Great hollow / semi-hollow body guitars to tempt you
You could say hollow body guitars are the optimism/pessimism dilemma of the guitar world. Is it an electric? An acoustic? Both? Neither?! However, you see it, semi-acoustic guitars have cemented their place in guitar folklore thanks to their versatility across a number of styles. From their iconic big body looks to their unmistakably warm tone, these guitars ooze class.
Hollow Body History
Hollow body guitars have been around since the 1930s when the big band players of the time wanted a way to make their instrument loud enough to compete with the cavalcade of other instruments sharing the stage. Building a guitar which was both able to be played through an amplifier, yet resonant enough to have a loud unplugged volume in its own right, was hugely appealing to plenty of players. Gibson was among the first to introduce hollow body guitars to the market with their ES 150 (an abbreviation of Electric Spanish, fact fans) guitar. In truth, it was an experiment. Gibson wanted to see if there were any interest and subsequent financial sense in creating the range.
Thankfully, there was indeed interest. So much so that we still see ES series guitars among the first names announced each year when Gibson announces a new range. Largely the new designs echo the characteristics of the old ones, even down to the choice of colours, but as manufacturing and production techniques improve each year, so does the quality of the guitar. Now, most of the big manufacturers have some form of hollow-body entry on their ranges.
Hollow / Semi-Hollow
Just to clear things up for those who’ve been asking the question: what is the difference between hollow and semi-hollow body guitars? To make the distinction clear we need to also bring in solidbody models.
Firstly, a solidbody is an unchambered piece of wood, which utilises the vibrations of the strings that are amplified by the pickups to generate sound. Classic solidbody models include Telecasters, Stratocasters, Les Pauls, etc.
Secondly, hollowbody guitars utilise a single-interior chamber that allows soundwaves to reverberate and generate acoustic depth and warmth. The overall output is a combination not only of the acoustic timbre but also sound translated by the pickups. At high volumes these models can be highly susceptible to feedback.
Thirdly, semi-hollowbody models are essentially a combination of hollow- and solidbody models. The idea behind them is to create the same chambered design to generate acoustic warmth, whilst a centre-block runs through the central cavity of the body to temper unwanted overtones and harness feedback rather than letting it run out of control.
There are advantages and disadvantages to any and every model depending upon your needs at the time. Not all will tick every box with everyone, hence why our list highlights hollow- and semi-hollowbody models for your perusal.
1. Gibson 2019 ES-355
Makes sense to start with an icon. Released back in the 1950s, the ES-355 was the world’s first thinline archtop semi-electric guitar, combining the glorious humbucker pickup designed by Gibson pickup champion Seth Lover, and is the model that would go on to be adopted by some of the biggest names in guitar through the ages including BB King, Keith Richards, Jorma Kaukonen, Chuck Berry, and Noel Gallagher.
The Gibson ES-355 is endowed with a sleek semi-hollowbody featuring a thermally engineered chambered maple centreblock to temper unwanted feedback at high levels. A quartersawn mahogany neck plays like a dream whilst the dark rosewood fingerboard is luxurious under the fingertips. Memphis Historic Spec II humbuckers deliver an emphatic tonal delivery, affording an exuberant experience every time. Every model is supplied with a Gibson hardshell case to keep your prized model safe at home and on your travels.
2. Epiphone Dot 335
For the more value-conscious, there is a superb quality Epiphone version of the above guitar to consider. The Epiphone Dot 335 uses a full maple neck and body with a rosewood fingerboard and comes equipped with two Alnico humbuckers which deliver superlative vintage tones.
Do not be fooled by the ludicrously affordable price tag, the Epiphone Dot 335 is an absolute workhorse, plays beautifully and offers a tonal energy and versatility that punches well above what you’d expect. Don’t take our word for it though, several happy customer kindly left us several 5-Star reviews praising this exceptional model.
3. Ibanez AFV75 Artcore
Ibanez may be more generally associated with shredders and heavier genres of music. However, they have been quite capably delivering exceptional hollow/semi-hollowbody models for legends such as George Benson, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield for many a year. The Ibanez AFV75 Artcore Hollowbody is a true hollowbody with archtop and sophisticated F-holes through the linden body top. Pairing their smooth Classic Elite passive humbuckers with the all-linden body wood, Ibanez ensure that the depth and warmth produced by the AFV75 sings ever so sweetly.
