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Author Topic: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?  (Read 16136 times)

Casa

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Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« on: December 22, 2011, 03:37:46 AM »
Hey,

Obviously I'm new here and stopped by mostly because I like Robert's youtube lessons and a specific guitar review... but let me start from the beginning.

I used to play guitar just for my own enjoyment since I was a kid, but never really got into it on a deeper level than some campfire tunes, which I'm finally hoping to change. My main problem has always been money shortage and so I bought kinda cheap guitars I didn't really fall in love with (the notorious Yamaha Pacifica being one good example, the other is a kinda okay Johnson-brand Western guitar). Especially the Yamaha was only showing my "it'll work for practicing even if it's not my style" attitude, which just didn't work out, I rarely touch it at all.
The kind of music I prefer always went directly towards semi-acoustic guitars, lots of 60s-style, jazzy, folkrock stuff, also lots of contemporary bands that use this style of guitar. So now I decided to make a last attempt at serious playing, get myself a nice christmas present and buy a guitar that has the potential to fall in love love with.
Last attempt means, I still can't be picky and only choose the very best, first I don't have that much money, second I still don't trust my self discipline enough and don't want to waste money on a guitar that only collects dust.

My original limit was 500 Euros, mainly set after looking at a few first reviews and deciding that the Ibanez Artcore series would probably fit best. Then I found the Hagström Viking, saw Robert's review of it and fell crazy in love, even though that would mean a 600 Euro investment already (550 guitar, plus a case/bag). I almost settled on it already, even chose a name ("Selma", must be swedish!) and ran off to the stores to try one out.
Of course it's sold out everywhere, while every store still suggests it as the best bang for the buck (it's a hype I say!). I managed to find a lefthander, so I could at least see that it's pretty and the neck feels great, but that's it - I have zero idea about guitar building actually.

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On my hunt though I stumbled over two more guitars that shook my quasi-decision again:

1. In one store I tried out an Ibanez Artcore AS-80. While I almost ruled out these guitars already, this one actually felt absolutely great and had a very nice sound. I was surprised by it's playability and suddenly this became a competition again for the (still untouched) Viking. This is a real hollowbody thinline guitar, which means I might run into feedback problems, but since I'm not so much on the crunch side it might be no problem for me. However, I do not know anything about the building quality in detail. Could get it for 510 Euros.

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2. The main problem: One store only had used vintage guitars, which I never really looked at since I can't for my life afford an original Gretsch/Gibson/Guild... but the shop owner handed me an original 1964 Hopf Allround guitar that caught me flatfooted. This one is much more real jazz guitar than the others, it's also a really 60's - means, it's built for the purpose, not for looking shiny. On first sight it really looks like an East-european, definitely no rocker's bride. :D
But it sounded amazing. I usually can't really try out guitars myself in stores further than touching the neck, sliding my fingers over it and play a few simple chords - too nervous, and too cold fingers in winter too. But a guy in the store played it for me and the sound was exactly what you'd expect from a real vintage jazz guitar. I doubt any of the others can get close. As for playability: Best neck I've touched so far, smooth as silk.

The problem with this is mainly, I do not know if this will work as an all-purpose guitar like the Hagström or Ibanez. For my ears it's really a jazz/blues/little rockabilly guitar that will limit me more than the others. I can't afford a huge collection and need a one-size-fits-all guitar for my stuff. I'm sure this Hopf won't crunch, and I fear the guitar might be "wasted" on me. Anyway, it probably won't be at the shop long, and it's price is 590 Euros (again exceeding the limit). I hope I could at least talk them down to the Hagström price should I really decide on this. Og course, I have not the slightest  idea if this price is a good deal or not, a new guitar makes this much easier. Here's a spanish site showing the exact same model for the 599 Euros though: http://www.hispasonic.com/anuncios/hopf-allround-60s/17308


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Well, I wish I had any first-hand experience with the Viking now, it'd be a great help, but they won't be available until mid-january in all stores I checked. The Hopf will surely be sold by then, and the Ibanez... well, I mainly threw it into the mix as an alternative I'd like to hear some opinions on.

Okay, I ramble a lot now... To hear a bit of the sound, I have Robert's Viking review here and was lucky enough to find a youtube video of someone playing the exact same Hopf guitar. Note the pearly notes he plays at 1.15 and in the end, I think it shows the sound quite well:

Viking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmXeOilXLJw

Hopf: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipAV8Hf-AGQ


Well, sorry that my first post was so long-winded, but maybe someone could give me some opinion, or feel free just to ramble a bit like I did. I hate being under pressure of getting something quickly before anyone else does. I could easily wait until January, but fear I might miss an opportunity.

If it matters, so far I'm playing mainly alone at home and have a simple Vox Pathfinder to electrify whatever I decide on. Nothing bigger makes sense in my little flat.

