Hamer Talladega Pro

November 1, 2008

WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF THE TALLADEGA a few years ago, it was clear that Hamer chief Jol Dantzig was on a mission to revamp the concept of the single-coil guitar. Sporting a chambered mahogany body with a carved maple top, a maple set neck with 25w"-scale, and a pair of Seymour Duncan Double D single-coil pickups (with a copper reflector plate under the bridge unit), the Talladega had a sort of Tele-by-Gibson attitude, but with the over-the-top build quality, awesome playability, and innovative features that Hamer is famous for.

Having suitably shaken up the single-coil scene with the Talladega, Dantzig turned his focus to creating the Talladega Pro—which switches things around to do a fresh twist on the classic humbucker concept. The Pro features a 25w"-scale mahogany neck with what Hamer calls a ’56 V shape. It’s attached to a chambered mahogany body via a glued-in dovetail joint, and it has a 22-fret rosewood board with carefully inlaid pearl “victory” markers. The carved, highly figured top is decked with an aluminum wraparound bridge/tailpiece and a pair of custom-wound Duncan humbuckers that feed a Kalamazoo-approved configuration of dual Volume and Tone controls and a 3-way selector. So what the Pro basically offers to the guitar community is an instrument that feels much like a vintage Strat, but with the meaty, sustaining sound of a mahogany humbucker ax. Had Fender and Gibson merged in 1958, perhaps something like the Talladega Pro would have resulted from those companies’ very different ideas about solidbody design.

Every aspect of the Talladega Pro reeks of meticulous construction and top-notch materials. To put a score on some of the things that Hamer always get right, we’d give A+ grades to the finish, binding, and frets—there’s not a hair out of place on any of these things. Handcarved to perfection, the top itself is a study in how fine woods can assume gem-like radiance in the hands of a skilled craftsman. And our review model doesn’t even have the most bodacious top wood that Hamer can supply to customers willing to pay for it.

In terms of ergonomics, the Talladega Pro also gets a huge thumbs-up. The V-shaped neck feels absolutely great, and the polished frets make for such buttery string bending that you’d swear you’re playing a shorter-scale guitar. Thanks to a comfortable weight and neutral balance, you can hold the Talladega Pro for hours without fatigue, and the contoured back helps you attain a Zen-like sense of “oneness” with the guitar. The smooth fret ends let your hand slide along the neck like it’s on ball bearings, and the nut, which has the supple feel of polished obsidian, is nearly undetectable to the fingers. Even the silky-yet-resistive controls contribute to the vibe of playing something very special.

Used on several blues-rock and jazz gigs though a variety of amplifiers (including an old Marshall JTM 50, a Mesa/Boogie Express 5:25, a Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb reissue, and a 50-watt Vox Custom Classic), the Talladega Pro proved to be a flexible guitar with a sound that would be familiar to a Les Paul player, and a feel that a Strat user could relate to. The guitar intonates exceptionally well, and you definitely get a sense of how the lightweight aluminum bridge enhances sustain via its connection with the thick maple top and chambered back. The dual Volume/dual Tone control arrangement allows you to delve into more subtle textures than were possible on the original Talladega (or most other Hamers for that matter), making it possible to dial in some very cool dual-pickup sounds—from dark and burnished to bright and twangy to acoustically open. The unpotted pickups have a certain liveliness that you don’t hear when coils are buried in wax, and the only possible downside here is the potential for squeal in high volume situations. I didn’t encounter that problem when testing the Talladega Pro, but I certainly did enjoy the crisp detail these custom Duncan humbuckers provide. The voicing of the Tone controls is happening, too, as the sounds stay focused and non-muddy—even when using the brownest settings.

Jol Dantzig’s goal of creating an instrument that combines the warmth and power of a Les Paul with the taut feel of a Strat or Tele is fully realized in the Talladega Pro. With its delicious mix of clarity and brawn, the Pro is a downright addicting guitar that seems to express more of its unique personality every time you play it. The Pro would be an obvious choice for players who alternate between Fender, Gibson, and PRS guitars, and the broad range of tones it offers will satisfy blues players, rockers, jazzers, and pretty much anyone who revels in humbucker richness, but doesn’t necessarily want a humbucker-equipped Strat. If you’re searching for something new and inspiring, the Talladega Pro may be just the thing to add to your collection.

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