The Blog

The New Tofino

This summer (written in 2011) marked our third year in business and our second since we taped the Dragon's Den episode that launched MacKenzie & Marr Guitars. It also saw the arrival of the long overdue order of second generation Tofino and Dionisio guitars. I'd made three trips to China in the last 9 months to deal with delays and misunderstandings with the factory. This order would tell whether time and expense had paid off. Would these guitars be as outstanding as we hoped?

With a great deal of trepidation we cut open the first carton. Initial reaction from everyone present, “WOW – you've changed the cases. Do they ever look great!” We'd made a number of changes to the cases – new outer material, an additional neck support, one extra clasp on the far side of the lid and, last but not least, a built in mini-hygrometer (great in theory – not so good in practice. More on that later.)The end result did indeed look wonderful. The case was improved but what about the guitar?

The minute the first Tofino was unwrapped – before tuning it and before playing it - I knew we had a winner. The guitar was pristine. So was the second, the third and so on. Not one guitar we examined had the slightest flaw. The factory had outdone themselves.

Playing the new guitars was another revelation. We'd made some subtle design changes, most of which will remain secret, and early samples suggested there would be an associated improvement in sound. Just how much of an improvement was something we weren't prepared for. The new Tofinos blew us away – greater projection, stronger bass and, if possible, longer sustain.

Here, in a nutshell are the changes we've made:

  1. Back and sides are now mahogany. We've heard disturbing stories about harvesting practices in central Africa, where our Akoumé was grown. Coupled with a constant supply shortage, it made continuing with the wood undesirable. Working with plantation raised Mahogany solved the ethical issue and actually sounded better. A win for the planet and a solid win for our customers.
  2. The body depth in the lower bout has been increased marginally. It made sense to carry the results of our experiments with ways of maintaining tonal “punch” in a cutaway guitar (Dionisio) through to the full body model.
  3. We've replaced the Goto 381 16:1 tuners used on the first series of Tofino acoustics with our own 18:1 tuning machines. The change was made primarily to eliminate a bottleneck in production time but the high ratio (to rotate the post a full 360 degrees requires 18 full turns of the button) gives us bragging rights. It also makes for even more granular tuning accuracy.
  4. The fretboard is slightly flatter – a 14 inch radius as opposed to the original 12 inch radius. For most players the difference will not be noticeable but for those struggling with barre chords the change will be welcome.
  5. The “secret sauce”. Every company has a list of ingredients they add to their product but won't reveal publicly. We're no different. Tofino has been favourably compared to guitars costing thousands more since it was introduced. We made that happen by building a really good guitar out of top quality materials -and by doing some things we don't think our competitors have discovered. The new Tofino has one more “secret sauce” ingredient that elevates it to a whole new level. We won't tell you what it is, but play one and you'll agree – no other guitar in its price range comes close to the sound and playability of a MacKenzie & Marr Tofino.


With an iPhone and $40 You Too Can Be A Guitar God

Fair warning to Keith Richards (Mr. Clapton pay attention too). I hooked my iPhone to my MacKenzie & Marr Ian Tyson Limited Edition with a gizmo called an iRig, fired up "Satisfaction" in the associated program and played along. In all humility I was astoundingly good - better (again with humility) than Keith himself. In fact Keith was doing such a fine job on rhythm I added my own embellishments to the tune. Later Willie Nelson backed me up on "Pancho and Lefty". I outdid myself. You'll have to take my word for it since no one else was around to judge. The electric sound was also delivered to my earbuds so only I could hear it.

Jonathan Mackenzie, the other founding partner in MacKenzie & Marr Guitars prefers acoustic folk with a bit of Celtic flavour. He has little love for electric guitars. I, on the other hand gravitate towards acoustic blues with built-in raunch. Truth be told I am a secret rock n' roller at heart. Hanging my head is shame, I'll also admit to being a bit of an Apple fanboy so when I saw the iRig I couldn't resist. It's not much more than a cylinder that connects an electric guitar to an iPhone or iPad and headphones or powered speakers. Coupled with a free app the iRig allows multiple guitar effects and an infinite number of settings for tweaking the sound. I had my Ian Tyson Ltd fuzzing and buzzing, reverbing and wah-wahing. At one point I hit the "Heavy Metal" setting and - no word of a lie - the guitar sounded like a Kirk Hammett rehearsal. Cranking out full-on rock 'n roll from a solid wood acoustic guitar with a built in pickup blew me away. Doing it through headphones will no doubt make my wife ecstatic. She already labours under the misapprehension that I lack any real guitar playing skill.

