Too many Strats and Les Pauls in your collection? Perhaps it’s time to go for a semi or hollowbody instead. Contrary to what tradition may have you believe, these instruments aren’t only for jazz, country or ‘quieter’ music – William Reid and Josh Homme are among the many guitarists of heavier styles who use guitars with air inside them.
In picking our recommendations for the best semi and hollowbody guitars in 2019, we went for a range of instruments, from boutique gems to affordable Asia-made models. Here they are:
1Gretsch G6620T Players Edition Nashville Center Block Double-Cut
Our favourite model in Gretsch’s NAMM 2019 collection (pictured above) represents the brand’s latest evolution of its centre-block equipped, double-cutaway semi-hollow format. The G6620T is an extremely versatile, great-sounding electric with a classic aesthetic – it can swing from conventional blues to classic rock to even grungier styles, thanks to the High Sensitive Filter’Trons and a suite of effective onboard controls.
Retails for $3,449/£2,389. Check out our full review here.
2Novo Mirus J
Essentially a semi-hollow version of the solidbody Serus, this vibey offset has the immediate familiarity of a vintage favourite. Two Lollar mini-humbuckers offer plenty of upper-harmonic interest without excessive microphony, and they combine beautifully with the Mirus J’s acoustic air and resonance.
You can explore lush, sparkling clean voices by playing softly with fingers, dig a little harder for gritty blues or attack the strings down near the bridge with a pick for nasal lead tones evocative of the early Stones singles – and that’s just the neck pickup. In contrast, the bridge pickup is tight, punchy and wiry, perfect for power-pop rhythms and muscular country twang.
Retails for £4,199. Check out our full review here.
3Jennings Voyager Deluxe
It’s Voyager by name, Voyager by nature as the vibrato-equipped Jennings offers a thrilling ride. Providing the thrust are two McNelly pickups: a P-90-inspired Stagger Swagger at the neck and a SparkleTron at the bridge. Clarity is the overriding theme in the neck position, but down at the bridge, the SparkleTron growls, chimes and inspires in equal measure. It’s impossible to resist cranking up the spring reverb and reaching for that Mastery Vibrato arm.
Retails for £2,999. Check out our full review here.
4Collings I-30 LC
Put simply, the Collings I-30 is to the Gibson ES-330 what the I-35 is to the ES-335. The I-30’s construction translates into an acoustic voice that’s loud, woody and pushes single notes forward like a cannon. It feels like a smooth soloist’s instrument that, owing to the pair of Lollar Dogear P-90s, delivers raunchy tones that are thick like molasses – certainly more Grant Green than Paul Weller, more Texas than Abbey Road Studio Two.
Retails for £5,099. Check out our full review here.
5Echopark Esperanto 313
This outrageously cool semi has Queens Of The Stone Age in its DNA, being born from Echopark main man Gabriel Currie’s collaboration with Josh Homme. There’s a wonderful acoustic ring and sustain here, with none of the slightly plunky, banjo-like response of even some of the best ES-335s. And as you might expect from a guitar with a Homme connection, the Esperanto handles dense overdrive with class and complexity, and driven lead tones have a fluid, vocal quality.
Retails for £6,899. Check out our full review here.
6B&G Little Sister Crossroads
Despite its made-in-China tag, this B&G Guitars model maintains the level of quality found in the Tel Aviv-based company’s in-house instruments. In simple terms, the brand sees the relationship between its Crossroads and Private Build lines the same way that Fender regards its American Professional and Custom Shop models, respectively.
The Little Sister Crossroads feels like the easiest playing and best sustaining parlour imaginable. The unplugged tone is reminiscent of a really good ES-335, but with more jangly sparkle and bass definition at the expense of some low midrange woodiness. And the two potted P-90s take those acoustic qualities and run them into raunchy and powerful overdrive with ample harmonic bloom, impressive definition and plenty of tonal contrast between the three positions.
Retails for £1,550. Check out our full review here.
Though its inspiration is clear, the T64/V is not a slavish ES-330 or Casino copy. Yet, when strapped on, it feels reassuringly familiar. The thin finish and fully-hollow construction make for an instrument that’s toneful and engaging even before you plug in. When you do, there’s such a library of classic tones on offer via the Seymour Duncan Antiquity P-90s (early Stones, mid-period Beatles, The Kinks, Teenage Fanclub, The Black Crowes) that it’s hard not to fall head over heels for this thing.
Retails for $1,999/£1,679. Check out our full review here.
8Gibson ES-335 Dot 2019
This guitar has been the hallmark of Gibson’s ES line-up since it first appeared on the scene in 1958. The 2019 model brings you classic tone with a couple of modern appointments. Time-honoured features include a mahogany neck with a rounded ‘C’ profile and a rosewood fingerboard with pearloid dot inlays.
New to this year’s Dot are the Memphis Historic Spec II (MHS II) humbuckers and the Memphis Tone Circuit Plus (MTC Plus) circuitry, preferred over last year’s Burstbuckers and MTC, respectively. Grover’s 102 Rotomatics have also been swapped out for the previous ‘Milk Bottle’ tuners.
Retails for $2,999. Read more about the 2019 Gibson electrics here.
9Godin Montreal Premiere LTD
The Montreal Premiere is Godin’s slant on a thinline semi-acoustic that’s constructed along mostly traditional lines. The whole package brings Gretsch to mind, but as it turns out, the Montreal Premiere actually sits somewhere between a single-cut Jet (were it fully semi-hollow as opposed to chambered) and a Gibson ES-335 or 339 (were they single-cuts).
And, tone-wise, the Montreal doesn’t really sound like a Gretsch, either. It sits somewhere between that and the mid-rich warmth of an ES-335, but we could certainly see this guitar sounding at home with rockabilly, blues and even indie styles.
Retails for £1,949. Check out our full review here.
10PRS S2 Vela Semi-Hollow
New for 2019, this PRS is an all-mahogany offset in the brand’s S2 line. It’s a straightforward player’s instrument, with pickguard-mounted pickups, a top-loading hardtail bridge, and a versatile HS pickup configuration. The bridge Starla humbucker, which is also coil-tapped, provides brightness and chime, while the PRS-designed Type-D single coil at the neck offers more snarl, according to the brand.
Retails for $1,499. Read more about the S2 Vela here.
Check out more of our buyer’s guides here.