Ask Elizabeth Lang, of Drum Workshop Inc., the new owners of Ovation Guitars, about the brand’s strength as a performance guitar and she doesn’t miss a beat. “We recently had a well-known guitar player who was trying one of the newer models and who sort of balked at it say, ‘I don’t like to play acoustic guitars because they take away my super powers,” she recounts. “He played the new Ovation and said, ‘Wow! I can do a lot of what I can do on an electric guitar on an Ovation.’ And it’s true, you really need to get your hands on one and experience it.”

With the late October reopening of the Ovation factory in Hartford, Connecticut, where the company’s high-end models will be manufactured (lower-priced guitars still will be manufactured overseas), and the forthcoming relaunch of Ovation to mark its 50th anniversary, players everywhere soon will have the opportunity to become reacquainted with one of the industry’s most iconic brands.

In early 2016, select US retailers and online outlets will carry three models built at the Hartford plant, including a 50th anniversary model. “The Hartford plant is such an integral part of the brand.” Lang says. “It’s the original factory and between the four key luthiers that are still there, there’s over 120 years of experience designing and building Ovation guitars.”

Those guitar makers include master luthier and brand manager Darren Wallace, appointed last fall to oversee all Ovation brand activity, including manufacturing, new product development, and strategic marketing. According to a recent report in Rolling Stone, Wallace rebuilt the plant, closed last June, and helped persuade Drum Workshop not to move Ovation manufacturing to California.

In January, DW—a major manufacturer of percussion instruments and accessories—raised a few eyebrows across the industry when it announced it had purchased the Ovation guitar brand from KMC Music, a subsidiary of Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

What should guitarists expect from DW? “We’re not trying to reinvent what we think is an amazing wheel,” Lang says. “There will be new looks, new designs, new colors, but at the heart of the matter these are Ovation guitars.”

Still, she notes that some in the guitar world may be suspicious of a drum company manufacturing an iconic guitar brand. “We’re a family-owned company,” Lang says. “The ethos at DW is that we solve musicians’ problems. If we introduce a new product or redesign a product, it’s always a solution to a problem.”

Expect some of the same rare and exotic woods used in DW’s drums to work their way into the design accents on Ovation guitars. “These are things that a guitar company alone could never afford to do and could never realistically make available to the consumer at the prices that we can. It opens up a lot of possibilities,” she adds.

“This is a great American brand. . . . We want to give Ovation the same love and attention we give to all of our brands. We’re looking forward to reinvigorating a lot of aspects of the brand including some of our core artists. So we’ll have new signature models coming out and we’ll be announcing some new endorsements for the brand.”    AG