Heritage Standard Collection H-535 review: A classic American guitar that’s even more 335 than a 335
The current occupants of the old Gibson factory are in no hurry to change… but does this sophisticated semi live up to its legacy?
The story of Heritage Guitars is a unique one in modern instrument making. This is the young brand with old pedigree, famously founded by a number of ex-Gibson employees who didn’t want to leave the historic Kalamazoo factory when the company left Michigan for Tennessee in the mid-80s.
Since launching its first guitar at the 1985 NAMM show, Heritage has produced relatively small batches of impeccably crafted instruments that hark back to the previous leaseholders of 225 Parsons Street. Of course, given those origins, it’s no surprise to see a heavy leaning towards the Big G’s designs… including the great ES-335.
Our review model today is the Standard Collection H-535 in transparent cherry. But for the headstock, the pickguard shape and a slight tightening of the ‘ears’, this semi-acoustic looks for all the world like the same instrument that has graced the hands of players from Marty McFly to Eric Clapton and Bernard Butler to Alvin Lee.
Sticking to the traditional recipe, Heritage has used all-maple centre-block construction on the body – laminated on the top and back, solid on the sides – while the neck is solid mahogany. It’s a very comfortable neck too: C-shaped with enough beef on it to keep things interesting.
It’s hardly a shock to see a pair of PAF-style pickups on board here. Both are Seymour Duncan ’59s – always a tasty choice – as is the harness, where we find CTS 500k pots and Vishay .022uF capacitors visible through the f-holes. Smooth tapers here we come!
There’s an airy chewiness to a good 335 that we find immediately present in this Heritage. A twin-humbucker instrument can sometimes lack clarity – but while you’d struggle to confuse this for a Fender voice, there are Webster’s Dictionary levels of definition to enjoy in the bridge ’bucker. Both pickups together is a less immediate success, but the trick with this instrument – as with others of its kind – is in exploring blends of the two humbuckers in order to find the many truly sweet spots along the way.
The neck position, meanwhile, is pretty damned jazzy (not a surprise) and edges happily into ES-175 territory… only without the bulky, feedback-ridden body.
Gently interpolating a Vemuram Jan Ray between axe and amp, we’re rewarded with a stirringly effective blues and classic rock sound – a non-too-subtle reminder of why these guitars have been so favoured for power trio work. Grippy bends are there for the asking and Gallagher-style open chords absolutely roar.
The only elephant in the room is the headstock: while a necessary departure from the traditional design for legal reasons, it does sail very close to budget efforts from the likes of Aria. This is a shame – and reinforces the fact that, in choosing a Heritage over its major competitor, one must either desperately want to play the H-535 or equally desperately want to avoid playing a Gibson. Either way this is a graceful, well-made and thoroughly musical guitar. The rest is up to you.
Note: the Heritage brand has a global sales and marketing partnership with Vista Musical Instruments, which is owned by NME Networks’ parent company, Caldecott Media Group.
- PRICE £2,999 (inc hard case)
- DESCRIPTION Six-string electric semi-acoustic guitar, made in USA
- BUILD Laminated maple top and back, solid maple rim and centre block, mahogany neck with 12” radius rosewood fingerboard, 22 medium jumbo frets
- HARDWARE Locking bridge/tailpiece, Grover tuners
- ELECTRICS 2x Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers, individual volume and tone controls, three-way switch
- SCALE LENGTH 24.75”/629mm
- NECK WIDTH 42.7mm at nut, 52.5mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 22mm at first fret, 22mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 36mm at nut, 51mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 3.5kg/7.7lb
- FINISHES Trans Cherry (as reviewed), Antique Natural, Original Sunburst, Ebony
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- CONTACT andertons.co.uk, heritageguitars.com