GEAR EXPO 2023: What a year 2023 is shaping up to be for the humble electric guitar. We've got new ranges of classic guitars, all-new designs for 2023, plus more signatures than any autograph hunter could ever need in our roundup of the best guitars coming out this year.
It's already an amazing year for electric guitars, and it's just about to get a whole lot better. The biggest names are releasing guitars by the dozen and often with even bigger names stamped on them.
We've got Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Paul Stanley signature models from Ibanez, an ESP V-Style for Kirk Hammett, all-new ranges from Fender and Ernie Ball Music Man and, plus new releases from Hagstrom, Guild and many, many more. The legendary Greeny even makes a (re)reappearance.
Here, then, are the guitars to get giddy over in 2023.
Guild Surfliner Deluxe
The Guild Surfliner is a real favourite around here: a new electric guitar design that looked like it had been recovered from a 1960s blueprint, and with its HSS pickup configuration it was sonically versatile. Even the list price wasn’t bad.
For an electric guitar under £/$500 there was a lot to like. There was, however, one thing missing – a vibrato.
Well, it looks like Guild agree, and after expanding the Surfliner lineup with a dual-humbucker model, it has released an upscale Deluxe version of the retro offset that comes equipped with a newly designed floating vibrato.
The Guild Floating Vibrato Tailpiece (GFVT) features a nylon insert, and has a tension screw that is easily adjusted so the action of the whammy bar is just how you like it.
As with the neck plate, the unit is embossed with the Guild “G”, giving this a few more heritage points, and proving that a brand with a bit of history can still come up with something totally new for the 21st-century that is wholly in keeping with an old-school aesthetic and design.
The bolt-on neck is fashioned out of roasted maple, the 10” radius fingerboard is bound rosewood, with block inlays giving it a real mid-60s, straight-outta-California mojo. And it arrives in three sweet finishes: Evergreen Metallic, Rose Quartz Metallic, and Black Metallic, each reprised on the headstock.
The sounds on offer remain as versatile as the original Surfliner. In all kinds of ways, this is a crowd-pleasing guitar design, with an appeal that extends being surf rock to indie, alt-rock, grunge, punk, country or jazz.
The Surfliner Deluxe has a satin C profile neck, a 25.5” scale, and the neck is bolted to a body of solid poplar - again, that offset double-cutaway shape is a winner. You will find an Alnico II HB-2 humbucker at the bridge, with DeArmond Aerosonic single-coils at the middle and neck positions.
A five-way blade pickup selector switch offers plenty of options, with hum-cancelling modes in positions one and four, and lots of in-between tones elsewhere. We often talk about amps as an excellent pedalboard platform, but why not guitars, too?
The Surfliner Deluxe is a little more pricey than its forebears but at $699 it still looks like a lot of guitar for the money. For more details, head over to Guild.
Fancy a small and light guitar that doesn't make any noise? No, us neither. But wait! Donner Hush-I is an all-new silent guitar that is not only easy to carry around, but is designed for quiet practice and on-the-go playing.
To keep the size to a minimum, Hush-I uses an expandable metal frame system, whereby two extra metal connections increase its size to 'proper' guitar proportions. The tuning knobs are also situated at the bass of the guitar rather than the the top.
To hear the guitar, you can simply use headphones which are supplied and the regular headphone out connection. A regular 1/4-inch output allows you to connect the guitar up to a standard amp or interface. There's also an Aux In connection so you can play along with audio from the outside world.
Other controls on Hush-I include Low and High-band EQ, Volume and a Phase switch to cut down on feedback.
There's a single 9-volt battery on board which will give you 50 hours of headphone output use.
Hush-I looks like costing around £280 / $299 / €299 and you can get more details and specs from Donner here.
Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen 6-string
When Ernie Ball Music Man debuted the Tosin Abasi co-designed Kaizen electric guitar last year, it blew a fair few minds because of its wild design and spec. There were the Steinberger gearless locking tuners, the Infinity Radius neck, and the prospect of the custom-wound Heat Treated humbuckers.
But there was a question: these were all seven-string guitars? Where were the six-string models?
Well, they are here, and anyone looking for a high-end electric guitar for the 21st-century would do well to check ‘em out.
