Other Guitars

Pre-Xmas 2020 Double NGD … or … Dumbest Thing I’ve Done Lately?

26

Hags are awesome. Mine is a 1967 Viking Deluxe. One of only three known still in existence.

27

That's likely awesomer than mine put together.

28

It better be, I traded a 1960 Cadillac for it. The Caddy only ha 34,000 miles on it.

29

Oh come on. What model? Color? Condition?

30

Near mint sedan de ville. Green. Power windows, power front bench seat, wonder bar radio and auto lock trunk. But I had another in white with leather trim that I liked better. I also had two 1966 Buick Special convertibles.

31

I'll look for pics as I clean out the basement.

32

If I didn't have kids I would have a 1958 Biarritz Cadillac. One of the best looking cars ever produced. Blue with a red interior.

33

Your Hagstroms are nice. I usually am a single coil fan but there is something about an ES-3XX style guitar with humbuckers. I used to have a Sheraton and also a nice Samick that I sold. It’s one I should have kept.

34

Ah good. It was the Sedan, not the Coupe. I've decided after long deliberation that the '60 Coupe de Ville is the Cadillac of Cadillacs.

How long ago was this?

Buddy of mine had a Persian Sand '60 Coupe in gorgeous condition, and once offered to trade me for the '55; I turned him down partly because the '60 had driveshaft problems (which were eventually fixed, of course) - but mostly because I knew he went through cars like DCBirdman goes through guitars, and I hoped I'd end up with both.

Then he needed quick funds against a liquidity problem and sold it quick for bigger money than it was worth. Never seen another like it. The interior was perfect too. In all my years of old car obsessing, that's the One That Got Away.

Same guy now has a national award-winning '57 or '58 Eldo Brougham with the brushed stainless roof, so he did OK.

At one time I had two white '66 Toronados. So there's precedent for having pairs of things when one would truly suffice...

35

My pet peeve with the 1960 was the Carter carburetor. The floats had a tendency to leak. 59 and earlier had Rochester carbs.

36

Back to the Hagstrom, great guitars. My pots took a crap and I had the harness replaced. She's better than new. Problem, about 19 years ago it was appraised for $60,000. With non original harness and knobs I would be hard pressed to get $2 ,000 today.

38

Discoveries, observations, suspicions, hypotheses.

Once in hand, the new Hag Alva reminded me of a guitar I've had since 2004, a Jay Turser DC-34, which was one of the first Chinese guitars I bought, and which has always impressed me.

So I got it out and compared them, and they're more similar than I would have thought possible. Attention to details and rudimentary research will follow - but bottom line: I think it's probable the guitars were made in the same factory. More, I think that - other than superficial hardware differences - they're the same guitar

39

Obviously they look similar - but it goes farther than that.

The exact configuration and shape of cutaways are crucial in the appearance of all guitars, but especially in venetian doublecuts, where that shape creates identity. To the best of my ability to discern it, that shape is identical on these guitars - same depth, same curve.

In numbers...

To the exact fraction of an inch, they're the same width across upper bout, waist, and lower bout; they have the same body depth.

Their scale lengths are dead-on the same; the neck pickups are both butted up against the end of the fingerboard, and it's the same distance from the nut to the front edge of the bridge pickup. The bridge set and angle are the same.

The nut width is identical, and - Hagstrom's marketing claims about the thinness of their necks notwithstanding - both necks measure the same in thickness at the first fret. They feel the same.

40

Another attempt to show the same-same of the upper body shape.

(Apologies for the blurry; I was trying to hold one guitar above the other without banging them together. I purposely allowed for some parallax, because if I took a pic from directly above, one guitar hid the other.)

41

In further detail, howbout the binding? Both have the same alternating-stripe pattern on the top; both have plain white around the back.

The shapes of the heels and the heel block are the same; the Hagstrom puts a white cap over the bottom of the heel.

All the binding joints are done in the same way, and to an equal apparent degree of skill.

