Hagstrom is a well-known and respected musical instruments brand that focuses mainly on guitars and basses, but their roots date back to 1925 when they were building accordions. It was not until 1958 that their first electric guitar came out.
In this Hagstrom Viking Standard Review, I will walk you through every feature and detail of this amazing guitar that has served me through countless gigs, recording sessions, rehearsals, and a music degree.
I have had it for over 10 years, upgraded a few components, and I don’t think I will be parting ways with it anytime soon. Please take into account that in the pictures you’ll see, the guitar does not have its stock pickguard on, as I’ve removed it some time ago.
The Hagstrom Viking is a semi-hollow electric guitar that is aesthetically pleasing, well-built and capable of performing well in a myriad of genres such as jazz, blues, funk, rock, stoner and everything in between.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for metal and other extreme genres, but it can do it better than many other semi-hollow guitars that I have tried before.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Hagstrom Viking Standard is an excellent guitar that I would recommend to anyone who likes semi-hollow guitars with a classic vibe, but without compromising on versatility.
You can play with distortion and fuzz pedals without crazy amounts of constant feedback, and its clean and overdriven tones can go anywhere from sweet, full and round to a screaming, cutting tone that will easily be heard in any mix.
The dual HJ-50 humbuckers compliment the guitar very adequately and although I have been curious about replacing them, I haven’t ever felt a real need to do it because they sound great.
I’ve used it with British amps, American amps and everything in between with clean, overdriven and distorted sounds, and it has never let me down. Its acoustic sound is fairly loud, and it has a very decent sustain.
You can depend on the Hagstrom Viking for a plethora of music genres ranging from jazz, country and blues to hard-rock and stoner.
Hagstrom Viking Standard Main Features
The Hagstrom Viking Standard has a semi-hollow body design. This means that instead of being completely hollow, it has a center block made of solid wood that goes from the bottom of the instrument up to its neck.
The sides of the guitar are hollowed out, and feature f-holes. This is what gives semi-hollow guitars their distinct tone, acoustic sound, and other properties. This design allows you to play with overdrive and distortion a lot more comfortably than with a hollow-body guitar, which will go into feedback very soon.
The Viking Standard comes equipped with a pair of Hagstrom’s HJ-50 humbuckers. These pickups were designed in Korea, and I strongly feel like they go extremely well with this guitar.
They are not muddy, you can clearly hear each individual note as you play them even when using overdrive, which is a big plus for any pickup. The neck pickup can get really warm, especially if you roll off some of the highs with the tone knob.
The bridge pickup is well-balanced, being able to produce bright and cutting tones that aren’t too shrill. Playing more around the bridge area with your pick will give a more twangy sound that works great in lots of contexts.
Hagstrom also uses these pickups on a few of its jazz-oriented models, such as the HJ500 hollow-body. Some players have commented that they sound similar to the Gibson Classic 57 pickups, but not as hot.
I haven’t changed the pickups on my Viking, but I have changed most of the electronics over the last 10 years, such as the pots and the capacitors. I was able to improve the way they interact in comparison to stock, and now I can really make the most out of the volume and tone knobs when crafting my sounds.
One of the things that I like the most about my Hagstrom Viking is how well it stays in tune.
I haven’t changed the tuners (who would want to change these gorgeous Hagstrom-designed machine heads?), but I have replaced the stock nut with one made of bone which was made by a close friend of mine. Regardless, it was still able to stay in tune very well before that upgrade.
This is something that makes me relax a lot more before a gig, since worrying about going out of tune just before your most important solo is one of the worst feelings ever when you’re playing.
Having a good setup is also mandatory if you expect your guitar to play comfortably and hold its tuning well. When I first bought mine, the setup was decent, but it could still do with a few adjustments. Once I took it to my trustworthy luthier, it was playing better than ever.
Resinator Wood Fretboard
Resinator wood is found only on Hagstrom guitars. It is a wood composite material that is meant to feel and sound similar to ebony while avoiding some of the issues that they frequently have.
Some of the advantages of this material when compared to traditional ones include a more uniform and stable fretboard, as well as a very solid and consistent feel.
At first sight, you might not even notice that it isn’t a regular fretboard, and that is what Hagstrom was going for: to give you the right feel, friction and look as high-quality ebony for a lower price and additional perks.
