GEAR EXPO 2022: One of the cruellest facts of life in the guitar industry is that it only unveils its tastiest treats after the holiday season (at the Winter NAMM show, in ‘normal’ times) – the point when we’re left at our most, er, financially depleted. The good news for 2022, though, is that many of the must-try guitars are attractively priced.
Whether it's the long-awaited PRS SE Silver Sky, Cort’s boutique-style workhorse G290 FAT II or one of the newly-finished Gretsch G2215-P90s, there are plenty of instruments on this list that can be attained by us mere mortals.
That doesn’t mean there’s not something for those after premium options (hello to the PRS Fiore), but from the 40th Anniversary Squier builds to the new Epiphone Joan Jett Olympic Special there’s perhaps more tempting low- to mid-price options on display than ever before.
On second thoughts, perhaps this is not such good news for our wallets...
PRS SE Silver Sky
$849 / £899
PRS has confirmed the long-awaited SE version of the John Mayer Silver Sky signature guitar with details of the four launch finishes and specs.
The £849 / £899 model been hoped for since the PRS version was launched in 2018 but brings with it a distinct take on the blueprint. Four new finishes are offered for its launch with Moon White, Dragon Fruit, Ever Green and, our favourite, Stone Blue. The biggest surprise with the SE offering is a distinct change in core spec; an unusual 8.5" fretboard radius compared to the original PRS model's 7.25".
Body wood is poplar with a maple 635JM shape bolt-on neck and rosewood fingerboard. The trio of pickups are again 635JM 'S', with a five-way selector and one volume / two tone controls. The 2-point steel tremolo continues the spec of the PRS version. Tuners are a departure with non-locking PRS Vintage-style this time and a synthetic bone nut is used.
PRS Fiore Mark Lettieri signature model
$2,449 / £2,599
For 2022, Mark Lettieri’s PRS signature model, Fiore is offered in a new blue solid-colour finish, evocatively named Larkspur.
All the other specs remain the same, so if blue is your colour, you’ll find the Larkspur Fiore to be one of the most versatile high-end electric guitars on the market today, bringing you a fresh take on the HSS format with a set of custom designed pickups and a control circuit featuring a five-way pickup selector and a pair of push/pull controls capable of producing tones for almost any style you care to imagine.
Cort G290 FAT II
Cort’s original G290 FAT received a five star review and now, with the G290 FAT II, these classy doublecuts just got classier. Features include roasted maple necks and matching fingerboards, a fresh colour option, a Graph Tech TUSQ nut and Luminlay side dot markers.
Now available in Antique Violin Burst, Trans Black Burst and Bright Blue Burst, it is built for performance. The Voiced Tone VTH77 humbucker pairing offers a wide range of tones via the five-way pickup selector, so there are plenty of in-between sounds to complement the full-fat humbucker voicings.
With the compound 12”-15.75” fingerboard radius, the feel is contemporary, but the Ergo-V profile is a nod to old-school neck and balances the need for speed with the need for comfort. The build sees figured maple on top of solid alder, and Cort don’t scrimp on the hardware, with staggered locking tuners keeping things solid, so you can ride that CFA-III tremolo unit hard.
Gretsch G2215-P90 Streamliner Junior Jet Club P90
$399.99 / £385 / €440
New finishes for the Streamliner Collection’s Junior Jet Club P90 are coming in 2022. This single cut solid body model combines the 'new' (we're thinking tweaked) Broad’Tron BT-2S bridge pickup and a P90 soap bar in the neck position for a very attractive combo. Especially in Shell Pink!
Controls to shape those tones are a master tone control, master volume control and three-way pickup selector. The body is bound nato with mahogany-stained bolt-on nato necks with 12-inch radius laurel fingerboards, elegant pearloid Neo-Classic thumbnail inlays and 22 medium jumbo frets.
Finish options are Havana Burst, Ocean Turquoise and Shell Pink.
Squier 40th Anniversary Telecaster Gold Edition
$599.99 / £499 / €599
Squier celebrates a big birthday with its 40th Anniversary Collection. The Gold Edition models all include anodised aluminium pickguards, Fender-Designed Alnico single-coil pickups and vintage-style gold hardware.
