Dan Armstrong ADA6 – An Iconic Guitar!

The Dan Armstrong ADA6 plexiglas guitar looks as modern and exciting today as when it was first released back in 1969. It’s one of rock’n’roll’s most iconic guitar, played by Keith Richards during the Rolling Stones most legendary tour – in 1969 – and it can be heard on their album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out as well as seen on the infamous Gimme Shelter DVD.

The original Dan Armstrongs had a short production period – 1969 through 1971. But many guitarists seemed to balk at such a non-traditional guitar and pickup design. Only about 1700 guitars and basses were made in the initial run.

Featuring a completely unique body that is made of an eye-catching clear Plexiglas material, the Ampeg Dan Armstrong guitar’s distinctive construction actually eliminates unwanted vibrations and frequencies, while producing tremendous sustain, unlike any other guitar. The net result is a playing experience and tone unlike any other. 

Dan Armstrong’s son, Kent, explained the initial decision to make a guitar out of plexiglass. While he was a teenager hanging out at his father’s music store, Kent did a number of experiments in which he attempted to create the ultimate sustain. “At one point I strung up a brick wall in the basement of my father’s store,” he says laughing, “I put strings on it and put a pickup underneath the strings. The sustain was unreal.”

He also had a stonemason friend who’d carved a guitar body out of granite, and put a metal neck on it. Kent provided a pickup. “That thing would resonate forever,” he said, “Of course you had to sit with it on the ground – it weighed about 50 pounds!”

So, in an effort to create a guitar that would get as much of that “infinite sustain” as possible while still being portable and playable standing up, Dan Armstrong decided on acrylic plexiglass as the body material. The ADA6 is a very heavy guitar, though – heavier than a Les Paul, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem since it’s a very well-balanced guitar.

In addition to its unique clear body, the Ampeg Dan Armstrong guitar also features a removable pickup system that allows users to choose between two different hand-made Pickups. Kent Armstrong, who designed the original Ampeg/Armstrong guitar pickups for his father in the 1960s and 1970s, designed both pickups. The faithfully recreated Rock Treble pickup was made famous on the original Ampeg/Dan Armstrong guitar and a new dual blade Rock Sustain pickup feature offers a fat tone and no noise.

There is only a single pickup slot at the bridge position, but the pickup is removable from the back of the guitar via a single thumbscrew, without unstringing it, so a different one can be dropped into the back cavity within seconds!

The original pickups were designed in 1967 by Bill Lawrence, and there were six interchangeable pickups available for the original Dan Armstrong.

The  “Rock Treble” single coil is basically identical to the original Bill Lawrence RT design, and the completely new “Sustain Treble,” is a humbucker similar to the original but with more modern high gain. Both pickups utilize ceramic magnets. Apart from the redesign of the humbucker, Kent Armstrong shielded the pickups (they were not shielded in the original design) and an improved epoxy is used (the original epoxy had a tendency to break down with age).

The onboard tone circuit features a three-way switch offering multiple “presets” from a single pickup. The center position allows the tone circuit to be bypassed, while the other two positions allow the single tone control to affect different frequencies as the tone knob is adjusted.

Each Ampeg/Armstrong instrument features a hard maple Neck, a 24-fret rosewood Fingerboard and a unique neck joint for full access through two octaves. The headstock incorporates Grover die cast tuners, which are positioned for nearly direct string pull while being close-coupled for minimum string tension differences.

Other unique features include a solid rosewood Bridge, which couples directly to the bridge plate enhancing tone and sustain. The bridge features individual brass inserts which are compensated for string sets using an unwound “G.” The bridge plate, which is also the string holder (tall piece), also allows the most efficient string to body contact available.

Retailing at £1069 from Dolphin Music (view page) this isn’t the cheapest of guitars, but the price seems quite fair for such a legendary and unique guitar. If you can afford it, it’s certainly worth the money! Those who worship at the Church Of Keef will certainly be tempted to try it out…

Standard Features 

  • Bridge/Tremolo: Solid rosewood
  • Controls: Three-way switch
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 24
  • Machine Heads: Grover die cast tuners
  • Neck Material: Maple 
  • Body : Acryllic

» Read the review in Vintage Guitar (PDF, 419KB)
» Read the review in Guitarist (PDF, 1.22MB)

Download the ADA6 Manual Here

Bits of this article were taken from this message board, which has an interesting thread about the ADA6, with many players views on it.

Take a trip down memory lane: See Keith and Jimi Groove on the Plexi

Take a trip in the wayback machine with this vintage video footage of Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix, which features the rock legends checking out a Dan Armstrong Plexi guitar as they hang with their entourage backstage.  WATCH VIDEO

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~ by dolphinblog on February 12, 2008.

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