Fast and Comfortable Neck
The neck on the Hagstrom Viking Standard is one of my favorite aspects of this guitar, and it is one of the necks I enjoy playing the most. I don’t usually like chunky necks like the ones you see on some Gibson SGs (often referred to as baseball bat necks), but very thin necks feel uncomfortable to me.
The Viking’s neck has a very comfortable profile for my hand and grip, whether I am playing chords with long stretches, melodic lines, power chords, you name it. It is somewhat narrow, which lets me hold it in different ways, something that might come in handy if I want to mute my 6th string with my thumb, or even fret notes with it.
Even though Hagstrom’s website doesn’t state what neck profile they use on the Viking Standard, I would describe it as a C-shape neck profile.
It is also very fast, the smooth finish allows you to move freely across the fretboard with no issues at all.
H-Expander Truss Rod
The H-Expander Truss Rod is another one of Hagstrom’s innovations in the guitar industry. This new type of truss rod is meant to be significantly more effective than its traditional counterpart by applying tension on both sides of the neck.
Think of the regular truss rod as a cylindrical beam, and of the H-Expander as a rail, similar to what you see on train tracks. By running the full length of the neck and applying tension more efficiently, what you get is a more stable neck, more sustain, and an easier time when setting up the guitar for low action.
Complete Specifications of the Hagstrom Viking Standard
You can check the full specifications of the Hagstrom Viking Standard below:
- Body Type: Semi-Hollow
- Body Wood: Ply Maple
- Neck Joint: Set Neck
- Neck Wood: Canadian Hard Maple
- Truss Rod: H-Expander
- Fretboard Wood: Resinator
- Fretboard Radius: 15″
- Inlays: Pearl Dot
- Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
- Scale Length: 24.75″ (628mm)
- Nut: Self-lubricating Graphite Composite Nut
- Nut Width: 43mm
- Tuning Keys: Hagstrom 18:1 Tuners
- Pickups: 2 x Hagstrom HJ-50 Humbuckers
- Pickup Switch: 3-Way Toggle Switch
- Bridge: Long-Travel Tune-o-Matic Style
- Controls: 2 x Volume, 2 x Tone
- Others: Hagstrom Trapeze Tail Piece with Hagstrom Crest
- Included Case: No, optional hardshell case (Hagstrom C55) or gigbag (Hagstrom E25)
Pros and Cons of the Hagstrom Viking Standard
Let’s take a look at some of the things I love the most about the Hagstrom Viking.
These are the reasons that make me pick it up so often, even though I have other guitars available (some of them more expensive than the Viking).
After that, we will go over the things that I like the least about it.
At the moment, my three main guitars consist of the Hagstrom Viking, a Gibson SG and a custom-made Stratocaster. If I had to say which of these guitars can cover more ground, it would be a close call between the Viking and the Stratocaster.
However, if I had to pick only one to take with me on a random gig or studio session, I’d probably go with the Viking.
It can get those smooth, round jazz clean tones easily with the neck pickup and the tone knob rolled off a little, it does overdrive and crunch extremely well on both positions, and I am comfortable using it with stacked gain stages or an aggressive fuzz pedal, since its center block significantly helps with the feedback.
The only thing I would really like to have on it would be coil-splitting, so I could get an even bigger variety of sounds.
Solid Construction, Tuning Stability
For the last 10 years, my Hagstrom Viking has proven to be a very well-built instrument, needing only a regular setup from time to time to ensure that it is ready to be played anytime.
The truss rod never needed any major adjustments, but I am also careful about keeping my guitar under conditions that won’t damage the wood a lot. Other than that, I have just lubricated the nut with every string change, cleaned the fretboard, and not much more.
It is able to maintain its tuning for a long time, even if I am bending the strings a lot. This gives me a lot of peace of mind when it is time to pick a guitar for a gig.
Although I have changed parts on other guitars specifically to improve tuning stability, I have never done the same to my Hagstrom, and it costs a fraction of what some of my other guitars cost me.
There are many guitar brands that offer models resembling the classic Gibson ES-335, often with their own twist. Nevertheless, I find many of them a bit bland or not as interesting as the Hagstrom Viking.
