Ari and I started talking about this guitar about a year before completion. I had been exclusively playing classical guitar for a few years and I knew I had to have a slightly wider neck — classical spacing. I wanted a steel string guitar which I hadn't owned in a long time. So, other than the fact that I wanted 8-strings, the rest of the guitar was fairly straight-ahead. Also, I wanted 3 bass strings routed to one output and the remaining 5 strings routed to another.
Ari worked with Kent Armstrong in developing a custom-wired pickup which has an incredibly rich, warm tone. It's also moveable, but I leave it as close to the neck as possible for the warmest possible tone. I guess if you wanted something brighter, you could move it back.
I was also really interested in Ari's side soundholes so we opted to include those. This was my first experience with the side soundholes and removable covers so I didn't know what to expect. Well, they really do make a difference. In louder situations (with a loud drummer, etc.), I leave them on. But, in a more intimate setting, such as a guitar duet or something, I take them off. When the covers are off, the instrument seems to have even more naturally acoustic qualities.
Well, the guitar sounds incredible. The treble strings have a wide-open bell-like tone that seems to sustain forever and the sound is as big as any full-size hollowbody. At the same time, the 8A has incredible warmth (ala Pat Martino). The bass strings have a very versatile sound as well. I ended up settling on LaBella tapewound strings for the bass side. This gives a very organic almost upright sound.
The workmanship is impeccable down to the smallest detail. One look at this instrument and you'll realize the level of design and craftsmanship that went into its construction.
I liked this guitar so much I ended up ordering another 8A. This time, I wanted a nylon-string with a fanned-fret system and single ouput.
-- Mark Robinett August 2005