For most working musicians, the only Goldtop within budget is a pint of milk. If that’s you, the Aria PE-90 demands investigation, sticking to the ‘50s vibe with a singlecut mahogany body, Tune-o-matic-style bridge and double-dose of rock’s most underrated pickup, the P-90.
Les Paul performance hinges on body bulk, and while the PE-90 is slimmer than you’d hope, it feels physically convincing thanks to a chubby neck, a comfortable fingerboard and a svelte heel that lets you get right up there to the teeny frets.
As for tone, things start off slow on the clean channel - where there’s bags of warmth but not enough bite - but improve rapidly once you hit the gain, with stinging sustain at the bridge and a buttery, bluesy voice over at the neck. It’s not as seismic as a humbucker singlecut, and the absence of a maple top costs the overall tone a little sweetness, but for £389, this is impressive.
Throw a stick in a guitar shop and you’ll hit an entry-level Les Paul derivative. It’s the toughest bracket in which to make an impression, yet Aria has managed it with a guitar that delivers bullet-proof performance for a watertight price. No, it’s not perfect (we’d have liked a little more clean clarity at the bridge pickup) and it may not be for life.
But until the first royalty cheque rolls in, this is your golden ticket to the world of rock.
Pros: Meaty distorted tone, feel, price.
Cons: Clean voice a bit woolly.