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New manufacturer draws on Shetland Isles tradition

A new electro-acoustic instrument manufacturing company, Pure Acoustic Ltd, blends traditional manufacturing skills with the latest materials and technologies.

A new electro-acoustic instrument manufacturing company, Pure Acoustic Ltd, blends traditional manufacturing skills with the latest materials and technologies.

Based in Lerwick in the Shetlands, Pure Acoustic is a joint venture between three directors – all experienced musicians and two hailing from the islands. Kenny Johnson is best-known for his patented Skyinbow range of electric violins, which he has manufactured and sold from his workshop in Vidlin, Shetland; Robert Thomas is a past president of the UK Musical Industries Association and a pro-audio stalwart best-known for his long-term management positions at TEAC and, latterly, Cadac; and Richard Gleave is both a successful geophysicist and a guitarist who continues to perform on a regular basis.

Bolstered by financial support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Pure Acoustic will initially focus on three product ranges from its R&D and principal manufacturing base in Lerwick: the Skyinbow electric violin series, which it will re-launch and further develop and market internationally; a range of unique, natural sounding electronic pickups and miniature pre-amplifier systems for all manner of stringed acoustic instruments; and the new patented Linnd violin shoulder rest, which is said to both resolve the age-old problem of ‘splaying’ rests and improve the sound of the instrument.

Moving forward, Pure Acoustic – whose sales, admin and finance functions will be based in Leighton Buzzard – will look to complement its top-range handmade models with lower-cost models that employ high-quality industrial manufacturing techniques. The company will also employ a range of distribution channels – including traditional retail/distribution and online/e-commerce – and is developing an alternative sales channel for the Skyinbow Pure Acoustic pickups, with markets to be marketed online and through a network of luthiers (traditional acoustic instrument makers) and instrument repairers.

Commenting on the launch, design and development director Kenny Johnson stated: “Having spent so much of my working life running a business in Shetland, establishing a company on this scale based here is a tremendous opportunity and the support from HIE has been critical in enabling us to do this. Craft and tradition lie at the heart of this business but it is our ability to exploit modern design and engineering techniques in pursuit of that craft that makes this venture unique.”

Thomas, meanwhile, told PSNE: “I have had close personal friendships with both of the other directors for many years. Kenny and myself both grew up in the small town of Vidlin in Shetland, and have been friends for a very long time. Throughout both my early career as a professional musician and during my time in the MI and professional audio industries, I have maintained an intense personal interest in fiddles, guitars and their associated electronics, so my involvement is an almost inevitable consequence of these factors. Beyond being a co-investor, I bring to the party business and financial management experience, plus a network of industry and engineering contacts. This involvement does not conflict with my position at Cadac.”