If you have visited a few music stores recently, chances are, you have at least glanced upon some Ritmüller guitars in the budget instruments section. Where did these Ritmüller come from and what are their connections to the illustrious piano brand from Germany? Are they any good?
Even in an era where virtually any question can be answered using Google, the information about guitars by Ritmüller remains scarce. There are brands such as Dixon, that Gibson tried to erase from the people’s memory and there are obscure, smaller-name luthiers who remain hidden from public view. But the info on Ritmüller guitars are still way more elusive, making it difficult for interested guitar players to decide whether they should obtain one.
Some guitar forumites on the internet are too quick to dismiss Ritmüller as just plain low-end guitars, even belittling their sound quality and durability. The random bad reviews that Ritmüller has been receiving is understandable since the company hasn’t proven themselves yet as a legitimate guitar producer.
However, once people get the chance to hear a Ritmüller in action, as well as understand the history of the brand, the potential of their guitars will become more apparent to the discerning public.
W. Ritmüller & Sohn
Ritmüller guitars today may be on the cheaper side of the price spectrum, but that doesn’t discount the fact that their predecessors were highly-respected in the world of classical music.
The Ritmüller brand that you see in shops today is actually connected to W. Ritmüller & Sohn, a company that was established by Andreas Georg Ritmüller and his son, Gottlieb Wilhelm Ritmüller.
In the 18th century, Ritmüller started producing guitars, harps and lutes in Göttingen, Germany. They began building pianos in 1795 and since then, they have focused their efforts on the said instrument throughout the company’s existence.
Sadly, they would face bankruptcy in 1890 and the company was sold to another owner. Ritmüller would then continue creating instruments in Göttingen and then Berlin, until they decided to lease their instrument-making facilities to solve their financial problems.
W. Ritmüller & Sohn AG would finally dissolve in 1933 and it took 57 years for the “Ritmüller” name to surface again – this time as a premium piano line under China’s biggest piano manufacturer the Pearl River Piano Group.
Pearl River Piano Group
The Pearl River Piano Group is a piano giant in China that is capable of manufacturing over 100,000 pianos every year. With the capability to export to 80 countries, Pearl River is gaining more and more popularity in a globally competitive industry.
The trademark Ritmüller was registered by Pearl River in 1990 and they started using the name for their premium line of pianos in 1997. Pearl River would later on hire Swiss master piano designer Lothar Thomma to aid them in the creation of the new Ritmüller pianos. Thomma boasts 30 years of experience as a designer, educator and craftsman for some of the biggest piano brands.
Along with their astounding piano-building capabilities, Pearl River also sells drums and wind instruments and they are one of the largest manufacturers of guitars and violins in the world. On the low-end domain, Pearl River is the supplier for the “First Act” line of guitars that are usually sold at Target store chain.
Today, Pearl River Piano Group has solid partnerships with Yamaha, Steinway and the Boston-based Hallet, Davis & Co. With the addition of a classic German brand name in their catalog, The music corporation will surely keep its presence growing in Europe and the United States.
Are Ritmüller guitars any good?
Before venturing into piano-making, Gottlieb Wilhelm Ritmüller established himself primarily as a harp maker and he was also known for his good-sounding guitars. However, this guitar-building prowess was diverted to the pianos that made Ritmüller a solid brand in classical music.
Today, Ritmüller is owned by a Chinese company and their focus is still on producing pianos. This may be one of the reasons why information about their guitars aren’t conveniently available on the world wide web. Perhaps Pearl River is still testing out the response of the guitar market and the company isn’t ready to roll out the marketing campaign for their axes yet.
Not a lot of musicians have tried Ritmüller and it is quite challenging to find a reliable review on their products. Yhuliant Musik Shop, a Jakarta-based music store, posted some Ritmüller guitar test videos on their YouTube channel last year. Based on the music shop’s reviews, the Ritmüller Stratocasters actually sound really impressive. The Ritmüller guitars also seemed to stay in tune really well, considering their status as budget instruments.
Looking at whatever available photos and videos of Ritmüller guitars, you can see the decent craftsmanship that goes with its competent tone. However, it is not enough to judge a guitar based on pictures and footages alone, especially if information at hand is severely lacking. It is highly recommended that you visit your nearest local music shop and try out a few Ritmüller guitars to help you decide whether you should buy one or not.