Product Review: Hanson Cigno ST Guitar
By: Bob Cianci
Hanson Guitars of Chicago is a relatively new name in the world of mid-priced guitars, but their decidedly retro instruments have gotten good reviews, and have attracted well known endorsers such as Alejandro Escovedo, Paul Cotton, Pat Sansone, Charlie Sexton, Ivan Julian and others.
The Cigno’s body shape recalls those kitschy Italian guitars of the ‘60s (minus their gaudy plastic covered bodies), with a solid mahogany body, a ‘60s style Gibson set neck with a raised volute, a rosewood fingerboard with pearl block markers, a 24.75 scale, medium jumbo frets, three custom wound Hanson P-90 soapbar pickups, a Tone Pros Tune-o-matic fixed bridge assembly, Tone Pros licensed tailpiece, enclosed full size chrome Schaller style tuners, and a licensed Bigsby trem. The gold “plexi” pickguard is painted underneath and features a stylized Hanson logo on the top left. Both the body and neck are bound with a cream colored binding, and the headstock has a shape that’s vaguely similar to the old Japanese Teisco electrics of the ‘60’s.
The controls are a master volume, master tone, and a five-way pickup selector switch that allow versatile and useful tonal combinations as follows:
Position #1-Bridge; #2-Bridge & Middle; #3-Bridge & Neck; #4-Middle & Neck; #5-Neck.
Available finishes are limited to black and translucent burgundy that looks very much like Gibson’s veritable Heritage Cherry.
While I was inspecting the Cigno, the red flag words, “Crafted in Indonesia,” caught my attention, and gave me grievous mental images of those low grade Squier Stratocasters that are priced for beginners. Fortunately, after I played the Cigno, all fears of cheapness were laid to rest. This is a good sounding, good playing, quality built guitar.
Before I plugged the Cigno in, I strapped it on and played it acoustically. The guitar is superbly balanced; no neck dive at all, and the neck and body exhibited adequate natural resonance after my tap test. It felt well made and solidly built, and would hold up nicely for years under the most strenuous gigging conditions.
Again, before plugging it in, I did my infamous “whammy test” to see how well it would stay in tune. The “whammy test” involves violent and extreme pushes and pulls on the trem bar, a la Jimi Hendrix. As expected, the strings did not return to proper pitch, but after awhile, the Bigsby and the new D’Addario strings settled down, and I was able to effectively use the trem without too much trouble. Hanson owner John Pirrucello told me that a little WD-40 on the nut should remedy any tuning issues. As this was a loaner, I decided to take him at his word as not to dirty the nut.
The fretwork was clean and well done. No issues at all.
After plugging the Cigno into my stock Fender Hot Rod Deluxe and running through the various tonal combinations, I realized this is a very versatile instrument, capable of handling just about any style of music with ease. Every pickup combination yielded useful sounds whether played through the clean channel or with overdrive. The Bridge position alone was the most satisfactory for soloing, and the Bridge & Neck served well as a rhythm setting, but you will have your own favorites. You can compare the Cigno’s three- pickup configuration to a Stratocaster, but what you get is true P-90 tone; clean at lower volumes and grind at higher settings. According to John Pirrucello, the sound he was after was that of an old Les Paul Junior he liked, and I believe he has achieved that with his custom-wound P-90 pickups.
Because I am not used to guitars equipped with three P-90s (or humbuckers for that matter), I found myself hitting the middle pickup often with my pick, but that’s not the guitar’s fault-it’s mine-and I would need to work on my picking technique to overcome this problem. But, this could also be an issue for other players who are not used to a middle pickup.
The Cigno and all other Hanson guitars are sold through a modest but growing dealer network, and are also available directly from Hanson. The Cigno lists at $675, and comes with a substantial, well padded gig bag. All Hanson guitars are tested, adjusted, and set up to exacting standards before they leave the shop.
To find out more about the Cigno and Hanson, log onto their website, www.hansonguitars.com.