42

F-holes are a further detail that separates one guy's build from another's: their dimensions, shape, angle, method of binding. On both guitars, both dimensions and binding match.

Inside the guitars, where I couldn't get pics that show anything legibly, the construction is the same: the block down the middle, the light unfinished look of the wood, the butt-joint-and-glue construction. There are a couple of glue runs in the Jay Turser, but about equal "glue squeezeout" around the perimeter of the sides and top or back joins.

In the Turser, however, the centerblock is comprised of a very thick piece and a much thinner piece at bottom, which tapers from less than 1/4" at the front of the body to more than 1/4" at the rear - as though they hadn't cut the larger block with the right taper, and made it up with this second piece. Learn by doing, maybe? The Hagstrom has a single properly-cut block.

43

What differs? The placement of the control knobs and pickup switch; stop tailpiece on the Turser and Hag trapeze on the Alva; headstock shape; fret markers; tuners; presumably the pickups themselves.

The Turser weighs 8 lbs; the Hag weighs 7 lbs 4 oz. I suspect that weight difference is in the density of the centerblock, as they appear to be the same width.

It's all too much for coincidence.


Unless the company itself tells you, just try to find out what factory an Asian-built guitar comes from. We know some of the big names, especially the ones which started in Japan or Korea and then expanded to China and beyond: Cortek and Samick in particular. And we know they make guitars "for everybody."

But it's hard to know which particular guitars, in which years, for which brands - and even who controlled those brands at the time. For the big names, we know more of the history. For the second- and third-tier brands, you'd have to be part of their management - and have records - to be sure. Since the brands change hands every decade or so, and personnel certainly change, a lot of that gets lost.

So in trying to draw a straight line between a Jay Turser guitar built in 2003 to a Hagstrom built in 2018 - without inside poop - I'm necessarily speculating.

But what I've turned up is that China's Sihui Huasheng Musical Instrument has built for many brands, including Jay Tursers in the 2000s when the brand was owned and managed by US Music Corporation in Buffalo Grove, IL. I believe US Music was closely associated with Musicland Central - from whom I bought three of my Jay Tursers, on Ebay. (I see bad reviews from the past for Musicland Central, but I had great experiences with the company, including good support and customer service after the sale.)

Jay Turser is now owned by Jam Industries and operated by Davitt-Hanser (an old-line jobber in Cincinnati). Through the 2000s, Jay Turser had a wide and varied line not only of the usual big-3 knockoffs, but wider ranging "copies" and clones, as well as unique designs it was hard to find anywhere else. The Tursers I have are all unique (although the JT-Res electric resonator has been picked up by Eastwood), and I like them.

I had a long conversation with JT's main man at a NAMM show around 2004-5, and he was a true guitar enthusiast who enjoyed the variety of unique products he was able to import at bargain prices. But he was also frustrated and annoyed over his dealings with "the Chinese" - particularly the difficulty of getting exclusive agreements and keeping products he'd spec'ed from being sold to all comers. (It wasn't a surprise, then, that he sold the company a few years later; the current Jay Turser "line" is a depressingly limited and wholly unimaginative affair.)

Which brings me back to Hagstrom and the Alvar. I find in an online history of Hagstrom that "today, Hagstrom is distributed in the states by U.S. Music Corporation in Buffalo Grove, Illinois." Or, to belabor the point, the same organization that imported Jay Tursers, made by Sihui Huasheng Musical Instrument in China. I also find that MusicLand Central is still going (whether under the same management as 15 years ago, I don't know); it's a full-line jobber with products across the whole MI field, but the brand name guitars they distribute are...Oscar Schmidt, Washburn - and Hagstrom.

Still all one big happy family?

