Winner: Supro Island and Americana Series
NAMM 2017: As we’ve said many times before, it’s very hard to say what the ‘best’ guitars are - guitarists are a notoriously particular bunch, but we’re confident players of all genres will find something they like among this lot.
Here, we’ve put together a brief round-up of the guitars that will make waves in 2017, whether that’s down to their heritage, forward-thinking or both. We’ll start with this year’s winner from Anaheim: Supro’s Island and Americana Series.
We’d heard rumblings of Supro reviving its guitar line, but we didn’t expect it to be quite so comprehensive or, indeed, keenly priced, with 14 new models spanning RRPs from £649 to £1,199.
The company’s Island and Americana guitars cover a huge range of pickup and vibrato configurations, but what they all have in common is a sharp attention to detail, thanks to input from Supro's Dave Koltai, famed designer Trev Wilkinson, vintage pickup expert Ken Calvet and luthier Glenn Sweetwood.
Since the US brand’s return in 2014, it’s released a rapidly expanding line of amps, pedals and now guitars, all of which provide the perfect example of taking a company forward while staying true to its heritage.
Fender Exotic Wood 2017 Limited Edition Malaysian Blackwood Telecaster 90
This mash-up of styles comes courtesy of Fender’s 2017 limited-edition Exotic Wood series, which gives traditional designs a tonewood makeover.
We were particularly taken by this take on the Tele, which packs a pair of JP-90 single coils and string-through-body bridge with brass saddles, as well as that distinctive stripe - it makes us think of Fender’s past experiments with ‘Longboard’ designs.
Suhr Ian Thornley Signature Classic JM
Ian Thornley is one of our no 1 unsung heroes here at MR, so we were thrilled to see the longtime Suhr player receive a signature version of the company’s new Classic JM.
Featuring a slightly downsized offset alder body, Thornley’s JM is most notable for its HSH pickup configuration (SSV neck humbucker, V70 single coil, SSH+ bridge humbucker), as well as series/parallel switches, which switch each humbucker independently.
LTD Bill Kelliher Sparrowhawk
When the Mastodon guitarist switched from Gibson to ESP, little did we realise he’d produce two signature models in the space of a year, the second of which is the Sparrowhawk you see before you.
It’s a finely equipped rock and metal machine, with a set-through neck construction with 24.75” scale, mahogany body, Tone Pros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece, plus Kelliher’s Lace Sensor Divinator signature pickups.
This Military Green Sunburst Satin-finished bird will cost $1,703 when it swoops in later this year.
Guild M-240E Troubadour
For 2017, Guild has revived the Troubadour name, and this small-body Sunburst addition is right on trend.
A Sitka spruce top is paired with an arched mahogany back, while a DeArmond ToneBoss humbucking soundhole pickup handles the electro side of things.
Great for amplified rootsy blues playing, this. The M-240E will be $640 on release.
Ibanez JEM 30th Anniversary
It’s been three decades since Ibanez first partnered with Steve Vai, and in honour of this momentous anniversary, the company has reissued a trio of JEM models.
Destined to be snapped up by shred fans - after all, those Loch Ness Green, Desert Sun Yellow and Shocking Pink finishes aren’t for everyone - the guitars feature basswood bodies, ‘disappearing pyramid’ inlays and Vai’s signature DiMarzio Evolution pickups.
Engraved neck plates flag these up as limited anniversary editions. MSRP is a very precise $4,666.65.
More info: Ibanez unveils 30th Anniversary JEM777
Martin Custom 1937 D-29 Authentic Aged
Now, this guitar’s $9,999 price tag puts it outside the reach of most, but it’s important for another reason: it’s the first time Martin has implemented an ageing process to an acoustic guitar - like relic’ing on electrics.
A limited run of 50 1937 D-28 Authentics will test the waters for the technology, which each feature an adirondack top with Vintage Tone System, Madagascar rosewood back and sides, plus Authentic 1937 neck.
We’re intrigued to see if the look reaches the mainstream, but for now, it’s a fascinating experiment, expertly executed.
Gibson Johnny A/Joe Bonamassa spruce top
Although its mysterious new solidbody design was conspicuously absent from the stand, Gibson was showcasing a host of new Custom designs, most notably this horny double-cut.
Inspired by (presumably half of) Joe Bonamassa’s 1959 EMS-1235 doubleneck, not to mention Johnny A’s signature model, this spruce-topped electric promises to be lightweight and resonant.
Taylor Academy Series
Spending time at the Taylor booth is usually a wallet-worrying affair, but this year sees the release of Academy Series acoustics, which capture the vibe of Taylor’s high-end models, but at prices hovering around the £650-£700 mark.
Solid Sitka spruce tops are paired with layered sapele back and sides, Taylor necks, mahogany armrests, matte finishes, plus ES-B electronics and a Taylor gigbag.
Three body shapes are available - the Dreadnought A10e, Grand Concert A12e and nylon-string Grand Concert A12e-N - and we can’t wait to get our hands on them.
More info: Taylor launches affordable Academy Series
Boss Strandberg V-Guitar prototype
Strandberg is known for pushing the frontiers of the electric guitar, so it seems natural to pair up with Boss, who is furthering Roland's V-Guitar tech with the partnership.
The electric on show at NAMM is only a prototype, but it currently boasts 25 sounds, including synths and alternate tunings. We can expect the final version later this year.