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4 Tone Bones - Excellent gear, that exceeds expectations of its performance, value, and quality. Strongly consider purchasing this.

Hamer XT Sunburst

Hamer XT Sunburst

Hamer XT Sunburst Flametop

Summary: Modeled after the Hamer USA Studio, this Chinese-made axe is an affordable alternative to its American cousin. Featuring a solid mohagany body and neck with flame maple top and rosewood neck, the XT Sunburst has a naturally bright voice that’s both versatile and expressive. Very nice build quality.

Pros: Sweet, gorgeous voice at mild breakup levels, but is quite comfortable doing high-gain, which is probably where it’s best applied. This would be a great starter electric guitar!

Cons: Not much inherent sustain, especially in the upper registers where the guitar seems to lose gas. Hamer headstock is huge (that’s just a personal nit)!

Price: $349-$399 street

Specs: See web site

Tone Bone Score: 4.0 – This is not a bad guitar, and it would definitely be something I’d consider as a starter instrument for one of my kids. It’s a nice-looking and with a little work, a nice playing guitar that would be perfect for which to start out a new guitarist.

In addition to being an incredible amp builder, Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps is as much a gear slut as I am, probably more so with guitars. Recently, he made the purchase of a Hamer XT Sunburst that he let me test. I had only played USA Hamer’s in the past, so this was to be my first experience with one of Hamer’s Chinese-made guitars.

Fit and Finish

Taking the XT Sunburst out of its gig bag, I was struck by its looks. It is a very beautiful guitar, and the burst finish really accentuates the flame maple top. It is also extremely light in weight, which is a huge point in its favor. Hamer calls it an “archtop,” but it’s more of a carved top, with gorgeous lines. The body wood is made of two pieces mahogany that look like they came from different parts of the tree. It’s not bad, it’s just kind of funky looking. Overall though, the finish is quite nice.

The neck is an extremely shallow C-shape neck. It felt pretty good in my fretting hand, and made it easy to get around the neck with ease. I love the short neck butt of this guitar, which allows you to reach real high notes without first having to do hand-stretching exercises.

Playability

Here’s where the poor setup that I mentioned above came into play. The action was set pretty high, and lowering the action just a fraction immediately caused some string buzz which means that there’s a bit of a bow in the neck. I confirmed this with a quick spot check. It’s not my guitar so I didn’t want to adjust the truss rod. The high action made it difficult to move with speed across the strings. But mind you, it’s not so bad that the guitar is unplayable. I would suspect that with a good setup, this guitar has the potential to play very nicely.

Sound

Tonally, this is a very nice-sounding guitar. I just wish there was more of it. The thin body and neck don’t provide enough resonance to hold notes for very long, so if you’re looking for a guitar that will sustain for a long time, this ain’t it. The saving grace is the very beautiful voice it does have. Here’s a clip I quickly recorded:

The guitar was plugged straight into the drive channel of my Aracom VRX22. Volume was set at just the edge of breakup. The guitar was recorded dry, and I added just a touch of reverb after the fact.

Like I said, the XT Sunburst has a sweet, bright voice.

Overall Impressions

For a sub-$500 guitar, it’s not bad at all, and as a start guitar, it would be perfect. And as long as you keep your expectations aligned with what this guitar has to offer, it’ll serve you well. I did get a chance to plug it into my pedal board, and playing it through a compressor/sustainer or an overdrive pedal that adds some sustain will work wonders with this guitar. It does play nice with pedals, which is a saving grace.

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