Given it is the ultimate workhorse, the Tele dresses up very well. The Gold Edition pairs a nyatoh body with a slim, C-shaped maple neck and a bound Indian laurel fingerboard with perloid block inlays, plus a three-saddle string-through-body bridge. Available in Black and Sherwood Green Metallic.
Solar T1.7 Vinter
Ola Englund’s Solar Guitars has launched five new electric guitars for 2022, each equipped with active Fishman pickups and a high-performance spec that makes the brand a good fit for guitar players versed heavy metal’s dark arts.
We like the look of the seven-string T1.7 Vinter, which boast a vaguely T-style alder body, a bolt-on three-piece maple neck in a Thin C profile, a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers, ebony fingerboards and 24 super jumbo stainless steel frets, and an EverTune bridge.
As with the others in the series, you’ve got high ratio 18:1 Solar tuners, Luminlay glow-in-the-dark side-markers, and altogether a serious metal guitar.
ESP LTD James Hetfield Snakebyte Camo
$1,676 / $1,899
Loosely drawn from the Gibson Explorer template, sharpened and modernised strategically, the Snakebyte Camo’s shape is by now familiar. But this finish is something new, bespoke even, and was inspired by Hetfield’s favourite high-performance hunting gear manufacturer KUIU.
The Snakebyte Camo has a solid mahogany body with a thin U-profile mahogany set neck, and an ebony fingerboard seating 22 extra-jumbo frets. Its TonePros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece offers a no-nonsense platform for ferocious downpicking, while Hetfield’s signature EMG active humbuckers delivers the firepower.
Just be sure to run it through something high-gain and monstrous when it ships in May...
Epiphone Joan Jett Olympic Special
£489 / $549
Epiphone and rock legend Joan Jett have teamed up for a signature guitar inspired by her favourite stage six-string. The Epiphone Joan Jett Olympic Special arrives in Aged Classic White with a black pickguard.
Comprising a lightweight mahogany body with a wide and shallow double-cutaway design, and a set mahogany neck, Jett’s Olympic Special is a kissing cousin of the Gibson Melody Maker that Jett has been associated with since the late ‘70s.
There‘s a PowerHammer Pro located in the bridge position, with pickup controls limited a single CTS volume pot and – like her signature Gibson – a kill-switch toggle.
The Gibson DNA is carried over into the 24.75” scale length and the 12” fingerboard radius, but as with the others in Epiphone’s contemporary lineup, we have an Indian laurel ‘board. Dot inlays further add to the throw-and-go vibe.
The narrow-style Olympic Special headstock bears Jett’s signature on the back and is fitted with a set of sealed die-cast tuners. Eschewing a tune-o-matic bridge, Jett instead plumps for a wraparound bridge and tailpiece that is easily adjustable.
Ibanez AZ Premium AZ42P1
$1,299 / £1,079
The AZ42P1 comes packing a first for the AZ Premium series - this time in the form of a rosewood fingerboard. As with the other new models, the body is basswood, this time without a fancy top, and finished instead in a flat gloss Black.
The pickups are Seymour Duncan Hyperions, and just like the AZ427P1PB, they’re controlled with the dyna-MIX10 switching system, offering the same 10 variations and coil split. Hardware-wise, you get a Gotoh T1502 tremolo, Gotoh MG-T locking tuners and a Graph Tech nut.
Fender JV Modified 60s Stratocaster
$1,299.99 / £1,249
The new Japanese JV series is inspired by the highly-rated reissues from 1980s, but with added twists of wiring mods that will give players even wider tonal horizons.
Here it's one of our favourite guitar mods ever; adding the neck pickup to positions 1 and 2 on the Strat via the Tone 2 push-pull pot makes the versatility of this classic guitar even greater.
A vintage-correct soft “V”-shaped satin maple neck features here, with a 9.5” radius maple fingerboard and medium jumbo frets. This Olympic White model also comes equipped with a 6-point synchronised tremolo with bent steel saddles. Like all the JV models it's also fitted with vintage locking tuners.