MGR/Dennis Beck (aka beatlit) 01/30/2002

Washburn HB35 : MGR/Dennis Beck (aka beatlit)'s user review

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As a lifelong Gibson player who made the switch to a Telecaster a little more than 10 years ago, I had felt for some time the call of the flat, rosewood fretboard. This hit hard when my son picked up an Epiphone Emporer II and I began searching in earnest for an archtop. I had never owned a semi-hollow body and decided that the Epiphone Dot would be sufficient for an alternate, because I never intended to replace the Tele as my main gigging axe. I had the Dot for one day and sent it back. After owning two ES-175's, an SG Standard and an L-5, I couldn't live with the fit, finish and electronics of the Dot.

My eye turned towards an Epiphone Sheraton, but the new guitars were out of my price range and the used ones that I found were beat. It was during that search that I discovered the Washburn semi-hollowbodies, the HB-30 and the HB-35. The HB-30 had better craftsmanship than other guitars in it's price range, and came equipped with the Buzz Feiten tuning system as a standard feature. The translucent red finish on the flame sycamore top makes it a real eye-catcher, too.

I thought my mind was completely made up when I found a brand-new HB-35 for sale by Brian Goff at Bizarre Guitars in Madison, WI. He had a drop-dead gorgeous blond HB-35 that was right at my target price (around $500). I snapped it up and was floored by the deep flame, the flawless binding (everywhere), the bright work, and a really well-designed bridge and tailpiece...not just a Tune-O-Matic clone, but a really well thought out and machined rig (I can't verify this, but I believe it may be manufactured by Schaller. There is a small, swirly "S" on each of the saddles).

Then I plugged it in and....oops! The Korean pickups were not happening for me. The bridge pickup was fine, but the neck pickup was beyond dark. It was awful. You could get a nice range of tone by balancing the two of them, but forget about using the neck pickup on it's own. I immediately replaced them with a set of Schaller Golden 50's (the pickups Trey Anastasio uses in his custom built archtops and that are standard on Heritage archtops), and everything was right with the world. While the guitar was on the bench for the pickup swap, I was really able to appreciate the craftsmanship. The tone block is a solid mahogany 2x6, which gives the guitar remarkable sustain considering it's all-killer, no-filler hollow ES-335 tone.


Beautiful craftsmanship and tone woods (maple, mahogany, sycamore).
Flawless binding and mother of pearl inlays
Excellent machining and plating on the hardware.
Grover heads. Schaller pickup upgrade (pickup replacement is highly recommended).
Tone, tone, tone. Even the HB series are imported, Washburn has remained true to it's Chicago Blues roots and guitar-making history.
After a great deal of research and comparison shopping, I believe this guitar to be the best 335-style entry in the under $1,000 price range (although the list is slightly higher), and I only paid half that amount.


Korean electronics. Sell the pickups on eBay, get some real pickups and pots. The instrument is well-worth the investment. The fit of the case bothered me, too. I ended up using the Canadian SKB plywood/tolex case that I bought for the Dot and tossing the stock Washburn case in the corner pile of misc. guitars and stuff. It's okay, but the Epi case is just better, and I already had it..

It's really good. No kidding. Photos are posted at http://geocities.com/beatlit/dennis.html

If you can't get a Gibson, Guild or a Heritage, this guitar should be your next choice. It's much closer to the class of those instruments than comparably-priced Epiphone, Hamer, or Ibanez archtops.

This review was originally published on http://www.musicgearreview.com