Hottie 454 Electric Guitar Review
December 17, 2009
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Crazy Like a Fox?
The vintage-styled guitars we grew up with are as much a part of our being as the classic cars we fantasize about, and some new guitar manufacturers are figuring this out. But how do you sell a new guitar when so many of us want to play what we know and are comfortable with? How do you make it look and feel like an old friend without being a direct rip-off? Hottie Guitars, a company already well know for Hottie amps and pickups, is taking inspiration from the classic muscle cars of the early ’70s to come up with a guitar that is fresh but familiar, classic and retro: the Hottie 454.
When you first lay your eyes on this guitar, you’re instantly taken back to an era when muscle cars roared down the streets and you spent Friday nights cruising the strip looking cool and feeling badass. This guitar has instant sex appeal, and it’s designed to be played with lots of attitude. When you first pick up this guitar, you can feel right away that this is a quality instrument made from top-shelf custom parts and materials. The one-piece Honduran mahogany body and neck have girth, and the whole weighs in around the same as a vintage Les Paul. Mahogany comes in many different grades, and they’re priced accordingly. I can tell you the 454’s mahogany is the best grade you can buy. They also offer alder and ash body options. The carve top is comfortable and made from Eastern hard rock maple.
Hottie offers two types of neck shapes: a soft-V and a ’59-C. The review model came with the soft-V, and it felt very comfortable right out of the gate. A “V”-shaped neck can take a while to get used to, but this one is probably one of the best I’ve played in a long time. The ebony fretboard came with medium/jumbo frets, and the setup and fret job were perfect right out of the case. I would have preferred bigger frets, because the .010 gauge strings felt like .009s on the 24.625" scale and 12" fretboard radius. String bending was a breeze, with lots of volume and sustain. The Bigsby tremolo system was a nice addition to the flexibility and swagger of this guitar. The vintage tuners held their tune perfectly and the bone nut was cut to perfection.
Don’t be fooled by the simple sleek look of the 454; it has tone for days and is quite flexible for being a single humbucker guitar. The Hottie bridge pickup is another quality addition, and is made from the best materials available. This pickup gives you the impression that it’s the offspring of the classic PAF design, but it has way more personality and attitude. This little Hottie pickup comes stock with fancy flames on the nickel cover and is housed in a custom-made pickup ring. This custom-wound, U.S.-made 8.5k bridge pickup compresses really nicely and has a little more “Pow!” in the lower register. I had no problem dialing in a very nice Gibbons-style tone, and the pinch harmonics rang out with ease and delight. The pickup also cleaned up great when backing off the volume a bit. The 500k pots are a nice audio taper that gives you more control. It’s not one of those “it’s on or off” types of volume pots, and the sweep is very dynamic and usable. The Tone knob is a push/pull that allows you to split the humbucker from series to parallel. This feature shows off the quality of the materials, because most humbuckers don’t sound this good split. When you’re in split mode, you get very good Esquire-type tone, and the Tone knob also shares the same dynamic range that the Volume does.
These guitars are designed and built by Jean-Claude Escudie (Hottie owner) and master luthier Saul Koll (Koll Guitars). Their love of classic hot rods and their knowledge of guitar construction and design makes a noticeable difference. The nitrocellulose lacquer finish was flawless; it’s this step in the guitar building process that takes lots of time and skill. You can always tell if the lacquer was applied and finished properly by looking across the finish in the light. You should not see little waves, cloudiness, or unevenness in certain spots. If you do, the manufacturer may have rushed the finishing process, or used cheap lacquer. The finish should look like a thin layer of clear glass. The metallic red sparkle on this Hottie is beautiful. It’ll make anyone do a double take when lit under stage lights. This guitar will get you noticed!
The Final Mojo
As I said at the beginning, there are no short cuts on this guitar—even the case it came in was quality and looked like a piece of furniture. The guitar is priced like a classic car— and I know not everyone can justify that kind of outlay—but those who demand style and quality will feel that this guitar is a bargain. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s not too often you play a guitar that you can’t really find anything wrong with. The only thing I can pick on Hottie for is that a guitar in this price range should come with strap locks. We get so used to buying guitars that are close to our expectations and then spending additional time and money upgrading them to our exact standards and preferences. You won’t need to do this with the Hottie 454. It’s as close to a mint-condition 1972 Corvette as you can get, and it will turn as many heads and get you the attention you deserve. And isn’t that why we play guitars like this and drive 1972 Corvettes in the first place? It sure is!
quality materials, tone, playability and a classic, retro look are most important to you.
you’re on a budget and need strap locks included.
MSRP $3499 - Hottie Guitars - hottieguitars.com