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Kenny V

Heritage Guitar Tour

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Well I'm headed to Kalamazoo Michigan this Friday for a free tour of the Heritage guitar factory. It got me thinking, if a handful of old Gibson craftsman got together and made Heritage guitars in the original Gibson factory with the old Gibson machines, I'm willing to bet that they make a fantastic guitar the old fashion way, with skilled craftsman. I do not own a Heritage guitar yet, but there is a strong possibility that I will in the very near future. I would like to hear from the Forum members who own Heritage guitars, what they think of them, and how they compare to a Gibson. I am most interested in their H-535 and H-555 double cut semi hollow body guitars.

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For some reason, I thought Heritage had folded. Obviously I was mistaken.

 

I've never owned one, but there was a local music store in my area that had two of them hanging on their wall for several years. They were both Les Paul style guitars. I played them in the store a few times. The neck and frets felt nice and the craftsmanship seemed to be top notch. I assume they finally sold, but this store has not gotten any more in that I've seen.

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No I don't think Heritage have folded but they have cut right back on advertising.

 

I know some people don't seem to like them but for me they are made as a Les Paul should be made (solid body, nibs etc and no silly automatic tuning). I haven't got one but when eventually I am in the market for a standard (as I hope to be one day) I will look at them very seriously indeed.

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I've had two, a 1986 and a 1992 Golden Eagle. Both of them were stunning to look at. The 1986 didn't get played much and it sold in the Corvette Acquisition Guitar Purge of 2013/4. The 1992 had a top that I considered to be collapsed, which is common on X braced archtops. I took a bath on that one. A serious bath.

 

I had a chance to buy a NON cutaway Super Eagle with no electronics, pure acoustic. I regret not grabbing it and trying it out.

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I've had two, a 1986 and a 1992 Golden Eagle. Both of them were stunning to look at. The 1986 didn't get played much and it sold in the Corvette Acquisition Guitar Purge of 2013/4. The 1992 had a top that I considered to be collapsed, which is common on X braced archtops. I took a bath on that one. A serious bath.

 

Unfortunately, my experience has all been second hand as other guitar player buds went through their Heritage phases. All short lived, all four of them ended up with physical problems, usually the fingerboard coming up, and I don't understand why. The one Les Paulalike that I borrowed a couple times was more than underwhelming sound wise, but played nicely. The dealer I knew that had at least a dozen of them ended up losing serious money in a fire sale to get them out.

 

I remember when they started and it was very hopeful times for Gibson fans, but then, the 80s were weird. They claimed, but didn't, hand made guitars, because they didn't use big computer milling stuff. They had a lot of hopeful Gibson players looking forward to well made guitars without lots of gimmicks. In my experience they did not live up to it. They did nearly fold in the early 2000s or so, maybe 05, but got bailed out. I thought they were basically a custom shop these days, I don't see them in shops and I have been in guitar shops all over the country. I know one guy that sells them, he sells me Martins. I was just there in June, he had a few Heritageii, but I didn't even play them.

 

Like Carvin and G&L, in this area of the world they just do not appear. I was raised in a staunchly Fender and Gibson world, and I obviously took it to heart. But I have given everything that has come down the pike a fair shake to see if there was something to anything other than the usual American makers. Hasn't happened yet, Heritage included.

 

rct

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^ unfortunate but well stated ^

 

Thank you. I stayed off this thread at the start because my honest experience with them is easily construed as pooping all over them. I'm not, but I am being honest about my encounters with their guitars. Believe me, if they were any good, I'd own them. I change pickups all the time so that's no problem, they played well enough and looked terrific enough for me to seriously consider them. Bottom line for me is that they just don't hold up. I don't know anyone that has owned one for longer than 5 years at most. The guy that works on mine sums it up with "...I only see them for the setup before the sale...".

