HSS Review

manufacturer: Alvarez date: 11/16/2012 category: Electric Guitars
Alvarez: HSS
Korean made in the early 90s, this guitar is a 25.5 inch scale, 22 fret beast. 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.
 Sound: 9
 Overall Impression: 9.5
 Reliability & Durability: 10
 Action, Fit & Finish: 8
 Features: 8.5
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reviews (2) pictures (1) 7 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 9.2
HSS Reviewed by: belman III, on november 16, 2012
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Price paid: $ 149.99

Purchased from: Music Go Round

Features: 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. // 9

Sound: 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. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: 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. // 8

Reliability & Durability: 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! // 10

Overall Impression: 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. // 10

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overall: 8.8
HSS Reviewed by: belman III, on november 16, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 149.99

Purchased from: Music Go Round

Features: - Made in Korea in the early 90's - Scale: 25 1/2 inch - Neck: Bolt-on; Maple with Rosewood fretboard, 22 "medium" frets, roller nut, wide-thin neck carve (think PRS-ish on neck/headstock) - Neck Radius: 12 inch - Body: Mahogany body, primarily Strat-shaped; double cut away, belly & arm contours - Body thickness: 1 1/2 inch - Weight: 10+ pounds - Tuners: Gold-plated, Alvarez; non-locking (Stock) - Bridge: Gold-plated, 2-point floating vibrato; non-locking Brass bushings/screws, steel/brass vibrato assembly; weighs roughly 1 pound (stock) - Pickguard: Plastic; black/white/black - Pickups: HSS configuration, passive, black plastic covers (stock) - Controls: 1 volume; 500k CTS with volume mod, 1 Tone; 500k CTS, 5-way switch (stock pots still worked, but switched to CTS for a smoother taper) - Came with a padded gig bag // 8

Sound: This guitar suits my needs with flying colors. I play a bit of everything, and the guitar doesn't have any trouble keeping up. I run the guitar through a DigiTech RP50 into a Kustom 10FX for dirt/effects, and straight into the amp for other cleans and low to medium gain settings. The hum-single-single configuration (common on most "studio" guitars) allows for a wide range of tones, while the neck/body/scale combination works it's own magic. Unplugged, the guitar has a very rich sound thanks to the dense mahogany body, maple neck/rosewood fingerboard, and 25 1/2 inch scale. The lows are warm and defined, the mid-range full, and the highs are crisp and clear with the whole sounding close to an acoustic guitar (though obviously not as loud). The guitar resonates extremely well thanks to the angled headstock, metal roller nut, solid neck joint, and vibration transfer from the vibrato (which is quite heavy). The stock pickups match perfectly with the guitar, as they were intended. The bridge humbucker has a very full sound to it with warm lows, full mids, and crisp highs. Clean, the humbucker sounds very good, easily matching or surpassing anything you can think of. Dirty, it sounds even better, great for everything from Black Sabbath to Van Halen and beyond. It can get into some metal territory, but not that much considering it is a PAF-type. The middle single coil is detailed, snappy, and bright. Set clean it begs for finger-picked arpeggios and funk rhythm, and dirty it's great for chords and gritty leads. The bridge/middle setting is undeniably "stratty" with lots of quack and clarity, perfect for "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Sultans Of Swing". This setting also brings out the acoustic quality of the guitar wonderfully as well. The neck single coil has a deep low-end, a strong mid-range, warm highs, and plenty of punch. Clean it's great for pseudo bass lines, and jazz. Dirty it sings the blues, and conjures up Stevie Ray Vaughn as well as Jimi Hendrix with ease. The neck/middle position has lots of quack, clarity, and punch. Clean I use it for some quackier jazzy rhythms, and dirty for some lead work. In addition to sounding great, the pickups are also matched. There is the same amount of output in the 1, 3, and 5 positions with a slight drop in volume on the 2 and 4. Depending on the gain and the amount there in, a drop in output could be present between the bridge and neck or middle pickups. The 2, 4, and 5 settings are quiet, with some inherent noise (60 cycle hum) on the 1 and 3 due to the nature of the pickups. There can be a bit of noise on the bridge pickup, but only as you increase the amount of gain. Combine all this with a volume pot mod, and a smooth taper tone pot, and you've got one killer setup. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: When I bought the guitar almost a year ago, the action was not where I wanted it, and the vibrato was not properly leveled or intonated. I swapped out the old pots, adjusted the vibrato, set the intonation, oiled the nut, adjusted the pickup heights a bit, and gave it a thorough cleaning. All of the body routing was beautifully done, especially the routing for the control/pickup cavity. The finish is still in good shape, with only a few tiny dents and some hairline scratches on the back. The frets had been leveled and two of the tuning machines had been replaced. However, two of the original tuners have developed a slight problem as the plastic spacer next to the button has cracked (I'm going to replace the whole set of tuners in the near future). With everything properly set up, and to my liking, it plays and sounds beautifully. // 8

Reliability & Durability: This guitar will definately withstand live playing, as I'm fairly certain the previous owner has played it in some bars, judging from the layer of soot I cleaned off of the headstock. The whole thing is very durable, seeing as almost all the parts are original and continue to work after 20 years or so of use and abuse. The finish and strap buttons are both rock solid, and you could use it without a backup (though I wouldn't tempt ol' Murphy). Everything was definately built to last, so I give this high marks. // 10

Overall Impression: For what I play, this guitar suits me perfectly. I've been playing for almost four years now, and I'll always continue to play this guitar. It's built like a tank, sounds great, plays great, and has plenty of room in the control cavity and on the pickguard to add a couple mini toggle switches or anoter pot if you want to mod it. If it were lost or stolen, I would definitly try to get another one if I couldn't get mine back. They're great guitars, and I wish Alvarez hadn't stopped making them. // 9

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