Solid body guitars, the Strats, Teles and the Les Paul’s of this world get a lot of attention, but there is something very special about the sound of a hollow or semi-hollow guitar.
Of course, it will sound different – that is the whole point, but, there is something more.
The first time we ever encountered a real hollow body we had a new guitarist join us for a few weeks. The second night he asked if he could warm up and pulled out this hollow body, a well-known guitar in Country circles but new to the UK. Oh, the sound? Just stunning. They are unique.
So, let us have a look at what’s on the market today to find which of all the best Hollow and Semi-Hollow guitars is the perfect one for you…
Top 10 Best Hollow And Semi-Hollow Guitars In 2020 Reviews
1 Gretsch G5420t Electromatic Hollow Body Guitar With Bigsby – Orange
One of the big names in guitars through the 50s and 60s, Gretsch created a special aura about their instruments.
In the early days it was the mercurial Chet Atkins, then came rock ‘n’ roll and Eddie Cochran. Later came George Harrison who used a Gretsch for years. They were not only big guitars; they were a big name.
Nowadays Gretsch is made in Korea and the product still adds an epic quality not only by its sound but by its very presence. Everything about it says – take notice – and this particular model says precisely that.
What about the construction…
A classic Gretsch shape and single cutaway style, the body and top are made from 5-ply maple and give that glorious deep, resonant sound. The 22 frets, 24.6-inch scale neck is made from maple with the standard rosewood fingerboard. The base of the bridge is also made from rosewood.
The control layout is interesting with a master tone control and two separate volume controls, one for each pickup. Then there is a master volume. This allows you to mix the sound of the two pickups together and then control the volume with one dial. It also has a 3-way pickup selector switch.
Filter’tron pickups and a Bigsby…
The sound is generated by Filter’tron pickups, and the instantly recognizable Bigsby unit is the final touch that brings back memories of Twenty Flight Rock and a host of other groundbreaking songs.
There are certain guitars that will always bring back those heady days of jukeboxes and coffee shops, and this Gretsch does exactly that. With its orange glossy finish, it looks and is the part.
But, that is not why you would buy one. This guitar is just brilliant in every way.
Well built with good materials, great sounding with that essentially Gretsch twang and looks outstanding.
It plays beautifully with pick or fingerstyle and is just an excellent instrument. And on top of all that quality, it has a very competitive price tag. It’s a very early contender for the title of the best hollow and semi-hollow guitars. Could it be the winner? Read on to find out…
2 Godin 5th Avenue CW Electric Guitar
This Godin gives off the aura and feel of a guitar from all our yesterdays. It is a throwback to when archtop guitars were the boss and were used by everyone.
Constructed from Canadian maple for its back and sides and the archtop. It has a 24-inch maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. The body is finished in a sunburst-like color called Cognac burst which is highly polished, and the body style finished off with an impressive cream binding.
It is an impressive looking hollow body…
The classic single cutaway design allows access right up the fingerboard and increases the playability of this guitar. Two P-90 single coil pickups generate the sound which is controlled by volume and tone controls and a three-way pickup selector toggle switch.
All very neat and understated which is a good description of this guitar…
It is not precocious and doesn’t leap out at you for attention, and it just gets on with its job. Likewise, the tones it creates are not designed to be anything other than refined in their sounds and in the control and variations of those sounds.
Whatever style of music you play be it, jazz, blues or even country this guitar is going to sound good.
It has not got the body size of some of its competitors and therefore possibly lacks a little bit of their resonance, especially if played unplugged. But this guitar is meant to be plugged in, and it’s there you will hear its true value.
An added benefit is the fitted hard case that comes with it.
Price wise it is not the cheapest, but price considerations must include what is involved in the construction, and there is always going to be more work in a hollow body.
The price then is quite reasonable for a quality instrument, and that it is!
3 Epiphone Wildkat Royale Semi-Hollowbody
Now here is a guitar from Epiphone that could hardly be referred to as being understated. The Wildkat Royale is a slightly smaller than full-size semi-hollow body instrument that is made to draw attention. It is designed in a classic single cutaway that allows access to the top of the fretboard.
The archtop body is made from mahogany and finished in a high gloss pearl white. The body design is completed with gold binding.
The neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard…
The controls are simple but very effective…
It has a volume control for each pickup and a master tone control. But also, a master volume allowing you to set the volume you require for each pickup individually and then raise the volume of both together. Not a new idea but an effective one in some cases.
