HSS review by Alvarez

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.5 (2 votes)
Alvarez: HSS
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Price paid: $ 149.99

Purchased from: Music Go Round

Sound — 9
The stock pickups (passive) are what really set the guitar apart. The neck pickup has the thick low-end and bright (but not too bright) high end that any single coil worth its salt should have. Clean, it's very open, punchy, and bell- like; great for jazz and pseudo bass lines. Throw in some dirt and you can conjure up Hendrix and Vaughn with ease. The middle single coil has more a little more high-end and is incredibly articulate. Chords sound very clear, and fingerpicked arpegios are incredibly clean. Roll off the tone a hair and it's perfect for some nice funk rhythm. The bridge humbucker sounds similar to a PAF but without the all extra noise. It has a warm low-end, full midrange, and crisp highs. It sounds very good clean, and even better dirty. It's capable of conjuring up Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Boston, Kiss, etc. Pretty much whatever you throw at it. The outputs of all three pickups are matched in the 1, 3, 5 positions with a clean sound. The 2, 4 positions have a slight drop in volume, but yield that great "quack" that Strats are known for. The bridge/middle still yields great "quacky" sounds perfect for "Sultans Of Swing". And because of the weight and neck-fit, the guitar resonates VERY well. In essence this guitar is a Strat one minute, and a Les Paul the next. Absolutely wonderful. I run this though a DigiTech RP50 into a Kustom Dart 10FX set clean for various effects/dirt, and the amp by its self for a purer clean. I play a bit of everything, and this guitar has no problems covering anything I can think to throw at it.

Overall Impression — 10
I play a bit of everything; jazz, clean melody, funk rhythm, rock, metal, and this guitar suits my needs with flying colors. I've been playing for almost four years, and this is my second guitar. Right now it's my main guitar because of the versatility and the range of tones I can get out of it. I love everything about this guitar, but hate the fact that Alvarez stopped making them. If this guitar were lost or stolen, I'd track down the guy who stole it and hit them in the head with the guitar, which wouldn't have a scratch on it afterwards (the guitar, not their head). I'd buy another one of these guitars in this model if I could. I'd like to see if I could pick up a different model in the future to add to my arsenal. If you have the chance to play one of these, or any of the other models, I would highly suggest that you test one out. It might be just what you're looking for.

Reliability & Durability — 10
The guitar has been played in clubs or bars judging by the film I found on it from cigarette smoke. 98% of the hardware is original, so it is definately built to last. Everything has held up to nearly 20 years of use and abuse, especiall the finish. On top of that, I haven't had any problems with it. If that doesn't say durable, then I don't know what does!

Action, Fit & Finish — 8
When I bought the guitar last year it needed a bit of tweaking. The action was not quite where I wanted it, the vibrato was not level and was a bit high off the body, and the roller nut was not quite rolling properly. I leveled and lowered the vibrato, set the intonation, adjusted the neck, oiled the nut, changed out the old pots (which were still good), adjusted the pickup heights, and gave it a good cleaning. The spring cavity was perfectly routed and finished, and the pickup/control cavity was just as good; no drips, rough spots, or extra finish at all. The neck is perfectly smooth with no warping, and the wood has taken on a yellow tinge which looks very nice. The wiring was not as clean as the routing/finishing of the guitar, but just as solid. I cleaned up the wiring a bit just for posterity and a better fit. For being close to 20 years old, the finish and hardware have held up very well. The only flaws in the finish are a few small dings and some hairline scratches on the back which you can barely see. The gold plating has worn off of the buttons on the tuning pegs, part of the vibrato, the neck plate, output jack, and strap buttons. The vibrato bridge, strap buttons, and output jack are all very sturdy. Two of the tuning machines have been replaced by the previous owner, and I will be replacing all of them in the near future as the plastic rings on both E pegs are cracked (not surprising considering the age). The previous owner also had the frets leveled, so the frets were fine when I purchased it. After setting everything up, the action is low, the intonation dead-on, and the pickups set to their "sweet spots". It plays and sounds better than when I bought it. 8 because of having to buy new tuners, not because of the other work I did.

Features — 9
Korean made in the early 90s, this guitar is a 25.5 inch scale, 22 fret beast. The neck and headstock are close to that of a PRS, the neck is wide with a thinner profile, making it very easy to play. The neck its self is maple with a rosewood fretboard, medium-jumo frets, and a gold roller nut which works exceedingly well with the gold-plated 2-point vibrato, which is also modeled after PRS/Wilkinson. The vibrato is non-locking and floating (does not sit flush with the body). It is incredibly stable and durable (not to mention heavy; about a pound not counting the bar). The body is solid mahogany (I think)and built like a tank; the whole thing weighs over 10 pounds (that's one heavy Strat!). The weight of the body and type of wood give this guitar a darker sound, while the bolt-on maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, and 25.5" scale give it a nice top end. Rounding out everything it has neck and middle single coils, a bridge humbucker, five position switch, one volume control (with volume mod), and one tone control. I switched out the 500K pots to 500K CTS's because I prefer the taper of the CTS.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    belman III
    It's funny how the picture UG found is that of the exact guitar I reviewed
    belman III
    ^ That's exactly what happened. I wrote the first review (the one on the bottom) a few weeks ago, and noticed that it wasn't there and I hadn't gotten any e-mail as to the status of the review. I figured it didn't get accepted, and decided to write another one that was straight to the point and didn't meander. I checked the next day to find that both of them had been accepted at the same time. You'd think that they would have noticed the fact that they're both from the same author, and would ask which one should be posted/accepted. Clearly that wasn't the case, but no harm no foul.
    belman III
    Not a bad idea, though maybe not the best in practice since they might take down the wrong one. I think that carefully combining elements of both reviews together, could yield a better single review. As they sit, each has it's own strengths; the top has a more clearly detailed "features" section, while the bottom has more detail in the "fit&finish" section. I figure just leave both of them there. Sure, it may be a bit confusing, but you can read both of them and get a pretty clear picture of how this particular guitar is. I'd love to see some other reviews of all the different Alvarez Electric models; SSS, HSS, HH, and any others that may be out there. 'till then, I guess I've written the book on this particular Alvarez Electric.