Proudly handcrafted in the USA since 1985, Heritage Guitars are a great testament to fine, impeccable guitar building. Heritage guitars trace their lineage back to one of the biggest names in the guitar world – Gibson, whose heyday in the 50s saw many guitars change the landscape of music culture. The guitars are even made like the originals of that era – nitrocellulose lacquer, long neck tenons, traditional tonewoods, beautiful bursts, the list goes on.
Impressive as those features may be, the one thing that makes these guitars even more special is where they are being made today. Heritage Guitars reside and build their guitars at the 225 Parsons factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Does that name ring a bell? That’s the original Gibson factory which saw the birth and production of the many historic guitars like the Les Paul and ES-335.
Gibson decided to move their production over to Nashville in the mid-eighties and a number of then-Gibson employees refused to make the move. They went on to become the founders of Heritage Guitars in 1985, in the very building that they’d been working at as far back as the 50s.
When you have guitar builders with that level of experience and know-how and many of the original guitar-making equipment, you get instruments that exhibit the same spirit and panache of those that came out the door 60 years ago. It’s not an overstatement to say that owning Heritage guitar is owning a unique piece of music history.
Here’s a rundown of some models in the Heritage Standard Collection, which you can now find at Swee Lee.
The H-150 bears all the hallmarks of the holy grail Les Pauls of the 50s.
The first thing to catch the eye is the beautifully figured and vivid carved maple tops. Sourced from Michigan, the thick maple top gives the H-150 great sustain and projection. The one-piece mahogany body is not weight relieved, maximising sustain and tone, and is hand-selected to maintain a light weight.
The guitars that were originally made in the same 225 Parsons factory were built with a long neck tenon. Heritage has chosen to continue building their guitars with a long neck tenon, which further contributes to the guitar’s already fantastic sustain. The rosewood fretboard comes as standard, and features the traditional mother of pearl trapezoid inlays.
Heritage has also gone to lengths to pick the right pickups for the H-150. The humbuckers chosen to power the guitar are Seymour Duncan’s ‘59s. The ‘59s are a throwback to the original PAFs whose tone became so legendary. Retaining the same classic PAF-esque clarity and top-end brilliance, the ‘59s also bear modern sensibilities like wax potting to prevent unwanted microphonics. What’s even more incredible, is the fact these pickups are wound on Seymour Duncan’s Leesona 102 pickup winding machine, which once wound those fabled PAFs in the 225 Parson factory in Kalamazoo.
The H-150 was also awarded the coveted Platinum Award for Excellence by Guitar World and you can read the full review here.
There’s always an appeal to minimalistic design and the H-137 is a perfect example of how less can be much more.
The H-137 is a single cutaway, one-piece mahogany, solid body electric guitar. There is no figured maple top, binding or pickguard. But what it lacks aesthetically, it makes it up in spades with tone and attitude.
A pair of Lollar P-90 Dogear pickups are fitted on the H-137, which are scatter wound with de-gaussed Alnico 5 bar magnets. This gives players a versatile set which give a throaty, fat, and clear tone.
Heritage have also included an iconic finish as an option for the H-137 – TV Yellow – a finish that came as standard in many of the 50s Les Paul Specials.
The archetype semi-hollow guitar, Heritage’s H-535 is a timeless guitar, loved by many for that unmistakable tone and classy looks.
Using the same tried and proven formula, the H-535 is built with a top and back of laminated curly maple and a rim of solid curly maple. Running down the middle of the body lies a solid center block which acts as a mount for the pickups and hardware and improves sustain. The block also makes it possible to play at higher gain without the feedback issues associated with hollow-body guitars.
Heritage have once again gone with Seymour Duncan for its humbuckers, but gone with a pair of Seth Lovers for the H-535. Slightly lower in output than the ‘59 set, the Seth Lovers are built to near-exact specifications to the original 50s PAF humbuckers. Wound on the original Leesona 102 winding machine too, the Seth Lovers sing with every note and are the perfect choice for those who love the vintage, warm and bell-like tones of the 50s humbuckers.
The input jack is mounted at the side of the guitar instead of at the top, which would be a welcome change for many semi-hollow players.
The H-530 shares the same body and woods as its H-535 sibling, but that’s about where their similarities end. The H-530 is a thinline full hollow-body guitar that’s built with the same laminated maple top and back, but lacks the solid center block. Its fully hollow construction allows for an open, resonant tone that’s loved for its warmth and light weight. Instead of a stop bar tailpiece of the H-535, Heritage have chosen a period-correct trapeze tailpiece.
The H-530 features the same impeccable set of Lollar P-90s used on the H-137, offering a different tone thanks to its fully hollow construction. Its smooth treble and rich low end, with strong, clear mids make it stand out for jazz, but it certainly has got the growl whenever you need to let your hair down.
The Heritage Custom Shop
No expert guitar builder leaves out the statement pieces from their repertoire, and if you’re one for drop-dead beautiful quilted maple tops or elaborate fretboard inlays, the Heritage Custom Shop is where you will find such instruments. Built by master luthiers with decades of experience, the Custom Shop represent the pinnacle of guitar building, paired with premium and exclusive materials.
If you’re interested in building a one-of-a-kind custom Heritage, you can place your order at our By Appointment Only Boutique. Email us here to design your masterpiece with us.
Head down to Swee Lee to give these incredible examples of guitar building mastery a try and find out for yourself why Heritage Guitars are loved by many passionate guitar players, professional and hobbyists alike. You can also check out our collection of Heritage Guitars online here.