Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 35
doors, meaning SLM's options for obtaining American-made guitars suddenly got
mighty slim. In 1970, it launched a copy of
the Ampeg Dan Armstrong "see-through"
plexiglas guitar called The Electra, and
that name became the brand used on
subsequent "copy guitars" sold in the
early '70s. These were highly promoted,
often with unique details like tree-of-life
fingerboard inlays or maple fingerboards
on Les Paul copies - something not yet
offered by Gibson.
SLM decided to get into the tone game
circa 1975, when it hired Tom Presley to
supervise guitar design, and John Karpowitz as engineer. Their first project
was the Super Magnaf lux humbuckers,
made in the U.S. and installed on Electra
guitars made in Japan by Matsumoku.
Next came Tone-Spectrum Circuitry, a
variant of Gibson's rotary Varitone, with
settings for in-phase or out-of-phase,
series/parallel, and two more toggles with
tone capacitors. These were mounted on
Electra's Super Rock copy of a Les Paul,
including the X230, a version of the fancy
The Les Paul, in natural-finish maple
with matching fingerboard, along with
the Cherry Sunburst (X220), and black
(X210) (which was replaced by the antique
sunburst X240 in '79). The first Omegas
had a Gibson-style open-book head that
in '77 was changed to French curve or
"wave" crown, anticipating the infamous
lawsuit by Norlin/Gibson.
Omega described the Tone Spectrum
Circuit sounds as "enriched bass and
treble, clear Stratocaster, Telecaster, super
bite, long sustain, gutsy sound, acoustic
electric, rich harmonics, driving punch,
super mid-range, bloody raw, super treble,
percussive, percussive (hollow banjo),
piercing Telecaster funky, raspy treble,
These guitars found rapid acceptance,
especially among Nashville session players.
The '77 catalog breakdown
of the Omega model.
The Omega proved remarkably resilient,
surviving unchanged until '81, when it was
revamped with a Tele-style curve on the
upper shoulder popular with Electra at the
time, a shaved heel joint, and open-coil
pickups with conventional electronics
minus the Tone Spectrum.
However, it proved to be the omega of
the Omega and the alpha of the age of the
SuperStrat. It's impossible to say whether
original Electra Omegas are rare, but few
Japanese guitar models were plentiful
until the early '80s, so there are probably
fewer rather than more. By early 2013,
Ben Chafin had obtained the rights to
the Electra name and modern versions of
the Omega are again available, so if you
can't get all that tone spectrum at your
fingertips on a vintage model, you can at
least get a reissued taste.