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Hagstrom Viking Deluxe: Class Plus Flair
The spacious tone, endless sustain and elegant looks of a Gibson ES-335. We all want it, but few of us can afford it. Some Epiphones come close, but erratic quality control is an issue, and off-brand clones are even more of a crapshoot. So, how do you satisfy your expensive tastes?
Enter the Hagstrom Viking Deluxe. Yeah, that’s right: Deluxe. It’s a classy guitar, folks. But while an ES-335 has a sophisticated, refined style of its own, a Viking Deluxe is for those of us that like a little extra flair.
Looks & Design
It starts with the design. From the emblazoned trapeze tailpiece to the equally flashy headstock and art-deco tuners, it’s clear that Hagstrom put a lot of thought into the aesthetics of these Viking reissues. In fact, the only differences between the regular Viking and the deluxe are cosmetic. The deluxe models have a pearl block inlay instead of a dot, and a flame-top finish that adds a little more character.
Of course, it’s not all about looks. The Viking Deluxe features some top-shelf hardware, including a long travel tune-o-matic bridge and a Graph Tech Tusq nut. The body and neck are both maple, and the fretboard is made of Hagstrom’s synthetic Resinator material, which has the bright tonal characteristics of ebony.
The neck also features the H-Expander, a lightweight alloy truss rod that enables you to adjust tension at both ends of the neck. These truss rods come standard in all Hagstrom guitars, allowing for low action and a thin set-neck without any warping. Gibson players will likely need some time to acclimate themselves to the Viking Deluxe’s slim neck profile, which is comparable to most Fenders.
In terms of tone, you’re working with two Hagstrom HJ-50 humbuckers, controlled by a three-way toggle and four knobs (two tone, two volume). The HJ-50s aren’t bad as far as stock pickups go. They lack some of the low-end of a Gibson Classic ’57, but are nonetheless warm, mellow, and noiseless. I have no plans to replace them.
All this can be yours for $700-$800 new, and a few hundred less if you’re buying used. How are these guitars so cheap? Well, since Hagstrom resurrected itself in the early ‘00s, they’ve begun production in China. But forget your preconceptions about Chinese-made guitars; the Viking Deluxe plays and looks so great that it might as well say “Made in America” on the headstock (or made in Sweden, as the case may be).
[rating:4] Tone: 4
[rating:5] Looks: 5
[rating: 4.5] Comfort/Playability: 4.5
[rating:5] Hardware: 5
[rating:5] Value: 5
From form to function, there’s no doubt that the Viking Deluxe is one killer axe. The H-Expander neck is a plus for those of us who are used to slimmer profiles but want the increased sustain that a set-neck provides. The pickups, while not perfect, have a warm 335-esque tone that you can tweak to your liking using the two tone knobs and three-way pickup selector. Add to that the unique tonal character of a semi-hollow body, and you’ve got yourself a $3,000 guitar for well under a grand.