Harry DeArmond invented the first commercially available attachable guitar pickup sometime in the 1930’s.. To market his invention he teamed up with Horace 'Bud' Rowe's Company, which was located in Toledo Ohio. It was there Rowe/DeArmond pickups, effects and amplifiers were manufactured.
Originally the chief user of DeArmond pickups were guitar players looking to be heard above the sound of a big band. The other group of users were jazz guitarists seeking a clean sound and as well to be heard as well as a trumpet or drums.
The original DeArmonds came in two styles. The RH was detachable and could be fitted over the soundhole of a flattop guitar by use of springs. The FH used a metal brace that attached to the strings beneath the bridge and tailpiece of an archtop guitar.
The older Gretsch guitars used DeArmond Dynasonic pickups. D’Angelico guitars featured DeArmond pickups. Guild electric guitars also featured DeArmond pickups.
Let us concentrate on Guild guitars. Guild opened its business in 1952 when Epiphone guitars went out of business. Many of the artisans that worked at Epiphone were hired by former employee Alfred Dronge and retailer George Mann. Originally located in Manhattan and then moved to larger facilities in Hoboken New Jersey.
In 1966 the company was acquired by Avnet and moved its manufacturing to Westbrook Rhode Island where it continued until 1995 when Guild was acquired by Fender. In 1996 a Guild custom shop was set up in Nashville, Tennessee. The Gibson custom shop is also in Nashville. What a coincidence!
Fender was on an acquisition spree at this time to diversify their product line up and add a well made acoustic product into the mix. Additionally Fender had acquired the rights to the DeArmond name and its pickups.
It was in 1997 that Fender designed a series of guitars based on Guilds electric guitar lineup, but to be manufactured in Korea and Indonesia. The plan was to ship the guitars to the United States and install the electronics including new DeArmond pickups. The pickups came in four varieties. The guitar pickups were the DeArmond 2K Single Coil and the DeArmond Gold Tone Humbucking pickups. The bass pickups were the DeArmond Turbo Jet Bass Single Coil and the DeArmond Gold Tone Bass Humbucking pickup.
Fender test marketed the guitars, branded DeArmond in Europe and Asia and the line was very successful. The guitars were later marketed in the United States and Canada and continued until 2004 when Fender suddenly dropped the line. Fender did sell one of the former DeArmond products under its Squire brand through 2005 or 2006, only it used different pickups.
In 2004 members of the Fender Forum were notified by FMIC there was a big discount being offered through Musicians Friend to clear out Fender Musical Instruments Company’s stock of DeArmond guitars. After that DeArmond guitars were no more.
They can still be had on eBay at reasonable prices and are still excellent values.
The Korean made DeArmonds are excellent guitars. The Korean instruments have set in necks, the fret markers are much nicer plastic versions, they are bound on the top with plastic trim and the logo is inlaid. The wood is superior using maple for the tops and walnut for the backs or solid mahogany for some of the models. The necks are made of mahogany.
The Indonesian products are nice playing instruments, but are definitely inferior.
The block fret markers on these are made of PVC, the necks are bolt-on, the pickups on some of the budget models are not DeArmonds, the wood is agathis and the headstock logo is a decal.
The hollowbody models, the X155 and the 400 are excellent jazz instruments.
The X155 is a large bodied guitar with a Venetian cutaway and twin humbuckers and the 400 is a slim body single cutaway instrument with a single Florentine cutaway, a Bigsby style vibrato and twin 2k single coil pickups.
There are also two semi-hollow instruments manufactured. The Starfire features twin Gold Tone humbucking pickups and double cutaway, while the Starfire Special is equipped with two single coil 2K pickups a Florentine cutaway and a Bigsby style vibrato. Both instruments were based on the Guild Starfire guitars.
The solidbody instrument are based on two old Guild guitar designs, the M-75 and the S-10. These came in a variety of styles that went from budget models to player models.
The budget guitars featured generic open humbucking pickups and bolt on necks while the nicer models featured either solid mahogany bodies or chambered bodies with walnut backs and maple tops. Some came with Gold Tone Humbuckers and some featured 2K single coils. The necks were set in, the bodies bound and the inlay was superior.
DeArmond also released a Gumby style solid guitar, A S series 12 string and the S67 seven string model.
The DeArmond Jetstar bass guitars were based on the Gumby guitar shape and came with either two Gold Tone Humbucking pickups or two 2K single coil pickups. DeArmond also introduced the Pilot Bass which was a modern offset solid body bass that came in various styles and had Fender style bass pickups.
The most interesting DeArmond offering was the Ashbory bass.
This unique instrument is still in production, however is sans the DeArmond brand and has gone back to just being the Ashbory bass.