Hagstrom Impala guitar

Sweden's Hagstrom may not have been at the forefront of guitar design but for a while back in the 1960s, the company did have a following and, particularly in Europe, achieved some success. Originally an accordion maker, by 1958 it had got into the spirit of Rock and Roll and was making its own idiosyncratic guitars. They're much liked by the sort of people who like the design of Italian guitars of the early 1960s but, not to put too fine a point on it, they were much better made and far more playable than most of the Italian rivals. In both cases, however, think sparkly finishes, pearloid plastic and stamped metal logos!

Hagstrom had a number of 'firsts' too - including the first 8-string bass, the H8, which was made a bit of a legend by Jimi Hendrix. They also made a number of semi-acoustic and Jazz models, some of which command quite high prices today on the vintage market. One feature the company was particularly proud of and which is still is in use is its H-Expander truss rod system.

So Hagstrom certainly played its part in guitar history and has been bubbling around once again, since it was reintroduced as a brand a few years ago with a range of models inspired by those 1960s guitars. They are very much aimed at the Indie player who really does not want to be seen with a superstrat, a Fender or a Gibson.

The model we're reviewing here is the Impala, heavily based on a model launched in 1963 - and doesn't it look it? Let's say now that liking the looks of this guitar (or not) is really an aesthetic decision. You either get it or you don't! Our reviews concentrate, as far as possible, on the objective points of a guitar, so we'll leave the decision about whether or not you like the Impala's looks to you.

Pulling it from the case it certainly is a unique looking instrument and one of the first things you notice is the array of switches, leaving you wondering what they all do, and probably whether they are they all necessary! This was a common design 'feature' at the time. European guitar makers decided that the more switches and knobs you put on a guitar the better would-be players thought it was - a design feature which went to some pretty absurd lengths at times! Mind you, Fender might have caught a dose of the same bug at the time when they designed the Jaguar and Jazzmaster, so no one was immune.

The finish on our sample was of a pretty high quality though, personally, I'm not a fan of the stamped metal name on the body, but, again, it fits with the 'tradition'. The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard, and it's a set neck - in other words a traditional glued joint, so there's no bulky neck joint to get in the way and the perfect marriage between body and neck. As with all Hagstrom guitars, the Impala uses the company's unique H-Expander truss rod. 'Providing tension at both ends and running the entire length of the neck, the rigid yet light-weight alloy truss rod allows for a very low action and thin neck'

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