Epiphone goes back a long way in terms of their guitar manufacturing and are looked upon as Gibson’s cheaper version. Similar to the way Squier is to Fender. But it wasn’t always like that. There have been times when their guitars outshone the Gibson equivalent and were the choice of some great names.
These included the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Epiphone Casino was one. Far and away superior to the Gibson 330 equivalent. It became a legend in the mid-60s in the hands of some of the biggest names around.
A modern reinvention…
They have had other notable ranges, and the Century range was another. Manufactured from 1939 to 1957, they were a classic in archtop guitars. This guitar we are looking at in this Epiphone ETCNCHNH1 Hollow-Body Electric Guitar review is the modern reinvention.
Today Epiphone has maintained their manufacturer of the archtop. This is one of them. The Epiphone archtops are well-made and suit both starters and intermediate players. In fact, there is at least one current recording artist who chooses the Epiphone ETCNCHNH1 Hollow-Body Electric Guitar as his guitar of choice.
We are not surprised. They bear those classic warm Epiphone archtop sounds.
Epiphone ETCNCHNH1 Hollow-Body Electric Guitar – An Overview
From its first appearance in 1939 until the end of its production in 1957, this guitar was part of Epiphone’s Century line of Guitars and amplifiers. They were well-loved and respected. They actually never really went away. There were individual ‘Century’ guitars manufactured under different guises.
But in 1961, they regained some of their former glories and were produced on a wider basis when they were reissued again, with some updated modifications. The Epiphone ETCNCHNH1 Hollow-Body is a guitar that is inspired by a 1966 version. The 1966 was a hollow body archtop with a thin line design and takes a lot of its style from that original.
Given a second chance…
It is always good to see classic guitar reissued but with certain reservations. One is that it has got to be as close to the original as possible, without any fancy new innovations, despite what the marketing departments say. It is almost like they are getting a second chance.
That certainly applies to this guitar. It was well-respected before but was in a limited market. Nowadays, the market is much bigger, and it can really be appreciated.
They don’t come around very often…
But the sound of this guitar and its look speaks to us from a bygone age. But don’t think it is just a piece of nostalgia. It is far better than that, as James Bay will tell you. This UK singer-songwriter scored two Platinum-selling singles, “Hold back the River” and “Let it Go,” using his Epiphone ETCNCHNH1 Hollow-Body.
It might be 1966 reinvented, but it clearly has a sound that can be appreciated today. So, let’s take a closer look…
Sometimes you see a guitar, and it has the look. This Epiphone has the look. Seeing this, you could believe for a minute that the DeLorean had gone back to the 40s, not the 50s. It has a certain style. The actual look of the guitar didn’t change much from the 40s and 50s through to the inspiration for this body shape. That is, the 1966 version.
It has a laminated Maple wood body with a Maple top in that authentic archtop style. It has been given a very traditional cherry red finish with what they call an ‘aged look.’ Presumably, by that, they probably mean to make it look old.
Aged to perfection…
I don’t like that so much on guitars. Some of the alleged ‘big manufacturers’ who haven’t got used to the fact they are not so good anymore (no names needed) do that. You can see through it, and there’s something a bit cheap and nasty about it. With this Epiphone, it is not overdone, though, so it isn’t too bad.
It has a very slimline shape that makes it easy to hold and play, but more on that later. There is a contrasting cream or ‘Off-white’ edging all around the body. Two very traditional ‘F’ holes have been cut into the maple top. There is a raised scratchplate that is white with a black edging that sits above the body slightly.
And of course, one of the most famous logos of the 60s, the ‘E,’ placed proudly on it.
A nice touch is the inclusion of a replica Blue Soundhole label. If you look through the upper ‘F’ hole, you can see it. Keeping the authenticity, there are no cutaways.
The body shape is nice and compact, and as we said, it has the look. As with a lot of guitars these days, including those with the big ego’s, the quality of manufacture isn’t what it was. You could search around it and find little things that are not perfect if you want to be a bit picky. I am not going to bother with that and leave it to others. At the price point, it is more than good enough.
After the Maple wood body and top, you might have been forgiven for thinking it might have a Maple neck. Not so, Mahogany is the choice of wood for the neck in a rounded ‘C’ shape profile. The ‘rounded C’ was a very early shape that existed until the 50s and, in some cases, beyond.
The more rounded, slim-taper, and flattened ‘C’ shape came in during the 60s and later. Epiphone has largely then stuck to tradition with the neck style. Maybe not as easy to play as the thinner necks, but certainly not as deep as the ‘U’ or ‘V’ shapes.
Limited upper neck access…
It has a very nice Rosewood fingerboard with Pearloid dot inlays. The neck is jointed to the body at the 14th fret. There is a truss rod that is adjustable. Having no cutaway, the fingerboard only really extends to the 14th fret.
Epiphone have stuck very much to traditions with the neck. It would have been very easy for them to have made a thinner, more ‘modern’ neck for the sake of playability. They have decided though that if they are recreating a guitar, it needs to be the same. The neck is fine and comfortable to hold and play. Again, more on this later.
