JAPTONE has made a compilation of information about ARIA guitars collected from the internet (see at the bottom for references), revised and merged to provide you an overall vision on the ARIA brand. Many ARIA guitars have been checked by us for more than a decade. This is the Chapter XII…
Aria was formed in Japan in 1956 by Shiro Arai as “Arai & Co., Inc”. The name, “ARIA”, which means expressive melody, was first used in 1958.
They began retailing acoustic guitars in 1960, although the company did not start manufacturing their own until 1963. Arai released its first ARIA brand electric guitars in 1963. Arai exported Japanese built classical guitars fitted with steel strings to South East Asia in 1963. The earliest of these Arai’s were primarily plywood construction copies of Martin’s and Guilds, occasionally under the brand Diamond. Exporting to the US followed with models including the 1532T and 1802T. Then Aria arranged for Matsumoku to build the guitars for them under contract. Ryo Matsuoka, who was the head designer for Matsumoku and a highly skilled luthier, constructed exceptional Martin copies under the Aria brand throughout the 70’s.
DIAMOND. EARLY 70S
Arai and Matsumoku started building acoustic guitars in 1964, and then electric guitars in 1966, using Arai, Aria, Aria Diamond, Diamond and Arita brand names. To counter the decline of the solid body electric guitar boom, Arai released the Aria Diamond series hollow body semi-acoustic guitars. Aria Diamond was named after the imitation diamond inlayed into the headstock. This series lead to the release of the 1202 and 1302 models in 1966 and caused nothing short of a sensation in Japan. From 1967 Aria added a variety of models including the solid body 1962T, R-320, and violin shaped 12-string and bass guitars, and a full acoustic guitar, the 1262.
ARIA PRO II STAGE CASTER
Aria Pro II led the way with the 80’s shift to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Releasing many models such as XX, ZZ and U-1. Whilst not abandoning their routes also re-established the semi-acoustic guitar models, FA and TA. The 80s, also saw the introduction of the famous IGB (SB INTEGRA) bass series. All guitars were made in Japan until 1988, when production of less expensive models (Magna MAB/MAC and Integra IGB series) was switched to Korea.
ARAI DIAMOND 1202T
In 1970-1972, Arai started the Gibson and Fender copy to distributing the Japanese market. Arai was also distributor of Greco “Matsumoku Made” in Western Japan. In 1975, Aria Pro II was developed from Aria’s custom shop making high-end models for professional users. The Aria brand name was changed to Aria Pro II, though this has been used mostly (but not exclusively) for electric guitars and basses. In 1976, Aria Pro II released its first original model, the PE-1500. In the 70s and early 80s the company came into its own in the United States with a series of high end professional instruments.
In the early 1990s, after the heavy metal rush, Aria Pro II released one of its favourite original models, the MA series to reinforce the PE and SB line-ups. MA series bodies are constructed with innovative crystal shaped carved top and back. In the mid-1990s a few models (including the Fender Stratocaster-inspired Fullerton series guitars and the Steve Bailey 6-string fretless signature bass) were made in the United States.
Guitars, amplifiers and accessories are now manufactured in Japan, Korea, Spain, Indonesia and China.
The company had professional endorsements from Herb Ellis, Yngwie Malmsteen, Henrik Flyman, Loose Wayne and SS of Dark Frost and many more. Cliff Burton of Metallica used an Aria SB Black N Gold I as well as an SB-1000 bass but was never an official endorser. Other bass players like John Taylor and Chuck Rainey also used Aria Bass guitars.
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