In 1985, Heritage Guitars took over a certain factory space at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan, after the former owners decided to move production to Nashville. Since then, Heritage Guitars have continued to craft instruments in the mold of those classic six-strings that first made Kalamazoo famous to guitarists worldwide. Their H-157W is a limited edition of their classic single-cutaway “Custom” model, and it features premium woods, upgraded electronics, high-end pickups, and deluxe hardware. In fact, the H-157W is limited to just 50 instruments: 25 with a quilted maple top, and 25 with tiger-stripe maple.
The Heritage H-157W’s deluxe appointments include an ultra-premium western maple top, TonePros locking bridge and tailpiece, a set of ThroBak KZ-115 PAF-style pickups, and top-of-the-line ThroBak pots and Luxe capacitors. The guitar is available in Honey Lemon with nickel hardware and Fireburst with gold hardware, and it features mutli-layer binding on the front and back of the body.
The fingerboard is a beautiful select piece of ebony that leads to an actual bone nut before reaching the single-bound headstock with its matching maple cap overlay and shadowed Heritage logo. As not to skimp on anything, the H-157W is strung with ThroBak Pure Nickel Hex Core strings for a vintage touch and tone. The instrument ships with a hardshell case and an individualized certificate of authenticity.
With a guitar like this, it comes down to the builder’s execution of a well-proven design, and Heritage has done a stellar job. Many who buy similar guitars will subsequently spend a small fortune upgrading pickups, hardware, and electronics to get the instrument “just right” – all because a manufacturer skimped in certain areas. Here there is no need for upgrades; Heritage took the time, expense, and research to optimize the H-157W right out of its case.
Plugged into a reissue Deluxe Reverb, the snap and clarity of the pickups is truly startling – like a great example of actual PAFs. This is no surprise – the ThroBak pickups are painstakingly wound with the same type of wire and bobbins and on the same machine that resided in the Parsons Street factory in the 1950s. Clean, these pickups have that almost P-90 quality that every winder strives for. Depending on touch and pickup selected, one can easily cover any style asked. Turning the Deluxe’s Volume knob to 8 produces the perfect level of hair on the notes, which never fall apart in any way. From clean and clear to very driven tones, this guitar holds its own.
The fretwork and setup are silky smooth, with well-dressed frets, a nicely cut nut, and a bend-friendly 12″ fingerboard radius. The gorgeous book-matched quilted maple top and beautifully straight-grained mahogany back and neck are expertly finished and very much the veritable cherry on top on an incredibly well-built top-shelf instrument.
With its exemplary fit and finish, premium woods, and the addition of the ThroBak pickups, the Heritage H-157W is a real stunner both visually and tonally. A finely made single-cutaway instrument crafted in the factory that made them famous – and it doesn’t need to have the hardware, pickups, or electronics upgraded. Heritage has taken the time to make it right the first time.
This article originally appeared in VG July 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.