Shipping in Chalk White, Apollo Black, Mint, Indigo Blue, these share the multi-scale format of their extended-range forebears. And it goes without saying that they all have a top-shelf build and spec sheet.
First off, that custom-designed body - all angles and pointed edges and yet not explicitly a metal guitar profile - is carved from solid alder, the finish satin smooth to the touch.
The neck is roasted figured maple, topped with an ebony fingerboard. The aforementioned Infinity Radius fingerboard is designed to offer players a better feel and vantage point.
The fretboard seats 24 medium-jumbo stainless steel frets, with white dot markers to aid navigation. There is a Heat Treated humbucker at the bridge, and a custom-wound Offset mini-humbucker at the neck. The scale runs from a Gibson-esque 24.75” at the high E to 25.5” at the low E, and this multi-scale design is reflected in the custom multi-scale tremolo unit.
All the top-tier EBMM touches are present and correct. There is the gunstock oil and hand-rubbed wax finish on the neck. The tremolo design incorporates string dampeners and the electrics are shielded to make this a low-noise instrument, even in the sorts of high-gain, high-volume performance scenarios you’ll be wanting to use it in.
Controls-wise, there is a three-way pickup selector, with the middle position a custom split position between both pickups, plus volume and tone knobs. Again, as with the 7-string model, there are those distinctive Steinberger gearless tuners, which of course lock to enhance tuning stability.
The Kaizen six-string is available to order now, priced $3,799. The seven-string will set you back $3,999. See Ernie Ball Music Man for more details.
Gibson Kirk Hammett Greeny 1959 Les Paul Standard
The most iconic original Les Paul Standard ever made - arguably the most iconic guitar ever made, then - is the Greeny. This was the guitar once owned by Peter Green - hence the name - during his time in Fleetwood Mac.
That would be enough for it to hit 'legendary' status, but the guitar was then sold to Gary Moore who kept it for more than 30 years while playing in Thin Lizzy and as a solo artist. Completing the Les Paul's ascendence to God-like status, Moore then sold it onto its current owner, Kirk Hammett.
So that's one guitar and three iconic owners.
To experience Greeny, then, it probably helps if you are a guitar player of some stature, and presumably one with a lot of cash.
However, earlier this year Gibson announced that it was allowing you to experience the essence of Greeny with its new Kirk Hammett "Greeny" Les Paul Standard. As we reported at the time, it was not quite as pricey as the real thing but would still set you back a few dollars – 19,999 of them, in fact.
The good news is that we also reported that Gibson was planning a cheaper version and here it is.
This latest Kirk Hammett "Greeny” Les Paul Standard is much cheaper, at $3,199, but still sports the features that make the original so iconic.
The most important of these is that the neck pickup’s polarity is reversed to give you that trademark out-of-phase sound when the pickup selector is in the middle position. The guitar also has a AAA flame maple top, a mahogany body, and Indian rosewood fingerboard.
You can get more information over at the Gibson website.
Ibanez has seven new signature guitars for some of the most high-profile guitar players on its artist roster, including four stunning limited edition models for long-time endorsees Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Paul Stanley, plus new Lari Basilio, Martin Miller and Ichika Nito electric guitars.
Basilio’s is perhaps the least surprising. It has been teased for some time that her LB1 was going to be made available in White. All the other specs are the same, including all the features that make the LB1 a true do-it-all guitar. It has an estimated street price of $2,699.
The new Martin Miller MMN1 takes the MM1’s AZ-N-inspired profile, its Transparent Aqua Blue finish, but reimagines the S-Style in an HSS pickup configuration.
The guitar has a solid mahogany body, capped with a 4mm piece of flame maple. It has a roasted maple neck, a rosewood fingerboard, stainless steel frets, and the same Gotoh hardware as the LB1.
Both Basilio and Miller have gone for a 9” to 12” compound radius ‘board, and both guitars have, of course, Prestige fret edge treatment, Luminlay side-dot markers, and ship with a hard-shell guitar case. The Martin Miller MMN1 has a list price of $3,466.
Ichika Nito’s ICHI00 rounds out the production line models with a guitar based on the Ibanez Talman, the compact electric favoured by the likes of Yvette Young.
It has a dairy White finish, and some premium appointments such as a roasted maple neck carved into Ibanez’s super-speedy Wizard C profile, Gotoh MG-T locking tuners, and a trio of ICHI-S single-coil pickups.
