There is a requirement to live where I do. It’s not based on political affiliations, ethnicity background or even financial standing. It’s much more serious than that. I live in Telecaster land. It's written in the Nashville town charter that you cannot remain within our city limits for more than twenty-four hours without one. For years, the only thing that stood between me and forced removal has been that wonderful little twang machine.
When my editor asked me to review a Tele that I had stumbled upon at Summer NAMM – I jumped at it for added insurance of residency. In honor of Quentin Tarantino, I won’t build up any suspense, go on about technical details or geek-speak before giving you the final work, so here goes -- I loved it! It’s everything a Tele should be. The Hahn contains many elements that are sadly missing from many instruments made by top luthiers today.
Historians claim that the invention of the assembly line inevitably killed pride in workmanship because nobody is responsible for the end product and the goal of assembly line workers is to crank out their small part of the widgets as quickly as possible. It’s basic capitalism – quantity not quality. It’s understandable that a person, not only feeling unfulfilled by an eight hour day of screwing bolts into wood and despising the foreman that insists he/she keeps the quota up, may at times do a less than perfect job. That’s not the case with Chihoe Hahn. Hahn is into it like a Telecaster evangelist on a mission, converting people to his cult of well-crafted guitars – and it hasn’t been hard thus far.
While many so-called boutique guitar makers simply bolt together parts from around the world, Hahn really makes his guitars. He does just about everything shy of smeltering down the metal. Upon first glance at a Hahn, your eyes are drawn toward the stainless steel bridge, saddles composed of the finest brass and knobs produced from extremely heavy knurl brass with nickel plating. The pots in every Hahn are measured and matched, and all wiring, caps, solder and switches are of the highest quality. Pickups are all ear-tested and are from the finest boutique pickup makers such as Jason Lollar, Lindy Fralin and Seymour Duncan – I’m a DiMarzio man myself, but they just aren't Hahn's brand of vodka.
Hahn lists the specifications for the 228 as:
- Bone nut
- Cotoh/Kluson tuners
- 100% nitrocellulose lacquer - paper thin
- 2 pc Alder body
- One-piece maple neck - 0.9" Soft V
- Lollar Vintage pickups
- CTS pots
- Orange Drop caps (.o5t)
- Hahn Stainless steel bridge
- 6105 frets
- 8AWG Alpha wire
I’m not going to pretend to know what all this means; the differences in pots, caps, wire, etc. – I have no idea what that does to a guitar, but I am sure that Hahn knows, and he’s made these decisions for sonic reasons, not for economics or convenience. Hahn’s guitars take the best ideas of old school Teles and combines them with some tricks that different Tele-masters have perfected over the years. For example, Hahn uses a stainless steel .10″ thick neck-plate to bolt down tight with no flex in the plate, a great idea that makes this bolt-on feel more solid like a set neck. Hahn put break points in the back of the bridge to reduce some of the sustain and get somewhere between a typical stainless bridge and a regular chromed steel bridge. I’ve never heard of somebody reducing sustain – it’s counterintuitive, but it works. The Tele bridge is also cut partly away on the treble side – a Danny Gatton mod. This guitar is kind of like the person who takes every available vitamin, practices yoga, works out every day, gets plenty of rest, eats right and feels and looks great because of it. It’s hard to say which of these special features and procedures make the Hahn such a great guitar, it could be the hand-made parts, attention to detail or Hahn’s love and passion for a quality Tele, but the end product rocks.
A Sixties Vibe
The guitar came with Lollar pickups with a vintage-ish low output sound that works great for what I do. It had classic tuners which work so much better than anything modern I've used. Even the old school knobs are more effective, with cheese grater ridges that you can't miss. The green color is so ugly it's beautiful like my Grandma's green refrigerator during my youth. The wafer-thin nitro finish is the way to go for both visual as well as aural aesthetics but a word of warning, if a few scratches and dings really bother you this will not be a good fit. I played this guitar at a few rehearsals and a session, and when I brought it home I noticed a tiny ding – sorry Chihoe. That’s part of the cost of tone, but I think its part of the charm as well. This Tele came with the old thermometer-style case, which I loved. It's tiny and looks cool, but I doubt it will hold up well on the road – one flight and it would be toast.
“Every screw is put in by me, and every point is soldered by me. I then crown and polish the frets and complete the setup,” says Hahn. “The final result is a great-playing guitar with responsive action that strikes that perfect balance between lead and rhythm, but is capable of being taken to hot-rod status with minimal effort.” The set up was dead-on and the fret job was flawless. Hahn found the perfect combination of wood, hardware, pickups and setup which he lovingly assembled so that they would all compliment each other and create a coherent, brilliant tone. This is one of the best Teles I’ve ever played. These things don’t happen by accident; it takes thought, time and money, but this end product can’t be beat.
your go-to guitar is a Tele... or if you've never played a really great one before
you are committed to humbuckers
MSRP $3800 (list) / $2800 (retail) - Hahn - hahnguitars.com.com