From bold new shapes, finishes and styles to subtle reworking of time-honoured classics, the world of the electric guitar just keeps evolving with countless makers revamping their line-ups fresh for 2021. Below you’ll find our selection of the very best new electrics (for every budget) through 2021.
60th Anniversary '61 SGs
Starting in fine style with Gibson. They’ve revealed their 60th Anniversary '61 SGs, Made in Nashville ES series, signature models, acoustics, with more to come.
The 60th Anniversary 1961 SG Standard, offered in Cherry Red VOS, and a Classic White VOS 1961 SG Custom with gold hardware are among the first hot new 2021 electrics to catch our eye.
Gibson's Custom Shop offerings boast meticulous period-correct features, complete with Sideways Vibrola units that really capture that early 60s vibe.
ES Made In Nashville Collection
Also from Gibson is the ES Made In Nashville Collection, which comprises an ES-339, ES-339 Figured and an ES-335 Satin, with a variety of finishes on offer.
A perennially underrated semi-hollow model, the ES-339 has a slightly smaller body than the ES-335, and this year's models have some differences in pickups and hardware. On the ES-339, we've got Grover Rotomatic "kidney bean" tuners, while the ES-335 is equipped with a Vintage Deluxe set with Keystone Buttons on the ES-335.
The ES-335 comes equipped with a pair of the newly developed Gibson Calibrated T-Type humbuckers in the neck and bridge, with the customary two volume and two tone control circuit and three-way toggle switch. For the ES-339, Gibson has gone for a 57 Classic humbucker at the neck and a 57 Classic Plus at the bridge.
The ES-335 Satin is priced $2,599, the ES-339 Figured is priced $2,999 with the plain top ES-339 priced $2,299.
See Gibson for more details.
Ibanez AZS series
The neck and fingerboard are carved from S-TECH roasted maple and seat 22 jumbo stainless steel frets with Ibanez's Prestige edge treatment.
The AZS2209H comes equipped with a Seymour Duncan Magic Touch-mini humbucker in the neck position and a Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro Custom single-coil in the bridge. Controls come via a three-way pickup selector, volume and tone, plus dyna-MIX5 switching system with Alter Switch that allows you to access five core sounds.
The AZS Series is priced from £1,919 / $1,999 and is available now. See Ibanez for more details.
Fender Noventa Series
Fender has fully embraced the old-school mojo of the P-90 single coil with the launch of the Noventa Series.
Promising "classic midrange bite, crisp highs and warm, smooth lows," the new custom-wound MP-90 single coils offer a very different tone palette for the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Jazzmaster.
Built in Mexico, the Noventa models all come with a deluxe gig bag, and have 9.5" radius maple or pau ferro fingerboards, 21 frets, alder bodies, and the customary Fender bolt-on maple neck build and come in a single, double and triple-pickup formats.
Available in Vintage Blonde, Fiesta Red, and 2-Color Sunburst, the Noventa Telecaster has a 60s C-profile neck, 21 medium-jumbo frets with a single MP-90 in the bridge position.
The Noventa Strat is available in Daphne Blue, Surf Green, and Crimson Red Transparent, and here you have a dual-pickup setup, with MP-90 pickups in the bridge and neck positions, and a three-way selector volume and tone controls to help find your sound.
The Noventa Jazzmaster has a trio of MP-90 pickups, with a 5-way blade selector switch, volume and tone controls and a Jazzmaster vibrato.
Priced from £735 / $949 street for the Tele, £775 / $1,049 for the Strat, and £889 / $1,149 for the Jazzmaster, the Noventa series is available to preorder now.
Fender Boxer Series Strat
And – perhaps the best til last from Fender – they've gone back to the '80s to revive the humbucker-toting Boxer Series Strat with a Japanese-made reissue.
It's a basswood body / maple neck and rosewood 'board combo with a medium C-shape neck. 12" radius and jumbo frets. There's two Boxer series humbuckers here, both with coil-splits via a toggle switch but there's a TBX control too – that's a Treble Bass Expander. Fender say this offers "versatile tone shaping, offering sounds not available with standard tone control".
The 2021 Fender Boxer will retail for £1,295 / $1,199.
See Fender for more details.
Yamaha Pacifica 612
Yamaha have stepped up their 2021 game with two new models in the Pacifica 612 range, featuring striking new finishes.
The Pacifica 612VIIFMX sports a flamed-maple veneer top with a Fire Red finish, and the Pacifica 612VIIX is available in Matte Silk Blue, Teal Green Metallic, and Yellow Natural Satin. The guitars combine renowned Yamaha build quality and playability with premium third-party components, recalling the Pacifica series’ LA custom shop roots.
