If money’s no object, the last 12 months have demonstrated that the pinnacle of modern guitar building still has plenty of surprises and innovation in store for us.
WINNER: Macmull Stinger
After spending the past decade building some of the world’s finest Fender-inspired guitars, this new design from the Macmull team has both Kalamazoo and California in its DNA. In many ways, it’s a best-of-both-worlds situation. You’ll find Hendrix, Mayer, Townshend, and Gibbons tones here in one supremely comfortable machine, and the snappy attack gives way to smooth, even, and lengthy sustain. Both ergonomically and sonically, this is an exceptional solidbody design. Buy Now
Gibson Murphy Lab 1959 Les Paul Standard
Gibson fans have waited decades for the company to make vintage-accurate Les Pauls with no caveats, compromises or corners cut – the Murphy Lab is worth the wait. The effect is profound, and this Les Paul is easily the finest and most convincing recreation of a vintage Gibson that the company has ever produced. Buy Now
Eastman Romeo LA
Eastman’s svelte hollowbody design has been given a West Coast makeover – the Romeo LA is the most overtly ‘alternative’ Eastman model so far and it’s also our favorite. There’s jangle and raunch aplenty from this inspiring original design.
Trent Model 1
Crafted in Dorset, UK, this eco-friendly offset promises all the quality of boutique luthiery at a mass-produced price. Striking in style yet covering a wide range of likeable tones, this is a hugely promising debut instrument that demonstrates a different way to approach a luthier-made guitar.
Ernie Ball Music Man St. Vincent Goldie
Annie Clark’s latest tweak on her hugely successful signature model takes the styling in a more restrained and vintage direction, while also swapping out the humbuckers for gold foils. The result is a uniquely beautiful signature guitar that also happens to play and sound great. There’s only one word for this guitar: spectacular.
Looking for Firebird stylings in a less intimidating form factor? This artful new single-cut design from Neil Ivison is just the ticket. Visually and sonically, this is the most graceful reimagining of Ray Dietrich’s original concept we’ve ever played.
Gretsch G6129T-89 Vintage Select ’89 Sparkle Jet
This remake of a guitar from the heady days of grunge and Britpop is proof positive that there’s far more to Gretsch than just rockabilly. A stellar tribute to the guitar wielded by the likes of Chris Cornell and Tim Wheeler that improves on the original in terms of playability, stability, and tone.
The first non-solid entry into the reborn Harmony’s USA-made range offers an intriguing tension between a build that leans towards mellowness and pickups that pull in the opposite direction. The result is a characterful instrument that’s our favorite new Harmony model yet.
Fender American Professional II Telecaster Deluxe
The American Professional II Telecaster Deluxe naturally bears something of an aesthetic resemblance to the Tele Deluxe of 1972 but this is a thoroughly modern and updated instrument. We’ve been impressed with the AmPro range, but this guitar might just be the best of the bunch.
Epiphone USA Collection Casino
Rather than aiming for a specific model year, the USA Collection Casino is something of a greatest hits compilation of desirable features that has helped the design appear on more hit records than any other Epiphone. More versatile than you think, and more practical than ever, it’s great to see the Casino back in the USA.
Rivolta Regata VII
The latest instrument in the Dennis Fano-designed Rivolta range is this stylish 24-fret offset twist on the traditional semi-hollowbody. The Regata perfectly straddles the divide between modern practicality and vintage tone. It seems to be something that’s bread and butter for Dennis Fano, but few other contemporary electric guitar designers manage this.