Even the Standard model has visual features that are certain to grab people’s attention, such as the unmistakable Hagstrom headstock, their exquisite tuners, the binding, and the trapeze tailpiece with the Hagstrom crest.
Of course, looking good isn’t everything, and I would rather have a boring-looking instrument that sounded like a million dollars than have the opposite. Fortunately, the Hagstrom Viking Standard has got both!
Some of the other Viking models currently on Hagstrom’s catalog are even more eye-catching in my opinion, such as the Hagstrom ’67 Viking II, which features a marvelous flamed maple top, a slightly different tailpiece, retro-looking pickups and block inlays, giving it an overall groovier look in my opinion.
No Hard Case or Gigbag Included
For its current price, I strongly believe that Hagstrom should include either a gigbag or a hardshell case with the Viking. Semi-hollow guitars have slightly larger dimensions and are also more fragile, so I wouldn’t compromise on protection.
When I bought mine, it did come with a hardshell case, but they do not anymore. I am currently transporting it almost daily inside a Mono M80 Vertigo case, which works perfectly for me, since I’m out and about a lot. Since I can comfortably carry it on my back, it is convenient to take it with me on the subway or when riding my bicycle.
Knobs, Pots and Wiring
In terms of the knobs, pots and electrical wiring inside this guitar, I can’t say that I am 100% satisfied or impressed. The knobs do feel a bit cheap, and once I had the potentiometers and capacitors changed, I noticed a pleasant change in how I could use the volume and tone knobs to carefully craft and adjust my tones.
Furthermore, once I took this guitar to my luthier for the first time for a general revision, he commented that there was an unusual amount of wire inside the guitar, which he ended up replacing to achieve a cleaner inner cavity. It might be nitpicking a little, but I think it is worth mentioning.
Can’t Install Push/Pull Knobs for Coil-Splitting
My biggest “disappointment” with the Hagstrom Viking Standard is the fact that I can’t easily install a pair of push/pull knobs for coil-splitting.
This happens because the stock HJ-50 pickups do not feature four-conductor wiring, which is absolutely necessary to install coil-split. It is also a requirement if you want to have phase switching or parallel/series switching, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about modding any of your guitars.
Since the HJ-50 feature single-conductor wiring, replacing them with a four-conductor design pickup would solve this issue. If someday I really want to have coil-split on my Hagstrom Viking, getting a different pair of humbuckers would be an appropriate solution.
Other Guitars to Check Out as Alternatives to the Hagstrom Viking Standard
Even though I love my Hagstrom Viking to bits and I would not hesitate to recommend it to any of my guitarist friends, there are almost countless choices when browsing the web for a good semi-hollow guitar across every price range.
Check the list below if you would like to see some of my favorite semi-hollow guitars that would make for a great Hagstrom Viking Standard alternative.
Guild Starfire I DC
The Guild Starfire I DC is one of my favorite affordable semi-hollow guitars currently on the market. For just under $600, you can get a guitar that not only looks tremendous but also performs more than decently for its price.
Guild has higher-end models with better materials and more features, but I would be very comfortable gigging or recording with this one.
One of my favorite features included in this guitar is the coil-split, allowing you to get single coil sounds out of the HB-2 Alnico II humbuckers, designed by Guild. It is something I would like to have on the Hagstrom Viking, so I can’t help but notice it on this one.
The neck is comfortable to play and hold with its modern thin “U” profile, and it is easy to access the higher frets for those blazing solos. Its mahogany center block also helps with keeping feedback at bay when you turn up the gain, but I wouldn’t use this guitar for extremely saturated tones.
You can find the Guild Starfire I DC for a price of around $550.
The Epiphone ES-335 pays tribute to one of Gibson’s most legendary guitars, and you can get it for a very fair price. Available in a cherry red and a sunburst finish, this semi-hollow guitar comes equipped with a pair of Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers, perfect for blues, classic rock and many other music genres.
Both the top and the rest of the body are made of maple, as is usual with ES-335 models. The neck is made of mahogany and the fretboard is made of Indian laurel. The neck has a rounded “C” profile, which feels comfortable to play for extended periods of time.
The 60’s style Kalamazoo headstock gives it an even more genuine vintage look. If you are a fan of Alvin Lee, Chuck Berry, Larry Carlton, Freddie King or other notable ES-335 players, you will love having this guitar in your collection.
