Hohner 335 Guitar
MAYBE ITS JUST my imagination, but just lately there seems to have been a renewed interest in semi-acoustic guitars along the lines of the Gibson 335. Now Hohner have joined the resurgence by introducing a semi in their Arbor series - for a shilling under £200.
Now, every time I've played a 335-style guitar - from a Gibson to an old Hofner Verithin - one thing has always impressed me, and that's just how fast this type of guitar can be. Its appearance won't appeal to the Warlords of Thyroids' chief widdler, yet a 335 will more than hold its own in the speed department. There are some who would say that the design is dated, or that a 335 can be a real handful at high volume levels, but if you've ever heard Steve Marriot, Alvin Lee, Chuck Berry, Larry Carlton or Lee Ritenour, you'll realise just how versatile this type of guitar can be. If you haven't heard anything by any of the above, now's the time to put down your copy of PHAZE 1 and walk round to the nearest Our Price...
The Hohner is finished in "tobacco sunburst", and though this model sits unashamedly at the budget end of the market, while it might be low on price it's certainly well up on feel. Visually there's nothing that shouts "cheapo guitar" at you, and even though economies have obviously had to be made, spotting them isn't that easy: with the Koreans becoming ever more conversant with the intricacies of guitar making, details like the binding, finish and hardware are really quite impressive.
The guitar is quite light, but feels good and solid, with the bridge and tailpiece set into a solid wooden block, running from neck to tailpiece. In fact, all but one of the four locating studs actually protrude through the sides of this block, and while this might be unsightly - and could possibly be remedied by a wider block - it's not a subject to lose any sleep over.
A pair of "humbucking" pickups with full adjustment for both height and angle are fitted, and both have adjustable pole pieces, although one or two were a bit loose when unscrewed. However, a tiny dab of Evo-stik and the problem would be easily sorted - and in any case, I don't want this to look like a serious criticism as I've seen exactly the same on instruments costing many times more.
There's a tone and a volume control for each pickup and, intriguingly, each tone pot has a second pot attached, piggy-back fashion. For the life of me, I couldn't work out what these secondary pots were for, so after much pondering and head-scratching, I asked the distributor to phone the manufacturers. Their answer was that it's all to do with eliminating that old guitar player's foe, feedback. With two tone pots mounted onto the same spindle, each coil of each pickup has a separate control. One side of the humbucker goes through a clever electronic component known as a "capacitor" and then to its pot (to enhance the top end of the sound), while the other side goes to its pot direct. Whether this works or not, we'll find out when I plug in later.
The 335's neck has a deep, chunky feel, with 22 wide frets nicely set into a rosewood fingerboard. The Hohner's fret-ends overlap the fingerboard binding, unlike Gibson guitars where the binding is sculpted neatly over them. Apart from the cosmetic difference, refretting the Hohner should prove easier when the time comes.
A close examination of the neck and headstock confirms the initial opinion that this guitar has been well made. The action is smooth and light, and the .009" to .42" strings produce a reasonable amount of acoustic sound. Keeping the guitar in tune is a problem at first, but once things settle down, all is well. The machineheads are a touch sloppy, and although they're adjustable, tightening them doesn't appear to help much.
With a guitar like this, though, it's the sound it produces through an amp that's important. Good news here, too. Instead of the thin, weedy tones you might expect from an axe in this price bracket, the Hohner delivers a warm, rich sound from the neck pickup and a sharp, biting edge from the bridge. Turning both the guitar and the amp's clean channel flat out gives the familiar 335 crunch, with bags of natural sustain and without the guitar feeding back - even when sitting right in front of the speaker. So the stacked pots do work!
This is a serious musical instrument that doesn't have a modern shape or an outrageous paint-job. If the Age of the Silly Guitar is coming to an end - and I sincerely hope it is - and beginners are becoming more interested in playing than in posing, the Hohner 335 should do well. Whatever style of music it has to cope with.
HOHNER ARBOR SERIES 335 GUITAR: £199 inc VAT
INFO: Hohner, (Contact Details)
Review by Eddie Allen
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