It also carries a Bigsby unit which is a must-have in certain musical circles…
To make it more of an attention-getter it has gold fittings, the pickups, bridge, the Bigsby and the tuners which give it a very particular style some will love and others not.
The sound comes courtesy of two P-90 pickups. Gibson has been producing these single coil pickups for over 50 years, and even though there have been some modifications and improvements as time has moved one, they are still known to have some background hum.
These particular P-90s are made by Alnico and carry the series 5 magnet, which is an improvement. They produce bite where needed and can be very gentle and subtle where necessary. This makes them a good choice for this guitar.
The sound is therefore crisp and can vary nicely.
Not an expensive guitar but one that is going to fit into a certain style and genre.
4 Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe Semi-Hollow Body
Hagstrom is a Swedish company and has been around since the 50s. They built a reputation for manufacturing quality guitars but in a very formal, traditional style.
This offering, the Tremar Viking deluxe is typically their style with its classic double cutaway shape. It has a maple body that has a contour to it that gives a very comfortable seated playing position.
The neck is also from maple, but instead of a rosewood fingerboard, this is made from Resonator wood. Hagstrom claims that Resonator wood is more stable and therefore a better material than rosewood. Pearl block inlays give the neck a very traditional look.
Easy and comfortable to play…
The neck itself is quite thin and is easy and comfortable to play. The neck style has been around a few years and once gained Hagstrom guitars the reputation of being the fastest playing guitars around.
The Hagstrom designed truss rod exerts tension at both ends and is considered by many to be the most efficient rod of its kind. Likewise, the bridge and tremolo hardware has been specially designed by the manufacturer and ensures that the instrument is always in good pitch despite how often it is played.
A warm and smooth tone…
Two custom wound pickups provide the sound with volume and tone controls for each. The pickups themselves are nicely balanced and produce a warm and smooth tone that is light years away from most of the ‘hotter’ pickups used today. These are mellow and produce real quality.
It is going to make playing jazz great fun with these tones and a neck that allows barre chords to be played with ease.
Finished in glossy black, it is an impressive looking instrument with its two f-holes and chrome plated hardware.
Well built, it plays smoothly and is great value for money.
5 Epiphone Etz2vnnh1 Hollow-Body
Epiphone has taken the concept of vintage very seriously and gone back to the dawn of guitar making time with this model. It has a style and a look that is going to appeal to a great many people.
Epiphone has a traditional history of building archtop guitars and were popular during the 30s and the big band era. This guitar might not be an attempt to recreate those days, but it goes a long way to remind us.
It has a fairly traditional build. Maple body with a Spruce top is an indicator that this guitar can be played without amplification if you choose because of the resonance those woods create.
The body is finished in an aged gloss style to give it that vintage feel…
The neck is a 5 piece affair using maple and mahogany with an ebony fingerboard and pearloid inlays. The neck is built with a rounded ‘c’ shape profile.
Hardware is nickel plated, with a vintage trapeze tailpiece and the tuners are Epiphone with Crown buttons. The Shadow nanoflex pickup is located under the saddle, and it has an E-sonic preamp. This operates from a 9v battery. It has a master volume control and an EQ to control your sound.
Considered a work of art…
The headstock inlay design could be considered a work of art. It is a very unique guitar that will encourage memories of a bygone age and for that reason will be popular. The sound though is really special.
Unplugged it is as resonant as a semi-acoustic and plugged in it has a warm jazzy feel to it. It is a remarkable instrument in many ways and in the right setting will prove its worth and heritage.
Price set realistically it makes a good buy if it is the style you are looking for.
6 Fender Modern Player Telecaster Thinline Deluxe
Take one of the most renowned manufacturers of guitars in the world and ask them to produce a semi-hollow and wait for the results.
The result is a Telecaster with stunning looks and great playability. A guitar that will mo turn heads not only with its appearance but with the sound.
It has all the usual Telecaster attributes, Mahogany body and a maple neck with maple fingerboard, a ‘C’ shape with a twenty-five-inch scale neck and 22 frets. They have added vintage style machine heads that are nickel plated and have included a through the body bridge with six saddles to give you individual string height adjustment.
All quite regular fittings for one of the biggest selling guitars in the world…
Four controls, two for volume and two for tone controlling the sound, a toggle switch for moving between pickups and a tastefully designed f-hole, emphasizing its semi-hollow body, complete the guitar along with its transparent black finish.
