I fell for this model from « Thotho », it looked great and the 84 user reviews on their website tended to confirm this impression. A ordered a B-stock for 155€… it wasn’t much, but there still had to be seen whether it would meet my expectations.
I received it perfectly set up. A quick look confirmed how beautiful and well-finished it was. As an owner of several guitars in all price ranges for 20 years now, it really looks like a 400€+-model. It seems sturdy and all. You can spot a tiny excess of glue at the neck’s junction into the body but it’s hard to notice. Original strings are d'Addario std.
As for its specs : mahogany body and neck, maple fingerboard, quality traditional binding (very regular), gold hardware, HBZ active pickups and tuners which I suspect to be Grovers (we’ll get back to it later).
Enough introductions, let’s now plug it into my Line 6 XT live (metal setting). I tune it and the first chord is enough to send other low- to mid-range guitars (up to 500€ in price) back home! The pickup’s precision and character are unbelievable, each sound is perfectly heard, no false note, the sound is heavy and clearly not here to piuck flowers up. Pop addicts, thou shalt not pass: this axe is here to destroy it all!
Let’s not get excessively excited though : compared with my Les Paul, it’s still less preciuse, less warm-sounding too but what an attack and output level ! I suppose thest active pickups are made by Wilkinson and like its namesake it provides two blades – and how sharp they are! Even though I own several guitars with Gibson, SH4, EMG or (7-string) DiMarzio pickups, this one still stands out with its own character – and it sounds clear. Please keep in mind that these pickups don’t equal the others I’ve mentioned, still they’re very surprising. As for the neck pickup, it’s a bit precision-lacking, still it brings a little warmth. Together, they offer balance and coherence, but not enough to get really excited. The bridge one is a huge surprise. The sole apparent flaw is an important hiss, the shielding is really bad – I’ll have to have it done again. In clean sound, it’s the other way around: while the bridge pickup (although clean-sounding) is just average, the middle one offers a nice sound palette and the neck pickup sounds round, powerful and warm.
The neck is pleasant, I’d say it’s a 60s C profile. It’s easy to play, even though the frets are still a bit fresh (you can feel the differenc with e.g. a Les Paul), it’s up to par with an Epiphone and honestly the same as an LTE ec 331… which is way more expensive. Not to say they’re out of the same factory, but… Especially when you know that the one where this HB model is built has been here for 40 years and has manufactured for Epiphone, Ibanez, LTD and so on.
The guitar is heavy, almost the same weight as a Les Paul. I take it as a sign of quality.
Line 6 amps are nice, but i consider them to modify the sound too much. So i brought it to rehearsal to use it with my tube head (with a 4x12 cab), and my positive initial impression was confirmed with a really clear, precise, razor-sharp sound. I played it syanding, its very balance is nice and in 3 hours i never had to retune it (hence the reason I believe them to be Grovers).
So let’s not spend more hours on this axe. Who is it aimed at? Well, everyone! A gift from Heaven for the poorer guitarists, and if you’re after a good-looking, Eclipse-style guitar that’s well-made and pleasant, it’s made for you! All this for 155€, yes, you said it: unbelievable. Years ago you had awful things for the price, while this one is clearly about to become my official secondary guitar.
Of course I have no idea how reliable it will prove. Perhaps 4 years from now its frets will be worn, the neck will be twisted? No idea, but if it were the case for such a price I’d certainly buy a new one.
To conclude, this HB L-1000 (mine in in black/gold finish) is a great instrument for a rather low price. It can easily compete with just any Epiphone, LTD or Ibanez guitar under the 400€ mark. If you love rock, hard rock and/or metal it’s a real bargain. I give it a 5-star rating in spite of its cons, as for such a price…
- overall building
- weight and balance
- astonishing active pickups
- set, mahogany neck
- precise tuners that do stay in tune even after several hours
- very well set from the start
- made for rock & metal
- pickup shielding is a joke (huge hiss)
- low-quality nut
- molded knobs are badly done
- not a very versatile instrument
Here we go!
PS: i’ve changes the knobs as they were badly molded and ugly. I’ll record something when i have the time.
EDIT on 06/22/16 : after a few months using it, the guitar has not changed, the frets have aged normally and many of my friends who had an opportunity to play it were astounded. I even played it live. Just one thing I’ve remarked, the neck pickup lacks precision due to a heavily excessive output level. Setting the pot allows to change that, still without making it an exceptional pickup. All in all, I’m still quite happy with my purchase and would almost buy a second one!
EDIT on 11/17/2016: I’ve been using it for 8 months now, so it’s time for a more exhaustive review.
First, the tuners: I’ve remarked that they’re getting weaker and weaker (which was to be forecast) and I have to re-tune the guitar more an more often. It doesn’t like aggressive bends. I’ll still stick to my initial opinion which was that they’re good overall, I believe the weather of my home region (I live in the cold Savoie mountains) may influence that and the short travel from home to rehearsal and back requires these days a tiny readjustment.
Second thing, the pickups : that’s a common problem with active puckups, but their output level makes them barely usable outside of metel territory. Still, you almost get a passive pickup sound in (heavily) diminishing the volume. Then, you get different sound colors, the neck pickup gets more creamy in clean, the bridge one more punkish and sharp (even if you lose sustain along the way). I still intend to replace them someday, but don’t hesitate to play with the volume knob to see what they can do.
Nothing else has changed, the neck is still as pleasant (and straight), the C60 profile is perfect for small fingers and the guitar is always as balanced as it was.
I’m planning to put better tuners on it and replace the pickups (probable by Gibsons or EMGs) in order to make it a second guitar for live.
I’m still recommending its purchase for beginners and advanced players, and those who already tour a lot and are after a good secondary guitar to complement their main axe will find it quite useful, provided they operate the aforementioned upgrades.