You can usually find the Epiphone ES-335 for a price of around $600.
Ibanez AS93FM Artcore Expressionist Series
Ibanez has an extremely varied catalog of semi-hollow and hollow guitars. Many world-renowned artists play them, such as George Benson, John Scofield, or Pat Metheny, and the truth is that they offer an amazing price/quality ratio. The AS93FM Artcore Expressionist Series is no exception to this tendency.
Its looks grab anyone’s attention, with its gorgeous flamed maple top, back and sides. Other notable details include the binding on the body, headstock and fretboard, which give this guitar a really classy vibe.
The pickups are a pair of Ibanez’s Super 58 humbuckers, which are capable of going from warm and mellow to bright and crisp with no effort. I would be comfortable taking this guitar with me on recording sessions which require me to be able to come up with a variety of tones that could sometimes be difficult to obtain with a single guitar.
Another feature worth mentioning is the Quik Change III tailpiece. Paired with an ART-1 bridge, string changing is fast, easy, and you shouldn’t have any problems adjusting the strings when setting up your instrument.
The Ibanez AS93FM Artcore Expressionist Series can be found for a price of around $700.
PRS SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow
Although this is probably the semi-hollow guitar that is the most different from all the others on this list of suggestions, I still think it deserves to be mentioned, since it has a lot to offer for under $900. If, however, you are dead set on getting a double-cut guitar that is similar to the Hagstrom Viking or the Gibson ES-335, then this one is not for you.
The PRS SE Custom 22 comes with two 85/15 S passive pickups that can be coil-tapped for an additional layer of sounds that you can get from this guitar. It only has a master volume and a master tone, unlike ES models that tend to have 2 of each.
You can expect clarity and definition from these pickups, which sound just as good with clean tones as they do with overdrive and distortion.
Its body is made from mahogany with a maple top, and it features a mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard. As you can expect from PRS Guitars, you get the iconic Bird inlays.
The PRS SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow can generally be found for a price of around $880.
D’Angelico Premier DC w/ Stopbar Tailpiece
D’Angelico has become one of my favorite brands lately. I loved trying out some of their newer solid guitars, but the ones that really stuck with me were the semi-hollow models, such as the Premier DC.
It looks amazing with the classic D’Angelico headstock and the Rotomatic Stairstep tuners, but this guitar is much more than just great aesthetics.
Its Duncan-designed humbuckers (HB-102 on the neck and HB-101 on the bridge) are ready to tackle anything you throw at them, delivering a punchy, clear and full-bodied tone every time. Unfortunately, there is no coil-split available on this guitar, but you can still get a very wide range of sounds as it is.
Other interesting details include the mother-of-pearl block inlays, cream binding and an included D’angelico gigbag.
You can find the D’Angelico Premier DC with Stopbar Tailpiece for a price of around $900, which makes it my favorite semi-hollow guitar that you can get for less than $1000 from this list.
Ibanez JSM20 John Scofield Signature
Whether you are planning on playing silky smooth chords or cranking a good overdrive pedal to play some fusion lines, the Ibanez JSM20 will be equally pleasant to play. John Scofield’s signature guitar is made with great attention to detail, and it is one of the signature guitars that I appreciate the most.
The pickups in this guitar are a pair of Super 58s, John’s preferred model for his guitars. You can get a myriad of tones from this instrument thanks to a Tri-Sound switch for the neck pickup. It allows you to toggle between series, parallel and coil-tap. This degree of control is not available in many guitars, even at this price range.
The body and top are made from maple. It has a mahogany/maple neck, and an ebony fingerboard which feels extremely comfortable to play. On top of that, the Abalone block inlays look perfect and complement the guitar tastefully.
Other noteworthy features include a bone nut, an ART-1 bridge and a hardshell case.
The Ibanez JSM20 John Scofield Signature can be found for a price of around $1100.
Schecter Guitar Research Corsair
Schecter Guitars wouldn’t normally be on my radar when it comes to semi-hollow models, but that is mainly because they are more frequently associated with other kinds of instruments and music genres. For me, the Corsair changed that idea for good.
It doesn’t come with the most pleasant price tag, but you are getting a great instrument that manages to balance classic elements with modern traits beautifully, aside from sounding as good as it looks. My favorite visual trait is its natural maple finish, but it is also available in black and in gold.
