Subject: REVIEW: Heritage H-555 guitar
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 23:10:42 -0400
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This is a review of my most recent fit of GAS.
The Heritage H-555 is a well-appointed thin semi-hollow body electric
evolved from Gibson’s ES-355, as is the Lucille. The H-555 sounds dark,
smokey, and soft without the woodiness that is characteristic of the
ES-355 and to a lesser degree, the Lucille. Though it’s neck is very
similar to the Lucille’s, the H-555 has a shallower body and weighs
Because Heritage’s Rendal Wal created so many features and
refinements for both Gibson’s Lucille and the H-555, comparison’s
between the two are apt. These guitars are extremely close in
design and quite different in execution, somewhat like stepchildren,
except I think “Dad” liked the secondborn better.
Not surprisingly then, H-555 and Lucille have nearly identical shapes
and dimensions, excepting their body thicknesses. To my mind, that is
right and proper for a lutherie in a Gibson EX-facility full of so many
The statistics on my H-555 are:
FINISH: Almond sunburst
NECK: 1-piece curly maple
HEADSTOCK: bound & inlaid with mother of pearl and abalone.
FINGERBOARD: 22 fret 24-3/4″ bound ebony, mother of pearl
and abalone inlays.
BODY: 16-inch wide semi-hollow body, 1.5″ thick;
laminated curly maple top w/ bound f-holes;
solid curly maple rim; solid white maple back
HARDWARE: gold plated: Grover machine heads, Schaller stop
tailpiece and Schaller adjustable bridge.
ELECTRONICS: Two gold plated Schaller humbucking pickups; two volume
and two tone controls and selector switch.
Lucille is, well, about the same BUT ebony finished, 1.8″ thick body,
Gibson hardware & pickups, Schaller Fine-Tune TP-6 tailpiece and
NO f-holes. Early ES-355s specified Arkansas rock maple for the
center block, however, Gibson doesn’t mention it at this time.
The H-555′s 1.50″ deep body is 0.15″ thick maple, whether laminated
or solid. It resonates palpably when you play it. Lucille’s 1.80″
deep body is made of 0.23″ maple laminate and having NO f-holes,
resonates little, and sounds more like a solid body than the H-555.
The Lucille, having 50% more body panel wood than the H-555, is also
heavier than most Les Pauls.
The H-555 neck joins the body a bit farther up that the Lucille
as the table shows. Because it is so subtle visually, you don’t
notice this until you’re dinking around on the 13th fret and above.
body size 16″ 16″
body depth 1.50″ 1.80″
body panel thickness 0.15″ 0.23″
neck joins at fret 19 20
cutaway horn at fret 16 17
cutaway bottom at fret 21 22
The H-555′s slightly reduced upper access may be a problem above
the 15th fret. My opinion is that if you consistently like to
tapdance above the 15th fret, you use a 24 fret shredder’s guitar.
The H-555 and Lucille necks are close to within .05″ from nut to heel.
Oddly, the H-555 neck *feels* narrower. My dial caliper says I’m lying
since they are both 1-11/16″ at the nut, 2″ at the 12th fret, and taper
gradually from .8″ to 1.0″ over that span. This may qualify as wide
medium/slim, but I will defer to the more experienced folks on this.
(Note: dial calipers are your friend. They can save you from
displaying embarassing ignorance when you’re on the phone with
…oh, say…John Suhr, f’rinstance.)
The fingerboards are 22 fret ebony and bound; the fret wear on both
guitars appears average under magnification. Lucille’s frets are
.096″ sidth .045″ crown or a tall medium. The H-555 frets are .105″
width .055″ crown, a jumbo. I prefer the jumbo frets, but have
no trouble negotiating chromatic scales and vibratos on either
fingerboard since the action and tailpiece heights are now close
on both guitars.
FIT AND FINISH:
I bitch about this causticly, often, so will be brief.
Fit and finish are excellent on both guitars. No orange peel,
NO cracks, NO loose binding, NO hemophilic fretwork, NO significant
dead spots on the fingerboard, minimal (if any) string rattle,
The electronics all work as they should (although the Lucille
internals are a tad untidy, the work is solid).
They are beautiful, too.
All the foregoing becomes incidental once you savor…
The H-555′s darker smoky timbre is partly due to the ‘bottom-heavy’
pickups that are loaded by 300K volume & 250K tone pots, a component
selection closer to that of the early 70′s Gibson ES-355. You WANT
to learn more jazz when this guitar is in your hands.
The ’90 Lucille has 500K pots all around; it sounds louder, brighter,
grainier, has more bottom end, and is more percussive. Lucille chimes,
the H-555 is a smoky alto. They sound both similar and distinct.
The Lucille handles high loudness and distortion well while the
H-555 is mellower and sweeter through the midrange either with
or without moderate amounts of distortion. Bluntly put, the H-555
is unsuited for ear-bleeding loud death metal grunge because
it is more prone to feedback.
(stuff I either dislike or don’t have yet)
Both guitars’ makers threaten to compromise the sonic integrity
with ominously named circuits called the Gibson VariTone and the
Heritage Var-I-Phase (or ‘VIP’). Both circuits must be switched
in-circuit by choice.
Varitone’s original purpose was to give the option of filtering the
humbucker signal into 5 assorted single coil timbres; it is completely
passive and without volume compensation, making it’s use problematical.
Varitone is standard on all Lucilles. So is an additional stereo
jack. I dislike both features since I am obligated to work around
them and can never hit the mono jack on the first try.
VIP circuitry is a coil tap and phasing option that will absolutely
provide a single coil timbre plus variable in/out coil phase mix. My
H-555 doesn’t have it, I want it, and plan to get it Real Soon Now
so as to experience the joys of having even more switches to whack by
The cost of retrofitting for VIP is $250 less shipping. It is a
non-discountable $200 factory option if the guitar is custom ordered.
Plus case, the H-555 $2500 list price translates to $1800 over the
counter, same as the Lucille. My 4 year old H-555 cost only $1000
while a Lucille of that age would fetch $1200-1400. The Lucille is
a better investment for resale while the H-555 is a better value.
Me. I get to play them.
Heritage Guitar Inc.
225 Parsons Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
LASAR Music Corporation
PO Box 2045
Brentwood, TN 37027