What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Affordable Jazz Guitars #1

by Doc Dosco

I am going to do a series of features on mid-priced to budget jazz guitars. There are half a dozen or so that I will cover, from American made to Korean made, and more I will briefly touch on. They are mostly archtop, floating pick-up jazz boxes. These are guitars I own. Period. I will not review or recommend anything unless I've know all about it. I may make mention or pass along someone else's opinion on a mid-priced or budget guitar, but I have to own something and like it before I give a thumbs up.

This first feature is on Heritage Guitars of Kalamazoo Michigan - hands down best value for a solid spruce top American made guitar. I endorse these guitars, and I am not lauding Heritage because of that, but because it's a fact.

Heritage guitars are built in the old Gibson plant by many of the older ex-Gibson luthiers that stayed in Kalamzoo Michigan when Gibson moved it's plant to Nashville some years ago. These guys stayed because they didn't want to move their families to Nashville, and they formed their own company.

So, really, Heritage guitars are more Gibson than Gibson is now if you look at who is building them.

Heritage guitars are considered by most players to be better than their Gibson equivalents. You can sometimes get a new Heritage for almost half the price of a new Gibson, and I think they play and sound better. (just my opinion folks)

The older Gibson guitars are a different story, however remember, many of those older guitars were made by the very guys making Heritage today.

I own a Heritage H-575 custom floating-up circa 2004. This guitar sings. It has a lively, crisp, high-quality tone. Not a dull sounding guitar at all. If you like muddy or thuddy guitar sounds, this is not the guitar for you. This guitar plays like honey, very smooth and fast, and I keep my actual super low. It has a solid spruce top, maple sides and back, x-bracing and the incredible new Jazz 3 pick-up. If you have a couple of grand to spend, this is the an excellent choice.

Other 575 models: I have played a 575 custom with a single cut-in pickup... maple sides and back, solid spruce top, x braced also. Very nice guitar. However I chose the floating pickup model instead. Heritage also make a dual pickup like this. In addition, Heritage has several maple top models which I haven't played, but the reviews are good..

Cost new: around $2000 street price (give or take a few hundred depending on the model)
Cost used: around $1500, sometimes less.

Heritage makes several other models of jazz guitar in the mid priced range. See the Heritage website at http://www.heritageguitar.com

I am linking to Harmony Central for three pages of user reviews on the H575 for those interested.


I have included some quotes on Heritage guitars from the Yahoo Jazz Guitar Group. These are not endorsees or Heritage employees, but players that own or really like these guitars. The topic was how does the Heritage H-575 stack up against the Gibson 175.


Heritage H-575 vs Gibson 175

....if you are looking for a 'players' instrument I would
seriously consider Heritage.

-- John Dean


... you get more "Gibson" in the construction of the
*actual guitar* (a Heritage) than any Gibson made in the
last 30 years. My Heritage 555 is a Gibson 335 killer. :)

-- Jeff Shirkey


so a lot of the old guys at Heritage probably have retired...

Nope. All the guys are still there. Not only that, but they
answer the phones themselves. Try getting the president of
Gibson on the line--not that he'd have a clue about building
guitars, of course. ;)

also , when I priced archtops a couple of years ago, I didn't
see that much difference in price between Heritage and Gibson.

The price differences between Gibsons and Heritages are
enormous. Maybe you found a deal somewhere? I paid almost
half as much for my Heritage 555 as a Custom Shop Gibson,
and I got a better guitar. I have no doubt about that.

-- Jeff Shirkey


Heritage celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2005. The
major complaints I've heard are the action....fixed now by
using the incredible PLEK machine to dress the frets, and
some complaints about sound. They used to use Schaller
pickups...now they give you a choice of anything. I just
bought an H-137 solid body that has Jason Lollar's P-90s on
it. You can't do better. You can order ANYTHING. Somebody
mentioned that they sounded thin...if you live in the
Chicago area go see Henry Johnson
(www.henryjohnsonjazz.net) and listen to his 17" model with
Heritage's HRW pickups. Then come back and say the sound is

-- Brian Toth

Well, what do you want? A "Gibson," or a guitar that plays
and sounds good?

-- Rick Runyan


I don't know about the prices being about equal. I got the
Heritage 575 for about half what I would have paid for the
Gibson 175 and with their HRW pickups the sound is

There are some who prefer the laminate over the solid top...
why, I have no idea. To me the solid top gives a much
cleaner, less muddy, sound....

I am not a Gibson hater, either....my solid body guitar is a
Gibson Les Paul. I just started taking up Jazz and was
surprised to find that I enjoyed playing the (Heritage) H575
much more than my Les Paul.

-- Doug Lounsbury


In closing let me add, I bought my Heritage H-575 Custom for $1400 from a friend. There are no freebies from Heritage, BTW. I got to be an endorsee because I already had a Super Eagle. Heritage is 6 month back ordered on any newly built guitars right now, so they have no problem selling them.

The next few features will go into the Korean imports. If you can't afford a Heritage, or don't want to take your good guitar out on a rainy day, there are some $1000 and less imports that are quite serviceable. I have a couple and I ordered several more. Again, bought and paid for. No free guitar for a good review.

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in
Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com,
where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar'
columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc
endorses Heritage Guitars and is a featured artist on their website. He
also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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