When Strats and Les Pauls don’t excite you the way they did when you just started out, your eyes will inevitably be drawn to the glass cases and private rooms of guitar shops. Where you’ll find instruments of a far higher calibre than your average factory-built workhorse. Some may be from boutique builders, others from the top tier of well-established brands – and you’ll find both among our nominees for the best high-end electric guitar of 2020.
Nik Huber Piet
Rather than another S- or T-style guitar, Nik Huber decided to concoct something new altogether for the Piet. This is a special electric guitar that proves character and mojo can coexist with precision and an eye for detail. Virtuoso luthiery combined with a beautiful balance between all three core tones from the two-pickup combo – a Häussel P-90 (bridge) and Broad single coil (neck) – make the Piet one of the must-play guitars of 2020.
Ivison Guitars The Hurricane
What began life as a road-ready replica of a genuine 1959 Les Paul Junior has grown, iteration after iteration, into Neil Ivison‘s first original guitar design. The Hurricane was directly inspired by a 1950s Special that was retrofitted with a bridge PAF, but Ivison ran with the idea to arrive at a guitar that feels familiar, yet fresh and original at the same time.
Music Man Sabre
The Music Man Sabre, which has been positioned as a pro player’s instrument, is a versatile, classy and easy-to-wield rhythm and lead machine that justifies its premium price tag. Plugged in, the in-house humbuckers aren’t as powerful as the Sabre’s rock-machine aesthetic might suggest. But moving into heavier territory, we’re enormously impressed by the way the Sabre handles high levels of gain, and the clarity and separation of both overdriven and clean sounds is exceptional.
Gretsch G6129T Players Edition Jet FT
In short, this glittering blast from the past has all the charm and sparkle of a vintage Jet –but none of the quirks or compromises. Played clean, the bridge has a squeaky bite and the neck has a rounded jazziness. In the middle position, the midrange scoops out to produce a phasey quack. Step on a dirtbox and the Gretsch snarls, growls and sings like a chimier, brighter and twangier P-90 Goldtop.
Available in both P-90 and humbucker flavours, B&G‘s flagship guitar is for players who refuse to compromise. The P-90s are microphonic and extremely sensitive, and combine chiming twang with a full midrange growl – they’re far closer to the P-90s of the late 1950s than those from earlier in that decade. The humbucker model, on the other hand, has a superior set of PAF-style pickups that sound bright yet warm, powerful and clear. Tonally, it’s something between a really good ES-335 and a Les Paul.