What the hell, you might ask, do I want with a semi-acoustic? After all, you might add, I'm not a besuited jazzman, sat on the terrasse of a Parisian cafe, blowing the froth off a cappuccino and annoying the waitresses by whistling John Coltrane's My Favorite Things.
At this point, allow us to interject. While the semi-acoustic format is a mainstay in jazz circles, there's no reason why the polo neck brigade should have all the fun. Rocker, bluesman, indie jangler or fret-mangler… find a good semi and you'll never look back.
If we're going to slap anyone's back for the semi-acoustic, let it be former Gibson boss Ted McCarty. Back in 1958 - prior to which Gibson had traded in hollow guitars - McCarty hit on the concept of a thinline jazz model that combined hollow 'wings' with a solid wood block running down the middle.
The theory was to fuse the tonal depth of a solid body with the sustain of a hollow body, and the result was the legendary Gibson ES-335, the daddy to which all other semi-acoustics aspire. There's just one thing about the ES-335: at £2,000-plus, it's bloody expensive. Not everyone can spend that on a big box of air, so we want to know if it's possible to get superior semi performance on a budget.
Opening up an internet browser is a bewildering experience. Semi-acoustics. Thousands of them. It quickly became clear that we would have to slap some criteria on this, so we set an upper limit of £400 and turned to our mid-price heroes. We want cheap, but not nasty. First stop was the Washburn HB30 (£279), a semi-acoustic of some repute, and hopefully the latest example of the Chicago luthier's lightness of touch in the lower echelons.
With that in the bag, we turned to the 335-style contours of the Vintage VSA555 (£359), before dragging this round-up into the new millennium with the funky zebra vibe of Adam Black's HS Centre (£219). Finally, we requested the presence of the Peerless Wizard (£399) - a slightly pricier model and something of a wild card - and the none-too-shabby First Act CE530 Delia.