My theory goes something like this. Per the research I've done thus far, the Hagstrom Alvar model - a 14" junior-sized semi with centerblock - was not a part of vintage Hagstrom history. Maybe when Hagstrom marketers (whether in Sweden or, with the name under contract, here in the US) decided to add a junior semi to the line, they went with a factory catalog model. In body shape it already looked enough like the flagship Viking, and the scale and other dimensions were right. It might have been as easy as ordering up a few details - H-expanding truss rod, resinator fingerboard, headstock and distinctive Hag hardware, pickups (though did "Hagstrom" design them in Sweden, or go with their favorite option from the factory selection?), knob and switch configuration - and Bob's your uncle. Or, maybe, Jay's your uncle.

Do I care? Am I annoyed that I've apparently re-bought essentially the same guitar I've already had for 16 years?

Not really.

I get that there's a huge disparity in market perception for and respect of the two brands. Hagstrom had/has a reputation of a premium(er) brand, with a "legacy." There was a Hagstrom family with a long history of musical manufacture in Sweden; so far as I can tell, there still is a Hagstrom family. We know they stopped trying to compete in the market in the early 80s (does any of this sound familiar?), then fired up again decades later with, ahem, offshore manufacturing - and that they've rebuilt the brand by reintroducing slightly modernized versions of their classic designs, as well as by working with an American distributor to...manage things? Including Asian manufacturing relationships? Seems credible.

On the other hand, Jay Turser was never a real person. Like Ibanez, Alvarez, Carlo Robelli, and Michael Kelly, it was a likely name created solely for branding identity. Despite a slew of products better than they should have been, it's best known now for some of the lowest of the low end telestratpaulclones. If the original owners got little respect even when they did good stuff, what's left of the line under new management gets even less - if anyone even thinks of the brand.

By that comparison, maybe I should feel Hagstrom/US Music Corp saw me coming, and managed to sell me something I basically already had. Maybe I should feel I got took.

But in fact, I was always astounded by the build, quality, and performance of the Turser DC-34, for which I paid 202.00 in 2004. At the time, I thought that by comparison to other guitars available then, it was underpriced by at least half. I had that giddy feeling that I'd stoled it.

All these years later, my original opinion is buttressed by the fact that the guitar has held up beautifully. Never an issue with neck, frets, electronics, tuners. The pickups are on the dark and smooth side - but I've always known they weren't boutique items, could always have changed them out and still had a bargain, and in any case have intentionally left them in thus far to make the guitar my dark humbucker voice. (It's not the guitar's fault that's a voice I find less use for than I once did.)

As for the Hag...well, given inflation since 2004, that 202.00 Turser should cost 287.00 today. The Alvar was 479.00 - and it has a respected brand name and marginally better fit and finish. With the trapeze, it has a little slinkier feel than the Turser, would support a Bigsby conversion without leaving ugly holes, and we can't deny it's RED. If I go with my gut feeling that the Turser DC-34 would have been fairly priced at 400.00 in 2004, that comes out to 550.00 or so today.

With all that rationalization, I don't think I've been hurt. And anyway, education always costs something.

It's just interesting to speculate on how all the pieces might fit together.

44

the f-hole on the Hagstrom looks a wee bit narrower than the Turser, and the curves just as little of a bit more graceful. the Turser f-holes have a bit of an Artcore look, which may not be coincidental either.

you with the Muslclanders, and Mr. Wompus with the Epiphone J-200...should the local powers-that-be check to see if Sweetwater (heh) is messing with the water supply?

45

A lot of focus and details on Hagstrom. My passion for 335 style guitars and 12 strings led me to purchase a Hag Viking Deluxe 12. It was a very nice guitar in every respect except it didn't completely capture that chimey Brit Invasion/Byrds 12 string drone that was in my head so I guess that is why I sold it. The reds are Tim but I like the looks of the full size Viking and the flame and the blocks on the first fret and it is bigger. But 2 Hags in the hand is worth a tough decision?

46

the f-hole on the Hagstrom looks a wee bit narrower than the Turser, and the curves just as little of a bit more graceful.

Yet when I measure any of the fixed landmarks in the f-holes, they're within fractions. While I'll grant the Hag shows a little refinement over the Turser, the photo somehow magnifies the difference.


