THIS IS A FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF AN ARTICLE, TYPICAL IN IT'S CRITICAL ASSESSMENT, BY A PROFESSIONAL LUTHIER, AND SOMEONE PAID TO PROVIDE AN IN DEPTH REVIEW OF THE MINUTE DETAILS. I THINK YOU WILL AGREE THAT FOR SOMEONE OF HIS TRADE, HE FOUND LITTLE TO DISLIKE, APART FROM PERSONAL PREFERENCE.
This assessment is made on the
second version model with revised bridge and tail - as seen on the Hagstrom UK
Swede and SuperSwede
Delft is a Luthier and Instrument repairer.
TEST ON: Hagstrom Scandi Date:
December 1977 Price: £263 ex VAT UK
The Hagstrom Scandi could be said to come into the category of instruments which, overall, have a resemblance to a Fender Strat, but are different in most of the finer points of design. My own opinion is that some of the differences in design are for the better and some for the worse. But it is possible that someone else might feel exactly the opposite about both categories, and that a third person might not notice the difference.
Broadly speaking, I think the woodwork is very good, both in design and workmanship, and the lacquer finish excellent. I find the Scandi graceful to look at and pleasant and easy to play. With the exception of the machine heads, the fittings are well made and carefully designed and the internal wiring and screening has been carried out with rather more thought than is often found inside guitars.
The frets give the appearance of having been polished smooth but, on close examination, some of them have a slight roughness on the top surface. The final polish seems to have been obtained by buffing with a mop, and not by fine honing of the surface. The difference between the two processes is difficult to see, but easy to feel when one tries to bend strings. This slight roughness in new frets is quite common even in some of the most expensive guitars, and is probably the origin of the tradition that frets and/or fingerboards require "playing in". Although I feel the process of finishing the frets by honing the top surfaces is preferable and, if done properly, produces frets which do not require "playing in", on this review sample the finish on the frets is certainly above average for a high quality "production" guitar. In any case, I would expect the slight roughness to disappear within a couple of weeks' playing.
I was intending to say that the sound of this guitar was a little disappointing — and so it was with the strings supplied by the makers. They were clean and looked almost unused, but the improvement when I fitted different ones was considerable, and significantly affected my assessment of the instrument as a whole. I could more easily understand this if the old strings or the frets showed signs of slight wear, but that was not so. 1 do not think this sample has been played very much by anyone, and the old strings were. clean and un-worn, even underneath. I doubt whether the average customer has time, or even opportunity, to put fresh strings on the instruments in his favourite music shop, and I think it would be in Hagstrom's interests to check whether others of their instruments have similar strings. If so, it would be worthwhile to change them. (The strings I used were Dan Armstrong no. 2. Ernie Ball Super Slinky or Guild E.220 Sidebenders would be equally suitable but a little more expensive).
After changing strings, I listened again to the guitar's sound. It was much improved. The pickups have a similar output and tone to the Di Marzio 'Fat Strat' which I temporarily attached in place of the middle pickup. The Hagstrom units have a little more warmth and a little more high treble, and a little less middle "voicing" than the Di Marzio. The differences are sufficiently small to be a matter of taste. However, at least one of the Hagstrom pickups had a tendency to feedback at one high note. This problem may be exaggerated by the mounting of the pickups directly on the scratchplate, but Strat pickups are fitted this way and seem to be less liable to feed back. I think it is more likely that the problem lies in the design of the pickup.
The Scandi has three pickups, arranged roughly in the same positions as on a Strat, one volume control level with the bridge pickup, and three tone controls, one for each pickup. The pickups may be selected, in any combination by a bank of three rocker switches, level with the middle pickup. There is also a single switch on the bass side of the plate which cuts out the entire guitar. This is not a very common feature on electric guitars. If it is well away from the other switches (this one is) it can't do any harm and it could be of great value to a musician, for instance in a night club band, who has to do many short spots in an evening, with no opportunity to set levels. The volume control can be left at a suitable setting, and the entire guitar silenced with this switch.
