FREEDOM OF CHOICE: Born Custom Guitars MG Drop LTD
By Richard Bienstock | Photo by Massimo Gammacurta
These days, sustainability and environmentalism are buzzwords in many industries, not least of all the wood-centric world of guitar building. And there is perhaps no current builder as keenly eco-conscious as Born Custom Guitars. The company’s commitment in this realm extends to every facet of its operation. Located in Broomfield, Colorado, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountain foothills, Born sources tonewoods exclusively from suppliers that practice sustainable harvesting and uses using reclaimed and salvaged lumber whenever possible. The company also donates a percentage of profits to reforestation efforts, purchases carbon offsets, and even plants a tree for each instrument it builds.
“It’s a big component of the backbone of our company,” says Born cofounder Jonathan Miller. “But we’re also not focused on environmentalism to the detriment of the guitar. Even if someone doesn’t care about these issues, they should still absolutely love our guitars, because we put a lot of passion into each one.”
Indeed, Born’s guitars are stunning—and in most cases one-of-a-kind—instruments. The foundation of the company is its Fully Custom line. Born offers two body designs—the single cutaway OG and the double-cut MG—in either flat- or carved-top versions. From there, the sky, or a player’s imagination, is the limit.
“Essentially, we have four chassis that a player can customize to almost any degree,” says cofounder Campbell Davis. “There are 23 facets of the guitar that have at least two options, and some of these have as many as 20 options—everything from wood choice for every wood component on the guitar, to neck shape, inlays and finish, pickup combinations and windings... The whole shebang.”
The guitar shown here, the MG Drop LTD, belongs to Born’s newest line, the LTD Series. These guitars are, in essence, limited-run, semi-custom instruments. “They’re 95 percent spec’d out but still customizable for important features like neck shape, pickups, and finish,” Davis says. “The idea behind the LTDs is to eliminate what we call ‘paralysis by analysis.’ For some players, a custom guitar offers too many options. They don’t know what to do. We want to accommodate the types of players that don’t want to get so granular in terms of every single detail on their instruments. An LTD guitar removes some of the unknowns for people who aren’t ready to go the full custom route.” The result is that players still get a “custom” guitar—each LTD is built to order—but because the instrument has been largely spec’d out beforehand, they get it at a discount.
This MG Drop LTD has a body of solid alder sourced from an FSC-certified supplier and a super-stable roasted maple neck. The fretboard is constructed of Katalox, a hard, resonant, and abundant wood that, Davis says, acts as a fitting substitute for endangered species like Brazilian rosewood and ebony. Other features include a Gotoh 510 tremolo bridge, Gotoh SG510Z locking tuners, mother-of-pearl offset-dot and 12th-fret f-hole inlays, a flame-maple pickguard, and a sleek black lacquer finish. High-end components—standard on all Born guitars—include Sprague Orange Drop capacitors, Switchcraft jacks, high tolerance military-grade CTS potentiometers, and silver-plated PTFE-coated wiring.
The pickups, as on every Born guitar, are proprietary creations hand-wound by New York–based expert luthier Mike Snider. “It’s an exclusive relationship, and it works really well for us,” Miller says. “On every pickup order, we tell Mike what woods are in the guitar and what type of tone the customer is looking for, and he adjusts accordingly.”
This guitar boasts “Vintage Hot” single-coils in the neck and middle positions, with a PAF-style humbucker at the bridge. “With the alder/maple combination the guitar has kind of a Strat vibe,” Davis says. “That was the driving force behind choosing the single-coil pickups. But we also wanted the added versatility of that bridge humbucker for those who like a little bit of a chunkier, more present midrange.” Electronics include master volume, a tone knob for the neck and middle single-coils, a push/pull tone pot for the humbucker, and a traditional five-way blade switch.
Like all LTD guitars, this semi-customizable MG Drop will only be produced in a small run, after which time the woods and other materials will be changed. Once the model is sold out, a Born customer can still order the same guitar, but only as a full custom model. “If a player likes the materials that we chose, what they get is a built-to-order, spec’d-out guitar that still has some customized elements, and all at a less than full-custom price. It’s a great guitar, and at a great value,” Miller says.
LIST PRICE: $3,025
Born Custom Guitars, bornguitars.com