In addition to all the cool effects the app offers the ability to load and play along with a tune from the device's iTunes library. The song can be slowed down without changing the pitch - a great way to learn. If you're intrigued by the idea of your amplified acoustic guitar doing double (or triple etc.) duty as a full electric axe and you own an iPhone, iPod or iPad here are some links you may want to check out:

The iRig -available at most Apple Stores for $40.

Amplitube iPhone App - the free app from the same people as the iRig. There are multiple add-ons that can be purchased

iShred App - another free app that works with the iRig. I found the pre-sets to be a bit more interesting than those supplied with Amplitube

Taylor EQ App - If you're just looking for acoustic amplification through the iPhone and headphones this does the trick. The maker claims the various EQ presets duplicte the unique sound of different Taylor guitars but to me they all sounded the same. No effects

Have fun....oh and if you see Mr. Richards, don't tell him how good I think I am. He's already got one high maintenance ego to worry about. He doesn't need another.

A "Perfect Storm" of Media Attention

Little did we know that on the same day we distributed the press release announcing the Ian Tyson Limited Edition guitar CBC would re-broadcast our appearance on their hit show Dragon's Den. We're not adverse to publicity but once again the response (and cascade of orders) was overwhelming.
Here's where we stand with availability:

  • The Ian Tyson Limited Edition is in stock in very limited quantities for immediate shipping. UPDATE. the Ian Tyson Ltd Edition is sold out..
  • The cutaway version of Tofino (with a pickup) - Dionisio - is also available for September delivery.

Orders for all of the above can be paid by either credit or debit card.

The next availability for new orders for Opeongo is October. To reserve your Opeongo please fill out the form on the Opeongo page. No payment will be required until we have a firm delivery date from our factory.

We've received a few e-mails asking if our guitars are shipped with a hard shell case. The answer is "yes. All of our guitars are delivered in an arch-top hardshell case".

The Canadian Tenors

Arianna Huffington, the Canadian Tenors and the MacKenzie & Marr Tofino
Remigio Pereira a member (now ex-member) of the Canadian Tenors had a chance to play the MacKenzie & Marr Tofino at a recent Toronto concert. He wrote to say "It feels and sounds fantastic. I haven't played anything like it and it virtually plays itself!" He went on to tell us the group had performed at Koerner Hall for Arianna Huffington and sent along this photo. Thanks to Remi and the other Canadian Tenors. Catch their upcoming PBS special. Visit their Web Site for details on the group, their new CD and their performance schedule.

One Crazy Week

Back in December, no sooner had we booked tickets to the annual NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show than CBC notified us that our Dragon's Den episode would air the night before we left for California. We knew it would be a bit hairy handling the trip and interest sparked by the show at the same time. We had no idea how hairy!!

I spent Wednesday shipping guitars, getting US cash, setting up a video link in Skype for a Dragon's Den watching party and (for the first time in decades) locking my keys in the car. Rushed and stressed!

Within hours of the show airing on Wednesday night our web server was under strain and we were seeing a flurry of orders. By Thursday morning as Jonathan and I boarded the plane for California half of the first 48 MacKenzie & Marr Tofino guitars were sold and orders continued to stream in. Air Canada had a bit of a problem establishing the in-air Wi-Fi link but when they did I found I had almost 100 unanswered e-mails. If yours was one of them I apologize for not responding immediatly. The backlog is now dealt with. One of the benefits of the threehour time difference is a few hours of early morning work time.

