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Artinger Custom Guitars Semi-Hollow Guitar Review

Artinger Custom Guitars Semi-Hollow Guitar Review

A Semi-Hollow model with twin humbuckers and Brazilian rosewood appointments.


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


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.

The Verdict

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.

Buy if...
you’re in the market for a serious, professional, and capable semihollow that deviates from the norm.
Skip if...
you’re a traditionalist when it comes to guitar design, or your billfold is a little thin right now.

Street $4990 - Artinger Custom Guitars -