DetroitBlues

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2011, 11:26:16 AM »
What you have to spend is good enough to buy what you want.  I've played the Ibanez and those are really nice sounding guitars.  However, keep in mind they are full hollowbodies which do not work well when played at high volume or with lots of gain.  A semi-hollow body might work better for you.  Epiphone Dot Deluxe or Sheriton are great guitars for that as well.  Hagstrom's are really nice and well worth the money.  But the best bang for your buck is to find one used.  Many people out there have bought guitars or been given guitars they don't play.  You can be lucky and find a great guitar used (usually near 1/2 the price of new) that has not been played.  I'm not sure if you have a local Craigslist, but you can start there too.  I'd steer away from Ebay only because its hard to judge the quality of a guitar based upon pictures. 

IM4Tone

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2011, 12:33:42 PM »
I agree w/ DB, a semi-hollow is more versatile. Hagstroms are fine, but Epi's and Ibanez give a great value. I own an Ibanez AS-83 (no longer made). They still make other models in the AS line. In order of price: AS-73, AS-93, and AS-103.
Major contributors to cost are comestics (type/grade of wood) and the structure of the neck. Multiple laminates of the neck wood in the more expensive ones add to stability (not to say the AS-73 has an unstable neck). The 103 has more expensive pickups.
The shape and playability of all are essentially the same, and the 73 and 93 sound identical. I wouldn't hesitate to buy an AS-73 if that's all my budget would allow. If I had a higher budget, I'd spring for the AS-93, which except for color (I dislike the blue) is the same as my AS-83.
For around the same money as the AS-93, you could get the AM-93 which I have never seen, but from the description compares to the Gibson ES-339 size-wise (smaller). It has the pickups as the AS-103, and the neck of the AS-93.
Check 'em out here: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/semi-hollow-and-hollow-body-electric-guitars#fT=2010:Ibanez&gP=1&pS=20&v=g&sB=bS&lP=c&catId=site1AAH (I'm not necessarily advocating a purchase at this on-line store, just giving a source for pics and comparisons.
Nothing wrong w/ the Epi's either.
BTW, I never had feedback issues w/ a semi-hollowbody playing fairly loud in a band.
EDIT Check this out: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=973332 I hate when this happens...now I'm wanting an AM-93 ::)
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 01:10:25 PM by IM4Tone »

robert

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2011, 01:31:50 PM »
Hej Casa, e du svensk?

I don't know much about the different Artcore guitars, but the once I have tried, I remember them being very nice.

I don't know anything about the Hopf.

If you ever play semi loud with distortion, the pickups can be a big deal regarding feedback. The Viking is quite good in this regard. If you play low volume and not much distortion/gain, any of these should work.

Another tip - there are some inexpensive Yamaha semi-hollow guitars out there nowadays, and they are decent for the money. Cheaper than the Viking.

Casa

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2011, 02:00:32 PM »
Thank you so far for your replies!

As for the price, I'm willing to pay what the Viking costs (might still try to talk it down a bit), and if the Hopf is really a great deal I'd bite that bullet too. I almost decided on that Viking before and wouldn't grab a lower cost guitar just because it's cheaper, unless the quality is really on par. I had a look at some Epiphones too, but none of them "clicked" for me - although I must admit some friends recommended against them.

Anyway, so far I think I should at least wait until I can try the Viking and not just get the Hopf because it might be sold by then - as I said, it sounded amazing, but from what I gather here the other choices are probably indeed more versatile and would serve better as multi-purpose guitar.
I'd still be interested in more opinions though, especially if someone has more insights on that Hopf and the price. Thanks again!

Edit: Oh no, I'm not svensk. A silly Kraut I am, although from my nickname most people first think of Spain or Italy. :)
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 02:02:13 PM by Casa »

DetroitBlues

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2011, 10:03:43 PM »
Hej Casa, e du svensk?

I don't know much about the different Artcore guitars, but the once I have tried, I remember them being very nice.

I don't know anything about the Hopf.

If you ever play semi loud with distortion, the pickups can be a big deal regarding feedback. The Viking is quite good in this regard. If you play low volume and not much distortion/gain, any of these should work.

Another tip - there are some inexpensive Yamaha semi-hollow guitars out there nowadays, and they are decent for the money. Cheaper than the Viking.