All quite normal then. The nice neck means it will be good to play, and it looks great with its Telecaster feel, but, with its semi-hollow changes.
But, then you plug it in!
Two MP-90 single coil pickups growl at you as you wind it up and you suddenly realize this is no ordinary Telecaster. The range of tones at hand is quite astounding. It will be sweet and warm and so easy to the ear using the neck pickup, offering you subtle tone changes.
But then, if you open the cage, it will attack, and the bridge pickup does what bridge Telecaster pickups are supposed to do. They take no prisoners.
Great sounds, full of bite but clear and sharp, they mix so well over the warmer tones from the neck pickup.
The sounds are not as full and rich as some guitars with bigger bodies, but this sound is worth considering. Very competitive price.
7 Gretsch G100ce Synchromatic Archtop
Once again Gretsch delves into the archives and comes up with a vintage classic.
This guitar so similar to the classic Gretsch synchromatic of the 1940s, it’s not hard to relive memories of Glenn Miller just looking at this. Just like its predecessor, this has an arched body made from laminated maple with a laminated spruce top with parallel tone bar bracing. It has a single cutaway.
The neck is of 3 piece maple with a rosewood fingerboard. In true vintage style, there are inlays made from pearloid. It is a massive 26-inch neck with 20 frets. The headstock is really an ‘old-timer’ come back to say hello with its traditional Gretsch vintage logo inlay.
Attractive binding and two carved f-holes…
The sound is produced from a single coil neck pickup with volume and tone control. The bridge itself is rosewood and height adjustable, and the hardware is chrome plated. The whole effect is finished off with some attractive binding and two carved f-holes.
This is a guitar designed with a certain style and period in mind and constructed extremely well.
It is made in Korea which will put some people off but with their ever-increasing performance at manufacturing quality, the days of poor Asian quality are all but gone. We’ve seen some pretty poor Western creations over the years as well.
Screams of the 40s and 50s…
The atmosphere of this guitar along with its beautiful mellow jazz neck pickup sound screams the 40s and 50s at you. If you are looking for a guitar that will give you that jazz-era feel, then this could be the one.
It is a big guitar and will take an experienced player, but the neck is easy and comfortable, and it is well balanced for seated play.
It is a beauty and well worth considering being priced in the mid-range for such a guitar.
8 Epiphone Limited Edition Es-335
Are there any three other numbers that evoke great guitars than 335? I doubt it. Synonymous with some of the greatest players we have ever known.
The 335 is a semi-hollow so let’s take a look…
It was a design that brought a classical feel to the guitar. Archtop body, f-shape violin like holes cut in, but classical it certainly wasn’t.
The style has not changed. Archtop body made from maple and birch woods and a mahogany neck which is a vintage slim profile. A length of 24 inches with 22 frets with small block inlays.
It still looks classic…
Double cutaway body in that inimitable style giving full access to the fingerboard and the design finished off with that famous cream binding. It still looks classic.
But, what does it sound like?
Its Alnico Classic humbuckers at the bridge and the neck give you a clue that this guitar is going to be neat and jazzy if you want it to be but to always remember there is a beast waiting to escape.
A volume control for each pickup with push/pull coil-splitting and a tone for each. Also a three-way pickup selector. A Locktone bridge and Wilkinson machine heads complete the hardware and create a vintage feel and style.
There will be purists who complain ‘it’s not a Gibson’, but it doesn’t need to be. Epiphone has done a great job with this. Of course, it is not an early 60s model, but then nothing else is. Not even Gibson can do that.
This is a quality guitar, with a great sound and a great look.
The body size determines it has not got the biggest resonance so playing unamplified the sound is a little thin but when you plug it in, joyous.
It would have to be on anybody’s list of the best hollow and semi-hollow guitars currently available.
9 Guild Starfire Ii St Hollow Body
Guild make great guitars, always have done. It is true they do fit a certain market and genre but quality instruments they are and instantly recognizable.
The Starfire 11 isn’t a full-size hollow body in terms of its depth. It fits the Thinline description more comfortably, but it does have a great sound unplugged. Not deep and resonant like the larger models but there is something that says Guild about it.
An elegant cutaway so reminiscent of days past…
Guild guitars helped to define a generation of guitar players, and this instrument is still creating the same sounds and feel as it did then. It has that elegant cutaway so reminiscent of days past cut into the mahogany body. The neck is mahogany with an ebony fingerboard.
