The Heritage line initially consisted of electric and acoustic guitars, electric basses, mandolins, and a banjo. The line was eventually narrowed to electric guitars only. Although most Heritage guitars were, and continue to be, based on Gibson designs, a few of their early electric guitars were based on modified Stratocaster and Telecaster designs.
Nowadays Heritage is a boutique manufacturer, making semi-hollow guitars, large jazz boxes, solidbody electrics. In these types of guitars, Paul Reed Smith Guitars and Gibson guitars are the closest nominal equivalents, though Heritage is a much smaller company making far fewer guitars.
In general, Heritage makes guitars that are similar to Gibson's products, but which the company's advocates and fans would say are constructed in a much more hand-made fashion, and with much greater individual attention to the instrument by the builders. Part of this increased attention to detail is a result of Heritage being a smaller operation than Gibson, and some of it is likely a reaction against the cost-cutting practices that developed at Gibson during the Norlin years (practices that Gibson would later work to remedy as well). There are differences between most of the Heritage models and their Gibson counterparts, however. For example, all Heritage full-body semi-acoustics have solid wood tops, while many of the Gibson guitars of this type had laminated tops after World War II. Both the 575 and the 535 are thinner than their Gibson cousins. Heritage has also introduced several new designs, most notably the Millennium models, which employ a semi-solid body that is more solid than a traditional semi-hollow design, but chambered, and thus less solid than a typical solid body.
During the first several years of the company, Heritage advertised its guitars in the usual guitar magazines. These advertisements made it clear that Heritage was making guitars on Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, without ever mentioning Gibson by name, and the company began to develop an image as the alternative to Gibson at a time when Gibson was going through a period of transition and rebuilding. But at some point in the 1990's, perhaps in an attempt to keep costs low or because orders were numerous enough, the company all but stopped advertising. This lack of an advertising presence significantly limited and even diminished the brand's name recognition among guitarists. Recent years have seen a growth in the Heritage name, in part due to word of mouth on internet forums devoted to guitars and guitar gear.
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