Even if you've never heard of the Hagstrom Viking, you've probably heard one in action.
For example, Tim Armstrong of Rancid owns three. The Foo Fighters' Pat Smear has a bunch of them in his humongous Hagstrom collection too, and the Viking was even cool enough for Elvis, with The King playing a red one during his '68 Comeback Special TV show.
While the Viking made its debut in 1965 with a pair of singlecoil pickups onboard, the Rex-Tone version you see before you is closest in spirit to the late-70s twin-humbucker model.
Original Swedish-made Vikings were spec'd with bolt-on necks, but our Chinese-built Rex-Tone has a glued-in neck and a Gibson ES-335-style centre block to enhance sustain and help reduce feedback. Only some of the late-70s models share this feature.
Like all the Hagstrom guitars we've tried, the Rex-Tone has a slim neck. The guitar's H-Expander trussrod is ultra-stiff, which enables the neck to be cut slimly without fear of warping or tuning problems. The neck is also topped with Hagstrom's Resinator fingerboard material, which mimics the tone and feel of ebony.
You've probably noticed that the Rex-Tone has two toggle switches. The one on the guitar's top horn is a standard three-way pickup selector, giving you the bridge humbucker on its own, both pickups, or the neck pickup solo.
The switch on the lower horn is a three-way filter that activates a 'hi-mid cut' in the up position and a 'hi-cut' when flicked down. The middle position bypasses the filter.
Plugging in and flicking the tone filter switch up provides a honky 'parked' wah tone, which sounds particularly effective when you dial in some overdrive.
The hi-cut setting drops your treble frequencies and warms the signal up a bit, which works well for jazzy chords. It also sounds great with filthy 'spitting frying pan' fuzz, and you can pull off some soupy grunge sounds with this setting.
As interesting as the tone filter is, we love the Rex-Tone when it's off too. This guitar has such a fantastic jangle to its high-end that it's almost a shame to mess with it, and the Alnico magnet-loaded humbuckers pump out glorious old-school blues and rock tones too.
Still, we reckon the filter switch is a great feature. You'll never hear us complaining about having too many tonal options.
The choice of good quality, mid-range semis these days is mind-boggling. The Hagstrom Viking Rex-Tone skips the queue thanks to its fantastic playability, the tonal options offered by the filter switch, and a pair of the best-sounding humbuckers you'll find on a guitar at this price.