First Act Guitars

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by teleking36, Feb 5, 2006.


  1. teleking36

    teleking36 Supporting Member

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    I live in Boston and stopped by the First Act guitar studio yesterday in downtown Boston to check out what they're all about. I had my eye on a Delia (their semi-hollow custom model) that I saw on their website a few weeks back and figured I would try it out.

    This particular model was easily one of the best semi-hollow electrics I've ever played! The fit and finish was incredible! The pickups sounded great and were very sensitive to my playing style. Sound reminded me of a Gretsch and a 335 morphed into one guitar, with looks of a PRS as far as wood choice, ebony board, hardware, etc. For $2,200 this guitar seems to be worth it compared to the price of some of the other big names out there.

    They also had a section of the studio that had custom guitars and basses, ranging from $2800 to $5100. Some really cool stuff!

    These guys are definitely making an effort to break up the industry and add a different flavor into the market. If you're ever in the Boston area, stop by and check these guitars out. Definitely worth it IMO.
     
  2. jlf2960

    jlf2960 Member

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    I was in Boston a few months ago and stopped in there as well. I didn't play any of their guitars because of time constraints but I heard a few people plaaying and they sounded pretty good.

    It looked like they build some of the on site?

    Before going there my impression of First Act guitars was that they were Gibson copies sold at Best Buy, Walmart, & Costco but these were clearly not the Gibson copy models.
     
  3. stratofied

    stratofied Member

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    Thanks for the info, I've been interested in the Delia as well. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try one soon.
     
  4. VegasGreg

    VegasGreg Member

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    I had a chance to talk to them and try out a few at NAMM. To say I was impressed is an understatement.

    I love that semi-hollow model they have. As was said previously, fit and finish were excellent. The guitar sounded and played great-like it was already "broken in" (if that makes any sense)

    My friend I was with was asking me what the deal was with the company, and I told him what I knew (about ex-CS employees building them, etc) and the First Act rep heard me-said I was right on the money.

    Great stuff-for a hollowbody I can definately see one of these in my future.
     
  5. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Before this thread gets too far, I'll warn that some here view the First Act custom shop as not a small-company luthier.

    I tried to talk about my Delia (arriving tomorrow!) here a few weeks back, and was met with a lot of cork-sniffery. Surely the studio for artists is every bit the small company luthier with a fraction of the output of some other small luthier's here, but the forum elite seem to take exception to calling this particular shop a small-company luthier. I can dig it...I mean...none of the cats that we regularly talk about here have a student-grade instrument being mass-produced in Asia. To that end, First Act isn't a small-company, but this particular line of their overall business is set up exactly like the small luthiers we have here.

    Having said that, I agree with your observation. Dig this...I contacted Kelly Butler (First Act luthier) after exchanging a few e-mails with Lance Keltner. Lance went a long way to putting my mind at ease about working with the First Act Studio, and Kelly only reenforced what Lance had to say. I wanted some different specs on my Delia (Bigsby, Tone Pro's bridge, larger "R8/R9" style neck, rosewood fretboard w/ dot inlay, different pickups), and Kelly was more than happy to oblige. He worked with me to create the instrument that I wanted, not try to steer me into some variation of my particular wants and needs. All of the great luthier's on this forum do exactly the same thing :). I view this as essential for small comapny guys, while at the same time appreciating that large companies have to hit certian numbers to justify their existance to bean counters and shareholders, driving custom work out of the reach of most of us.

    Here's the kicker...this guitar with all of the customised features that I asked for, still came in well under what I would expect to pay for a similarly equipped instrument of similar design from other, larger builders (small company or otherwise). Not too shabby considering the pedigree of the guys building the instruments in the First Act Studio (former CS). For example, the guitar would have easily cost me 4-6k if it carried the Gibson name/headstock...maybe more due to the unique body shape/bracing system. I'm not picking on Gibson, but consider that when I went for a quote on a new LP custom in Silverburst, I was given a price of nearly 5k...and that was 3 years ago. This is a far more customized than that. Granted, I could probably find a 335 with an R8 or R9 sized neck, rosewood board, and a Bigsby...but then we're still looking at different pup's and a different finish, as well as a different bracing system and combination of tonewoods. Big bucks.

