Purchased from: Truetone Music Santa Monica, Ca
Features — 8
Today's review is of my Chinese made 2009 Hagstrom Swede Gold Top which I have owned a little over a month at the time of writing this review. Interestingly, before they crafted a guitar fit for a King (Hagstrom Viking Deluxe - Elvis '68 Comeback TV Special) Hagstrom was a renowned accordion maker! Luckily in 1958 Hagstrom switched production over to electric guitars following the electric guitar boom earlier that decade. To prepare for this new endeavor Hagstrom thoroughly researched the guitar making process inside and out, even reverse engineering a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top!
Similar to Gibson's Les Paul, Hagstrom's Swede consist of a single-cutaway mahogany body with a carved mahogany top. The Swede's Gold Top is outlined with cream white binding and outfitted with an elevated cream white pickguard. Matching cream white cavity covers are found on its mahogany colored back side. The Swede's mahogany neck is glued-in and set utilizing a Mortise and Tenon joint. Binding runs along each side of the 24-3/4 scale length neck where it meets with the 15 inch radius Resinator fretboard that is all decked out with block shaped Pearloid inlays, 22 medium jumbo frets, and a 43mm wide Graph Tech Black Tusq XL nut. The headstock is outlined with Pearloid and displays "Hagstrom" written in cursive Pearloid as well as a matching pearloid fleur de lis. Two passive Hagstrom Custom 58 AlNiCo humbucker pickups come stock on the Swede and are controlled through four gold top-hat (bell) shaped knobs with gold inserts (2 Vol, 2 Tone), a 3-position pickup selector toggle, and an additional 3-position sound filter toggle for hi-mid cut (up), bypass (center), and hi-cut (down). Chrome hardware includes Hagstrom design 18:1 ratio die-cast tuners, a fully adjustable long travel tune-o-matic bridge and Hagstrom's Sustain Block Tailpiece. A complimentary set up with GHS Boomers (9-42) was included with the purchase and my sales representative at True Tone Music in Santa Monica, California was far too kind and threw in a Hagstrom hard shell case at no additional cost! He told me "Us punks have got to look out for each other." Purchased around the 4th of July, I scored this normally priced $500 Hagstrom for $300 before taxes, shipping & handling.
Sound — 8
My personal musical preference includes most genres of rock 'n' roll to punk rock, but I typically listen to my small collection of favorites (The Cramps, Rancid, Misfits, Jack White). I'll go on the record and say the Hagstrom Swede is quite versatile and could easily find itself suitable for any style of music: jazz, country, R&B, etc. Especially in the right hands, not necessarily mine. The Hagstrom Swede fulfills its role for what I have recruited it for-high gain applications. As I was saying, it is just as versatile as an Epiphone or Gibson Les Paul (oh yeah, I went there) if not more so. The Swede has an impressive articulate tonal range from glistening highs through the bridge pickup to warm lows through the neck pickup and all points in between thanks to its sound filter switch for added hi-cut and hi-mid cut. I have been using this guitar with my Fender Mustang I amplifier which I am sure could make any guitar sound good. However, as for being noisy, a noticeable amount of interference can be heard coming through when I take my hands off of the strings completely.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
As per my request, the action on this guitar was set low for 9-42 gauge strings by the technician at True Tone Music, and the pickups look like they are at a proper height. Although I purchased my Hagstrom Swede used, it appears to have been well cared for by the previous owner as I have noticed only a few minor blemishes. Overall the guitar feels like a solid build put together well equal to my Korean made Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty 3, not bad for a seven year old guitar. From tuning machines to toggles, and strap buttons to control knobs, all components are evenly spaced, aligned, secure and work - flawlessly. Likewise, all coats of paint and lacquer appear to have been applied evenly with no bubbles or pit marks present.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This Hagstrom Swede Gold Top looks like it was treated well and/or rarely used during its first seven years of existence showing no signs of oxidation only minimal blemishing discovered. Comparing it to my Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty 3 guitar I am willing to say the Swede can endure regularly assigned duty performing at live shows. The hardware appears to have what it takes to go the distance. However, on the subject of live performance I never play without a backup. I don't foresee any performance problems other than replacing a routine broken string, but let's be honest, nobody wants to watch you or me stop the show to change a busted guitar string.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, the Hagstrom Swede is not a bad guitar. Although not as well known as Epiphone, I believe Hagstrom deserves to be held in the same regard. To this date Hagstrom has been known for the high quality builds of their guitars regardless if it was made in Europe or China. Arguably, Hagstrom has some of the best guitars coming out of China. Meanwhile, Hagstrom has begun manufacturing guitars in Europe once again, I would love to get my hands on a new made in Europe Hagstrom Northen Swede, as well as an original vintage 1978 made in Sweden Hagstrom Swede. It looks like I may have fallen for the cult following and have to build on my collection. To the quality of their product and is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul alternative. I honestly think the Hagstrom Gold Top looks better than its Gibson rival. I'm in my late 30's now and have been playing guitar for 22 years now with rock, mostly punk, being my primary genre. The Hagstrom Swede would easily fit into that genre. Now, if this guitar were lost or stolen I can't say I would buy another one just like it. There are so many guitars out there I have yet to play and experience and I finally realized I'm not locked down to any one brand of guitar maker, although I spent years professing my loyalty to Fender early on I primarily played Stratocasters prior to exploring Les Pauls a few years ago.