Smaller isn't always better, but in this case, you'll be surprised by how much you won't be missing. Just close your eyes and give it a test drive – rely on your touch and ears. The Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 provides a huge tone and additional features you won't find in any ordinary guitar off the rack. And to stay consistent with Carvin's affordability and options for customization, one can only agree that… Big things really do come in small packages.
The Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 electric guitar packs a lot of cool features in a relatively small package. Unlike some of its headless rivals, The Allan Holdsworth HH2 combines a traditional-like body shape in the form of a Telecaster made from a semi hollow Alder wood body with a white birch top.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING =3.7, which earns it a WIHO Award!
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
The neck of the Allan Holdsworth HH2 is comprised of a full 25.5 scale set-in hardrock maple neck with ebony fingerboard. Per Holdsworth's preference, the neck profile has a chunky 20' radius with 24 jumbo stainless steel frets and a satin finish on the back of the neck. Another cool feature is that the action of the neck is guaranteed at 1/16th of an inch.
The bridge assembly is made by JCustom Headless Research. With the matching headpiece, optional string configuration can be used with either single or double ball ends. When using single ball ends, an allen wrench is used to lock the string ends into place. All hardware is in black.
The Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 comes equipped with two Holdsworth designed H22 humbuckers. Ohm ratings equal 7.3k at the neck and 8.6k at the bridge. Standard controls include Volume, Tone and mini toggle pickup selector switch.
The HH2 Holdsworth pickups are fitted with three-position pickup skirts, enabling you to adjust the forward/backward angle in addition to the normal overall height adjustment of the pickup.
The overall body length measures only 30.5 inches long (minus the strap peg), 1.7 inches thick and 11 inches wide.
The body is equipped with two standard strap buttons located on the end of the body to allow for sitting or standing positional differences. The opposite end of the strap connects on the back of the guitar at the heel of the neck.
Our review model of the Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 came equipped with some optional upgrades (Carvin is great about making guitars to spec and allowing you some freedom-of-design preferences). We really liked our HH2's translucent pearl blue finish, and the guitar also included a push-pull tone coil splitter, diamond abalone inlays in the neck, a fixed bridge, and custom hard case.
The Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 headless guitar has a great advantage from the standpoint that it provides a great first impression sure to catch your attention. From there, the proof will be in the pudding—Uh… performance.
We found the Allan Holdsworth HH2 to be very alluring and couldn't wait to pick it up out of the miniature wooden rectangular case. But honestly, it felt funky just in size and weight, and the absence of a headstock just knocked us off balance mentally. So, we did what any professional would do and the closed our eyes and went for it. To our pleasant suspicion, Carvin remains true to their excellent build and craftsmanship. If you didn't know that the body was miniature and missing a headstock, you couldn't tell by playing it. The neck was extremely comfortable with its flat matt finish on its back while the stainless steel frets provided excellent playability on the rosewood fingerboard.
We found the JCustom bridge assembly to be very easy to use from an intonation setting standpoint to basic tuning. Intonation is easily set by loosening the bridge saddle and sliding into place before locking back down. The tuners located at the body of the guitar are easily accessible while providing smooth thumbscrews with knurled buttons for ease in adjustment.
Our review model of the Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 came equipped with two humbuckers controlled by a three-way toggle selector and a push-pull tone control knob for coil splitting. Having the option to split the coils and configure the pickups via the three-way pickup selector toggle gave us a wide range of tonal options. The only challenge we had with the push-pull knob was that it was hard to grab onto to pull out without slippage. We've seen some options including rubberized knobs for better grip, or easier yet, a push in/out knob.
For travelers, the Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 is a dream. As with any headless guitar design, you don't have to compromise scale length to bring a super-compact instrument along for the ride. In a gig bag (perhaps a billiards pool stick bag)—or even the diminutive hard case the HH2 ships with, this instrument can easily fit in an airplane overhead compartment. But don't be mislead into thinking this is a travel guitar. It's a fantastic guitar in all ways that just happens to be ridiculously portable.
Upon our first visual impression, we were a little skeptical of what kind of tone might come from the Carvin Allan Holdsworth HH2 electric guitar. To our pleasant surprise, big tone, and lots of tone, was the answer. The HH2 is filled with quite a pallet of different tones and colors that we found truly inspirational.
For our first plugged in experience, we used a Mesa/Boogie Lone Star amplifier. As we found with some of the other Carvins we reviewed, you couldn't help but notice the brightness, attack, and power of the HH2 humbuckers. The pickups provided a very clear and articulated sound sure to cut through any mix without any hint of being shrill or thin—just a very clear, clean tone. We easily obtained Strat-like tones when funking things up, especially when splitting the coils, and it was also easy to achieve very acoustic-sounding clean tones. The neck pickup wasn't especially hot, so a clean boost pedal might be desired if you're the kind of player who likes to drive a clean channel into a bit of clipping for solos, but if you reach for overdriven amp channels like we do, have no fear…
Soloing through the overdrive channel of the Lone Star gave us a wide range of tonal possibilities. Obviously, tones a la Holdsworth are on tap here, but taking into consideration the characteristics of the HH2 pickups, this guitar had no problem delivering tones from subtle bluesy to high gain crunch. The pickups are very expressive and can be additionally tamed by rolling off the volume knob, while the tone control also provides excellent tonal variety, especially in the middle and neck position where we experienced the warmth and roundness of a deep, fluty tone.
For you shred maniacs out there, the Allan Holdsworth HH2 can also provide a huge sound unmatched to its size. We plugged the guitar into our Bogner Ecstasy anniversary rig and went straight to the red/high gain channel. We were able to achieve every bit of heavy tone and sustain while maintaining note clarity and articulation. The notes from the H2 just hang on for days! Providing a quick attack, shredders will love the immediacy of the response whether soloing or playing tight rhythm progressions. We suspect the set-neck construction and ebony fretboard contributed to the bright tone and snappy response from this guitar, and that character enabled the guitar to cut nicely through a dense arrangement of instruments when playing live. Needless to say, sustain was excellent.
We also ran the guitar through an ENGL Powerball II head and had a similar positive reaction. The guitar gave us beautiful cleans, modern metal, and all rock things in between.
Documentation and Product Support
Carvin has always impressed us with their guitar documentation, and a downloadable PDF from the Carvin.com website featured color photographs and text that fully explained how to change strings and make typical adjustments. For players who never owned a headless instrument—like most of us, this documentation proved extremely helpful.
The Carvin Holdsworth HH2 as configured per our review model sells for $1,503. This is a great price for any professional artist-level guitar, and the fact that it is customizable (finish, body and neck woods, fretboard materials, bridge, pickups, etc.) makes it a bargain compared to many other pro guitars from the familiar competitors.
With build times typically in the 5-8 week range, plus a money-back guaranty if you don't like the instrument, Carvin certainly has a leg up over many of the other custom shops. These past couple of years, Carvin has really impressed us with the quality of their instruments. We always liked their instruments in the past, but it seems like lately, they've just really taken their guitar building to the next level. Keep up the great work, Carvin!
Steinberger ZT3 Custom
Steinberger Synapse ST