The Hagstrom F-11 was built with improbable tone materials, but it still sings with zing.
Growing up in the shadow of the Martin Guitar Factory, I learned a thing or two about tonewoods. Quite a few of my friends got jobs at the factory right out of high school, and over the years, I’ve seen how woods are cured, selected, and cared for. The Japanese factories I’ve visited really took this idea to the next level. I’ve seen curing rooms with classical music being played to stacks of wood. I’ve seen huge storerooms with different woods sorted by age (some well over 100 years old), country of origin, and quality of figuring. Hell, I've even seen logs that were dragged out of Mississippi swamps, shipped to Japan, and cured.
If you’ve ever had conversations with high-end collectors, then you’ve probably heard all sorts of poetic waxing on birdseye and flame and such. But what would you, good reader, say about a guitar that featured a plywood body wrapped in diner-booth vinyl? Oh, and then this same guitar had a layer of acrylic screwed to the top! How do you think a guitar like that would sound?
Much like the Italian guitar factories, Hagstrom took cues from accordion design and applied them to electric guitars, going way out there with enough sparkle and pearloid to send you trippin’
Your first response may be informed by taste and income level. As for me, I’m indifferent. A guitar will sound good or it won’t. After listening and playing so many guitars, I’ve developed quite an ear for “zing” or “pop” as I like to call it. And the budget-class Hagstrom F-11 guitar has some zing for sure.
The F-11 comes from the mid ’60s and was part of a line of guitars to make it to the U.S. via Sweden, from where it was imported by Merson Musical Products in Westbury, New York. Sometimes these guitars are called H-I models in European catalogs, but in the Merson catalog these were billed as the F-11 and cost $129.50 in 1966. The F-11 came in red, black, white, or, as in this case, blue—my favorite guitar color.
Here’s a close-up look at the In-Motion vibrato, and note the labeling on the tone preset switches and volume dial.
Hagstrom’s accordion-making roots date back to the 1920s. When they began manufacturing electric guitars in 1958, the company immediately offered some of the craziest examples seen in Europe and soon developed a reputation for fine guitars and basses. Much like the Italian guitar factories, Hagstrom took cues from accordion design and applied them to electric guitars, going way out there with enough sparkle and pearloid to send you trippin’!
Even the most affordable Hagstrom electrics came with several effective features. Inside the F-11's slim neck lies the worldwide-patented H-shaped truss rod that was dubbed the “Expander-Stretcher.” It’s a nice design, and these old Hagstrom necks have held up over time. The vibrato was also a design wonder that, for a period, was copied extensively by various Japanese makers. Hagstrom called the unit an “In Motion” vibrato, and the upper plate floats over the base plate with proper string tension. The vibrato takes some time to dial in but works rather smoothly. Although Hagstrom’s “Micro-Matic” bridge was found on more upscale models, allowing for better string spacing, adjustable intonation, and a sharp break-over for the strings, budget models like this F-11 have a simpler wooden bridge with non-adjustable metal saddles.
The sound of the F-11 is quite Strat-like and gives players a Fender-y experience with a little more oomph. I’ve always been impressed with Hagstrom pickups. I’ve liked almost every example I’ve heard, and the pickups also hold up well with the passage of time.
Measuring around 7k, they are a little hotter than Fender pickups from the same era. The F-11’s electronics include a cute little control panel, straight out of a spaceship, with one master volume and four mini-switches for high, low, tone, and mute functions. These are essentially preset tone switches that most players would probably find redundant, but they’re kind of neato. And who could miss that crazy mesh inlay between the pickups. Why? Why not!?
These mid-’60s Hagstroms are really sweet guitars, and I own three different models that I use quite a bit. Hey, go search one out if you can—as long as you’re not bothered by plywood and acrylic.
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.