Graph Tech TUSQ nuts, Grover locking tuners and Wilkinson VS50 vibrato units come as standard, while both the PAC612VIIFMX and PAC612VIIX feature alder bodies with bolt-on maple necks and rosewood fretboards.
The pickup configuration promises a lot of range, with a Seymour Duncan Custom 5 TB-14 humbucker at the bridge, and two SSL-1 single-coils in the middle and neck positions. These are controlled via volume and tone knobs, a five-way pickup selector switch, plus a push/pull coil-split to offer some extra single-coil spank at the bridge.
Jackson MJ Series
Jacksons' new line-up for 2021 is bewilderingly comprehensive but our pick of the bunch has to be the all-new MJ Series.
It's a Made in Japan line that offers a luxury staging post between the Pro Series models and that of the top-line Jackson USA models. If you are looking for a guitar dedicated to the noble art of heavy metal, your ship has come in...
LTD EC-1000 in Gold Andromeda
At the turn of each year, you can always rely on a cornucopia of high-performance electric guitars from ESP/LTD. 2021 is no exception.
In an uncertain world, it is good rely on such things, like ESP's updates to the rapidly expanding Black Metal Series featuring a number of specs that make them a very serious option for playing heavy metal guitar. No new finishes, though. That's not the Black Metal series' style.
We'll leave that to the likes of a new LTD EC-1000, which finds itself on this guide thanks to a quite stunning polychromatic Gold Andromeda finish. The Gold Andromeda finish changes hue as the angle of the light changes and is complemented nicely by gold hardware.
Those familiar with the EC series will recognise that classic LP-style solidbody singlecut design, a big old hunk of mahogany, topped with maple, with a deep and slightly pointed cutaway on the lower horn.
If the body is built for warmth and sustain, there are no shortage of player-friendly appointments. On the player's side, there is a deep belly cut and the heel and cutaway are contoured to improve upper-fret access. The mahogany neck has a set-thru construction and is carved into a Thin U profile, with its Macassar ebony fingerboard seating 24 extra-jumbo stainless steel frets.
Never knowingly outgunned, ESP has fitted a pair of multi-voice Fishman Modern Fluence humbuckers. All very 2021, and yet classic. The LTD EC-1000 in Gold Andromeda is priced £1,315 / $1,149.
Charvel Pro-Mod DK24 HSS 2PT CM
Charvel's reputation was built on its ability to hotrod classic electric guitar designs to make them play faster, louder and offer features such as Floyd Rose double-locking vibratos that put next-gen lead guitar on the menu.
That hasn't changed, but in recent times, guitars such as its exquisite Pro Mod DK22 model – preferably in Pharaohs Gold – have shown that this shreddable template can accommodate more understated designs with a degree of functionality that should tempt anyone looking for a versatile S-style.
There are no pointy edges in the 2021 lineup, just a range of guitars that build on and augment ideas dreamt up long ago by Leo Fender, and make for an affordable and all-purpose electric for today's player.
With that in mind, our favourite from the Charvel Class of '21 (so far, as surely more will follow in the summer) is the magnificent Pro-Mod DK24 HSS 2PT CM.
Finished in Snow White, with a lovely baked maple bolt-on neck and fingerboard, it has a Seymour Duncan Full Shred SH-10B humbucker at the bridge and two Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 single-coils on-hand for any style you fancy.
Those who like the idea of a vibrato but find the double-locking Floyd Rose units something of a vulgar display of power will love the Gotoh Custom 510 recessed tremolo, which like the Gotoh die-cast locking tuners is finished in gold and is just so very suave.
The price is not bad either. £1,059 / $1,099? More than reasonable. Head on to Charvel for more details.
Gretsch Streamliner Gretsch G2622-P90 Center Block Jr.
Gretsch's epic 2021 lineup is packed with retro-friendly electrics offering classic rock 'n' roll mojo for all budgets. But while we are saving up the pennies for the G6128T-89VS Vintage Select ’89 Duo Jet, these P-90-equipped Streamliner models look just the ticket.
Indeed, the Streamliner G2622-P90 Center Block Jr, available with a licensed Bigsby vibrator or V-stop-tail, are a change of pace for Gretsch, but of course it makes perfect sense to pair the overwound magic of a P-90 with a classic semi-hollow build. We'd imagine these would sing nicely through an overdriven Blues Junior.
The Streamliner series is great value. The Bigsby-equipped model is priced £609 / $599, while the stop-tail version is just £539 / $499. That makes them accessible to most budgets, and for our money, the Center Block Jr body shape – here a doublecut – makes for a more compact proposition, ideal for younger players and those with a smaller frame.