Didn't know Yamaha does the semi-hollow bit... I may have to check one of those out myself...

reb

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2011, 07:47:41 PM »
i have played (at some length):

1. epi elitist '3 dot '65' (a gibson 335 alike)

2. a hagstrom viking

3. an ibanez artcore AS 73

4. prs semi hollow se

i still own the AS 73. i most definitely got my money's worth. mine came from musicians friend 'used' at a discount. i think it was $300-which would be what..about 390 euros if i saw the exchange right tonight?

i played the hagstrom viking several times....i could not tell that its tones were superior to the AS 73, and it was more expensive. i'm not crazy about the viking's tuner buttons-i would put up with them if the tones were well beyond the ibanez's. it would have taken several months to really get to know the guitar, and i had it on '45 day approval'.

the prs is 'not in the same area' as these other two semihollows. the hollow in it is-i believe-carved out of the body. there is no 'post down the middle'. the body is a solid wood with a cavity. the prs pickups are 'sharper' or 'twangier' than the ones on my AS73 (and maybe if memory serves, than the viking). it is a strikingly light guitar. i was curious because Frankie Starr (Frankie STarr band on youtube) uses one, and likes it for his back problem...doesn't pull on his shoulder like a heavier guiatr would. having said 'it is twangier', it could be toned down if you have the right speaker/amp/tone setting.

i will tell you truly....i lost my mind when i sold the epiphone elitist. if you find one of those used in your price range before you buy, try it and see if you might agree...they are a cut above most of the guitars in their price range.

hope that helps....

ps, i happened to think of this, also...with limited money, i would beg/borrow/whatever some simple amplifier to use as a common 'tester' with the guitars i 'interviewed'. the 'right' amp can make a big difference in a guitar; with limited money, the amp you happen to have HAS to be the right amp...therefore, i would use it if at all possible with each guitar that i tried. the nearly infinite settings on tone controls/picking style/fingers or pick and the interplay between the amplifier and the pickups on different guitars is something that one has to tune out in buying. doing this, if you find something that plays well, seems to be set up properly and is in good to excellent condition, then you have some idea how it will sound at home. changing amps at each store will leave you 'surprised' at home, perhaps.

every once in awhile, i read something about 'so and so playing a squier telecaster and using a 15 watt brand x amplifier getting great tones and really rocking'. that player has familiarity with his/her setup...and knows how to get the most out of it. a patient person can do the same.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 08:13:50 PM by reb »

DetroitBlues

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2011, 09:59:11 PM »
For the price of a Epi Elitist, you're getting into a Heritage 535 range... (That's their Gibson ES-335 type model).  I've played an Epi Dot, PRS semi-hollow SE, and a Gibson ES-330.  The Dot is the best value for the money.  Swap some of the electronics and pickups and you have a gig worthy machine.

diaper head

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2011, 09:27:20 AM »
i have a dillion 335 and it's pretty nice. burt i did alot of work to it to make it so.   that might be something to consider.  find a guitar that is well built, and tweak it to your liking.

Casa

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2012, 03:12:25 PM »
A late reply. "Selma" has been here in my flat for two hours now and I'm deep in love.

Of course it had to be the black Hagstrøm... not the cheapest option, but once I had her in my hand I couldn't let go of her anymore. I found a good store that tweaked her a bit for me, filed the fret edges down etc... smooth as silk. Thanks again for all the feedback, but I saw this coming already.
Looking forward to follow your lessons, Robert!  ;D

johannes.maas

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2012, 03:42:19 PM »
did you buy the same modell that robert reviewed?

also saw that review but bought a cheaper version - the viking ii cbk. was 380 € if I remember right.

Great sounding guitar although I think the higher priced modells look like they are higher quality.

after having that guitar for approx 10 months I bought a Gibson Les Paul Studio 50s tribute Goldtop with humbuckers. The sound is unbelievable great and playability is much better than an other guitar I ever had...

btw... Kraut too, so Grüße von mir, viel Spaß mit der Klampfe und nen schönen Abend aus Bremen...

DetroitBlues

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2012, 03:48:14 PM »


Congrats!!!!

Casa

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2012, 04:37:57 AM »
@Johannes

Yes, same model as Robert reviewed, but the black version. It was also explained to me that Hagstrøm changed a few details lately, IIRC the volume/tone controls are better now. Oh, and what confused me was that I thought they are manufactured in China, while the store owner insisted they are made in Korea... anyway, details.
I had my eye on that one ever since I saw the first picture. 539 Euro, more than I wanted to spend, but I think she's well worth it. I don't think the Viking II is really worse in quality, at the store they explained me a few things why the Viking is better, but it's still a good guitar I guess. However, Selma just looks so much prettier.  :-*

Gruß von Hansestadt zu Hansestadt!

johannes.maas

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Re: Buying advice on semi-acoustic (hard decision)?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2012, 03:45:31 PM »
btw, the newest model, the northen series from hagstrom is manufactured in europe.

there is a great review about the northen swede in the most current issue of "gitarre & bass"

link to that guitar:  http://www.hagstromguitars.de/northen-series-super-swede.0.html

they are sold for about 1200 euros