The best guitars to buy in 2020: 16 best premium electric guitars above $2,000

In a position to drop more than two grand on a six-string? You’ve come to the right place. From high-end production models to Custom Shop and boutique creations, we've got you covered.

Why are they so expensive?

Once you get into the premium price bracket, you can expect a much greater level of attention to detail in the areas that really elevate an electric guitar. Neck profile, tonewood choices, pickups, wiring, tone capacitors… everything makes a difference, and when you are coughing up over $2,000 you should demand the best of the best.

The list that follows contains everything from high-end production instruments to Custom Shop creations and luthier-built models with huge potential for customisation. Hold onto your wallet – it’s going to be a rollercoaster ride through some of the very best that the guitar industry has to offer.

The best premium electrics at a glance:

  • Gibson Custom Shop ’59 Les Paul Standard Reissue
  • Collings I-30 LC
  • PRS Silver Sky
  • Gretsch G6129T Players Edition Jet FT
  • Bunting Melody Queen
  • Frank Brothers Arcade Model
  • Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster
  • Eastman Romeo
  • Lowden GL-10
  • Macmull Heartbreaker Custom
  • Novo Miris J
  • Relish Mary One
  • Vuorensaku T Family Birke
  • Nik Huber Orca
  • Patrick James Eggle Macon Single Cut

Gibson Custom Shop ’59 Les Paul Standard Reissue

+ Improved pickups
+ Impressive attention to detail
– Modern restrictions prohibit 100 per cent accuracy 

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Although it wasn’t exactly a roaring success the first time around, the likes of Clapton, Bloomfield, Jimmy Page and so many others cemented the sunburst Les Paul Standard as the most desirable electric guitar in rock history. Even though fewer than 650 were made back in 1959, it’s this model year that’s regarded as the perfect storm for spec and aesthetics and has become the Holy Grail.

Launched in 2019 to celebrate the model’s 60th anniversary and pictured above, Gibson’s latest Custom Shop ’59 reissue – aka R9 – is as close to the real thing as it’s possible for the company to get when making these guitars in numbers, and the model benefits from a more vintage-accurate top carve, neck shape, plastics and pickup covers than ever. Assuming you don’t have $300,000 to spend on an original Burst or $20k for a vintage conversion, this is probably the next best thing.

Price: £5,199 Build: Two-piece figured maple top with single-ply Royalite binding, solid mahogany back, solid mahogany neck with ‘Authentic ’59 Medium C-Shape’ profile, bound Bolivian rosewood/pau ferro fingerboard with 12-inch radius, 22 medium-jumbo frets, nylon nut, aged cellulose nitrate trapezoid inlays, holly headstock veneer Hardware: Nickel no-wire ABR-1 bridge with lightweight aluminium stop-bar tailpiece. Kluson single-line, single-ring tuners, laminated cellulose acetate butyrate pickguard and jack plate, stepped two-ply truss-rod cover, butyrate gold top-hat knobs, amber Catalin switch tip, silkscreened cellulose acetate butyrate poker chip Electrics: 2x alnico III unpotted Custombuckers, CTS 500K Audio Taper potentiometers (2x volume, 2x tone) with paper-in-oil capacitors, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch Scale Length: 24.75”/628.6mm.

Take a look at our full review here.

Collings I-30 LC

Collings I 30 LC

+ Build quality is as premium as you might expect
+ Great neck profile
– Some players enjoy more of a white-knuckle ride

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While it’s an obvious nod towards Kalamazoo, the I-30 presents a few intelligent refinements to the classic ES-330 design. Perhaps the most important of these is parallel trestle bracing, coupling the top to the back to increase sustain and reduce susceptibility to feedback. For the I-30, Collings has also coupled its Honduran mahogany neck to the tail block, delivering even more glorious sustain.

The neck itself is another highlight; soft-shouldered and C-profiled with an ever-so-slight hint of V, it harks back to the best Gibson necks of the 50s. It’s beautifully comfortable, and will only get better with decades of use.

Price: £5,099 / $5,200 Build: Maple laminate body with non-grained ivoroid binding and parallel trestle braces, set Honduran mahogany neck, 12” radius rosewood fingerboard with non-grained ivoroid binding and mother-of-pearl 5mm dot inlays, 22 medium-jumbo 18% nickel-silver frets, ebony headstock veneer, bone nut Hardware: Kluson ABR-1 bridge (nickel-plated zinc w/ retaining wire), Collings trapeze tailpiece, nickel Gotoh tuners w/ ivoroid buttons Electronics: 2x Lollar Dogear P-90 pickups w/ custom phenolic covers, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, 50s-style wiring with 2x volume, 2x tone controls (DiMarzio 500K) and Jupiter Vintage Yellow capacitors Scale Length: 24.8”/631.8mm

Check out our full review here.

