Powers Electric Guitars: The FIRST in the UK!

Published on 14 June 2024

7 minutes

Guitar fans, have you heard of Powers Guitars? No? 

I expect you’ll be familiar with Andy Powers from Taylor guitars, though, right? He’s the creative mastermind who has dreamt up a significant portion of the company’s last decade’s worth of acoustic guitar innovations, whilst working his way up to CEO-status in the process.

An impressive man indeed, and a real modern day renaissance man in terms of guitar design.

In fact, this is so much the case, that simply building world-class acoustic guitars is not enough for him. He has recently branched out into the world of electric guitars via Powers Guitars, and guitarguitar was invited along to the opening act (outside of the US at least) in what will surely prove to be a blockbuster epic for Powers and his team.

Powers Electric guitars have been available in the US for a short time, but we are the first UK dealers to get our hands on them, and we are excited!

Our Camden Team Leader Robin Pearson was invited along to Taylor’s headquarters in El Cajon, just outside San Diego, to get an exclusive ringside seat. What follows - in true travel documentary fashion - is Robin’s road diary of the journey there, the experience, and the guitars themselves…

Robin’s Trip

The day began with a trip to the Taylor factory in El Cajon, California. More specifically, Andy Powers’ personal workshop, where he uses hand tools to develop new prototype acoustics and electrics. It’s a smaller-sized room that resembles an artist’s studio more than a guitar factory department, complete with sketchbooks featuring the humble beginnings of all sorts of interesting past, present and future models.

Andy gave a presentation on the Powers electric guitars - where his inspiration came from and what goes into them. He’s always been an electric guitar aficionado at heart and spent his early years in the guitar industry repairing and modifying nearly every kind of guitar you can imagine.

The Concept

When it came to designing an electric of his own, he didn’t want to do a “Taylor Strat” or “Taylor Les Paul”, or even the much-attempted middle ground between the two. He instead tried to put himself in the shoes of a builder with his experience, in 1940s Southern California, surrounded by cars and fledgling surf culture. What kind of guitar would you build if solid body electrics didn’t exist yet? Enter the Powers Electric A-Type.

He settled on a sleek, offset-reminiscent body shape with a carved maple top and Urban Ash back and sides. The body is hollow, to capture the resonance of an acoustic guitar, but with cello-style posts on the inside, connecting the top and the back. This allows the top and the back to vibrate in parallel, as opposed to against each other which compresses the air and causes feedback. The result is a hollow guitar that you can actually play with distortion - hassle free.

New Faraday Pickups

The pickups are a new design, courtesy of Andy Powers, utilising slightly less aggressive magnetism to allow the strings to vibrate a little more, increasing sustain. Embracing his inner science teacher, he demonstrated this magnetism by dropping a metal block down a magnetic rod. The block didn't stick to the inside of the rod, but floated very slowly down the middle.

He has voiced two types of this pickup: PF - which is bright and snappy, like a single coil and FF - which is fuller and thicker sounding like a humbucker. There is no volume drop between the two, however. Both rely on a design inspired by a Faraday cage (a Faraday cage - or Faraday shield - is a special enclosure designed to block electromagnetic fields) to keep them noiseless and without interference - hence the names PF (Partial Faraday) and FF (Full Faraday).

The neck is one piece of mahogany, with a Honduran rosewood fingerboard that features an asymmetrical radius. It’s not compound in the traditional sense, but rather across the width of the board, so it's rounder under the bass strings, and flatter on the treble side. All the guitars are equipped with jumbo stainless steel frets, which is a quality modern touch. Incidentally, the frets are the only thing not made in-house! Very impressive.

The Powers Electric A -Type can be built with either a hardtail or an impressive camshaft inspired tremolo system known as a ‘CamTail’. The CamTail system allows you to depress the arm while holding a chord, and all the strings will change pitch at the same rate, meaning that the chord will still be in tune as you push the arm all the way down. This is absolutely not a feature you normally find with a standard whammy bar, and represents a fairly significant innovation. The tremolo arm tip - as with the switch tip and knobs - are made of surfboard resin, which is created after mixing layer after layer of different colours together, creating unique swirling patterns for every individual guitar.

Hanging with Andy Powers

After this presentation, Andy gestured towards a lineup of gig bags and told us that they were the first models that each of the stores on the trip would be receiving. I got to unbox and test guitarguitar's first model - a hardtail in Blue Lagoon finish with a stunning flame top.

We were then bundled into minivans and taken down to Solana Beach, where the Belly Up Tavern is found. This is a legendary SoCal rock club that was founded in 1974 - the same year as Taylor guitars... coincidence? The venue has been host to various legendary names over the years, from B.B. King and Etta James to the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Here we were treated to some live music from a supergroup made up of some of the San Diego scene's finest (and Andy himself), showing the Powers A-Type in the heat of battle.

They scattered amps, pedalboards and Powers guitars all over the venue for us to test ourselves, with myriad different tonal options available proving that the guitar is as comfortable playing jazz as it is dealing with fuzzy stoner rock riffs. I asked Andy who he thought his guitars were for, and he replied with something along the lines of "I'll tell you who I'd be surprised by, if they dig them - the chugga chugga metal guys. I'd like them to prove me wrong though!"

Surfboards and Hotrods

The next stop was a coffee place near Encinitas, with an adjacent pottery workshop. Here we were treated to a talk from Josh Martin of Martin Shapes surfboards. Josh is an internationally renowned surfboard designer and the son of Terry Martin, who wasn't far off being solely responsible for the development of the surfboard as we know it today.

Josh and Andy talked about the melting pot of cultures in Southern California, and in particular, the parallels in evolution between guitars, surfboards and hot rod cars. This all stems from American G.I.s in the 1940s coming home from the Pacific Theater in the second world war. Many of them had been stationed in Hawaii between deployments and had acquired not only a taste for surfing and Polynesian music, but in some cases, serious experience as mechanics.

Upon returning home, they started pursuing their newfound interests by setting up music venues and buying instruments, developing surfboards, and modifying their cars for speed and different terrain such as the Californian dunes. All three cultures would take notice of each other and integrate similar philosophies and ideas into each area. New car designs would feature sleek curves inspired by surfboards, which in turn would influence the shapes of electric guitars.

The message here is that the Powers A-Type is a direct result of Californian culture, in the same way that the classic designs of the 1950s were, but without being a rehash of ideas and designs that we've already seen.

To illustrate the importance of car culture in California, we next walked down to a classic car cruise in Encinitas, with vintage T-Birds and Corvettes as far as the eye could see, in all of your favourite car/guitar crossover finishes. It wasn't hard to see how these vintage cars parked up against surf shops and palm trees could plant the seeds of ideas for the shapes and colours of an electric guitar.

The night finished with drinks and Mexican food, with Andy sharing stories from his youth in San Diego as a surfer, musician and skateboarder. If Southern California was a person, it would probably be this guy!

Powers Electric Guitars

The international launch of Powers Electric takes place on the 14th of June, when our first batch of three guitars is expected to land. This will be the first time these guitars have ever been seen in the UK, so make sure you check them out while they are available!

Click to View our Powers Electric Guitars

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Ray

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I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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