Whenever “Höfner Guitars” is mentioned, images of a feverish Beatlemania automatically come to mind. This is not surprising since The Beatles’ existence will always be intertwined with the Höfner, ever since Sir James Paul McCartney decided to strap on a violin bass. Throughout McCartney’s enduring music career with the fab four, his band Wings and as a solo artist, he was inseparable with his Höfner, making the brand almost synonymous with the left-handed rock icon.
However, Höfner guitars are not limited to the pop-driven music of the boys from Liverpool, as throngs of artists from a broad range of genres have utilized Höfners in their recordings and live performances. Without a doubt, Höfner is one of the most influential music instrument brands in modern culture and it will remain in the consciousness of the masses for decades to come.
Karl Höfner GmbH & Co. KG: A brief history
Höfner is one of the oldest music instrument brands in the era of electric guitars. Its history stretches way back to 1887, when German luthier Karl Höfner established his company in Schönbach in Austria-Hungary.
Armed with the skills and passion for lutherie, it did not take too long for Höfner to become the biggest producer of stringed instruments in the country. However, the pivotal moment came when Josef and Walter Höfner joined their father’s business in 1920 and helped in catapulting the brand to global prominence.
Walter Höfner’s daughter Gerhilde managed the company with her husband until 1994 when British music publisher the Boosey and Hawkes Group absorbed Höfner. With a much larger capital, Höfner’s facilities scaled up and were modernized. Unfortunately, the company almost suffered from bankruptcy in 2003, prompting a couple more changes in ownership and management.
Today, the owners of Höfner are their long-time general manager Klaus Schöller and his wife Ulrike Schrimpff, who used to be the company’s finance director.
Are Höfner guitars still being made?
After all the challenges that Höfner has faced in the past, they are still making guitars in Beijing, China where they have received a Grade A certification from the country’s regulating body. Most of their production in China focuses on budget instruments intended for students.
For medium-priced and premium builds, Höfner crafts them in Hagenau, Bavaria, Germany.
Are Höfner classical guitars any good?
When Höfner started building classical guitars in 1930, they already had more than four decades of producing stringed instruments under their belt.
Höfner has never ceased making classical guitars since then and they have perfected the traditional way of crafting them. Until this day, Höfner classical guitars are still handmade in their workshops in Hagenau.
Whether it’s a “Carmencita” from their budget line, or an HLE Limited Edition, Höfner guarantees that their classical guitars are painstakingly built by some of the best artisans in the world.
Höfner guitar and bass models
- 500/1 Violin Bass
The fame violin bass that became Paul McCartney’s trademark instrument
- Club 40, 50 and 60
Guitars belonging to the Club series are inspired by the Les Paul and are in fact hollow-bodied electric guitars, minus the soundholes
- The Ambassador
The Ambassador is a thinline semi-acoustic guitar
- The Chancellor
Höfner’s limited edition, high-end archtops
- The Colorama
Coloramas are budget semi-solid body electric guitars
- The Committee
Luxury-level archtop guitars by Höfner
- The Congress
Archtop guitar with no cut-aways
- The Galaxie
Solid-body electric guitars
- The President
Single cutaway, mid-range archtops
- The Senator
More awesome archtops from Höfner
- The Shorty
The Shorty is a travel guitar that was launched in the early ‘80s
- The Verithin
A Semi-acoustic guitar boasting a thin 30mm body
- The V Series
Solid-body electric guitar
Who plays Höfner guitars?
Here are some bassists and guitarists who have at least used a Höfner either during their humble beginnings, or as world-famous music superstars.
- Cone McCaslin (Sum 41)
- Dale Davis (Amy Whinehouse)
- Jim Kreegan (Barenaked Ladies)
- Leland Sklar
- Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
- Robbie Shakespeare (Peter Tosh)
- Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads)
- Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick)
- Albert Lee
- Eric Clapton
- George Harrison (The Beatles)
- Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
- John Lennon (The Beatles)
- John Squire (Stone Roses)
- Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones)
- Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)
- Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple)
Is Höfner a good guitar brand?
Putting the accolades and fame aside, Höfner guitars and basses are durable, great-sounding instruments. The high standard set by German companies when it comes to craftsmanship is evident on guitars built by Höfner and the awesome talents that have used them.
However, if you are looking for guitars that will satisfy your need for high output, heavily distorted music, then Höfner isn’t exactly your best bet. Although you might find a way to tweak a Höfner and use it for your metalcore riffs, acquiring a guitar that’s designed for your style is still the more logical option. As for bass players who wish to emulate the likes of Flea and Marcus Miller, be aware that if you slap on a Höfner violin bass, it will not produce a crisp sound like you would usually hear from a jazz bass.
Höfner guitars are also versatile instruments but there is a specific range of music that it can serve really well. Musicians who specialize in blues, soul, r&b and rock and roll, will surely enjoy using Höfner guitars and basses.