the rights to one of the better-known and storied guitar brands of all time? "Basically the trademark was gone, it had lapsed and we applied for it and were granted the mark," says Larry. "It was that easy." Of course, simply owning the rights to a respected name doesn't immediately equate to products that will live up to the legacy. Time and time again, larger companies have purchased the copyrights for respected brands from the past, only to do nothing more than slap a fancy logo on an inferior product. Happily, Davis seems more concerned with preserving and building upon the achievements of the past than simply exploiting a name.
"The question became, 'All right - we now have the trademark for what is arguably the most famous jazz guitar ever produced. What do we do with it?,'" he acknowledges. "I felt that there was no possible way to duplicate the instrument in its original form because, quite frankly, that guitar is like a Michelangelo or a Rembrandt - it is not a reproducible product. So we decided that what we would do is come up with an affordable line of nice jazz guitars that were evocative of the era and that still did the Stromberg name justice. That was the basis from which we went. Our goal was, and is, to make it the best jazz guitar in its price range." That suggested list price for each of the three models is $1,195.
The first new Stromberg released was the Montreaux. "It's the most traditional style we offer," says Davis, "and we thought it would be the one that would get the most immediate attention because it's something that most jazz players could relate to. We followed that up with the Newport because we discovered that many players were calling and asking us if we could do a non-cutaway jazz guitar. That's something I had never really considered, quite frankly, because most people like the cutaway and the ability to play higher up on the neck. But I said. 'O.K., I'll take a shot at it.' We built some Newports and they sold out immediately - in fact I sold them all before they were even made. Most recently, we've released our double-cutaway Monterey model."
"All of our guitars are built by a small archtop builder in Korea to our specifications. The designs are fairly basic and traditional, and the design work is kind of done by committee," he details. "I have a number of very good friends who are jazz players who just know everything, inside and out, about guitars and they've been enormously helpful. I've been able to get feedback from people who are used to playing $20,000 guitars who've helped me to ensure that what we brought in here would be a cut above what already exists in the market. I probably drove my suppliers pretty mad with all the nit-picky little changes I was asking them to make, but I just said to them, 'Look, we sort of have the name of the Holy Grail here. I don't want to do anything to defile the Stromberg name.'
"I supply all of the hardware that's used on these guitars. I ship everything to Korea so the instruments have all top-quality components: pots, switches, Kent Armstrong jazz pickups, Kluson tuners. There is virtually nothing on these guitars that the manufacturer sources. They're just building the guitars and I send them boxes of my stuff to use. And, yes, it does cost more money, but you can feel and hear the difference which is, I think, another thing that sets us apart from the other imported jazz guitars, the fact that we do use superior components. We have a higher initial cost to build a guitar, but it's definitely worth it."
Davis has what could be deemed a modest vision for the scope and growth of
the new Stromberg line of guitars. It's not for want of ambition but, rather, a
desire to do right by the legendary name and to maintain the standards he's set
out to create. "This is a relatively small guitar company and always will be
because, honestly, I'm doing this project for fun," he explains. "I've been
working at WD for 25 years and while I enjoy my business and find it very
fulfilling, there are times when the bloom and the romance does start to wear
off the manufacture and marketing of jack-plates and knobs and truss rod covers.
It's nice to do something very creative and to be involved in a finished product
that doesn't go into something else, but that stands alone.
In the first year since the re-birth of Stromberg Guitars, sales have been brisk and feedback has been uniformly positive, according to Larry. "Everybody who's tried these guitars has loved them. A number of endorsers have come on board - mostly people who are in the studio field, not famous people because there just aren't that many famous jazz musicians. But we've had real serious musicians who've called up and said, 'It's just an astonishing guitar for the money.'
"I have a very good friend who's done a lot of consulting for me - Andy MacKenzie, a very well-known jazz guitarist, he writes for Just Jazz and a lot of other publications - and he bought a guitar of ours. Andy came to me with an interesting perspective I hadn't really thought of: he pointed out that most jazz players are the lowest-paid musicians on the totem pole, they're required to play the most outrageously-expensive instruments, and most of them would give their eye-teeth to have an guitar that really plays and sounds good that didn't cost an arm and a leg. Andy said, 'If you can do that properly, most playing musicians will eat out of the palm of your hand to have this.' From that point on, I had a whole new focus on what I wanted to do with this instrument which was to make it the ultimate jazz guitar, club date guitar, that you don't have to worry about and which is affordable."
The sort of consumers currently flocking to the new Stromberg models seems to bear out Andy MacKenzie's perspective. Larry comments: "One of the things that we found is that the guitars that we've sold have wound up in the hands of a lot of professional musicians who own Benedetto's, D'Angelicos, or D'Aquisto's who just don't want to take those extremely expensive instruments out on club dates. Would you really want to take $20,000 guitar out on a club date and run the risk of losing it or having someone spill a beer on or in it? Plus, as the instruments get older, they don't take well to the climate and humidity changes of going in and out of the house, into the car, back into the club and so on. It's not good for old wood and old glue to be subjected to those sorts of changes. That's one of the real advantages of our guitars."
"To sell a jazz guitar, you need somebody first of all who knows how to play it, somebody who understands the differences between jazz guitars and can sit down and spend some time with the jazz player. Jazz guitarists tend to be a little more discerning, a little bit more fussy in their taste in instruments - I don't think they're easily sold. They don't want to be sold, they want to make an independent purchasing decision. You're not going to sell them a guitar, they're going to buy what they want. What we've done with all the work and effort that we've put into the instrument is we've produced a guitar that I think speaks to somebody on their own level and they can make their own decision. If our guitar's for them, fine, we're happy, and if it's not for them, well that's OK too. I have a very unique approach to this business. It's a business that didn't have to succeed and so there was no pressure on me doing this. This is really for fun, for gratification and to see if I could really achieve this goal, which is to build a really nice jazz guitar for $1,195. And we've done it.
"What we're trying to do for the time being is to build three models of guitars without getting into customs, without trying to stock a lot of colors. We're trying to adhere to the old K.I.S.S. principle of Keep It Simple, Stupid. Basically, if we limit ourselves in terms of colors and options, then we can devote as much effort and energy as is necessary to make these instruments superb guitars."
With the strong initial response to the new Strombergs and with Davis' reverence for the history behind the name, it begs the question: would the modern-day company ever be interested in pursuing a high-end model along the lines of the classic Strombergs built in Boston from the 1930s through the early '50s? "Here's my dream: I don't know if it can be done but I think it can," answers Davis. "What I would like to do, eventually, is to build here in the United States perhaps a dozen Master 400s that would be perfect replicas of the original. And, if they are in fact precise replicas, we would build them.
"Basically, we would build one prototype instrument and I would send it out to people I know who own Master 400s and say, 'Does this honestly meet the standard?' And, if it didn't, I would abandon the project then and there. If they said that it did live up to the original, at that point we would do a limited-production U.S. Master 400 which would be a virtual replica. But I would only build that guitar if it passed muster. I have no intention of trying to produce something which is a cosmetic copy but does not have the quality and, primarily, the tone that the original guitars did because there's just nothing like them. No offense intended towards any of the other esteemed jazz guitars that are all famous, but Strombergs are just amazing, unmatched instruments."
For the time being, Davis is content to stick with his initial plan to bring performing jazz guitarists a first-rate instrument for a reasonable price. "We're having a lot of fun with it," he beams. "We've sold them into Europe and South America already and it's just so nice to get feedback from people who say, 'It's my daily gigging guitar … I didn't expect to get this much guitar for the money,' and that sort of thing - it's very gratifying."