Hutchins has been around for a few years, but in 2016 the company was revitalised and, along with a new range of UK-designed/Chinese-made electrics that debuted at this year’s Frankfurt Musikmesse, the company has opened a custom shop in Bubenreuth, near Nuremberg, in what was the original Karl Höfner factory building.
Falling under the self-coined ‘Retro Sexy’ moniker, Hutchins - like Italia, Dusenberg and Reverend, for example - draws on the funkier side of 50s and 60s guitar design.
This Shade 1 uses the Les Paul Special-inspired early 60s Höfner 162 as a start point and mixes up the ingredients to create something a little different. The single-cut design (hence the 1 designation; Shade 2 is a double-cut single-pickup version) is slightly downsized in width from a Les Paul - 320mm across its lower bouts. It centres on a Gibson-like scale length (627mm/24.69 inches), but with a lightly back-angled six-in-a-line headstock.
The solid body is alder and the set-neck is maple, a more Fullerton vibe than Kalamazoo. It has a light weight (3.39kg/7.5lb) and feels very vintage-y, like some pawn-shop prize you discover in the dusty corner of a guitar shop. The new CITES legalisation on the import and export of rosewoods means many makers are looking at alternatives.
For its fingerboards, Hutchins has switched to Blackwood Tek, which looks like a shiny rosewood, with visible wood ‘grain’. It’s an eco-friendly FSC-approved material that uses New Zealand Pinus radiata (known as Monterey pine) as its start point, which is impregnated with various resins and compressed but remains “a sustainable product made from organic materials, free of phenolic resins and other petroleum products”, we’re told.
With a boutique-y humbucker/P-90 pickup configuration and a three-way toggle pickup selector between the knurled-knobbed master volume and tone, it’s about as simple as it gets.
The neck adopts a full ‘C’ shape. The supplied setup is smart, as are its sounds. The bridge ’bucker has a healthy hot-PAF-like output and really works on this platform, not least that it’s placed further from the bridge than most, giving a slightly fuller, less sharp voicing. It suggests classic rock rhythm, garage grunge and rootsy bump ’n’ grind and proves excellent for slide.
It’s contrasted by the neck pickup with its ‘hot Strat’ tonality: nicely vocal with some crunch at lower gains, but clarity, too. The fuller, snappier mix is quite Tele-like and through a clean Fender amp makes for a funky, soul rhythm sound. All of this is bundled up with good playability, that light weight and an inherent musical resonance.
There’s a lot to like here: a smart build, light weight, and it’s strong on resonance with sounds that belie its ‘impulse purchase’ price (complete with gigbag). It’s proof you don’t have to spend mega bucks to find a perfect semi-pro guitar that you don’t have to worry about at a gig. Plus, it’s an ideal platform for you modders out there.