Beautiful guitar, excellent instrument but the final quality control is deplorable
The Höfner HCT-SL-N-0 Blue Tone is an arch-top hollow-body very well made guitar, with excellent luthery, the finishing and assembly are without fault even though the guitar is produced in China . Personally I do not really like the tortoise binding, I would have preferred a plain colour (black or white) but that is a matter of personal taste. Unfortunately, the set-up and the final inspection leave much to be desired, even though the corresponding tag contains all the "check marks" related to action, etc., but the signature is illegible. When I took the guitar out of the case for the first time I was amazed by the presence of a hygrometer in the case lid. The guitar was not tuned, as could be expected after such a long journey, but it is deplorable that the instrument was absolutely unplayable without an adequate set-up. The most serious problem was the wrong positioning of the bridge, on their website Höfner declares a diapason of 648 mm., and an action at the 12th fret of 1.30 mm for the first string , and 2 mm for the 6th. The guitar that I received had the bridge at least 15 mm. too "forward" toward the nut (with a wrong diapason of about 630 mm), and the action at the 12th fret was around 2.5 mm for the first string and 3.5 mm for the 6a. After tuning the guitar it was out of tune just playing chords at the first frets. The strings were 010-046 round wound with a plain G, and the neck appeared properly straight, I imagine that it is not necessary to adjust the truss rod with so a light gauge of strings. After having properly adjusted the diapason and the action, the guitar immediately showed excellent acoustic qualities. The bridge was adequate with the factory strings and there was no fret buzzing, the curvature of the bridge was compatible with the neck radius, and after a correct positioning of the bridge, the guitar stayed in tune even above the 12th fret. To get the action of 1.30 mm at the 12th fret of the 1st string declared by Höfner, it was necessary to unscrew the adjusting screw to its minimum height on the side of the 1st string. A slightly lower bridge would be preferable to allow a possible further reduction of the action in case the guitar would be used only as electric. When I mounted my usual strings, which I use on all my arch-top hollow body guitars, the bridge proved to be totally inadequate. I mounted flat wound strings 013-056 with wound G, I set the action at the 12th fret to the standard I use on all my hollow-body acoustic, (1.60 mm for the 1st string and 2.30 mm for the 6th), and it was impossible to get the proper tuning above the 12th fret. After compensating the higher string traction adjusting the truss-rod, I could not find a satisfactory position for the bridge to properly tune the guitar above the 12th fret. Despite all my attempts the G was always "sharp", while all the other strings were properly tuned. Furthermore G and D strings manifested heavy fret buzzing all along the neck, the buzz started to weaken with an action higher than 2 mm for the 1st string. Mounting on the guitar medium or heavy gauge strings, with a wound G, it is clear that the bridge radius is not properly aligned with the neck radius. The radius problem can easily be solved with a file and a little patience, but the compensation for the high octave tuning is in any case impossible. A few months ago I acquired another arch-top hollow-body guitar, in roughly the same price range. The guitar was playable as soon as I took it out of the case and tuned it, furthermore the guitar was provided with two bridges with different compensations, and I did not have any trouble tuning the high octave mounting my usual strings. On the contrary, to solve the problem of intonation of my Höfner Blue Tone, I bought the Höfner H72/20-N bridge. It was necessary to slightly lower the base while correcting its curvature to adapt it to the curvature of the soundboard, but when the work was finished all the set-up problems disappeared. I have adjusted the action to my standard of 1.60 mm at 12th fret without getting any buzzing of the two central strings, the curvature of the Höfner H72/20-N bridge has proved to be adequate without the need for corrective actions, but above all, I have adjusted the diapason finding the right compromise to get a good tuning above the 12th fret for all the six strings. With the Höfner H72/20-N bridge the guitar expresses the acoustic richness of a full depth arch-top that it is, and the quality of the instrument, and its acoustics, have far exceeded my expectations. The pickup is a Höfner Jazz humbucker, probably produced in China, the sound is sufficiently good, but even here the quality control was practically absent. The pickup had a sticker suitable for a semi-hollow bass showing: Designed in Germany, Classic Höfner Bass Sound, Solid Centre Block, Original Staple Pick-ups. No sticker would have been better. I have not done an in-depth analysis of the sound of this pickup because I bought the guitar in order to act as a support for a remake of the DeArmond 200 pickup, that is a Gretsh Dynasonic which I have mounted in the neck position. In my opinion Höfner should revise the quality level for the setup and for the final inspection. The quality demonstrated by the guitar after a correct set-up has nothing to do with the disappointing quality demonstrated at the first approach. I think we all know that any new guitar needs a proper set-up to better express its own peculiarities, but we also expect that an instrument produced by a "noble" brand is playable in an acceptable manner, for a quick test, as soon as it is taken out of the case and tuned. Thanks to the quality of the preliminary draft and accuracy of the manufacture my final judgement is still very positive, the high level of quality control in production has remedied a bad final set-up and an absent final test. I would have gladly paid a higher price for a guitar with no hygrometer, but with two bridges of different compensations, or an Höfner H72/20-N bridge, and have the guitar set and controlled properly.
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