Nito wanted his nyatoh-bodied bolt-on to be affordable, and with an estimated street price of $699, it is by far the easiest on the budget of Ibanez’s latest range.
And now to the real fancy stuff; four models you’ll have to dig deep for. Let’s start with a guitar that celebrates 35 years of partnership between Steve Vai and Ibanez, the PIA77BON.
This takes Vai’s signature PIA format and refinishes it in a hydro-dipped multicolour swirl finish, which was newly developed for this limited run. Vai, of course, picked the colour scheme, and it’s one that references some classic JEM and UV models in his collection. The finish is called “Brilliance of Now”, hence the “BON” in the designation. It has an estimated street price of $8,499.
Joe Satriani, meanwhile, gets not one but two new limited-edition JS models. The JS3CR is a JS model that references Satch’s ‘Chrome Boy’ model with a solid basswood body with a metallic mirror chrome finish. It has a DiMarzio Satchur8 humbucker at the bridge and a PAF Pro ‘bucker at the neck. Satch also has a high-pass filter on the volume control, and there’s a coil-tap on the tone pot. Other features include a maple neck, rosewood ‘board, 22 medium frets, Edge tremolo, and top-shelf Gotoh tuners. The JS3CR should street at $5,399.
Satch’s other option is the JS1BKP. It has a similar profile to the JS3CR but is quite a different guitar, with a body of solid alder and a pickup configuration comprising a SUSTAINIAC Driver neck pickup, and a DiMarzio Satchur8 humbucker. It has an estimated street price of $3,499.
Finally, how about a Paul Stanley Iceman with a Cracked Mirror finish to round things out? With KISS currently circumnavigating the globe many times over for their last ever tour, why not mark the occasion with a PS3CM?
One of the most aggressive and out-there body shapes in the Ibanez catalogue, the PS3CM has an African mahogany body, topped with maple, a three-piece maple neck, an ebony fingerboard with medium frets. The hardware is by Gotoh. The pickups are from Seymour Duncan, with the KISS frontman going for a ’59 and Custom 5 humbucker pairing. The PS3CM has an estimated street price of $6,999.
For more details, head over to Ibanez.
Fender Squier Sonic Series
The Fender Squier Bullet range of beginner guitars and electric basses is no more – goodbye Bullet and hello Sonic series. The 'value' tag remain the same but there are plenty of updates on the finish and spec side of things.
There are new models too: Tom DeLonge-esque single humbucker Strats, an Esquire Tele with a humbucker, short-scale Mustangs with traditional single-coil pickup configuration in addition to the double humbucker spec… a Bronco bass!
Core tonewoods shared by the range are poplar bodies with maple necks, but let's have a quick overview of the rest of the specs for each model.
The Squier Sonic Stratocaster HT H (£169.99 / $199.99) has Black (Indian laurel fretboard) and Flash pink (maple) finishes. There's a six-saddle bridge hardtail, C-shape neck profile with satin urethane finish, 9.5" fingerboard radius and Squier ceramic humbucking pickup.
Next up, the Squier Sonic Stratocaster HSS (£169.99 / $199.99) has Black and Tahitian Coral (maple fretboard) finishes. It has a C-shape neck with satin finish, a six-saddle tremolo bridge and Squier humbucking bridge pickup, single-coil neck and middle pickups.
The Squier Sonic Series Stratocaster (£169.99 / $199.99) has Black, 2-Colour Sunburst (maple fretboard), Ultraviolet and California Blue (Indian laurel fretboard) finishes. There's a six-saddle tremolo bridge, Squier single-coil pickups and it's also available in Black left-handed model (for £169.99).
The Squier Sonic Esquire H (£169.99 / $199.99) has Arctic White (maple fretboard), Ultraviolet (Indian laurel fretboard) finishes, a Squier humbucker, and a six-saddle hardtail bridge.
The Squier Sonic Telecaster (£169.99 / $199.99) has California Blue, Torino Red (Indian laurel fretboard), Butterscotch Blonde, and Black (maple fretboard) finishes. There's a six-saddle hardtail bridge and Squier single-coil pickups.
Next, the Squier Sonic Mustang (£169.99 / $199.99) has 2-Colour Sunburst and Torino Red finishes, 24-inch scale, Squier single-coil pickups and a six-saddle hardtail bridge.
