The Acinonyx origin story begins with Juan Alderete. Anybody that hangs with Juan—or enjoys his effusive pedal evangelism at pedalsandeffects.com—knows that among players of his pedigree (Mars Volta, Marilyn Manson), Juan is uniquely exuberant and passionate about the gear he digs, particularly when that gear is found on the peripheral tributaries of the mainstream. And so it was that when Juan brought his Goya Panther II, an obscure mid-’60s Italian short-scale, to the Nordstrand shop for a setup, Carey was seduced not just by Juan’s whole-hearted advocacy, but by the Goya’s lovable old-school tone, wacky push-button pickup and tone switches, and singularly hip look.
As in most things bass and otherwise, timing was everything. Just as Carey began to succumb to a bout of Panther-induced cat-scratch fever, Nordstrand was cultivating a relationship with the state-of-the-art Indonesian factory manufacturing Strandberg basses, for which Nordstrand Audio provides OEM pickups and preamps. The deepening relationship with the Indonesian factory impressed Carey, and a nascent idea began to gestate deep in his brain: Could I make a modern and affordable Goya Panther in Indonesia?
Carey loves a design challenge, and while the Panther’s sound and look beguiled him, its construction had all the ’60s Italian touches that fanboys endearingly call “quirky” but that luthiers call “wrong.” Most problematic was the Goya’s headstock design, which allowed the G string to actually rub the D-string tuning post. Carey’s solution was an unusual 1over 3 headstock that echoed the original design but allowed for perfectly straight string pull.
Next up was emulating the Goya’s outrageously weird electronics switching system, a mechanical contraption of needless complexity. Racking his brain one day in his studio, Carey’s gaze fell on his beloved 1176 compressor and the light-switch flipped—what about the buttons from an 1176? Moreover, using 1176 buttons would allow for a “secret” setting: All Buttons In. Quick background: the 1176 is a studio stalwart, famed for its versatility and exceptionally fast attack. Its quartet of buttons govern selection between four compression ratios (4:1, 8:1, 12:1, 20:1)—but every savvy audio engineer knows that there’s a secret ∞:1 ratio available when you press all the buttons in at once. Thus, not only could Carey source a widely available and reliable switch for his new design, but he could also honor one of his favorite studio tools in the process. The All Buttons In sound of an 1176 is huge and “slammed,” and so too with the Acinonyx: All Buttons In puts the pickups in series mode, for a loud, thick, and punchy tone.
After much design work and consultation with Carey’s network of top-level players, a US-built Acinonyx rounded into shape in time for the 2019 Winter NAMM show. The instrument was one of the most buzz-worthy bass debuts at the show, and Carey left feeling encouraged in his mission to bring the design to market at the affordable price point Indonesian manufacturing enables.
Ensuring that the imported Acinonyx is every bit as bulletproof as Carey’s US-made instruments was no small undertaking, and it’s taken a year of steadfast collaboration with his Indonesian counterparts to get it right. But parts were sourced, kinks worked out, and factory samples have now hit our shores that meet Carey’s exacting standards. Come Spring 2020, you too will be able to see why Carey believes this is one of the coolest basses he’s ever designed.
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