By employing a set-in nyatoh neck, sustain is given an enduring power so that each and every note rings true. Likewise, the AR1 bridge and VT60 tailpiece optimise intonation and sustain, allowing you to cruise through licks and riffs with the utmost confidence. From blues to jazz to hard rock, you’d be surprised by how eager the Ibanez AFV75 is to tackle anything and everything thrown its way.
4. Epiphone ES-339 PRO
The Epiphone ES-339 PRO borrows from its larger sibling the ES-335 and packs the same firepower into a scaled-down form. For those who want an easier to wield model without sacrificing on that character-filled tone we’ve come to love from an Epiphone ES-335, then it’s probably the ES-339 PRO that you’re after.
A pair of Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers with push/pull coil-tapping capabilities afford dense humbucker tones as well as the ability to sharpen things up a bit. Versatility in the studio or on the stage is at the heart of the ES-339, and you’ll never tire of seeing what wonders you can conjure from this little dynamo. Once again, several happy customers have left us some compliment dense 5-Star reviews on the ES-339, which you can check out for yourself.
5. Gretsch G2420T Streamliner
We couldn’t talk about hollow body electric guitars without Gretsch! The Gretsch G2420T Streamliner is the brand’s budget-friendly option for those who want that unmistakable Gretsch sound and feel but aren’t able to stretch to the higher budget options. The G2420 is a modestly priced guitar that certainly doesn’t mess around when it comes to quality of build and tone. Beautifully crafted rich, warm tones are achieved through combining a maple body with signature Broad’Tron BT-2S humbucking pickups whilst the licensed Bigsby B60 affords imperious vibrato control. Pro-quality at less than 500 notes? You’re being absolutely spoilt!
6. PRS SE 277
One from slightly leftfield now. This superb PRS SE 277 is actually a baritone, meaning it has a longer scale length (27.7″) and is tuned a few steps lower than a regular guitar. Baritones were made to bridge the gap between bass and guitar and are closely associated with certain styles of music like surf, spaghetti western and metal. This PRS SE adheres to the usual high standards of production and will last you a lifetime.
7. Epiphone Casino
Well we couldn’t have a best hollowbody guitars blog without including the Epiphone Casino, could we? The likes of Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Noel Gallagher of Oasis and of course John Lennon of The Beatles have favoured the Casino, and for good reason. The build quality and sound out of the P90R and P90T single coil pickups is absolutely beautiful. It’s been utilised by both Jazz and rock musicians owing to the powerful sound that the Casino is capable of and its versatility. If you haven’t played one of these yet, you really should try them out.
8. Squier Classic Series ’72 Thinline Telecaster
Another traditionally solid-body guitar appearing in a hollow guise here; this Squier Classic Vibe 70s Thinline Telecaster is a lean, mean blues machine. Its semi-hollow poplar body is complemented by a pair of beefy Fender-designed Wide Range humbuckers, which will soak up overdrive from your amp and provide you with a uniquely open, rounded tone. Lightweight and built like a workhorse, you’re sure to steal the limelight when you step out on stage with one of these beauties in your hands.
9. Epiphone Sheraton II PRO
Another Epiphone here and another absolute gem of an instrument, the Epiphone Sheraton II PRO. Since it first graced the world stage back in the 1950s, the Sheraton has been seen in the hands of many a legend, not forgetting Noel Gallagher’s famous “Union Jack” rendition. This particular model is equipped with Gibson Burstbucker 2 and 3 humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions respectively, which give the Sheraton II PRO a roaring tonal arsenal that is perfect for main stage headliners who want to shine brightly.
Not only that but the Midnight Sapphire finish is as cool as Christmas, and premium hardware features throughout with Grover Rotomatic tuning machines, LockTone Tune-O-Matic tailpiece, all completed in gold and looking rather tasty indeed.
10. Ibanez AF55 Artcore
Rounding off the list is a brooding hollowbody in the form of the Ibanez AF55 Artcore. Offering outstanding value for money, the AF55 Artcore doesn’t skimp on the premium appointments with a mahogany set-in neck for improved sustain, a pair of Ibanez Infinity R pickups that translate the richness of tone beautifully, and a responsive bridge and tailpiece for immaculate intonation and sustain. Whether you’re performing as part of a jazz ensemble, sailing through some country licks or kicking back with some blues, the AF55 Artcore is a rare model that offers value well in excess of its modest price tag.
Get in touch
We hope this list showing 10 of the best hollow body guitars was enough to inspire you. Perhaps you’re an acoustic player looking for a smooth entry into the world of electric, or maybe you’re a die-hard electric player looking to vary and develop your tonal palette. Either way, there’s something for every player.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.