HJ800 Review

manufacturer: Hagstrom date: 02/12/2013 category: Electric Guitars

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Hagstrom: HJ800
You cannot get the full range of sounds with only solid bodies and semi-acoustics, so you should consider adding this great-sounding and well-priced archtop to your collection.
 Sound: 9
 Overall Impression: 10
 Reliability & Durability: 10
 Action, Fit & Finish: 9
 Features: 10
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
 Users rating:
review (1) pictures (3) 5 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 9.6
HJ800 Reviewed by: William A Smyth, on february 12, 2013
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 846

Purchased from: The Music Farm

Features: Made in 2012 in China; 22 frets; Hagcase included. It is said that the archtop is the highest form of the guitar luthiers' art, maybe because a Traditional archtop is like a violin, with a maple body and neck, and a spruce top. This archtop has a carved one-piece spruce top (not laminated five-ply pressed wood) and a flamed maple body. The Gibson L-5, priced at around $9,600 - $13,500 has neither of these features (according to the Gibson website). The most important feature is that it has 22 frets, and is cut away to the 21st. Fret, which makes it possible to transfer your repertoire (or improvisations) from your solid-body guitar to an archtop. Archtops with 21-fret cutaways are scarce. There's only two others that I've found: Gibson Byrdland ($7,400 - $9,800) and Ibanez LGB ($4,500). (I'll exclude the Gibson ES-330 because it has a fixed bridge.) Considering these three features, there is no guitar on the mainstream market that has all three, which is why I think that this is likely the best archtop in the world. // 10

Sound: This guitar has the full archtop sound, that goes beyond others that I've head on YouTube. Some archtops have maple tops and mahogany necks, but the the Traditional ones have spruce tops and maple necks. I prefer the latter. This is not just a jazz guitar! Electric archtops were used with orchestras since the 1930s. Archtops were used with 1950s rock and roll (but with a vibrato), and then there's the Epiphone Casino which was used extensively by John Lennon and Keith Richards. Technically the Casino is an archtop, but the effect is muted considerably by the fixed bridge and thin body. I love that Epiphone sound, but It's not extreme enough for me. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: I'm very fussy about string height and intonation, so I replaced the wooden bridge with a Tune-O-Matic style bridge, which rests on the original pedestal, propped up with coins. (The string spacing at the bridge is 52 millimeters. If you use a fixed bridge, too much of the resonation will bypass the spruce top and go into the body. You can buy a metal bridge with a pedestal, but the pedestal may not fit the contour of the arched top as well as the original.) I replaced the 49, 38, 28, 18, 14, 11 strings with 42, 32, 24, 16, 11, 9, and loosened the truss rod. // 9

Reliability & Durability: All of the details are finely finished, except for the horn button (for the guitar strap). It wasn't tight enough, so I inserted two rock maple shavings into the screw hole, and inserted the screw; that tightened it. The finish on this guitar is plastic varnish, like almost all modern guitars. There connections for the tone and volume controls are all 100%. This type of guitar can be used for controlled feedback to a far greater extent than a semi-acoustic. All that you have to do is adjust the amount of distortion, the volume, and the distance between the guitar and amp. // 10

Overall Impression: I wish that this guitar had come with a metal floating bridge, instead of a plain wooden bar. For me, a guitar must be cut away to at least the 21st. Fret, which is why I bought this one. I admit that I don't like that type of bridge, and one of the guitar strap screws was a little loose, but this guitar far exceeded my expectations in playability and tone - so it's 10+ all the way! You cannot get the full range of sounds with only solid bodies and semi-acoustics, so you should consider adding this great-sounding and well-priced archtop to your collection. // 10

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