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Hagstrom Viking Rextone

points in its favour, compared to most traditional solid body electric guitars the semi-solid design seems to ‘breathe’ more; even unplugged the Viking has a strident natural acoustic voice with impressive

the Hagstrom neck feels noticeably thinner with less of a pronounced ‘C’ shape; players with small hands or those that generally prefer smaller necks should feel at home more or less immediately.

AT A GLANCE… TYPE: Semi-solid thinline electric guitar. PICKUPS: 2 x humbucking.

CONTROLS: 2 x volume, 2 x tone (rotary), three-way pickup selector switch, three-way phase switch.

BRIDGE: Fixed.

WE LIKE: Classic styling, great build quality, good range of sounds, competitive price. Available left hand model? Yes!

The distinctive tail-piece tips a nod to classic Hagstrom style.

levels of sustain, which is usually an encouraging indication of how well the guitar should perform when plugged in.

Another major advantage with this particular semi-solid design is its superb playability: The set neck conspires beautifully with the double cutaway body to allow virtually unlimited access to the upper reaches of the fi ngerboard, which itself is made from a unique phenolic resin wood substitute that Hagstrom calls ‘Resinator’. In terms of feel this material’s smooth, hard sensation beneath the fi ngertips isn’t too unlike ebony and we’d also suggest that the guitar’s sound – particularly its distinctive projection and clarity - also owes something to this unconventional fi ngerboard. The Viking’s slim neck profi le is otherwise totally conventional, feeling very comfortable and easy to play. Compared to, say, Gibson’s rather clubby generic 50s neck profi le

Overall, the standard of fi nish

is pretty much faultless; smooth fret-ends and a very playable setup with a medium-to-low playing action help to demonstrate the Viking’s full potential as a versatile and very user-friendly guitar. Smaller players might fi nd that the Viking’s large semi-hollow body feels a bit overwhelming compared to a typical compact solid body electric model but the Viking’s shallow body depth (roughly1.73-inches or 4.4cm) defi nitely compensates by helping to reduce the overall bulky sensation when the instrument is in play. The fl amboyant headstock profi le and preponderance of switches and knobs lends the Viking a somewhat less sleek or streamlined appearance than some of its main rivals but this guitar still feels ergonomically well balanced and comfortable, and you can’t deny that this is a particularly handsome interpretation of the classic thinline design.

Sounds Anachronistic it may look but the Viking still covers plenty of bases, sound-wise. In this context the dual humbucking setup offers the player a lot to work with, with an extra dynamic leg-up courtesy of the thinline design. Both humbuckers are conventional chrome-covered Far Eastern-made units whose output and performance feels pretty much in line with what one would expect from a typical modern interpretation of the archetypal PAF. You still get plenty of nice meaty midrange and enough clout to push a low powered tube amplifi er to the edge of overdrive when the player begins to really dig in but the extra sense of space and clarity is where the thinline really begins to make a tangible difference. With more dynamic range to play with than the majority of solid body counterparts - well, if not exactly more dynamic range then a different kind of feel – the thinline Viking delivers clean tones that chime with an almost single coil-like clarity. The improved bass register similarly sees the low end benefi tting from fractionally more bite and presence compared to the rather fl abby and unprepossessing bass response of, say, a typical Les Paul whilst the treble is almost eye- wateringly piercing. Of all

humbucking guitars, few guitarists that have played a thinline for any amount of time would dispute that this is one of the most versatile models. Rock players will love the power and ability to transmit every nuance of pick attack – including pinched harmonics – with ease and the semi-solid body’s ability to shrug off feedback lets it take even ultra high gain situations in its very capable stride. Sustain is easy to obtain and when you do want the guitar to feedback, it’s easy to fi nd the sweet spot, grab a long wailing note and wring the bejeezus out of it! Clean sounds similarly cover a very usable range from a softly beguiling jazzy purr to an urgent trebly clatter that can border on the brittle at times, plus the upper toggle switch mounted on the upper bout offers a seriously broad range of fi ltered out-of-phase tones, most of which actually sound pretty useful for a change! Broadly speaking there is very little that this guitar can’t do; it can easily handle de-tuned Queens of the Stone Age style swamp rock wig-outs, brisk funk rhythm work, soulful blues soloing and even a spot of country chicken pickin’ if the moods takes you. The Viking may not feel like the most compact of guitars but its generous size is equaled by its big tone and a genuinely versatile performance. PM

SHOULD I BUY ONE? The elegant Hagstrom headstock.

The Hagstrom Viking feels like a lot of guitar for what is still a relatively modest wad of notes. By remaining largely faithful to the traditional sense of Hagstrom refi nement the Viking manages to present a stylish alternative to the clutch of similarly priced ES335 clones (both offi cial and unoffi cial) competing for your attention. 15

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