This is often the area where the big cutbacks are made. And if we are honest, there is one cut back made here which we shall discuss in a moment.
Up at the top, we have an authentic-looking headstock that has the Epiphone name and the ‘E’ logo on the truss rod cover. There are two sets of three in a row Wilkinson machine heads that are quite good. They have an aged nickel finish, again to try and give some age to the look.
Stays in tune…
The tuners have a plastic button. The quality of the machine heads is often where some cutbacks are made and cheap versions installed. Not the case here, the tuners have a comfortable ratio and hold the guitar in tune well.
We mentioned a cutback, and it is, as it often is, with the nut. Having a bone nut is an expensive addition, but there are some reasonable substitutes. Unfortunately, Epiphone has chosen to install a nylon nut. It is a bit cheap looking and really doesn’t help the sound at all.
Not sure why they have made that decision when, as we said, there are some better alternatives. The nut width is 1.65 inches.
Moving swiftly on…
Down the other end, there is a floating adjustable bridge. Made from Rosewood, there are definitely no cutbacks here. This is a well-designed bridge that gives a good angle of elevation of the strings. It also adds a certain flexibility to the tension of the strings. And that does help the sound.
A simply plated tailpiece completes the picture. Apart from the nut, they have done well with the hardware. Efficient and made with good materials, they are more than acceptable.
Now, what pickup should be put into this guitar? Of course, it is not going to be one of those grungy humbuckers. It is going to be a single coil naturally. But what we have got here is a P90. Oh yes. We all know what that means sound-wise.
Now, it is a new design P90, not the old style. And, if I am, to be honest, while listening to it, it isn’t the hottest P90 I have ever heard. But it is fitted on an archtop hollow body so it can’t be really. There are feedback issues to consider. However, it is a great sound which we shall refer to again later.
The P90 is recognized everywhere as being a great single-coil pickup. Epiphone could have really saved themselves some money here. They could have said lets put a cheap pick up in. They’ve got the look of the guitar, that is enough. But no, they have gone the whole hog with the sound, they want it to sound as close as possible.
We shall soon see soon if they have achieved that. There are basic tone and volume controls, which is all you need. They are made from a nice black plastic with a silver insert: more points earned here, lots of them. The electrics are good.
How does it Play and Sound?
Most people who consider buying this guitar won’t remember the original. It was originally a pre-60s guitar, and manufacturers were not interested in if it was easy to play. This, though, with its slimline body, is fine. It is lightweight, only five and a half pounds and is easy to either stand with or sit on your knee.
The neck feels a little thicker than the modern slim-taper styles and flattened ‘C’ necks you get today. However, it still has an easy feel to it and is not awkward or cumbersome at all. Starter players are not going to find any problems at all, and experienced players will welcome the solid feel of the neck.
The lack of a cutaway does inhibit the use of the higher frets. But high screaming soloing is not what this guitar is about.
What a sound!
But it is the sound where this guitar earns its ratings. Yes, it looks great, and it plays well, but the sound? Very good indeed and better than many at double the price. Unplugged, it is amazingly loud and has a woody sound that is not too harsh.
But when you plug it in, and you get the sound of that P90, you know what the fuss is about. Placed in the neck position, it has that natural warmth and none of the harshness that a single-coil can generate — especially those at the bridge end. And because the pickup isn’t too hot, it has this compressed edge to the sound. What you hear is quite unique in many ways.
Any classic hollow body tone you want…
The strings you use will have an impact, of course. If you want that 60s’ UK invasion’ sound, then flat-wound strings, perhaps light gauge, will provide it. If you want a more acoustic-based sound, round wounds are probably better.
The sound unplugged is more than enough for practice and the sound through an amp quite reminiscent of a bygone age. So, a little rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon” might just be in order.
Epiphone ETCNCHNH1 Hollow-Body Electric Guitar Review Pros and Cons
- An authentic nod to a great guitar.
- Superb classic styling.
- Excellent value for the money.
- Great sounds both acoustically and through the delicious P90.
- The nut could be better.
- Some, including me, don’t particularly like the ‘aged’ finish.
Looking for some more great Hollow Body Guitar options?
If so, check out our comprehensive review of the Best Hallow Semi Hollow Guitars currently available.
You may also be interested in our in-depth reviews of the Ibanez AG75BS, the Epiphone Limited Edition ES 335 Pro, the Ibanez AS73 Artcore Semi Hollow, our Oscar Schmidt OE30CH review, the Ibanez AM93AYS Artcore Expressionist, or even the Epiphone EJ 200CE.
Epiphone ETCNCHNH1 Hollow-Body Electric Guitar Review Conclusion
What do we think?
By now you will have understood that I really like this guitar. But to be 100% honest, I like most of the guitars that Epiphone produces. Based on their price points, in my book, there are very few that are better.
This is a flashback in time both in looks and in style. Despite the nut, which we don’t like, this is an excellent guitar. And if the nut bothers you that much, it is relatively easy to change. This is another guitar from the makers of one of the 60s finest instruments, the Casino. This ’66 Century look-alike is a return to another classic and worth every penny.
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