Hands-On Review:Hamer Vanguard Korina

by Dominic Hilton

While many guitar companies scramble to fill their catalogs with seven-string guitars and new-and-improved versions of last year’s models, Hamer quietly concerns itself with simply building fine instruments. With a modest range of models as the foundation of its product line, Hamer refines its tried-and-tested designs to produce tasteful guitars made with fine craftsmanship. This handsome USA Vanguard Korina is the latest thoroughbred to leave the Hamer stud farm.


The Vanguard is available with an all-mahogany construction, but with the Korina Hamer has definitely pressed all the vintage-lust buttons. Based on the company’s popular asymmetrical double-cutaway, set-neck design, the Vanguard features a semi-acoustic body with a single f-hole, a central sustain block and a center-joined arched top. The neck is laminated from three pieces of Korina for added stability, but you’d need a microscope to notice—the grain is very well matched. The rosewood fingerboard is appointed with pearloid dot markers and 22 medium frets, which have been fitted and finished to absolute perfection. A set of large-button Grover machines completes the attractive, black overlay headstock.


The vintage theme is evident in the body hardware, which includes a Tune-O-Matic bridge with stop tailpiece, and the electronics, which features a pair of Seymour Duncan P90s. Two volume controls, a master tone and a three-way selector allow you to take these soapbars into whatever tone range you desire. But the cherry on this particular honeybun has to be the glassy yellow-tint finish, a classic touch that enhances the characteristic wood grain while showing off every smooth contour and crisp corner of the Vanguard.


Playing the Vanguard is even more pleasurable than looking at it. This feather-light guitar has a superb medium neck profile with unhindered upper-fret access, and Hamer’s point-perfect set-up and fretting ensure you can take full advantage of the Vanguard’s silky feel. The natural resonance and amazing sustain of this semi combine to produce buttery, complex clean tones with impeccable balance and layers of rich harmonic overtones. Ease down the tone control for soulful jazz, dig into the bridge pickup for lush chiming chords or dial in some overdrive for singing Santana leads. Crank up the gain and it sure sounds like a semi, if by semi you mean the 18-wheeler truck variety. The controls also work very effectively to maintain the rich tone while unearthing some fine “verge of dirty” and snappy hollow sounds.


The Vanguard Korina delivers sweet dynamic tones and incredible sustain. Plus, it’s highly versatile, plays like a dream and is very easy on the eye. It’s Hamer time—can’t touch this.