PRS Silver Sky

+ Excellent neck feel
+ Versatile and inspiring pre-CBS tones on tap
– Might not convince some Stratocaster purists

While it is undeniable that this controversial John Mayer signature model takes many cues from the Stratocaster, it also boasts some modern touches and features that are synonymous with PRS. Where its body is concerned, the biggest deviation from the Stratocaster is the scoop on the Silver Sky’s treble horn. This mark of PRS identity provides ergonomic access right up to the 22nd fret, and has also been painted in a darker hue to accentuate it.

Plugged in, the Silver Sky is as expressive as they come. The balance between its 635JM pickups is great, and each switch’s five positions sound distinct. It’s no surprise that this PRS also has a snap and punch to it that helps it excel stinging leads and percussive funk rhythms.

2020 brought us a much-anticipated version of this guitar with a maple neck – so fans of Strat-style guitars looking for more of a 1950s flavour are also catered for.

Price: £2,299 Build: Alder body, bolt-on maple neck with 7.25” rosewood slab fingerboard, 22 ‘Acoustic’ frets, bone nut and Small Bird inlays, double-action truss rod with headstock-end adjustment Hardware: Locking vintage-style closed-back tuners with non-slip buttons, PRS Steel Tremolo vibrato bridge Electrics: 3x PRS 635JM single-coil pickups, 5-way blade pickup selector switch, master volume, neck/middle tone control, bridge tone control Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Gretsch G6129T Players Edition Jet FT 

Gretsch G6129 Player's Edition Jet FT Body

+ Classic Gretsch stylings without playability compromises
+ Versatile pickups
– Diehard Gretsch fans may prefer vintage specs

This guitar’s sparkle doesn’t end with its finish. While based on the iconic Jet design of the 1950s, it isn’t a straight-ahead reissue – instead, the G6129T offers modern refinements that bring its vintage flavour up to 21st-century scratch. The comfortable neck profile combines with a softened cutaway and tapered heel to provide a much smoother ride, and while the High Sensitive Filter’Tron humbuckers have a fair amount of output, it can still be rolled back for softer tones. All the charm of a vintage Jet but without quirks or compromises.

Price: £2,049 Build: Chambered mahogany body with arched laminated maple top, set one-piece mahogany neck, bound 12-inch radius rosewood fretboard, pearloid Neo-Classic thumbnail inlays, 22 medium-jumbo frets, synthetic bone nut Hardware: Anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge, Bigsby B7CP String-Thru tailpiece, Gotoh locking tuners Electrics: 2x High Sensitive Filter’Tron humbucking pickups, master volume and master tone controls, individual pickup volume controls, 3-way pickup selector Scale Length: 24.6”/625mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Bunting Melody Queen

Bunting Melody Queen

+ Unique materials
+ Versatile switching
– Distressed offsets aren’t for everyone

The Bunting Melody Queen’s undeniably cool offset design blends vintage Jazzmaster stylings with contemporary boutique exotica. The sumptuous Bosnian maple neck features delightful figuring and a Madagascar rosewood ‘board with artfully rolled edges, while it also contributes to the guitar’s muscular bark.

This is further enhanced by clever electronics, as Bunting’s Guy Shapira explains: “Beef is a series switch, which bypasses the pickup selector and basically gives you a preset of a humbucker-type tone. Cream is a high-cut switch, which gives a preset filtered tone. It’s a nod to the traditional Jazzmaster’s ‘jazz’ circuit, but it’s pre-set.” Both pair incredibly well with a bit of grit, with ‘Beef’ approaching humbucker punch, and ‘Cream’ offering a nasal, filtered tone for more quirky offset character.

Price: £2,750 Build: German spruce body, Bosnian maple bolt-on neck with 10-inch radius Madagascar rosewood fretboard, 22 Jescar 47090 frets, bone nut Hardware: Mastery Bridge, Duesenberg Diamond Deluxe Tremola short vibrato tailpiece, Gotoh locking machine heads with vintage-style buttons and staggered-height posts Electrics: 2x Mojo Jazzmaster (58-64) pickups, master volume, master tone (with Emerson paper-in-oil 0.022uF capacitor), 3-way toggle pickup selector, Beef (series) and Cream (high-cut) slider switches Scale Length: 25.5”/648mmß

Take a look at our full review here.

