Hutchins shade 1

Guitarist - - Contents -

Hutchins has been around for a few years, but in 2016 the com­pany was re­vi­talised and, along with a new range of UK-de­signed/Chi­nese-made electrics that de­buted at this year’s Frankfurt Musikmesse, the com­pany has opened a cus­tom shop in Buben­reuth, near Nurem­berg, in what was the orig­i­nal Karl Höfner fac­tory build­ing.

Falling un­der the self-coined ‘Retro Sexy’ moniker, Hutchins – like Italia, Dusen­berg and Rev­erend, for ex­am­ple – draws on the funkier side of 50s and 60s gui­tar de­sign. This Shade 1 uses the Les Paul Spe­cialin­spired early 60s Höfner 162 as a start point and mixes up the in­gre­di­ents to cre­ate some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

The sin­gle-cut de­sign (hence the 1 des­ig­na­tion; Shade 2 is a dou­ble-cut sin­glepickup ver­sion) is slightly down­sized in width from a Les Paul – 320mm across its lower bouts. It cen­tres on a Gib­son-like scale length (627mm/24.69 inches), but with a lightly back-an­gled six-in-a-line head­stock. The solid body is alder and the set-neck is maple, a more Fuller­ton vibe than Kala­ma­zoo. It has a light weight (3.39kg/7.5lb) and feels very vin­tage-y, like some pawn-shop prize you dis­cover in the dusty cor­ner of a gui­tar shop.

The new CITES le­gal­i­sa­tion on the im­port and ex­port of rose­woods means many mak­ers are look­ing at al­ter­na­tives. For its fin­ger­boards, Hutchins has switched to Black­wood Tek, which looks like a shiny rose­wood, with vis­i­ble wood ‘grain’. It’s an eco-friendly FSC-ap­proved ma­te­rial that uses New Zealand Pi­nus ra­di­ata (known as Mon­terey pine) as its start point, which is im­preg­nated with var­i­ous resins and com­pressed but re­mains “a sus­tain­able prod­uct made from or­ganic ma­te­ri­als, free of phe­no­lic resins and other petroleum prod­ucts”, we’re told.

Sounds

With a bou­tique-y hum­bucker/P-90 pickup con­fig­u­ra­tion and a three-way tog­gle pickup se­lec­tor be­tween the knurled­knobbed mas­ter vol­ume and tone, it’s about as sim­ple as it gets. The neck adopts a full ‘C’ shape. The sup­plied setup is smart, as are its sounds. The bridge ’bucker has a healthy hot-PAF-like out­put and re­ally works on this plat­form, not least that it’s placed fur­ther from the bridge than most, giv­ing a slightly fuller, less sharp voic­ing. It sug­gests clas­sic rock rhythm, garage grunge and rootsy bump ’n’ grind and proves ex­cel­lent for slide. It’s con­trasted by the neck pickup with its ‘hot Strat’ tonal­ity: nicely vo­cal with some crunch at lower gains, but clar­ity, too. The fuller, snap­pier mix is quite Tele-like and through a clean Fender amp makes for a funky, soul rhythm sound. All of this is bun­dled up with good playa­bil­ity, that light weight and an in­her­ent mu­si­cal res­o­nance.

Ver­dict

There’s a lot to like here: a smart build, light weight, and it’s strong on res­o­nance with sounds that be­lie its ‘im­pulse pur­chase’ price (com­plete with gig­bag). It’s proof you don’t have to spend mega bucks to find a perfect semi-pro gui­tar that you don’t have to worry about at a gig. Plus, it’s an ideal plat­form for you mod­ders out there. [DB]

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