Washburn HB36 Vintage review

  • £499
  • $689

A new semi-acoustic with a historic look

Image 1 of 4 Washburn HB36 Vintage
The faux-aged antique brown finish gives the HB36 a serious dollop of inherent vibe
Image 2 of 4 Body
Image 3 of 4 Bridge
Image 4 of 4 Headstock

Our Verdict

A very good semi-acoustic. Well priced, and with lovely tones, and it doesn't matter too much if you ding it!


  • Individual look. Tons of vibe. Versatile tones. Good price.


  • Faux ageing - faging - will always divide opinion among players.
Buying options

Contemporary ES-335s are put together at Gibson's Memphis Custom Shop facility, and can cost a pretty penny. We've seen ES-335s available for £1,699 online, and even less than that if you fancy buying blind from overseas, but as internet prices rise to around £2,249 for a genuine '59 reissue, the market for guitars that are close to the equivalent in spec, yet much lower in price, has always been fertile.

Washburn's HB Series has been in business for quite a while now, and this version of the flagship HB36 features the same faux-aged antique brown finish that gave the Washburn J600 archtop a serious dollop of inherent vibe.

"The impact of the ageing has been improved by the utilisation of off-white binding, much more in-keeping with how a genuine 1950s semi would discolour"

That je ne sais quoi is also present here, and the impact of the ageing has been improved by the utilisation of off-white binding, much more in-keeping with how a genuine 1950s semi would discolour than the bright white strips used on the J600.

The hardware is more mottled than anything else, and the distressed gold plating of the bridge, tailpiece, pickup covers and tuners gives, if anything, a steampunk flavour. However, it looks the part and, if you feel sufficiently brave, you could even break out the wire wool to age the metal still further.

Woods used include a top of laminated spruce rather than the traditional maple, plus a solid-maple centre block and laminated flamed maple for the back and sides. The grain and figuring is subtly apparent throughout, especially on the rear of the body.

Washburn states that both the scratchplate and knobs themselves are ebony, but on closer inspection, we'd wager that the material used is actually wood that has been stained; the front face of the guard has certainly been artificially blackened. This isn't a major concern, especially considering how rare the wood is these days, and we're satisfied that the fingerboard at least is made from ebony.

With a shallow D profile, the feel of the maple neck isn't quite as full as Gibson's current take on the 'slim taper' of the early 60s. It's more modern than that, and the low action of this review model makes it extremely comfortable to play.


"There is enough wood in the tone of the HB36 to make it suitable for the majority of semi-acoustic styles"

It's certainly not as full and rounded as the Gibson ES-335 we had on hand for direct comparison, but there is enough wood in the tone of the HB36 to make it suitable for the majority of semi-acoustic styles; 60s popsters, for example, will be very pleased with the brightness on offer.

Full-throated chords on the bridge pickup cut through well when used with gain, as do single notes for solos. The neck humbucker offers a lively account of that position when compared with the Gibson ES-335, which can be a real boon for making notes articulate fully in jazzier styles.

The guitar is balanced and comfortable when strapped on, and minor details such as the convenient side-mounted jack socket and efficient tuners more than make up for niggles concerning the somewhat dry fingerboard and patchy fretwork. Overall, we're very happy to report that it does sound as good as it looks.

With prices of Gibsons lying well north of the £2,000 mark, we'd assume that for many, the desire for a well-priced and nicely made classic-style semi, with a decent range of tones means they'll be happy to consider candidates bereft of that much-lauded marque.

At £499, the HB36 Vintage is a contender, and one that has the - admittedly less pricey - Epiphone Dot squarely beaten; less so the better-spec'd Sheraton, perhaps. This is an impressive semi with added visual mojo that's well worth seeking out if you're in the market for lots of semi-hollow fun for not much cash.

Tech Specs

Scale Length (Inches)24.75
No. of Frets22
HardwareDistressed gold-plated tune-o-matic-style bridge and stud tailpiece, Grover tuners
Country of OriginChina
String Spacing (In)2.05
String Spacing52
Weight (lb)7.77
Neck MaterialMaple, glued in
Left Handed Model AvailableNo
Back MaterialLaminate flamed maple
Top MaterialLaminated spruce top
Circuitry Type3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume and tone
NutSynthetic/43mm (1.69")
Sides MaterialLaminate flamed maple
Scale Length (mm)628
Weight (kg)3.51
Fingerboard MaterialRosewood
Pickup TypeWashburn 623 (bridge) and 621 (neck) humbuckers with distressed covers
Body StyleDouble-cutaway semi-solid electric
Available FinishAged Vintage Sunburst