I like the looks of the full size Viking and the flame and the blocks on the first fret and it is bigger.

All true enough. I like the touch of flame as well - but I don't care about first-fret markers (if we can't find the first fret on any guitar, we ought to give up playing), and like the smaller size of the Alvar.

But 2 Hags in the hand is worth a tough decision?

Well, maybe. Time will tell. Either would have to be WAY more compelling than the other for me to send just one on its way, because in a sense the fact of their red doublecut sibling identity was part of the rationale to have them. Like...what good is a pair of glove?

47

you might also find it interesting to take a look at the D'Angelico center-block guitars, which you might find familiar.

48

you might also find it interesting to take a look at the D'Angelico center-block guitars, which you might find familiar.

Ainit da troof. The DC Mini - available in their Premier, Deluxe, and Excel lines - looks awfully like the two junior centerblock doublecuts I've been flogging here. According to the info on the website (which is admirably clear, once you dig for it), the Premier version is Indonesian, at 899.00, while the Excel (1,799.00) and Deluxe (1,999.00) are Korean. Slight differences in build (Excel is spruce over maple, others all maple) and pickups (different SD 'buckers on all three).

I'm going to try to resist the temptation of getting one just to compare, because how different can 14" doublecut maple 24.75" centerblockers with humbuckers actually be?

But once a guy accepts the elaboration of Hagstrom's headstock, I guess he might as well go all the way to D'Angelico's Full Baroque Crown of Glory.

49

Update: The lovely Super Viking has been returned to Valhalla.

I tried three different sets/types of strings, and I could not get it to strike a pleasing balance between darkwoody and chimeybright. When it was one or the other, it was all one or the other. In between, it was pleasant but not compelling. To me.

I'd hoped the 25.5" scale length and trapeze tailpiece would bring something new and interesting to the semi formula. It was different from my 24.x" scale semis, but not in a way I found a use for. A little brighter, a bit acoustic-ringier, but seemingly at the expense of whatever is fundamentally pleasing in the classic semi recipe - that warm bit of mass around the fundamental, and a seemingly linear and concentrated overtone series. On the Super V, the scale seemed more to detract from that, without offering any additional charm.

In a word, it sounded thin. Borderline clanky. Maybe there was as much warm mass around the fundamentals, and the chirp just diminished it by distracting the ear, but when I backed the tone down, it went from too bright down to just bright enough, then immediately to muddy. And I never had the sense that notes were coming out in the usual semi "envelope."

The coil taps just made it worse.

I'm attributing it to the scale length and harp, because I very much like the same pickup in the Viking baritone. Maybe the arguably brighter response of the composite "Resinator" fingerboard contributed to the lack, and maybe a smaller/lighter centerblock. (The guitar weighed noticeably less than my other semis.)

This isn't to say it didn't have good sounds in it. If I concentrated on not raking it with a brick - if I played with more finesse - I could avoid the clank, and train my ear to hear the semi character one buys a semi for - and then it was pleasing. But never more than that. And I overplay instinctively. Guitar’s gotta be able to stand up to it.

A pickup transplant might have made it wonderful, but the thought of negotiating the humbucker pickup aftermarket is terrifying. Anyway, I have sooo many total grinfest guitars that are waaay beyond pleasing: why would I try to build a relationship with one that just never seemed to come alive for me?

I will say it remained composed and articulate under every degree of gain and dirt I poured over it, and I think maybe Hagstrom concentrated on that in the spec: a traditional-looking semi that would work for downtuned ragemetal, without all that annoying warmth.

The guitar was beautiful - loved the red, and the ideal degree of flame, and the hardware. Great build-fit-finish. Flawless. The neck felt great, and it was comfortably and fluidly playable.

Just, sonically, I preferred all my other semis - which are all 24.x" scale. Maybe that formula is really just that tight.

So, alas, a no-fault divorce was decreed.


On the other hand, I like the little red Alvar more every time I play it.

50

Well hey, at least you had your fun for a while.

Glad you didn't feel the need to return both.


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