 

rct

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I briefly owned two recently...an H-155 (black beauty) and the H-535. The semi-hollow was excellent in every way and gorgeous (no way to compare with an ES-335 though). The LP-style didn't have the Gibson sparkle and chime with it's BB Pros (eerily similar to my EPI LP Custom Pro with Probuckers) so I couldn't bond with it. Sold both. Overall, I think they are every bit as good as Gibsons in terms of quality and aesthetics based on my limited experience as a lefty.

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I've had 3 Heritage guitars in the past and played a handful more. They are nice guitars, like many made over the years. In spite of their pedigree, they were not Gibsons. I seemed to like the semi-hollows but never found a solid body I thought played or sounded up to it's price point.

 

As for Heritage's heritage, IIRC,the company formed when Gibson moved operations to a union-free state and several of the long time employees that didn't want to leave Michigan bought the building, some of the equipment and none of the name. They built pretty nice copies of most of the Gibson line and sold them a bit below Gibson's prices.

 

Last spring the original owner's sold Heritage to a group of investors. The new owners have spent time and energy re-building and re-tooling the old Gibson/Heritage plant in Kalamazoo and are trying to make a new start. New website. New promo strategy. All the great things that come from having new ideas.

 

I haven't played any of the guitars built since the recent ownership change but from what I have heard from friends who have they are doing a pretty good job and if I was looking for a new 335 I would certainly want to try a Heritage 535 for comparison.

 

I've heard great things about the factory tours this summer so I hope you have a great time.

 

And if you do buy one of their guitars I'll be looking forward to a complete review.

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I just got back from my 9 hour car trip to the Heritage Factory tour in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The trip was well worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the factory. A gentleman named Pete Farmer hosted the tour. He is extremely knowledgeable and delightful to listen to. I had taken the Gibson factory tour in Memphis several years ago and the Heritage factory tour was much more insightful, up close and personable and free. You are allowed to take photos during the tour and ask questions at any time. These guitars are made the old fashion way, by hand. There are roughly 20 men and women making these guitars. I also had a chance to meet Jim Deurloo, who had worked for Gibson and decided not to move to Nashville, and was one of the founders of Heritage Guitars. It was neat walking through the factory knowing that Gibson and Epiphone guitars were made there from the early 1900's until 1984. I was also fortunate to play four different Heritage semi-hollow double cut away guitars at the factory. My main guitar is a Gibson ES-335. The Heritage H-535 and H-555 play as well as my Gibson ES-335. The neck on the Heritage is a little thinner than my Gibson. I believe that I will be purchasing a Heritage guitar in my near future. If you are ever near Kalamazoo, Take the factory tour. A side note. Factory tours are on Wednesday and Fridays by appointment only. The company is under new ownership and the factory is going to be renovated very soon.

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Hamer_zpsk7vza1k1.jpg

My Hamer is as good as any Gibson, Fender, PRS. I think its ridiculous that Fender closed them. Perhaps a guitar billionaire should buy Heritage and Hamer

(from Fender) and build the greatest guitar co ever.

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That's a pretty Mirage, dude. I'm a big USA Hamer fan too. But I'm afraid that ship was sunk and will not resurface in my lifetime. [cursing]

Heritage is different. Not owned or controlled by FMIC, who had to kill off Hamer because they didn't want to sell guitars of higher quality than the ones they had their name on.

I probably won't buy another Heritage any time soon. But it will not be because of any lack in craftsmanship or quality or because I have to wonder where it was made.

Edited by dReit1

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...Not owned or controlled by FMIC, who had to kill off Hamer because they didn't want to sell guitars of higher quality than the ones they had their name on.

 

Really?

 

rct

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Heritage is different. Not owned or controlled by FMIC, who had to kill off Hamer because they didn't want to sell guitars of higher quality than the ones they had their name on.

 

I don't think Hamer conflicted with Fender. They're more like Gibson. I think it was just that they didn't make enough profit. I also think that they could be resurrected by a conscious luthier and a rich backer.

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