As the pickups are not humbucking, if you intend to put the guitar down on the amp or very close to it, it would be a good idea to use this switch, or to turn the volume right down, before doing so. This is not a criticism of the Scandi; the same would apply to a Strat, Tele, most early Gibsons and a few new ones. There is an additional problem which arises from the fitting of both pickups and selector switches on the same scratchplate. The selector switches used are a group of three 'snap action' rocker switches, and in any combination of pickups, the whole plate assembly is sufficiently microphonic to reproduce the mechanical noise of the switches, through the pickups and amplifier. This amplified "plink" may be more or less obtrusive, depending on the settings of volume and tone controls on guitar and amp. It can be made insignificant by careful operation of the switches, but how many people would pay attention to switch-operating technique in the middle of a gig? While on the subject of switches, I can't say that I like the control system on this guitar. The usual Fender-type selector switch has its limitations, but its simplicity is one of the points which makes the Strat such a good design. I can appreciate that some players want more than three tone settings, and one can now purchase a 5-position version made in Japan. The Hagstrom switches are black, on a black scratch-plate, and do not indicate clearly from a playing position, whether they are on or off. I believe these switches were originally intended for the front panels of domestic entertainment equipment. If they are to be used for pickup selection, at least they should have their indicator dots on the end of the rocker, facing the player. It would also be desirable, in my opinion, to isolate either pick ups or the switches from the scratchplate — preferably the pickups.
One of the simplest ways of dealing with the tendency to feed back and the noises from operating the switches would be to wax the pickups and restrict the cavity routed in the body to the mini num necessary for clearance of controls, pickups and wiring. This would mean three small channels under the pickups instead of one big hole. The scratchplate could then be screwed down to the bits of wood in between the pickups. That combination should stop the feed back — and the switch noises. On present models, screwing the plate to the back of the guitar through spacing blocks should help quite a bit.
When the guitar was delivered, fitted with its original strings, the top three “creaked” in the nut. My replacement strings do occasionally “click” during tuning, but the problem is no longer serious. I do not know whether the exact gauges of the strings or their surface finish is critical, or whether some residual oil on the new strings lubricated the bottom of the slots. The nut seems to be made from Acrylic plastic which some times does “creak” a bit. Graphite in the slots usually provides sufficient lubrication, but it looks untidy on a new guitar, and is not often used.
The Scandi is fitted with metal- bodied Schaller machine heads. It must be said that not all Schaller machines work as smoothly as they used to, I have accumulated several sets of slightly rough ones in the last year or so. On this sample, the top three machines do not feel smooth in operation and at least one should really be replaced. Regrettably, it is my experience that such machines do not often improve with use. This is not really Hagstrom’s fault, but I am disappointed that they were not noticed, either by Schaller or by Hagstrom.
The bridge and tailpiece on this instrument (THE LATER OF THE TWO VERSIONS IN THE HAGSTROM UK COLLECTION) are very much like the ones fitted to the Hagstrom synthesiser guitar. The tailpiece even retains the electrical isolation between the strings necessary for that instrument. It may be that Hagstrom have other reasons for anchoring each string separately to the body, but I think it is probably convenient to use the same tailpiece on several guitars. It is probably not quite so easy to fit strings 2, 4 and 6 as it would be with a straight, one-piece string block, but I got all but one of the strings in first time, without looking. There is a comfortable hand rest/cover over the tailpiece assembly which does not interfere with fitting the strings, although it does obviously make it more difficult to see what you are doing. The bridge has individual octave adjustment on each string and overall height adjustment at each end of the bridge frame. The strings rest in turned grooves in small metal barrels each of which is fitted into a movable support sitting in the bridge frame. These supports can be moved back and forwards in the usual way by the intonation adjustment screws. (In the bridge for the synthesiser guitar, the barrels are made of a clear hard plastic, to preserve the isolation between the strings). The string grooves on this sample are made accurately and all but the top string sound cleanly. In the case of the top string, the original string fitted, and a Galli replacement did not vibrate quite cleanly: the present Armstrong string sounds completely clean. Make of that what you will. It could have been dust under the string, or the finish on the string, or a slight variation in diameter which happened to be critical com pared with the dimensions of this groove. It could even be two consecutive faulty strings. I would put my money on irregular plating on the first two strings, but it might be a good idea to re-shape the top string groove, to permit less critical tolerances.
