”Is it possible to produce a handcrafted Finnish solidbody electric guitar at a price most working musicians can afford?”
Finnish guitarist Petri Matero kept pondering this question in earnest for some time, before deciding to try to find out. Together with Kanki Guitars’ Teemu Korpi they started to develop the idea of an affordable Finnish guitar. After much brainstorming and a row of prototypes Matero, Korpi and a man called Juha Tolonen, who runs a boutique guitar shop in Switzerland (called Captain Sounds), pooled their resources and started a new guitar company – Arvo Guitars.
Back to Leo, or: ”Keep it simple!”
The Arvo Electric Guitar follows Leo Fender’s basic principle of keeping things simple. The Arvo is not meant to be a boutique guitar, offering a myriad of options for the customer to choose from. Instead, by offering only a limited number of finishes and pickup types (all built to the same physical size), the Arvo’s price tag is kept in check, despite it being a handmade instrument.
The Arvo Electric Guitar (prices starting from 1,240 €) is a pretty instrument that manages to look fresh and classic at the same time.
To make the life of working musicians a little easier, Arvo Guitars are very particular when it comes to weight, making sure that the finished instruments come in at around a mere two-and-a-half kilos.
The front-contoured body is crafted from Finnish poplar, which is both resonant and relatively easy to finish. The Arvo is available in four colours – red, white, black and grey.
The bolt-on neck is made from African mahogany, and it has received a transparent, open-pore finish.
The review sample is a very early production model that has been equipped with a set of Wilkinson machine heads. The ”proper” production instruments will sport a set of Graph Tech Ratio tuners. The nut has been cut from Graph Tech’s Black Tusq, a self-lubricating material.
The fingerboard uses walnut, which is a cool-looking choice. The fretwork is nothing short of excellent, with special care having been given to smoothly rounded fret ends.
The Arvo comes with two handmade pickups. The offered pickup types are humbucker, P-90 and single-coil, all built into humbucker-sized casings. The customer can choose any pickup combination he or she needs to capture their individual tone.
Because the pickups are connected to the controls using quick connectors inside the pickup routings, it is possible to swap between different Arvo-pickups relatively easily. Just remove the strings, take out the disconnected pickup, connect the new pickup and drop it in.
The bridge and stopbar tailpiece may look like standard Korean versions of Gibson’s original Tune-o-matic set-up, but they are in fact Graph Tech’s improved ResoMax parts. Graph Tech’s ResoMax hardware is made from their own proprietary metal mix, which they claim is much more resonant than the standard Zinc-based material used normally. A nifty additional feature are tiny magnets that keep the bridge and tailpiece secured to their height-adjustment posts, even after you’ve removed the strings.
In keeping with the Arvo’s design ethos, the controls are very straightforward – a master volume, a master tone, and a Tele-style three-way blade selector, all mounted onto a large plastic plate.
The soldering looks very clean and the control cavity has received a thorough foil shielding.
A gigbag comes included with the guitar.
Arvo Guitars covers its instruments with a lifetime warranty granted to the original owner. An additional incentive comes in the guise of a 50 € donation for every guitar sold to the Finnish section of Save the Children.
The Arvo Electric Guitar is really light as a feather, yet, thanks to its design, it doesn’t suffer from neck heaviness.
In keeping with the Arvo’s classic looks the neck profile has been chosen to appeal to a wide range of guitarists. The profile is a chunky C, quite close in spirit to a late-Fifties Gibson, and good for sustain and long playing sessions. The 12-inch fretboard radius, along with the well-chosen narrowish, but medium-height frets, make for a very positive playing feel that will make you want to keep on playing.
The Arvo’s high-quality, resonant woods and the Graph Tech-hardware combine to give the guitar a loud and strident acoustic voice and plenty of harmonically rich sustain.
Amped up, much of the tone naturally hinges on the pickup type you choose for your own guitar. You could go double humbucker for a creamy and powerful voice, or maybe drop in a bridge single-coil to do a Keef or an Andy Summers.
Our review sample came with a pair of P-90 pickups, which gives you plenty of that juicy, but gritty classic Townshend and early Santana vibe. The neck pickup is warm and multidimensional, the mixed position clucky, and the bridge pickup wiry, but never thin.
Here’s a clean clip recorded direct with a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo:
For the demo song I miked up my Juketone True Blood and Bluetone Shadows Jr. combos with a Shure SM57. No overdrive pedals were used. The tremolo guitar part uses Bluetone’s new Harmonic Tremolo pedal.
In my view Arvo Guitars has achieved what Petri Matero and Teemu Korpi set out to do; here we have a handcrafted electric guitar, made in Finland, offered at a very reasonable price.
The Arvo Electric Guitar doesn’t want to be a boutique guitar that stuns you with its figured woods, its upmarket cosmetics, and esoteric pickups. This is a straightforward, high-quality tool for the working musician, meant to be played and gigged a lot.
Actually, I liked the review guitar so much that I had to buy it.
Arvo Electric Guitar
1,240 € as reviewed (includes gigbag); Duesenberg Les Trem optional (+ 150 €)
Contact: Arvo Guitars
+ handcrafted in Finland