    I'll post pics and a full report later this week. My thanks to Lance and Kelly for helping me make this instrument a reality :)
     
  6. stratofied

    stratofied Member

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    Actually, I think it was one of the Mod's that moved this thread from Guitars In General. Looking forward to your review and pics.
     
  7. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    I actually deleted the thread and moved it to the other forum myself after receiving some criticism from a smaller shop. I think it was Vinetto. I could almost see his point, but not really...so I moved it more out of respect for his concern and went along my merry way :)

    I might post a few clips as well...still trying to figure out where I'd host 'em though.
     
  8. VegasGreg

    VegasGreg Member

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    Enharmonic,

    What kind of time frame did you look at for the custom delia?

    Feel free to email me privately of via email if you like.

    BTW-I'd be happy to host the sound clips for you.
     
  9. Ogre

    Ogre Member

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    I think the Delia looks great, and I plan on visiting with Lance this week, so I can play his. I will report back with my observations.
     
  10. Scott French

    Scott French Member

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    I worked (apprenticed) in the First Act Studio for Artists under Kelly Butler a few years ago. When I was there they had four people working on guitars including Kelly plus one guy working on violins. They've since grown quite a bit but I’ve stayed in contact with them and it’s still the same high quality employees working under Kelly. Almost all ex-Gibson Custom Shop and/or Luthiery school graduates… people that can and do build guitars from scratch start to finish, not just assembly line style. First Act is a great company work with and for, largely because Kelly Butler is an awesome guy who knows how to run a shop.
     
  11. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    I placed my order in Late October, and the guitar was "ready" in the first week of January. I say "ready" because the guitar was finished before the pickups. Lindy Fralin is busier than a one legged man in an arse kicking contest :D. As of October, it was about an 8-10 week lead time. That might have increased since the debut of the Jimmy Messer full-page add in GP though. I'd shoot Bill Guerra an e-mail at First Act. He's a great guy and would definitely be able to give you an idea of current lead time :)

    bguerra@firstact.com

    Thanks for theoffer to host sound clips. It will likely be a few chords so people can get an idea of the overall sound of the guitar, since I'm not much of a lead player. :)

    Rob
     
  12. Vince

    Vince Member

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    Enharmonic, send me a PM. I'd really like the opportunity to help you understand the differences between how most of the companies featured in the Small Company Luthiers board differ from a company like First Act.
     
  13. Scott French

    Scott French Member

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    As someone who's worked at First Act and started my own very small company I can also explain the differences very thoroughly to anyone interested. :)
     
  14. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Having spent money with my fair share of small luthiers, I fully understand how they are different. But hey, if I ever need a tele, I'll be sure to get in touch :)
     
  15. Mrgearguy

    Mrgearguy Member

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    First Act is approaching the business of music in a whole new way, and it scares a lot of the big guys. They aren't worried about the "custom shop" because that exists only to give the rest (main part) of the business legitimacy. First Act is a $75,000,000/year behemoth that sells harmonicas, pennywhistles and beginner instruments at Costco and Wall-mart. They can lose money on Boylston Street, and that's your gain.

    I'm not throwing stones at a successful business model, just pointing out how a company can make "custom" instruments for a fraction of what others have to charge. If you are in the market for what First Act has to offer, it's a great deal! The ones I've played have been first rate.

    More info:
    First Act Background

    Gearguy
     
  16. Axemeister

    Axemeister Member

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    I was a skeptic about First Act, since their bargain/starter instruments are really quite atrocious.

    To hear that they produce custom U.S. built instruments at the other end of the quality spectrum is surprising and remarkable.
     
  17. bailnout

    bailnout Member

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    "Cork-sniffery"...that's just an awesome term. I'll be useing that one somewhere in the near future, I'm sure!
     
  18. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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  19. stratofied

    stratofied Member

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  20. VegasGreg

    VegasGreg Member

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