Depending on how you look at it, Hamer guitars has built their reputation as either the guitar world’s custom shop or its smallest production line. Whichever view you choose, the bottom line remains that Hamer produces a limited quantity of amazingly well-crafted instruments with unique custom details at (or below the cost of most generic “big name” manufactures. The Artist Vanguard is proof that the Hamer crew know what they are doing when it comes to their craft.
Hamer’s Artist series is based on their time-tested “uptown LP junior” design. A three-piece mahogany neck is contoured to classic Gibson proportions—well rounded, perhaps even plump—and fitted with a rosewood fretboard and 22 medium frets. The chrome hardware consists of Grover tuners, Straploc-ready strap pins and a Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece. The mahogany LP Junior body has been upgraded with an arched top of mahogany rather than maple, which is usually found on Artist series guitars. A tuned resonance chamber beneath the top’s f-hole adds a touch of acoustic volume, and really goes to work when you plug the Vanguard in. More on that in a moment.
Rick Nielson’s checker-board Explorer aside, Hamer guitars typically sport conservative finishes. That’s certainly not the case with the Vanguard, which is done up in an outrageous Silver Sparkle reminiscent of Gretsch’s heyday, Hamer’s execution is, or course, flawless.
The Vanguard is outfitted with two Seymour Duncan P90s: an Sp-902N and a 3-B in the neck and bridge positions respectively. Each has its own volume control, and these become interactive with one another when the three-way toggle switch is in its center position. A master tone control completes the circuitry. Individually, the Duncan SP-90s have a chimey and well-defined output with just a hint of throaty clunk—a great tone for strong, majestic melodic lead lines or Keef-inspired chord wallops. With both pickups on, the Vanguard displays warm lows, detailed highs and gently scooped mids. Noise and hum are kept to a minimum with shielded paint in the electronics cavity.
The Vanguard’s resonance chamber doubtless helps the P-90s achieve such cool clean tones. But its functions becomes readily apparent once the volume and gain are turned up: the instrument boasts remarkably smooth sustain throughout its entire range, and once the woods starts dancing with some high-decibel sound pressure, notes come alive and ring forever. Rather than slip into upper harmonic feedback, the tone remains focused on the note’s fundamental, and all notes sustain with equal ease. The P-90s gave punch to the pick attack, making it sounds as if the guitar’s signal were split two separate amps—one for solid attack and another for fat sustain. An amazing experience from an amazingly versatile guitar.–Discontinued product.