Frank Brothers Arcade Model 

frank brothers arcade model

+ Built with incredible precision
+ Many custom options
– Only one body outline available

Like all Frank Brothers guitars, you enjoy unparalleled customisability with the Arcade Model. Choose between various top woods, pickup options, finishes and much more. Whatever you pick, you can rest assured Tim and Nick Frank will create something with spectacular build quality, killer aesthetics and phenomenal sound.

From its masterful neck shape to its deep note complexity, the Arcade Model is one of the world’s finest boutique electric guitars and a wonderful blend of soul and precision.

Price: Starts at £2,700, depending on custom options Build: Solid mahogany body with maple top, set mahogany neck with 12” radius Macassar ebony fingerboard, 22 Jescar 51108 frets, bone nut Hardware: ABR-1 bridge, stop tailpiece, Gotoh open-back tuners, satin brass strap buttons Electrics: Wolfetone Mean (neck) and Meaner (bridge) P-90 pickups, 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch Scale Length:  25”/635mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster

Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster

+ Offset cool with modern upgrades
+ Myriad switching options
– Too refined for some vintage JM fans 

The Jazzmaster has arguably been regarded as the coolest guitar on earth over the past decade or so, and boutique designs elsewhere in this list owe it a great debt. The American Ultra range is the pinnacle when it comes to Fender’s USA production models and, outside of the Custom Shop, you won’t find a finer new Jazzmaster than this.

Vintage offsets have their idiosyncrasies but this reimagined take on Leo’s classic design irons out some of the quirks and provides a noise-free yet still characterful experience. The bound neck is a delight and this is every inch a road-ready instrument for the modern professional.

Price: £1,959 Build: Alder or ash body, bolt-on maple neck, 10-14” compound radius maple or rosewood fingerboard with 21 medium jumbo frets and bone nut Hardware: Locking tuners, floating bridge with Mustang saddles and nylon post inserts, screw-in vibrato arm with up-bend lock button Electrics: 2x Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazzmaster pickups with 3-way switch, master volume with S1 series/parallel switching, independent tone controls; phase-flip switch with independent volume controls Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Eastman Romeo

Eastman Romeo (Body)

+ Extremely versatile array of tones
+ Original design
– Slightly neck heavy

Eastman’s original thinline hollowbody design delivers more twang and spank than the average humbucker-loaded archtop, with the company’s master luthier Otto D’Ambrosio seeking to answer the question: “What would the Telecaster of the archtop-guitar world look and sound like?”

Versatile and soulful, there’s much to love about the Romeo, and it’s also a design that the company sees as a platform for a whole range of instruments in the future. On this evidence, that’s certainly no tragedy.

Price: £1,950 Build: Solid spruce top, mahogany laminate back and sides, ivoroid top and back binding, set maple neck with ‘Traditional Even C’ profile, 12”-radius ebony fingerboard, 22x Jescar 47104 frets, single-action truss-rod, bone nut Hardware: Nickel-plated Gotoh aluminium stop tailpiece and tune-o-matic bridge with hard zinc saddles. Gotoh 1:18 ratio HAP sealed tuners Electrics: 2x custom-wound Lollar Imperial humbuckers, master volume, 2x tone, 3-way toggle pickup selector Scale Length: 24.75”/629mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Lowden GL-10

Lowden GL-10

+ Top of the line build quality and materials
+ Effortlessly playable, with great sustain
– Organic aesthetic not for everyone 

For Gary Lightbody’s 40th birthday, Ed Sheeran wanted to repay him for the Lowden instrument the Snow Patrol frontman had previously gifted him. So Sheeran rang George Lowden and asked if he could build a solidbody electric. The result of that commission was so astounding, Sheeran bagged one for himself, and Lowden added it to its own line-up soon after.

What do we think of the GL-10? Deep bass, airy trebles and pristine clarity combine with a beautiful resonance and smooth decay that’s endlessly alluring and very hard to put down. There’s also now a 2020 concept version, introducing a semi-hollow one-piece Brazilian mahogany body to the equation.

Price: £3,395 / $4,260 (inc hard case) Build: Mahogany body with rosewood centre laminate and figured koa cap, 5-piece mahogany/rosewood set neck with C profile, 12” radius ebony fingerboard with ebony/maple binding and 22 frets. Ancient bog oak headstock veneers Hardware: Gotoh GE103B-T bridge, Gotoh 510 tuners with ebony buttons Electronics: 2x Lollar Imperial humbuckers with individual volume knobs and a single master tone control, three-way toggle pickup selector switch Scale Length: 630mm/24.8”

Take a look at our full review here.

