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Clips recorded using Fryette S.A.S. distortion pedal, Fender Pro Junior amp, Planet Waves Custom Pro cables, and Apogee Duet into GarageBand.
When Matthew Artinger established his namesake guitar company in 1997, he was just 19 and fresh from an apprenticeship with a local master cabinetmaker. Since then, the Pennsylvania-based luthier has built a line of hollow, semi-hollow, and solidbody guitars based on designs that blend traditional feel and tone with aesthetic features like dramatic body curves and carves, and wooden pickup covers and control knobs. In his one-man shop, Artinger currently makes between 30 and 40 guitars per year. We spent some quality time with one of these instruments—a Semi-Hollow model with twin humbuckers and Brazilian rosewood appointments.
Hybrid Construction and Impeccable Craftsmanship
The construction of Artinger’s Semi-Hollow unites design concepts from Gibson’s ES-335 and Les Paul—specifically the latter guitar’s use of a maple cap. In the case of the Artinger Semi-Hollow, the body is made from a chambered piece of solid mahogany that’s capped with a thin piece of solid carved maple. This resonant combination is affixed to a carbon fiber-reinforced mahogany neck that feels especially stable.
The Artinger’s tonewoods are something special. The big-leaf maple cap is tiger-striped and eye-catching, but not overly dramatic or flashy. The mahogany neck and back have a tight, beautiful grain pattern. But the Brazilian rosewood used for the Semi-Hollow’s fretboard, headplate, truss-rod cover, tailpiece, control knobs, and even toggle-switch tip is the most striking wood, with its swirling chocolate figuring. I only wish that the Brazilian had been used on the pickup surrounds as well, instead of black plastic.
Accessories on our Semi-Hollow are premium stuff too. The gold Gotoh 510 tuners are smooth and precise, and the Gotoh bridge is an upgrade from a standard Tune-o-matic-style bridge. A Dunlop Flush Mount Straplok system is also included.
The ornamentation on our Semi-Hollow is pretty and tasteful. The fretboard has micro-dot position markers that are shifted toward the player below the 12th fret and toward the treble side above it. There are pearl dots on the side of the fretboard, and the neck has ivoroid binding that also appears on the top of the body, the headstock, and the two cat-eye-style soundholes. Paua abalone trim on the edges of the neck and headstock is cool, if just shy of excessive, while a Brazilian rosewood heel cap is a nice and subtle detail.
Craftsmanship on the Semi-Hollow is absolutely top-notch. The catalyzed acrylic finish is totally flawless and handrubbed to a luxurious gloss. The fretwork and the string slots on the bone nut and metal saddles are similarly meticulous. The only thing even approaching a flaw that I could find was just a hint of roughness on the body interior where the mahogany had been routed.
Great Feel and Killer Sounds
When I first took our Semi-Hollow from its big Cedar Creek case, I was pleased to find it light at just 6.85 pounds. I gave both the headstock and bridge a little tap and they resonated noticeably—a clue that this would be a toneful guitar.
Hanging on my shoulders, the Semi- Hollow felt balanced and comfortable. It also felt very compact, especially compared to Gretsch semi-hollowbodies or an ES-335, which is a full 2" wider.
The neck has an inviting medium-sized C profile, and with its 25" scale, 12" radius, and smooth, low action, the guitar can feel like it’s playing itself. It takes very little effort to traverse the neck playing single-note lines or barre chords along its length. The guitar feels just a little tight for bending, but that’s certainly attributable to its .011 set of strings.
Unplugged, the Semi-Hollow has a colorful and echoic character, thanks to its chambered construction and wooden tailpiece. The sound is warm and at times, unmistakably mahogany-like, with a little extra snap that’s likely attributable to the maple top.
Running through a Fender Pro Junior, our Semi-Hollow—equipped with twin Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers that can be coil tapped—offered a broad spectrum of killer tones. On the neck humbucker, the Artinger is rich and open sounding, which called for some blues-rock meandering— especially with an overdrive pedal in the mix. And rolling back the tone and volume conjured a harmonically rich jazz tone that was perfect for some Wes Montgomery chordal fatness.
But the Semi-Hollow also has a rude side. The bridge humbucker has a penetrating tone that will cut and command attention for fierce rock soloing and driving, forceful rhythm work. No matter how aggressively I picked or set up the amp, the chambered body and maple/mahogany combination contributed a woody resonance, while single notes remained crisp and articulate.
The Semi-Hollow would be a remarkable guitar on the strength of its humbucking sounds alone. But the coil-tapping capabilities are a big bonus. By tapping both coils and using various pickup combinations, each alone or together, I was able to get sounds that were almost Fender-like in the manner of Ernie Isley, but with some of the hollowbody color of Leo Nocentelli’s funk moves.
If you’re a semi-hollow aficionado searching for a guitar that departs from the traditional templates, you should definitely check out an Artinger Semi-Hollow. This guitar looks, feels, and sounds awesome. The mahogany back and maple top tonewood combination gives the Artinger an expansive range of colorful and detailed tones. It’s lighter and tonally more diverse than a standard semi, and its Brazilian-rosewood components reflect a design sensibility you don’t often see on offerings from major manufacturers. And at around $5000, this completely handmade guitar isn’t that much more than a lot of big builder’s high-end offerings.
you’re in the market for a serious, professional, and capable semihollow that deviates from the norm.
you’re a traditionalist when it comes to guitar design, or your billfold is a little thin right now.
Street $4990 - Artinger Custom Guitars - artingerguitar.com