Ok, I waited for a while before this review and now i can make a more accurate assessment of this guitar. First thing’s first. I should say right off that i am enjoying this guitar far beyond my expectations.
The scratchplate was flawless, but my HB-35 is probably from a newer batch. (The sratchplate is an LP style, not the rounded one usually found 335’s).
The “Flamed” maple IS there, but it is almost imperceptible on my cherry HB-35. Maybe the finish is just to thick, i don’t know, on the other hand the guitar still looks amazing and this could be a plus on durability.
The neck is made of three different pieces of wood, (Headstock with a neck scarf and two pieces on the neck joint).
Electronics are fine. The push pulls and the three way switch feel much better than i had expected beforehand, and the roswell pickups are a wonderful surprise on warmth and clarity, (mainly given the fact that the whole guitar costed only 195€). I actually liked the pickups a lot and i was really not expecting that to happen.
On other reviews that i've read some people liked the fact that the jack input was located on the bottom of the lower bout and not on the top, but on my case the was actually a problem. I use a Shure wireless and the even with the bodypack on the bottom of the strap the longest shore cable is difficult to reach the input jack, (the reach wouldn't be a problem if the input jack was located in a more traditional place).
The hardware is kind of what you would find on your average epiphone, and i only had an issue with the TOM bridge. Nothing about the material, but more about where it was installed. I had to reverse 4 saddles in order to get intonation accurate above the 14th fret.
On the other hand, after this saddle adjustment i was actually able to lower the action a LOT and the neck and build quality allowed it to happen.
Although i had to do a totally new setup in order to make the guitar fully usable until the 22nd fret, please don’t get me wrong, the guitar sounded amazing in the lower octave just out of the box, (factory strings and all). Can't really criticisethe nut, it's well cut and looks ok.
After a wonderfull week playing it I decided that this guitar would be used in gigs side by side with gibsons and other much more expensive brand guitars so i ordered some greenish keystones shallers with double rings. The ones that came from factory held tuning ok-ish, but these new ones work flawlessly. The other only upgrade the guitar got was a gibson 498T pickup installed in the bridge. Again this was not because the roswelll bridge LAF PU didn't sound right, it was just because on the set i’m doing for the moment, this is what I need in order for this guitar to fit in without having to make any adjustments on my rig.
In terms of size, the body of the HB-35 is between a 339 and a 335… for me is just perfect. Not to big as a 335, not to small as 339.
Cons…, yes there where a few, mostly in terms of setup, but nothing that i had not found before on epiphones or even gibsons. All in all I’ve upgraded the HB-35 spending additional 140€ and I didn’t had to spend any money on a luthier because i can do everything myself. (beside the pu and the tuners i changed strings to 9’s, oiled the fretboard, polished the frets and lubbed the nut with big bends nut sauce. Anyway i’m really glad I did these upgrades because with about 410€, (including the suitable hardcase), i have an instrument that fulfils the job of some of my other guitars that costed between 1000 and 5k, and that is simply amazing. (i think semi-hollowbody epi’s are more expensive and i don’t like their pu’s).
From a reference standpoint i should state that I perform professionally mostly in auditoriums, and this guitar performs as good any other instrument costing 5 to 10 times more.
When i ordered this guitar i thought i was ordering a “335” style guitar… i’ve even upgraded the tuners to copy the look and vibe of the vintage dot gibsons. Well, after this experience, and in my mind this guitar is something of it’s own, it looks great and feels and sounds amazing. It’s not some 335 knock off anymore and i’m proud showing off this HB headstock on stage because the guitar has an amazing tone.
p.s. I only went trough the trouble of writing this review because i can still not believe how much value for money the instrument represents even without the upgrades that I had made, so i cannot recommend this enough to any beginner or seasoned guitar player.