ZETA Is Back!
Five years to the month after we received our last batch of Zeta violins a new shipment has just arrived! Zeta Music Systems, Inc. shut down in 2010, but the worldwide demand for their iconic electric violin brand never subsided. In the interim we've gotten dozens of inquiries each month from players all over the world who recognize the looks of the Fusion and Modern bodies and the sounds of the Jazz and Strados pickups. Prior to its shutdown Zeta had been around for a very long time by electric violin-world standards. Keith McMillen, who today runs the forward-looking music technology company Keith McMillen Instruments, and Richard McClish, now of RMC Pickup Co., first founded Zeta Music Systems in the late 1970's. By the mid-1980's jazz fusion violinist Jean Luc Ponty made the Zeta brand world famous and the 'Jazz Fusion' model iconic. Many talented craftsmen worked for Zeta over the years, including Dan Maloney (Maloney Stringed Instruments) and Evan Fourness (Fourness Fuse), whose own fine electric violins we proudly represent. When Zeta shut down it left a hole in the electric bowed strings market that nearly five years on had not been filled. While there are numerous other great brands with wonderful designs (in fact, we represent most of them), something about Zeta--it's brand recognition, the now classic designs, the unique and difficult-to-replicate tone of their pickups--that left a good number of players unwilling to accept any substitute. In fact, our shop has become something of a used Zeta clearinghouse in the past few years as we've matched countless "vintage" Zeta violins (and even a few violas, cellos and upright basses) with Zeta enthusiasts.
Steve Carlson, new owner of Zeta Music SystemsFor Zeta to return and thrive it had to be under the right circumstances and under the right management. Thankfully, the man perhaps most perfectly suited to rebooting the Zeta business spotted the opportunity to resurrect a great brand. Steve Carlson has a 30+ year career in the musical instrument manufacturing industry and even has existing ties to Zeta! Mr. Carlson is the founder of Flatiron Mandolins who, after selling the Flatiron brand off to Gibson, founded an engineering firm. His firm was hired by Zeta to handle the CNC programming for all of their violins, violas, cellos and basses. "We built a custom CNC machine and delivered all ZETA fixturing/programming and their CNC machine to them 2004, which turned out to be our company's last turn-key manufacturing cell produced," Carlson recalled in a recent interview with Mandolincafe.com. In 2012 Carlson and and Dennis Balian purchased all assets of Zeta Music Systems Corporation and relocated it in Bozeman, Montana. Carlson has brought the manufacturing off all instrument body parts and bridge pickup components in house in order to oversee quality control and ensure reliability. The new Zeta Music Systems seems very well staffed and able to keep up production to meet demand. Our first two new Zeta violins arrived this week and we are quite pleased with their quality. We have two more instruments on their way as well and will no doubt be ordering often going forward. In addition to the classic painted body options, the new Zeta is doing some wonderful things with figured wood tops. If you are interested in a Zeta, feel free to contact us to discuss what new wood options are available.