The Squier Sonic Mustang HH (£169.99 / $199.99) has Flash Pink (maple fretboard), and Electric Blue (Indian laurel fretboard) finishes. It has Squier humbuckers, 24-inch scale and a six-saddle hardtail bridge.
The Squier Sonic Bronco Bass (£189.99 / $209.99) has Arctic White, Tahitian Coral (maple neck), and Black (Indian laurel fretboard) finishes, a short 30-inch scale length, a Squier single-coil pickup, a four-saddle hardtail bridge and 9.5 radius fretboard.
Finally (phew) the Squier Sonic Precision Bass (£189.99 / $219.99) has 2-Colour Sunburst, California Blue (maple fretboard), and Black (Indian laurel fretboard finishes, a split single-coil pickup, 34-inch scale length, and a four-saddle hardtail bridge.
There's more info on the entire range at Fender.
Hagstrom Swede and Super Swede
This year's NAMM show saw Hagstrom unveil its revamped Swede and Super Swede guitars. They have 24.75" and 25.5" scale lengths respectively, and each has different Lundgren Designed pickups.
The Swede weighs in with medium output No.2 alnico outputs, while the Super Swede is packing the hotter pairing of No.2 and No.5 Lundgren Designed humbuckers. Both have push-pull coil splits activated by their tone controls.
The bodies here follow a classic single-cut guitar tonewood formula; the Swedes combine mahogany with a 2cm thick Canadian hard maple top and a flamed maple veneer. Both models feature resinator fretboards with 14.4" radius and stainless steel medium jumbo frets.
The Hagstrom locking tuners also take accuracy to new levels with a 19:1 ratio.
Both revamped models are expected to ship in June, and will retail for £1,375 with a hardcase. There are no left-hand model options as yet, but finish options are Mandarin Burst, Crimson Flame, Dark Storm and Gold.
More info at Hagstrom.
ESP LTD KH-V
Metallica’s Kirk Hammett already has some seriously cool signature guitars in the current ESP and LTD lineup, including variations on his classic S-style available at all price points, not to mention the KH-3 - the ‘Spider’ singlecut that defined The Black Album era. But there was something missing.
Kirk Hammett needed a V-style, and now he has one. Meet the LTD KH-V.
Hammett has had signature Vs before, most notably from the Gibson Custom Shop, but the KH-V conforms the ESP/LTD design aesthetic, and that means the headstock is sharper, the angles more aggressive, with an asymmetric body profile making for an aerodynamic electric guitar in the shape of an arrowhead.
The LTD KH-V marks over three decades of Hammett as an ESP artist but he admitted that it still gave him goosebumps when he saw it for the first time.
“It was like the perfect hybrid of reality and my vision,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful guitar. I strapped it on and played it later that day; just jamming out with friends for four or five hours. It’s an amazing, amazing guitar.”
The KH-V is available in Black Sparkle, Red Sparkle, and Metallic Gold, with gold hardware on the latter two finish options, black on the former. It looks the bee’s knees.
It should sound good too, with a pair of Hammett’s signature EMG Bone Breaker humbuckers at the neck and bridge positions, seated in a body of solid korina with a full-length neck-through build.
The three-piece maple neck is carved into ESP/LTD’s preferred profile - i.e. a Thin U with off-the-charts speed - and it is topped with a Macassar ebony fingerboard. There are 24 extra-jumbo frets, curved pearloid wave inlays, reflecting the Hawaii resident and keen surfer’s affinity with oceanic swell.
The KH-V has a longer scale than the Flying V’s in Hammett’s collection. At 25.5”, that’ll give it quite a different feel. ESP/LTD hasn’t actually shared the fingerboard radius just yet but you can bet good money it will be the 350mm of the other models in the range.
Other features include the string-through Tonepros bridge, LTD locking tuners, and the price includes a deluxe hardshell guitar case.
Speaking of which, the LTD Kirk Hammett Signature KH-V will set you back £2,063 / €2,260 and should arrive in your local guitar store in June. For more details, see ESP Guitars.
Sterling By Music Man St Vincent Goldie
NAMM was a big release show for Sterling By Music Man, who unveiled a string of updates to its mid-priced electric guitar range. It crowned it with the much requested St Vincent Goldie, bringing Annie Clark’s triple-gold-foil electric to the range for the first time.
