Winner: Epiphone Inspired By Gibson Les Paul Special
NAMM 2020 saw a rejuvenated Gibson turn its attention to Epiphone. The results were extremely impressive and, at just £349, this Les Paul Special is appropriately named. Even forgetting about its ridiculously tempting price tag for a second, this modern budget version of a 1950s student model is a guitar you have to force yourself to put down. With its growl, chime, snarl, jazzy cleans and quacking country tones – not to mention that much-improved headstock outline – it sounds superb and there are no significant compromises. A no-brainer purchase.
Manson Meta Series MBM-1
The Matt Bellamy-owned Manson Guitar Works‘ latest model is a modern rock guitar that cherry-picks design elements from both sides of the fence: the scale length is a Fender-style 25.5 inches and the neck is bolted on, but the bridge and tailpiece are true to the Gibson formula, as are the twin humbuckers. And don’t forget the nifty kill button, an essential tool in the Muse frontman’s arsenal, too.
Ultimately, the MBM-1 is a mean and masterful rock guitar that thrives on a high-gain diet, at a price most Muse fans should be able to afford.
Fender Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster
For its new Road Worn series, Fender has amalgamated a variety of features to evoke the spirit of an era: scuffed edges, simulated forearm wear, small dings and areas of fine lacquer checking on the bodies and headstocks.
In use, the guitar’s acoustic sustain and vibrance are more impressive than plenty of considerably more valuable Teles we’ve played over the years. It’s equipped with Fender’s Vintage-Style Hot pickups, but despite the ‘hot’ designation, output levels are still within vintage tolerances. Compared to a true-blue vintage Esquire, the Vintera has a little more snap and presence, and it occupies less space in the mix.
Rivolta Mondata Baritone VII
Though baritones have earned their place in the modern heavy rock and metal player’s toolbox, the presence of slider switches for phase and coil split modes hints that this Rivolta has much more to offer than chugging powerchords. It’s a great recording instrument, too, and can be used to create a variety of bass, rhythm and lead voices – the distinct tones on offer never feel like a compromise.
Charvel Pro-Mod DK22 SSS 2PT CM
Part of Charvel’s Mexican-made Pro-Mod range, this 22-fret solidbody is a relatively affordable, high-performance electric that’s built for the road and covers plenty of ground. Through a souped-up Plexi, the famous brown sound is on tap immediately, enhanced by a dollop of midrange honk. But while it may excel in balls-to-the-wall rock territory, the DK22 delivers tones for all occasions, including some exceptionally dynamic clean sounds.