Macmull Heartbreaker Custom

Macmull Guitars Heartbreaker Custom

+ Articulate yet full-throated pickups
+ Obsessive attention to detail
– Pricey for a bolt-on, even in this bracket

Macmull sweats the small stuff more than almost any other company in modern boutique luthiery. For each guitar, the wood is hand selected – its age when it was cut, its grain and texture taken into account. Macmull’s own hand-wound pickups are then matched to specific bodies, ensuring that each set of pickups accentuates the best characteristics of each piece of wood.

Luckily, all this hard work offers up inspiring tones in spades. On the Heartbreaker Custom, this means powerful, Clapton-esque complexity from the neck, and a throaty roar from the bridge. If you are looking for the pre-CBS Strat experience without the price-tag then be sure to check out the company’s S-types too.

Price: £4,495 Build: Bound one-piece alder body, bolt-on hard maple neck, Madagascar rosewood 9.5” radius fingerboard with clay dot inlays, 21 Dunlop 6105 frets, bone nut, single-action truss rod Hardware: T-Classic hardtail bridge with top-loading or string-through stringing and 3x threaded steel saddles, Gotoh vintage-style tuners Electrics: 2x Macmull matched RVT P-90 pickups, 3-way blade selector switch, Luxe Bumblebee .22uF tone cap, CTS volume and tone pots Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Novo Miris J 

novo mirus j

+ Vintage feel straight out of the box
+ Numerous custom options
– Once you own one Novo, you’ll want another

Novo’s Dennis Fano has a love for Fender offsets and Rossmeisl-era Rickenbackers, and both influences are on clear display here, but they’ve collided with more than enough force to create something entirely new. The mini-humbuckers from Lollar are vintage-voiced, but potting means more stability at higher gain settings than vintage units. Thankfully, there’s still a lot of touch-responsiveness and chime.

Nobody seems to have nailed the feel of a well-played vintage neck quite as well as Novo, and that’s very much in evidence on this wonderful machine. Just be mindful when doing your research that this model’s name changed from Mirus to Miris shortly after it launched.

Price: £4,199 Build: Tempered pine semi-hollow body with centre-block, bolt-on tempered maple neck with medium-C profile, 9.5-inch radius East Indian rosewood fingerboard with unbleached bone nut, clay dots and 22 Jescar 6125 frets Hardware: Schroeder wrapover bridge with individual brass saddles, Kluson vintage-style tuners Electrics: 2x Lollar mini-humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector, volume, tone

Take a look at our full review here.

Relish Mary One

Relish Mary One

+ Ability to swap pickups on the fly
+ Innovative design
– Too futuristic for some

Although huge swathes of the boutique guitar industry are focused on emulating vintage instruments, there’s plenty of forward thinking around too – not least from Swiss company Relish.

Modular pickup-swapping is just the tip of the iceberg as the Mary One’s ‘floating sandwich’ design brings something genuinely new and innovative to the table and incorporates both milled aluminium and high-pressure laminate. The result? Tone and musicality in abundance from a brand with performance, ethically sourced materials and precision at its heart.

Price: €3,799 Build: Six-string electric guitar with interchangeable pickups and ‘floating sandwich’ construction, made in Switzerland. Milled aluminium and high-pressure laminate body with Chilean Tineo veneer, bolt-on one-piece bent maple neck with 10-inch radius dark strand woven bamboo fingerboard, 24 medium-jumbo stainless-steel frets, two-way truss rod, Graph Tech nut Electrics: 2x handwound Relish humbucker-sized P90 pickups swappable for Relish XV humbuckers, active Graph Tech Ghost piezo system, master volume, tone and 3-way blade pickup selector (magnetic pickups), piezo volume (push/pull midrange boost), 3-way mini-toggle (magnetic only, magnetic/piezo blend and piezo-only) Scale Length: 650mm/25.59”

Take a look at our full review here.

Vuorensaku T Family Birke

Vuorensaku-T-Family-Birke

+ Elegant marriage of Fender and Gibson specs
+ Retains its own distinct character and identity
– There’s formidable competition out there

Fresh from the lakeland region of central Finland, this pine-bodied boutique instrument blends Fender and Gibson design influences with a dash of rustic Scandinavian cool. It might even be that ‘best of both worlds’ boutique design you’ve been looking for but if so, it certainly doesn’t sacrifice character to get there.

