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Behind the façade of pigtails and flat-packed furniture, the Swedes are a nation of rock pigs, exporting the planet’s fastest shredders and its most underrated guitar brand. Ruined by the Far Eastern copy boom in 1983, and resurrected in 2006, it’s been a bumpy ride but Hagstrom reckons this “little monster” will “grab the competition by the neck.”
Hagstrom prides itself on physical flair, and with some justification, because despite familiar full-frontal contours the Swede is slimmer than a LP and plays faster, with the H-Expander truss rod resulting in a flat, thin, fast profile whose low action requires a mere tickle to sound notes.
It’s not a ‘shred’ axe; to describe it thus would do a disservice to the clean tone, which is fat and proud, and the frayed, bottom-heavy old-school Zep swagger that is delivered at more ‘classic’ overdrive levels. Shredders may struggle to get a razorblade lead tone without splitting the coils (a mere gripe).
We love the Swede: it’s a cool model by a cult hero that will get your bandmates crowding round in rehearsals and knock them out when you start playing. No £399 guitar is perfect: this could use more bite at the bridge and its slim body costs you sustain. But we think you’ll hold onto the Swede as a spare or live axe as you progress.
Not bad for a week’s wages.
Pros: Versatile tone, feel, vintage looks.
Cons: A bit more bridge bite needed.
Buy: Hagstrom Ultra Swede is currently available from Thomann