In the electronics department, this guitar comes equipped with a pair of Schecter Diamond ’78 humbuckers, which sound good, but I believe that it would benefit from an upgrade. Something more similar to a PAF-style pickup would be my first choice.
Some of its noteworthy features include an ebony fretboard with pearloid block inlays, a Graph Tech XL Ivory Tusq nut, Grover Rotomatic tuners, and a vintage tremolo that can add another layer of mojo to your sound. Just don’t go too crazy on it, as it isn’t as stable as other modern tremolo systems.
You can find the Schecter Guitar Research Corsair for a price of around $1300.
D’Angelico Excel Series DC w/ Stairstep Tailpiece
Be prepared to watch some heads turning when you show up to the gig with a guitar as gorgeous as the D’Angelico Excel Series DC with Stairstep Tailpiece. This is one of their flagship models, full of interesting features that players of all kinds will appreciate having, as well as stunning aesthetics.
D’Angelico has gone with flamed maple for the body and top of this guitar, and a combination of maple and walnut for the neck. The fretboard is made of Pau Ferro, and features mother-of-pearl inlays and medium jumbo frets.
The pickups are a pair of Seymour Duncan SH-1N ’59s, one of my favorite models from this brand. Apart from being remarkably versatile as they are, you can go even further and use the coil-split on this guitar to get even more tones out of it.
The neck is comfortable to play for a long time with its slim “C” profile, and access to the higher frets is also quite comfortable for a semi-hollow guitar. It also features a hardshell case for protection and transport.
You can find the D’Angelico Excel Series DC with Stairstep Tailpiece for a price of around $1700.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about the Hagstrom Viking Standard
Question: Is the Hagstrom Viking Suitable for a Wide Variety of Music Genres?
Answer: Yes. With the combination of a semi-hollow body and a pair of HJ-50 humbuckers, the Hagstrom Viking Standard is ready to tackle pretty much anything you throw at it.
You can play anything from clean to intense distortion without worrying about getting too much feedback. A few of Hagstrom’s jazz guitar models also use these pickups, so you can expect to get some warm, round clean tones when you need to.
Question: What Guitars are Good Alternatives to the Hagstrom Viking Standard?
Answer: Nowadays there is a very wide range of choices for those who are looking for a nice semi-hollow body guitar. Here are a few of my favorite alternatives to the Hagstrom Viking Standard:
• Guild Starfire I DC
• Epiphone ES-335
• Ibanez AS93FM Artcore Expressionist Series
• D’Angelico Premier DC
• Ibanez JSM20 John Scofield Signature
• Schecter Guitar Research Corsair
• D’Angelico Excel Series DC
Question: Which Guitarists Hse/have Used Hagstrom Guitars?
Answer: Hagstrom guitars have caught the attention of many notable musicians. The most famous example is probably Elvis Presley, who often used a Hagstrom Viking when performing. Here are a few other artists that play Hagstrom instruments:
• Dweezil Zappa
• Pat Smear (Foo Fighters)
• Wisborg (Konstantin Michaely)
• Alex Howard (Hoodie Allen, Sleeping With Sirens)
• Anreas Klemens (The Satellite Year)
• Beto Grammatico (Salta La Blanca)
• Eddie Reyes (Taking Back Sunday)
• Taylor York (Paramore)
• Tezz Roberts (Discharge)
• Chris Catalyst (Eureka Machines, Sisters of Mercy)
Closing Considerations about the Hagstrom Viking Standard
The Hagstrom Viking is not just another Gibson ES-335 copy. It has lots of innovative features such as the H-Expander truss rod and the Resinator wood used on its fretboard. Visually speaking, it has a lot going on too, with its gorgeous tuners, double binding and its signature trapeze tailpiece with the Hagstrom crest.
The neck plays very comfortably, and the pickups are well-balanced and suitable for a very wide variety of musical genres, making this guitar excellent for the studio and players who are in multiple bands that play several different styles.
One thing that I am not too fond of is their choice of electronics, such as the pots and capacitors, but this is an easy and affordable upgrade that will make boost this guitar’s value even more.
My Hagstrom Viking Standard has been with me for over 10 years, and I am happier about having bought it with each passing day!