If you’re passionate about the magic of the great solidbody archetypes, the T Family Birke is not going to give you those classic sounds in their purest form. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate all-rounder to top off your six-string collection, this could be a strong – and distinctive – contender.

Price: £3,899 Build: Pine body, maple neck, 9.5-10” compound radius pau ferro fingerboard with 21 medium frets Hardware: Gotoh vintage-style tuners, Mastery bridge and tailpiece Electrics: Vuorensaku Custom bridge humbucker and neck P-90, three-way switch, master volume and tone controls Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Nik Huber Orca

Nik Huber Orca

+ Versatile tones and stunning materials
+ Comfortable neck heel scoop and belly contour
– Premium tonewoods come at a price 

Nik Huber is one of the most respected names in world luthiery and he’s taken a classic approach but given it his own personal touch with the Orca. Two Häussel 1959 PAFs deliver the bright chime and power associated with vintage single-cuts, but the deep carve in the neck join is a distinctly modern, and welcome, addition that aids upper-fret access.

Another notable feature is a coil-split on the neck pickup tone control, which lets you dial in even more twang, or roll things back for wonderful articulation and clarity. With a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and outrageous top, no expense has been spared to deliver a premium boutique experience.

Price: £7,250 Build: Spanish cedar body with figured maple top. Set mahogany neck with flame maple-bound 10-14” compound-radius Brazilian rosewood fingerboard (CITES certified) with mother of pearl inlays. 22 medium-jumbo frets. Double action (single rod, compressed) truss rod. Ebony headstock veneer, polished bone nut Hardware: Gotoh open-gear machineheads with tulip buttons, ABM tune-o-matic bridge and aluminium stop tailpiece, Schaller strap locks Electrics: 2x Häussel 1959 humbucking pickups with aged nickel covers. 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch. Pull neck pickup tone control for coil-split Scale Length: 25”/635mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Patrick James Eggle Macon Single Cut

Patrick James Eggle Macon Single Cut

+ Resonates and sustains like an old Gibson
+ Fabulous array of tones
– Aesthetic too ‘posh’ for some 

Another highly respected luthier’s take on a timeless blueprint, the Patrick James Eggle Macon Single Cut is available in several different configurations in terms of chambering and electronics. This example was commissioned by British blues star Aynsley Lister and the pickup combination is a nod to original Les Paul Customs, with Mojo P-90 and Staple units in the bridge and neck respectively.

The result delivers the thrill ride of an old classic with modern boutique production values, with a beautifully rounded Fat C neck carve that will score more points with fans of old Gibsons. The acoustic playing experience is reminiscent of a wrapover Goldtop with a long, shifting note decay combining with ghostly, piano-like highs and huge head-to-tail resonance. Plugged in, it delivers on that promise and then some.

Price: £4,200 Build: Semi-chambered mahogany back, flame maple top, set mahogany neck with Fat C profile, 12-inch radius ebony fingerboard with 22 Jescar 55090 frets and mother of pearl crown frame inlays Hardware: Aged nickel-plated aluminium ABM bridge and Gotoh SD90 vintage-style tuners Electrics: Mojo P-90 (bridge) and Staple (neck) pickups, 2x volume with treble bleed, 2x tone, 3-way toggle pickup selector, Emerson Pro 500k pots, NOS Russian paper-in-oil tone caps Scale Length: 24.625”/625mm

Take a look at our full review here.

Music Man SabreMusic Man Sabre

+ Great-sounding pickups with versatile switching
+ Incredible neck feel
– Pricey for a bolt-on, but it’s justified

The Music Man Sabre is a premium instrument that doesn’t overstate itself. The sleek carved top complements a roasted flame-maple neck which, thanks in no small part to Music Man’s proprietary gunstock oil and wax finish, feels as comfortable as it gets.

The twin humbuckers offer incredible clarity and note separation, while the five-way switch expands the Sabre’s palette, allowing for parallel combinations of both the inner and outer coils. With a clean tone or light overdrive you can easily take the Sabre into traditional S-type territory, but it excels for heavier rock too.

Price: £3,399 / $3,199 Build: Okoume body with carved flame-maple top, C-shape bolt-on neck with 10” radius figured roasted maple fretboard, dot inlays, 22 high-profile medium-wide nickel frets. Hardware: Schaller M6-IND locking tuners, Music Man Modern vibrato bridge with vintage-style bent-steel saddles. Electrics: 2x Music Man custom-wound humbuckers, 5-way blade pickup selector switch, master volume and tone control. Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm.

Take a look at our full review here.

Read our recommendations for premium acoustic guitars.

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