There are a number of questions that pop up from multiple users. I'll post answers to them in our FAQ next week. If you ordered a guitar in the last couple of days it will be shipped Monday Jan 18th. If you're thinking of ordering a Tofino we still have about 1/2 dozen available. After that the next delivery date will likely be late May 2010.

Thanks for all of the wonderful comments about MacKenzie & Marr Goitars and our appearance on Dragon's Den.

Best to all,
John Marr

Good Things Come in Great Packages

Most companies will wait through at least one selling cycle before rolling out the "new improved" line. Here at MacKenzie & Marr Guitars we simply don't do things like other companies. Our cedar top acoustic guitars are distinctly our own design. Our way of distributing direct-to-musicians through the web is unusual in the music industry to say the least. Waiting until we actually had some sales to tweak our product line (if one model constitutes a "line") seemed so 20th Century.

Everyone who played Tofino had nothing but praise for the guitar but no one seemed to be blown away by its hardshell case. Why would they? We'd put all of our effort into designing Tofino. We'd spent no time at all thinking about the case. After all it was free with the guitar. Who's going to spend time and effort on "free"?

But at one of the focus group sessions where we previewed Tofino the comment was made that the case didn't do justice to the guitar. When customers speak we listen.

So with great fanfare we announce the "New Improved" MacKenzie & Marr hardshell case. With thicker sidewalls, tougher skin, stronger latches and a raised top the new ruggedized cases that hold our guitars

MacKenzie & Marr Guitars On Dragon's Den January 13 2010

Kevin O'Leary Playing the MacKenzie & Marr Tofino on Dragon's Den

Tune in CBC on January 13 at 8 PM to see Jonathan and I pitch our business to five savvy investors on Dragon's Den. We know we have a winner in both our Tofino acoustic guitar and our business model. Selling high end acoustic guitars direct from the factory to musicians over the Internet means huge savings compared to retail. Will the Dragons recognize either our cedar top guitar or our business plan as worthy of an investment or will they tell us our "valuation is nuts, we're being greedy an/or there's no business here".
We're betting they love the guitar and see the savings to consumers as a winner. Think we're wrong? Leave a comment or visit our Facebook page to add your input to the Dragons Den poll.

The Week Before Christmas at Guitar Central

Things were just too quiet! We'd done pretty much everything we could to prepare for the arrival of the first 48 MacKenzie & Marr Tofino acoustic guitars.
We'd set up the stock room, humidified, insured, alarmed and locked down the building.
We'd tested the on-line store, and then tested it some more.
We'd proofed, published and printed our warranty to include with every order.
We'd lined up Canada Post and UPS for shipping.
We'd laid in 40 double walled cartons (with room for extra padding) to insure Tofinos were coddled in transit.

We felt reasonably sure we were on track to deliver all outstanding orders in time for Christmas. Then the rails (literally) started to come off. CN Rail, embarrased by a one-day strike, backed up rail cars across the country. Our guitars were caught in the backlog and didn't arrive in Montreal until December 21. Now Canada Customs is taking its own sweet time clearing the shipment. As of noon today (December 23) we're calling the broker hourly. Still expecting delivery in time to send out Christmas orders. Perhaps we should look into a sleigh and reindeer?

First Photos Of Our Cedar and Mahogany Acoustic Guitar

Mahogany side meet cedar top on the MacKenzie & Marr guitar

This morning we started shooting photos of the MacKenzie and Marr cedar top "Tofino"acoustic guitar. The back and sides are crafted from Indonesian Mahogany. The top is western Canadian red cedar. Combining the warmth of cedar with the crisp projection of Mahogany gives the MacKenzie and Marr guitar a distinct full voice.


An Important Note Regarding Porch Pirates

When we ship a guitar we always send it with instructions to the courier that a signature MUST obtained at the time of delivery. If no one is home to sign for the carton it will not be left. We do this to insure that your guitar does not fall into the hands of porch pirates (or other nefarious characters such as bass players or drummers).

Fall In Love In Less Than a Week

Try any of our guitars in the comfort of your own home. If you don't fall head over heels in love within a week we'll arrange to take it back and issue a full refund (including shipping).

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