We’ve had to wait a while for this. Ernie Ball Music Man launched the St Vincent Goldie in 2021, with St Vincent’s idea behind the model that it would be “the perfect marriage of my quirky old pawn shop guitars and the OG STV model”. Its trio of gold-foil mini-humbuckers were inspired by vintage Firebird pickups and were developed specifically for the model.
The Sterling By Music Man St Vincent Goldie really does nail the look of the original EBMM model. It has the finishes and the matching headcaps on the reverse headstocks. We’ve got roasted maple for the bolt-on neck, and rosewood fingerboards. The 25.5” scale is faithful to the original.
There are always going to be a few differences when translating a high-end electric guitar into one offering plenty of change from a grand. Here the angular body is carved from nyatoh as opposed to okoume. The vibrato is a vintage-style unit as opposed to the custom chrome-plated modern tremolo of the original. There are locking tuners to keep everything ship shape.
But this Sterling By Music Man St Vincent Goldie promises to be every bit as versatile, with its five-way pickup switching and volume and tone pots all designed to squeeze every bit of tone out of its trio of gold-foils.
Sterling By Music Man St Vincent Goldie costs $829 and should be available now. More from Sterling By Music Man.
Suhr Mateus Asato Classic T
Just in case you are not already full to the brim with signature guitars, here are two more, with Suhr's latest additions to the Mateus Asato Signature Classic Series. Asato has played with everyone from Bruno Mars to Tori Kelly, all after rising to fame on Instagram and amassing over one million followers.
The two new Classic T signature models are described as "a striking evolution of Mateus’ first Classic T design in 2020", and available in M.A. White.
Each has an alder body and roasted maple neck to "provide a balanced and resonant foundation for Mateus’ legendary tone", but different pickup systems.
The SIG-0045 costs $3,849 and has Wilkinson 3-saddle bridge with M.A.T. pickups, while the SIG-0045 ($4,299) features a Gotoh 510 tremolo with Lollar gold-foil pickups.
Suhr says: "with its timeless style and unmatched build quality, it’s a reborn Classic you’ll love playing for years to come."
You can get more info from Suhr's website.
Epiphone Jim James ES-335
Finally, Epiphone and Jim James have teamed up for a new signature guitar based on the ES-335 the My Morning Jacket frontman released with Gibson in 2021.
James’ luxurious Walnut semi-hollow was one of the most exquisite electric guitars of last year, and Epiphone has done what it does best here: nailing the essence of its more high-end sibling at a more approachable £/$899 price point.
The Epiphone Jim James ES-335 is not a cheap guitar per se, but a lot of guitar for the money. Like its Gibson forebear, this ES-335, has a distinctly ‘70s Walnut finish.
James’ signature owl decal can be found on the back of the headstock, with his other cosmetic signature touches including a set of vintage-style Kluson Waffleback tuners with metal buttons, and an circle/arrow emblem on the truss rod cover. Single-ply binding has been applied to top, back and neck, just to tie the whole thing together.
The mahogany neck is carved into a Jim James Custom SlimTaper C profile. It is glued to a 5-ply laminated maple body, which, crucially, features a solid centre block of maple to help boost sustain and cut down on feedback when playing at high volume, or when the fuzz pedal is out of its cage.
While the original has a set of Calibrated T-Type pickups, here James has gone for a set of Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers, just like those you might find on the Epiphone Noel Gallagher Riviera. That these are hooked up to CTS pots and Orange Drop capacitors is indicative of the sort of quality these Chinese-made Epiphones sport these days.
Other very pleasing - not to mention retro - touches include the Black Witch Hat knobs with silver inserts. Your pickup controls comprise the typical dual volume, dual tone knob configuration, with a shoulder-mounted three-way pickup selector.
The dimensions and vital statistics are as you might expect, with the Jim James ES-335 sporting a 12” radius Indian laurel fingerboard, with dot inlays and 22 medium jumbo frets. It has a LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and tailpiece, a 43mm nut, and more mojo than any guitar costing £/$899 ought to have.
A hardshell guitar case emblazoned with James’ owl logo is also included in the deal, which is pretty sweet. For more details, head over to Epiphone.
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