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What’s in a Name?: Acoustic Musical Instruments Launches AMI Est. 1984 guitar line in the U.S.

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • Features
  • October 2018
• Created: October 3, 2018

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What’s the difference between a Sigma guitar sold in Europe and an “AMI est. 1984” guitar sold in the United States?

Aside from the gilded logo, the answer is literally nothing.

“Same guitars, different name – or as I like to say, we are a new brand, but not a new guitar!” says Dave McKenney, national sales manager of AMI Instruments LLC. After being founded in 1984 in Germany by Guenther Lutz, Acoustic Musical Instruments Gmbh has been a major player in the global acoustic guitar market as a distributor.

“AMI started in 1984 as an acoustic instrument distributor and then in 1985 started distributing Martin Guitars in Germany and still do today,” McKenney states. The company’s most recent expansion in the United States hit a mini-snag with their rollout plan. The result was essentially launching a new brand exclusive to the U.S. to make the overseas extension possible.

“Due to trademark issue here in the U.S., the Sigma name was not available to be used, so AMI Instruments LLC was formed, and the brand name ‘AMI est. 1984’ was launched,” McKenney explains. “These are the exact same guitars as Sigma manufactured in the exact same factory. The only difference is the logo.”

The grand unveiling rolled out the new name at this year’s Summer NAMM in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We had an incredible response to our guitars by both dealers and players and other industry professionals, and we even signed up a few dealers right there in our booth during the show,” McKenney adds.

The recent history of the brand goes a little something like this: when C.F. Martin dropped the Sigma brand a few years ago, AMI initially picked up where they had left the line’s legacy off in Europe.

“First and foremost, it’s important for folks to understand that Sigma had been a brand offered by C.F. Martin for years and they made a decision to no longer offer that brand,” McKenney says. “When that happened, AMI decided to purchase the trademark rights in Europe for the brand Sigma. Once that was completed, they enlisted the services of the Cort factory to make a new version of an old name.”

In 2011, AMI formed a relationship with the Cort Guitars factory in China, where Sigma guitars have been produced ever since.

“After seven years of impressive growth around the world and continued improvement on the quality of the guitars, AMI decided it was time to enter the U.S. market,” he recalls. “Research however had uncovered that due to trademark issues they were not able to use the Sigma name here in the U.S., so the decision was made to use the AMI name.”

In general, the Sigma brand has been especially flourishing since AMI got involved a few years ago; McKenney reports massive sale numbers for 2017 alone, even before the United States was incorporated into the mix with AMI est. 1984.

“2017 was a record year for the Sigma brand, as they sold 40,000 guitars in over 50 countries worldwide by continuing to offer a quality instrument that is affordable that dealers can be proud to sell to their customers,” McKenney continues. “Since these guitars are the exact same guitars as the Sigma brand sold in other countries around the world, we have a seven-year proven track record of quality with a very low rate of warranty issues. A dealer can be assured that they are offering a quality product they can stand behind and be proud to sell to their customers.”

The current AMI Est. 1984 roster remains robust, sporting resonators, travel guitars, five different acoustic basses, and three types of ukuleles. Three stunning limited edition acoustic guitars are limited to 48 pieces each. Since NAMM, the brand’s headway in the United States has been significant.

“Our U.S. headquarters is in Westlake Village California just north of L.A. and we currently have over 2,500 guitars in stock and ready to go,” he adds. “We offer over 80 different models with a huge variety of body styles, colors, and options such as factory installed pickup systems.”

According to McKenney, the warehouse will be fully stocked by October or November and can hold up to twice of what is stored there already – aka a mighty 5,000 units – and AMI already has reps that are handling sales in 35 states.

“By the end of this year we will have sales representation in every state and we will grow our corporate team to handle our sales volume and needs,” he explains. “We are actively opening new dealers every day and look forward to having dealers in every state before the end of the year… we are looking for dealer partners that would be interested in an affordable line of guitars that play and sound fantastic and offer the dealer an opportunity to make impressive profit margins.”

The benefits of hopping on to the U.S. expansion are numerous, McKenney says, citing the diversity of the AMI est. 1984 line of guitars. Between the three different stylings of AMI est. 1984’s guitars and the plethora of models for each styling, McKenney affirms that the new U.S. line offers the assortment of guitars that both dealers and players are pining for.

“Our guitars are affordable and sound like they should be sold at higher price points than they are currently at,” he explains.

“We also offer diversity in our line with 3 different distinct stylings to our guitars giving a dealer an opportunity to offer as any as 80 different models to choose from to their customers. Every player is different in what they like in an acoustic guitar and AMI has something to offer that diversity.”

Interested dealers can reach out to to find out how to become an authorized AMI est. 1984 dealer.

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