Sound — 9
Due to this guitars slightly different all mahogany body and top (usually LP-style guitars feature a maple top to brighten the sound slightly) it has a very rich, fat sound. Interestingly enough, the higher output pickups of the Special Edition Velvet seems to help with the high notes, I rarely feel this guitar would have benefitted from a maple top. Overall it has a very LP-esque sound, textbook example of great humbucker sounds. Now, since this is a Hagstrm, it has a few quirks. First noted is the second switch, placed on the horn of the body. This is a filter switch, which works by shifting the mids of the sound to either give more bass or more treble. I largely ignored this for quite some time, but after some experimenting I found that with the Switch in the lower position (treble boost) and the Bridge pickup active I got a very nice Vintage sound. Perfect for classic rock and blues. With the filter Switch set to bass it can get a little muddy, particularly if using the neck pickup. I rarely use this setting, but I expect it work fairly well with distortion for heavy metal. Overall I think the filter Switch is a nice touch, it adds to the flexibility of the guitar and guitar value. Another Hagstrm feature is their resonator fretboard, which to me plays and looks very much like an ebony fretboard. It is supposed to offer better playability, but in all honesty I'm not enough of a guitar player to really tell the difference. That being said, it works very well. Bends are very easy and it plays very effortlessly. Now, on to the final point, the sustain. This is where this guitar really shines against its competition in this price range. The notes ring out more or less until you get bored and walk away, I expected good things after reading up on it but after a year of owning and playing it I'm still blown away by the sustain. I'd say this guitar soundwise works very well for most kinds of music, it is very versatile but the general emphasis seems to be on rock/metal. It keeps things tidy even under quite heavy distortion and the filter Switch gives you lots of options for sounds straight out of the guitar.
Overall Impression — 9
I play mainly classic rock (Boston, Journey and such), lighter metal (Metallica, Judas Priest) and some blues (Clapton, BB King) and for these it works terrific. It doesn't perform the twangy Clapton sound very well, but that isn't really expected either with a very Gibson-esque guitar like this. I do like the mellow bluesy sound I get when playing clean, and the sustain makes for a very smooth sounding guitar. Again, I suggest that anyone buying a Hagstrm would get it set up properly unless their in-house routines regarding this has changed since I bought mine. If you don't have the equipment or knowledge to do it yourself, leave it to a professional. It makes all the difference. Should this guitar be stolen or lost, I would most likely replace it with a new identical one. When I bought this about a year ago, I didn't find anything else in the pricerange being able to compete with the playability and versatility this guitar offers. As far as I know not much has changed.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is a very well built guitar, and even though I wouldn't recommend it I'd confidently bring this guitar without backup to a gig. It rarely goes out of tune and the finish is solid and even fairly scratch-resistant. I did change the strap buttons to a strap lock setup, but that is a Standard modification for me and I have no reason to believe that the original strap buttons would fail in any way. They seemed very solid.
Action, Fit & Finish — 6
The finish on my guitar is a very nice satin black, with matte chrome hardware and binding on both body and neck which is a very nice touch considering the price. The satin finish makes for a very smooth neck action and I rarely find my hands "sticking" to the neck which tends to happen occasionally with a glossy finish. Now on to the less fun stuff. When I recieved my guitar it was very poorly set up, intonation was ok, but string height was ridiculous. The supplied strings was very rough and uncomfortable, and I found myself being forced to stop playing on a regular basis. After some adjustmends to the tune-o-matic Bridge and a new set of strings though, playability was great. The bad setup really took away from the qualities of the guitar, and I would urge anyone buying a Hagstrm to make sure that they get it set up correctly and with good quality strings before they start playing it, to not risk being disappointed. I'm judging this quite harshly but in all honesty, you shouldn't have to break out the tool box and spend an hour or two setting the guitar up the first thing you do. Minor adjustments will of course be needed whatever the price or brand of guitar, but this was nowhere near minor.
Features — 10
Special Edition Swede Velvet - Body: 2010 Chinese made LP-style solidbody mahogany with carved mahogany top. - Neck: Set-in mahogany neck, low profile, 24.75" scale with 22 medium jumbo frets and a resonator composite fretboard. - Pickups: Dual passive humbuckers; 1x Hagstrm Custom BL 305E in neck position, 1x Hagstrm Custom BL 305 in bridge. Higher output than the Standard Custom 58's of the Swede/Super Swede - Bridge: Tune-o-matic with Hagstrms own design featuring independant brass blocks for each string. - Controls: 3-way pickup selector, 3-way filter Switch (mid bass boost, mid treble boost or disabled), 2 volume controls, 2 tone controls. - Tuners: Non-locking Hagstrm 18:1 die-cast tuners. - Also features Hagstrms patented H-expander truss rod, which should eliminate risk of neck warpage aswell as a graphite nut which is rarely found in this price range. All things considered, this is extremely good value for money. I doubt you'll find a more feature-packed guitar on this side of $1000.