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February 26, 2008 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Which semi-acoustic guitar should I buy?

I've been browsing through guitar listings for several days now and my brain has turned to jelly trying to figure out which semi-acoustic I should buy, so I'm turning to the hive mind.

Here are my data points:

* I already have a bass, a Fender Jazzmaster and a Burns DoubleSix 12-string. I want a nice semi, preferably with humbuckers, mostly for noodling around in the house but also for mucking around learning to play blues properly, which I've never done.

* I want something that's basically like a 335, as traditional looking as possible, with a decent acoustic sound and a nice fast neck.

* I've had great luck with Korean guitars so I'm not opposed to stuff made in the Far East.

* In terms of price, it's 'under $2000' but really I'd rather spend less. The high end would only be justified for a guitar that was going to hold its value or increase (eg a factory Gibson).

* I mostly play through a Fender Twin or into Guitar Rig, but I've been thinking about getting one of those 5w micro tube amps.

* I really like the budget-boutique manufacturers like Eastwood, Reverend, Hagstrom, and so on, but it's almost impossible to demo them round here.

* My shortlist at the moment includes the Epiphone Elitist 335 (but I don't like the natural color), the Gibson 339 (but I'd prefer something bigger), the Reverend Manta Ray (but I'd prefer a traditional shape), the Eastwood Classic Six (but maybe it's too twangy?) and the Hagstrom Viking Deluxe (but what does it sound like?) and similar.

What would you suggest, hive mind? I'd prefer to buy in Canada. I'm not obsessed about playing one before I buy and I can do my own electronic repairs and set-ups.
posted by sweet mister to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total)
I used to have a regular Epiphone Dot, and it was a pretty decent guitar for the money. I'd probably have ended up upgrading some of the electronics eventually, had I kept it (sold it to upgrade my acoustic guitar).

Have you considered the Sheraton Elitist? It's basically the same body as the 335, just with the mini humbuckers instead of the full-size. There's also the regular Sheraton II, which has the full-size pickups.
posted by sbrollins at 12:38 PM on February 26, 2008

I've got an Agile AS-1000. Probably the best six-string I've ever played, although I'm primarily a bass player.
posted by Plug Dub In at 1:38 PM on February 26, 2008

I haven't played any of your short list except the Gibson, but I would say in general, Epiphone is a really good value. I play a Rickenbacker 330, a Mexican Strat, and an Epiphone Alley Kat and the Epiphone is really my preferred instrument. Double humbuckers, action's not bad, neck is a little wider than I want but played through a Fender Deluxe, it screams. And the fact that it's the cheapest guitar I've ever owned blows me away. I have a friend who is a professional electrician, specializing in repair of music equipment who gushes about the quality of Epiphone.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:32 PM on February 26, 2008

Gibson 175?
posted by mattoxic at 2:41 PM on February 26, 2008

If you're looking for a 335 type guitar, I've had excellent luck with Ibanez's Artcore line. I have an AS93 and it's just fantastic sounding. It's by far the cheapest guitar I own, and after a year or two of owning it I still liked it so much I figured I'd go buy a "proper" 335. After an afternoon of trying out various Gibsons I went home empty handed, as none sounded any better.

I would not say that it, or any semi-hollow bodied guitar I've ever played, had a very good acoustic sound, however. Its acoustic sound carries a bit farther than a solid body, of course, but I've found that in the archtop world the more you start worrying about unamplified sound, the more you'll start dismissing the mass-produced Asian instruments, and prices start to jump very quickly.

The best sounding (acoustically) smaller-bodied archtop I've played was a Gibson ES-446, but they're discontinued and used are a bit outside of your price range usually. But even then if you want a proper acoustic archtop sound you will find it unconvincing, and no f-holed archtop will sound like a flat top, if that's your thing.
posted by mragreeable at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2008

I can't recommend the PRS Spruce Hollowbody model highly enough. The longer you own it, the more the sound opens up. If you get one with the Piezo option, you've got two guitars in one: full electric and an awesomely emulated acoustic. As a bonus, you can mix both sounds together so it'll sound like two guitars at once.

If price is an issue, keep searching until you find an opaque finish, without the fancy curly maple they're known for. "Moons" inlays in the neck instead of their famous "birds" will also save you a considerable amount. And stay away from gold hardware, as you should on all guitars. Gold's an unnecessary upcharge for a soft metal which always wears away.

If price is still an issue, Paul Reed Smith also offers a South Korean-made SE Custom Semi-Hollow model. Their entire SE line has received much praise for the price points.
posted by Lucy2Times at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2008

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