To adjust the height of the bridge, one must first remove the two small locking screws and stirrups over the bridge pillars. After this the pillars can be raised or lowered by turning with a large screwdriver. The bridge has small spurs at each end, which sit into grooves on the flanges which support it. It is still possible to turn the bridge pillars against the interlocking spurs and grooves, but it is highly unlikely that the adjustments, once set, would be altered by string vibration. However, in case this should not be sufficient, the two small locking screws and saddles clamp the bridge spurs firmly into the opposing grooves and lock the whole bridge solid. Is it possible that Hagstrom have had trouble with loose bridges at some time in the past?
In case this all seems too complicated, the small screws at each end of the bridge are NOT for bridge height adjustment: they are for locking the adjustment. The adjustment screws are underneath them.
The Scandi is set up with a slight angle between the neck axis and the front of the body. This is quite intentional, and I find such instruments more comfortable than those with necks exactly in line. The neck appears to be screwed on, but it is also glued securely and will not “creak” or shift its setting. Apart from the plate for the three neck screws, there is (on the back of the body) a small black plastic stud. I cannot be sure of its purpose, unless it is intended to protect the back from scratches when placed on a flat but gritty surface. It could alternatively be covering a location hole for some sort of assembly jig.
There is a slight buzzing on the lower strings of this sample. Surprisingly, this is probably caused by the slots in the nut being too high. If the slots were lowered, and the bridge raised a little, the action measured at the 12th fret would be the same, but the effective string clearance would be increased a little. Opinions vary about the optimum setting of necks with adjustable truss rods, but I would be inclined to slacken this one about a quarter-turn, to give the lower notes on each string a little more clearance.
One final point of interest concerns the number of frets. I have carefully counted the frets on a Strat and found 21. The Scandi has 20 frets, and nearly enough room on the end of the finger- board for another one. It may or may not be of interest to you, depending on whether or not you expect to use the 21st fret. On the other hand, few people find a Strat unplayable because a Les Paul has 22 frets.
I should mention two final points about the Scandi. Firstly, the instrument is fitted with two strap buttons at the bottom of the body, If you insist on leaning your guitar against the side of the amp when you are not using it, two strap buttons at some distance apart, gives it two feet to stand on, and makes it unlikely to twist round and fall over. Secondly, the fingerboard is made from Maple with a clear lacquer finish. The rest of the guitar, including the neck is made from Ash. Ash is not normally used for guitar necks. I had considered the possibility some years ago, and rejected it because of the difficulty of obtaining a smooth curved surface on this timber. Hagstrom seem to have overcome this difficulty, as the neck is very nicely shaped and finished. I did not reject Ash for necks on any grounds of stability or durability; it is a very tough and stable wood if carefully selected.
The Scandi looks good, feels good, and sounds good. Its controls are a little confusing and, in my opinion, would benefit from a slight re-think. The whole pickup and scratchplate assembly is too microphonic for my liking, but it can easily be put right. Hagstrom necks carry a 10-year guarantee, which is honoured by the English agents without any “it will have to go back to the factory” rubbish, and that represents a considerable security to the customer, and if you should have trouble with a neck, the replacement automatically starts its own’ 10-year guarantee term. That’s service for you! Hagstrom obviously have great confidence in their products. If they can do something about the points mentioned above, I think the Scandi will be a sound and reliable instrument and offer good value for money.
Measurements on Hagstrom Scandi No. 53014053
Scale length 647mm
String spacing at bridge 55mm
String spacing at nut 36mm
Fingerboard width at nut 42mm
Action as supplied 1mm treble/ 1.2mm bass some buzzing on lower strings
Lowest action under standard conditions 1.8 treble/2.lmm bass
Lowest ‘standard’ action after adjusting nut and neck 1.4 treble/2mm bass
Reproduced with permission for
Hagstrom.org.uk April 2003 - All rights reserved, All copyright acknowledged
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|There's nothing like a REAL original Swedish made Hagstrom (and there are loads around), but if it 'floats your boat', or you can't find an original then who are we to say?|
Plenty has been said already and