Not only that, but the finishes look great, with the Bigsby model available in Two-Tone Midnight Sapphire and Vintage Mahogany Stain, Two-Tone Mint Metallic and Vintage Mahogany Stain or Two-Tone Sahara Metallic and Vintage Mahogany Stain finishes. The V Stop-tail model comes in a choice of classy Brownstone and Claret Burst finishes.
Gretsch Electromatic G5410T Electromatic Tri-Five Hollow Body Single-Cut with Bigsby
In recent years, Gretsch's Electromatic Series has had more hits than Elvis, and looking at 2021's lineup, we're of a mind to call the limited edition G5410T Tri-Five Hollow Body Single-Cut with Bigsby model the pick of the litter.
These look the bee's knees with their solid Two Tone finishes and colour-matched “Caddy V”-inlay headstocks. Once you've applied a splash of spring reverb to your tone, a splash of pomade to your hair, and maybe a little slapback echo too (on the tone), these look just the thing for throwing around some rock 'n' roll chords and playing solos that are 50 per cent doublestops.
You'll notice on picking one up that the G5410T has a thinner, 2.5" body, making it lightweight and more comfortable. It has a pair of Black Top Filter’Tron pickups with pearloid pickup inserts (aesthetically, think pearl handle on a flick-knife) and a contro circuit with master volume and treble bleed circuit, tone, plus individual pickup volume controls and a three-position pickup toggle switch.
And then, of course, there is the Bigsby B60 vibrato tailpiece for some wobble, G-Arrow knobs for maximum cool points and a Graph Tech NuBone nut because it's 2021 and you've got to have standards.
These are priced £979 / $899 and are limited edition so don't sleep on them.
See Gretsch for more details.
Vox V90 and S66 with Bigsby
Two big-bodied, big pieces of big news from Vox for 2021.
Their new V90 and S66 share similar builds and spec, with a semi-hollow maple ply body with a weight-relieved spruce centre block to help reduce feedback. The mahogany neck is glued to the body, topped with an ebony fingerboard and 22 frets.
There are lightweight Grover open-gear tuners, and a comfortably spacious 43mm nut width, and 25" scale. Finish options comprise Sapphire Blue and Black. The big difference between the guitars is the pickups and electronics.
The V90, pictured immediately below, has a dual Vox V90 soapbar pickup configuration that is controlled by two volume and two tone controls and a 3-way pickup selector, while the S6 has a triple-single-coil configuration, with its Vox S66 pickups controlled via three individual volume controls and a 3-way selector.
The Bobcat S66 is priced £1,299 street, the V90 from £1,599. See Vox for more details.
Fresh for 2021, PRS has unveiled new finishes for its Zach Myers and John Mayer signature electrics, gave the SE Custom 24 a Violin Carve, and unveiled the Custom 24-08 – complete with two Mini-Toggle Coil-Tap switches to enhance its already formidable range.
But it is the returns of the Studio and Special Semi-Hollow, complete with Narrowfield pickups, that make our list for the year.
The Studio has a solid mahogany body with violin carve, flame maple top, mahogany Pattern neck, 25" scale, rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets, a 58/15 LT humbucker at the bridge with two PRS Narrowfield pickups in the middle and neck positions.
Controlling those pickups you'll find a 5-Way blade pickup switch, two mini-toggle coil-tap switches, making for seven core sounds even before you touch the tone control.
The Studio also comes is equipped with some top quality PRS hardware in the form of a Gen III Tremolo and Phase III locking tuners.
How do you choose from the 20 finish options? For our money, the Ezra Verde colour finished in gloss nitro over cellulose (CAB) takes the cake.
The PRS Studio is priced £3,885 / $4,000 street.
PRS Special Semi-Hollow
The Special Semi-Hollow arrives in an HSH configuration, with a Narrowfield middle pickup complementing two PRS 58/15 LT humbuckers at the neck and bridge.
Versatility is again the watchword. With its coil-tap mini-toggle pairing, a five-way selector, the Special Semi-Hollow offers a dozen core sounds. It'll sound a little more open thanks to the build, and features a single f-hole on the upper bout.
The construction, once again, looks superlative. Elsewhere, it has a similar spec to the Special, with a flame maple top, mahogany Pattern neck, 25" scale, Rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and famous birds inlay.
The Special Semi-Hollow is priced £4,005 / $4,300 street. See PRS for more details.
Stratocaster Special and Special HT (both £379 / $429 / €399)
Rounding out our round-up is a great new line-up of affordables from Squire. The idea of a Fender for everyone is truer than it ever was. But that doesn't mean this affordable range is skimping on spec.
There's interesting new lines of Strats, Teles and Jaguars to enjoy and all these feature modern-voiced Squier SQR pickups, roasted maple necks, the sculpted neck heels we saw introduced on the Fender American Ultra and American Professional II ranges, plus painted headstocks with chrome coloured logos.
See Fender more details.