Modern Builder Vault: Hanson Guitars
March 15, 2011
It all started with pickups for John and Bo Pirruccello of Hanson Guitars—bass pickups to be specific. In 2005, John—who’s also CEO and co-owner of Lakland Basses— wanted to develop a line of pickups and electronics voiced for Lakland instruments. “My brother Bo expressed that he’d like to take a crack at developing some pickups, so he put his money where his mouth was and headed up the project,” John says. “About a year later, we had developed a 3-band internal preamp and hum-canceling pickup system called the LH3.” Another year later, the Pirruccello brothers had a full line of single-coil, split-coil, and hum-canceling Lakland-Hanson pickups for almost every bass heading out the door.
So the next logical step for the duo was to venture into the copper-coiled frontier of guitar pickups. “My favorite guitar pickup has always been the P-90, because of its tonal qualities and voicings,” John says. “So Bo and I—still thinking along the lines of expanding our pickup business—came up with what we felt was an exceptional-sounding set of P-90s that had a clear, articulate tone and a strong, focused sound. We try to take pickups to the edge, where they start to lose the frequencies we like, and then push the envelope through coil shapes to go a little further—it’s subtle stuff, but plenty of people hear it!”
Soon after their first P-90 creation, the Pirruccellos started pondering which guitar they should put them in. John and Bo compiled some ideas and qualities from their favorite, go-to guitars—like fatter, baseball bat-like neck profiles, Tune-o-matic bridges, Bigsby vibratos, and other appointments that they felt would complement their pickups.
Hanson Guitars made its official launch at the 2009 Summer NAMM Show, and they made a pretty big splash. “The original concept of Hanson Guitars was to build affordable, professional-grade instruments that sound and feel great,” John says. “We don’t mind being a small shop, and we’re happy to spend as much time on an instrument’s setup as necessary to make if feel good during quality-control checks when the assembled guitars arrive in our Chicago shop—just what I personally would hope for from a manufacturer.”
Hanson’s newest model—the Firenze T-90—has a solid ash body with a quiltedmaple top and a translucent orange finish. It features a T-style control assembly, pickguard, bridge, and bridge pickup—a Broadcaster Wound Hanson Bridge—while the “90” refers to the Hanson P-90 Neck pickup. The 25.5"-scale T-90 is equipped with a bolt-on maple neck and a rosewood fretboard (maple is also available).
This Italian-influenced guitar—think ’60s-era Ekos or Meazzis—comes with three classic-sounding Hanson P-90s that John Pirruccello describes as “wound for incredible complexity and power that will do creamy distortion with ease, but still offer a full range of clean tones.” The 24.75"-scale Cigno is built with a bound mahogany body, a set and bound mahogany neck topped with a rosewood fretboard, and a Bigsby B50 tailpiece (a fixed bridge is also available). Controls include a Master Volume, Master Tone, and a 5-way pickup selector.
Hanson’s Chicagoan P-90—their take on an ES-335—has a bound maple top and maple back and sides. It has a 24.75" scale and features a set and bound maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, a Tune-o-matic bridge with gold roller saddles, and a gold Bigsby B70 vibrato.
The Gatto Deluxe is similar to the Cigno, but is stocked with Hanson Classic Humbuckers (which are available in a coiltappable configuration). This Gatto Deluxe has a 24.75" scale and features a bound mahogany body with a flamed-maple top, a bound and set mahogany neck with an early-’60s slim profile and a rosewood fretboard, and a TonePros Tune-o-matic-style fixed bridge.
Pricing and Availability
Pricing for Hanson guitars varies by model and selected options, but standard models can be ordered directly from Hanson’s website. The standard Firenze T-90 starts at $599, the Cigno starts at $675, the Chicagoan starts at $870, and the Gatto Deluxe starts at $599. Regarding customization, John is a yes-man. “I hate to say no,” he says, “so if it’s not impossible, I’ll consider it—I’m definitely open to ideas.”