The finish is natural but glossy, and the white binding gives it a very stylish look and typical of the era it defines.
It is fitted with ‘Little Bucker’ pickups that sit sound wise between the full-size humbuckers and the smaller versions. It, therefore, has a very distinctive sound. There are volume and tone controls for each pickup and a toggle pickup selector switch.
Easy and jazzy…
That sound can be easy and jazzy but the tonal ranges of this guitar are quite wide, and it will move through the various styles effortlessly even to the point where you start to push the humbuckers for some overdrive.
Hardware is of a high standard with a Tune-o-Matic bridge and a stop bar tailpiece.
It is certainly an easy guitar to play seated, or standing and its lightweight body is well balanced.
This is definitely a guitar that looks and plays well. It has a certain style and sound to it reminiscent of days gone by when guitar players relied on technique.
It is a thin line so unplugged it produces a little bit of a thin sound, but it if you like a little bit of nostalgia in your quality guitar then this is certainly worth a visit.
Not the cheapest in the market.
10 Ibanez Ag75bs Artcore Hollowbody
Ibanez has produced with this guitar a true hollow body. Some guitars we have reviewed have been semi-hollow and even then have wood beneath pickups and as central supports, but this is a real hollow body.
With that comes big, warm, resonant sounds – whether plugged in or unplugged.
It is constructed from fine materials with a maple top, sides and back and has a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard with block inlays.
Controls include a volume and a tone for each pickup and a pickup selector switch. The pickups themselves are humbuckers at neck and bridge which will give you a vibrant sound that carries a bit of weight.
This is a well-built guitar that is well finished with good hardware and fittings but let us be clear about one thing… It is not a guitar for a player who wants or needs it to double up as something else. This is a jazz guitar, pure and simple.
Everything about it screams jazz and some traditional music styles.
It is not going to work in a rock band…
It is at a great level when it is used for picking styles or being strummed, but it is not for playing with full-on volume. The tones are subtle and the style easy.
If you want a hollow body to play in that style, then this is an excellent guitar with a great sound.
Realistically priced it fulfills the job it has been designed to do beautifully, and it looks rather nice as well.
Want To Buy One Of The Best Hollow And Semi-Hollow Body Guitars Available?
We’ve heard some say because they look nice and yes they do. Others because they have a deep resonance about them. Well, the hollow bodies do, not so sure about the semi-hollow.
Some because they have a traditional feel about them, and they do. But, of the few people we spoke to no one mentioned because of the style of play that the guitar lends itself as being most suitable for.
They are not crank up the volume and thrash the daylights out of it guitars, although Robert Smith from the Cure did stuff his full of t-shirts to cut down on the feedback.
They do, however, fit jazz perfectly, having soft, warm tones that are clear and full of resonance.
Also a fit for the near-Country fingerpicking style of a Chet Atkins which is where we first took any real notice of these ‘relics from the past’ guitars.
We had a new guitar player join us who’s pre-concert warm-up included taking his big-name hollow body guitar out of its case and giving us a brilliant fingerpicking performance of ‘Freight Train.’
From that moment we loved the hollow body and what it could do.
Having Decided Your Reason For Buying…
Of course, the next stage is what to buy. Is it pure jazz or a country style for you? Maybe for home use only.
We have reviewed ten guitars, and all of them are the best of the best hollow and semi-hollow guitars around. Some with their own ideas on sound, some semi-hollow that need to be amplified to get the best from them, and some pure hollow bodies with that ‘big’ sound.
It is a difficult choice and can only be decided on you knowing exactly what you want it for.
There are some guitars reviewed that may cross genre boundaries, but those are semi-hollow rather than hollow. As we say, it depends on what you want to use it for.
One thing is certain, that the age of the archtop, classic guitar with its big body and classic f-holes is alive and well. And, manufacturers continue to release great instruments that produce some great sounds and music.
So, What Are The Best Hollow And Semi-Hollow Guitars?
Deciding on which of these is the best hollow or semi-hollow guitar was difficult.
It would have been so easy to go with the Thinline Fenders or the Guild. The 335 filled us with longing as well, but we remembered why we wanted to get a hollow body we could play anywhere.
We, therefore, chose as our best hollow or semi-hollow body guitar the…
Purely and simply a great guitar with a great history that gives us everything at a great price.
All together now…”Freight train, freight train…”