Perfect for today’s guitarist Hagstrom guitars enjoy cult appeal among players looking for something different. Former Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear has a huge collection, and Frank Zappa and Elvis Presley both played them. Hagstrom ceased production in 1983, but the company returned in 2006 with some reissues of classic guitar models, as well as some bold new designs.
The Swede is part of the “Vintage” range. A single cutaway model with roots in the early 70s. It looks like a more voluptuous version of a Les Paul, and like a Les Paul it features a laminated top, in Mahogany rather than the Maple used by Gibson. This gives it a tone that is warmer, darker and ultimately bigger! The body and neck are also constructed in Mahogany.
Hagstrom’s Custom ’58 pickups are wound to the same specs as the Seventies versions, and there is even a 3-position tone selector (similar to the tone toggle on a Gretsch) in addition to the 3-position pick-up selector and individual tone and volume controls for each pick-up. With its large block fingerboard inlays, five-ply top binding, bound fingerboard, elevated pick-guard, “stair step” tuners and immaculate workmanship, the Swede boasts features and construction similar to guitars at twice the price.
While most all-mahogany guitars sound rather dark, the Swede delivers surprisingly complex highs and snappy mids, which really shine when the guitar is played through an amp dialed in to a clean, undistorted tone. The neck pickup sounds almost like a ballsy SRV-style strat – perfect for blues and Hendrix -style classic rock (no wonder: Hendrix bassist Noel Redding played a Hagstrom). While the tone filter is nice for vintage completists, it rolls off too many highs to be useful to anyone but moody Jazz guitarists. The Neck has the hefty feel of a seventies-era axe, but the action is low and smooth, and the fretwork shows that considerable care and attention went into the construction of this guitar.
The Hagstrom Swede is a great choice for players who desire an instrument that stands out from the crowd both in terms of looks and sound. Check for price.