Heritage H-535 Classic

On the bottom of this page you’ll find some links to clips of the H 535 Classic @ home. Working with a live band the 535 shows its versatility because you can switch from sweet rhythm to scorching leads just by turning up the volume. Turning down the volume doesn’t change the quality of the tone as so often happens with guitars where you seem to lose all of the low frequencies. Of course you get some deep vibes from the air chambers but I can control these pretty well by turning down the bass on my amp (Fender Dual Showman and less so on the Carvin Legacy Combo). Because it has a solid maple centre block you actually play a guitar which covers both the sounds of a solid body and those of a hollow guitar without the feedback problems of the latter.

The 335 concept as developed by Gibson in the 1950s has resulted in a very beautiful rhythm guitar with fast acceleration from smooth jazz to fat leads. Great in small jazzy ensembles with keyboard, bas, drums and vocals but also very good for blues or any pop music.

Plenty of classic sounds you’ve heard in numerous songs from pop to soul to rock to fusion to jazz. Most of the time you don’t know who made these noises but you know them. Lovely surprises déjà entendu when you play and improvise.

If you have a good overdrive stomp box it reacts to the amount of pressure you give the strings e.g. when playing soft arpeggios you get just a little bit of crunch and vice versa. Remember the Beatle arpeggios from Abbey Road? (I want you and You never give me your money or Badge from Cream’s Good-bye album, played by George Harrison. Eric Clapton played a Gibson ES335 in the final stage of Cream’s existence). That is just what this guitar can do. I’ve never owned a guitar that allowed these moderately crunchy arpeggios without getting me into a mess. (My stomp box is a Full drive 2® by Fulltone USA)

I’ve used both 0.11 and 0.10 string sets (GHS Boomers). This type of guitar is built for a somewhat thicker string gauge. The scale length of semisolids allows for a higher gauge set of strings to be used without turning your fingers into bleeding stumps.(John Scofield uses 0.13 on his Ibanez AS200 so I’ve still got some development in string bending ahead!)

Neck: D-shape; one piece mahogany (on the sides of the head stock two small strips have been glued to allow a little more space for the tuners; 22 frets; rosewood fingerboard; mother of pearl dots; cream double binding (on front and back of body) and on the sides of the neck.

I’m not sure if the 535 has a ‘long neck tenon’ as it is called in vintage circles. The more expensive custom shop Gibson 335 types do have it. As visible on the outside of the body, my H-535 neck reaches all the way up to the edge of the neck pick up.(see the picture on the top left) It couldn’t be longer, I’d say. Read more about the neck tenon on my H150 page. Heritage have no secrets about the insides of their instruments as the picture below (from their website) demonstrates. No extreme tenon in this H 555 model in the making.

Also note on the above picture how perfectly the sides of the frets are covered by the binding. The frets themselves are well dressed using a Plek machine. This is a computer controlled fret alignment system and it may be responsible for the many positive reviews Heritage get for their fretwork. For details about this device visit Heritage.

Tuners: Grover Rotomatic.

Body top & bottom: laminated arched curly maple; sides (rim): solid curly maple (Gibson uses just laminate); solid maple centre block - all the way from neck to the strap lock at the bottom, but with space left for the pick ups; wooden pick guard. One would wish these guitars were of solid carved wood instead of laminate, but tonally it makes too little difference and it would make them very expensive. Of course the traditional thin nitro-cellulose is used to protect the wood.

Pickups: Seymour Duncan SH-1 (’59s) see: Electric Guitar Pickups-Seymour Duncan/Basslines

3-way switch; 2 volume & 2 tone controls. When the two pick ups are both selected (switch in middle position), the volume pots both will turn down the total volume. If you want a mix of pick up sounds you turn one volume pot open and the other one should at least be set to 1.

Gibson style stop bar and fully adjustable Tune-o-matic bridge (‘Nashville’) Made in Germany, so most probably Schaller. Replaced both (2011), just to try something else. Now I have ABM 2504N and 3020N which seem to have been ‘milled from a block of solid bell brass’. First impression: no change in tone or sustain, although the ABM stuff is well made and of solid quality.

Plastic nut. Weight is 3,62 kilos or 7,980 lbs.

Every now and then I have some tuning problems with G and B strings, but on some nights I don’t even touch the tuners. Temperature? The tuning stability on 335-style axes can be a trifle eccentric, to say the least - they’re a bit like classic cars. As it seems my H535 gets better as it gets older.

I’ve had one 1980s dot Gibson ES 335 in my hands with the same natural brown finish and compared to that one the lustre of the Heritage was stunning! (And mine isn’t even a so called AAA top.) We’ll have to see if it stays like this in the next 20 years.  (Both guitars sounded more or less the same and the feel of the Gibson was not  really different).

Some sound examples and a little video.