The best new electric and acoustic guitars at NAMM 2020


NAM 2020: There were so many new acoustic guitars turn your head at the show, you had to have a whole separate list for the highlights of the signature model.

The themes for the year seemed to be surprise and consolidation; Martin wants to innovate again and does so, Fender balances old and new… Epiphone means business with a new line that mirrors the big brother.

WINNER: PRS S2 McCarty 594

(Image credit: PRS Guitars)

Was it an easy decision for PRS to allow one of its larger flagship models into the more affordable S2 range? After all, it somehow gives us more for less, and could steer McCarty customers away from its Core lineup. Either way, we applaud the decision to give players this guitar and want to acknowledge it.

Paul Reed Smith (right) and PRS Sales Manager Jim Cullen holding a pair of MusicRadar award-winning S2 594 McCarty models

Paul Reed Smith (right) and PRS Sales Manager Jim Cullen holding a pair of MusicRadar award-winning S2 594 McCarty models (Image credit: PRS Guitars)

The original 594 McCarty model quickly became a bestseller for good reason. And you get them all here; Vintage neck profile, old school bird inlays, vintage voiced 58/15 pickups with coils, aluminum tailpiece, zinc bridge with brass saddles and studs. The 24.594″ scale (hence the name) sets it apart from the 25″ S2 models, but this is a classic, versatile PRS guitar made in Maryland – for less.

Read more: PRS Adds New McCarty 594 Guitars to S2 Series

Fender Lead II & III

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The return of Fender’s somewhat obscure late ’70s/early ’80s Lead model is a surprise, but with brand new features and the price of the Player series, it’s a very tempting model that could give him a whole new life.

This guitar was designed as a cheaper Strat-like option, but Fender has made its new Lead II and III suites distinct. A modern Player “C” neck with a 9.5″ radius brings the new to balance the reissue’s authentic body shape and logo. The pickups here are Player Strat single coils. But there’s also switching Lead…

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While the former is the standard three-way pickup switch, the latter performs different functions on the II and III. For the II, this is a two-position switch to access in-phase and out-of-phase sounds when both single coils are activated in the middle position.

For the Dual Humbucker III, a three-way switch splits the bridge or neck humbucker for single coil sounds. There’s great potential versatility for your tones here for $599.

Read more: 2020 NAMM VIDEO: Fender’s Lead is back from the dead

Martin SC-13E

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A surprise reserved for Martin’s 2020 NAMM press conference at the show, the bold offset shape of this electro acoustic is only half the story.

An innovative neck design allows the most access to the upper frets of any acoustic guitar we’ve come across, opening up new possibilities for players. A neck taper reinforces this sense of freedom to explore the full range of the fingerboard.

Read more: Is Martin’s new SC-13E acoustic the most progressive guitar ever?

Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn

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The Les Paul range on the Gibson and Epiphone stand covered all the bases – and for the latter brand, the range as a whole was a celebration of its history and future. While the Epiphone side of the impressive room (the word “stand” doesn’t quite do it justice) featured guitars like the new ES Uptown Kat model, Gibson’s Original line was reflected in the new Epiphone Inspired By Gibson series.

We love the understated finishes here; not so “worn” in our eyes as Satin Ebony, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Purple and Gold Top. Coil splits on Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers and Grover tuners make this a solid $449 offering in a 2020 lineup full of good news.

Read more: Epiphone has launched an American-built Texan and revamped its lineup into Originals and Inspired By Gibson lines

ESP LTD Viper 1000 Evertune

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We love the LTD Viper models and we also love the EverTune bridge that the company has been so proactive in incorporating on some models. So naturally we’re going to love that.

If you’re unfamiliar with EverTune’s bridge design (also available from $275 for the company to fit your existing guitar), its tension bridges use a spring and lever for each string. to keep them tuned. And it works remarkably well to provide stability on stage and in the studio. But things get even sweeter with this guitar…

Seymour Duncan Sentient (neck) and Pegasus (bridge) humbuckers make a superb pair in their own right, but are divisible here by push-pull control for a whole range of tones.

Read more: ESP Saves the Best for Last with Stunning New LTD Signature Models and ’87 Anniversary Reissues

Savor the Trinity

(Image credit: Relish)

Ever wondered what it would be like to try out some new mics, but didn’t want the hassle of soldering? OK, the Swiss company to some extent followed in Dan Armstrong’s footsteps with the concept of the pickup swap system on the original Relish Mary guitar. But the Trinity brings the technology in a much more accessible price and on Relish’s first solidbody model.

Players simply remove the pickup from the back of the body with two fingers and replace it with another P-90 humbucker or single coil with no soldering iron in sight. It also works incredibly fast, and we were impressed with the sense of quality this cutting-edge guitar has.

The guitar is made in partnership with Cort, a company with its own great reputation. The $1,699 Trinity comes in metallic red, blue, or black finishes and on the mic front, Seymour Duncan and Bare Knuckle already have compatible mics for sale on Relish’s website.

Read more: Relish Guitars Makes It Easy To Swap Pickups With The Trinity Guitar

Fano Omnis JM-6

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If you’ve coveted one of Fano’s boutique models but ever felt overpriced, his new Omis series is for you. But with the company’s three popular models represented in the launch lineup, alongside the return of the Mustang-esque MG6, all at $999 each, it’s going to appeal to more people than that.

Naturally, our admiring eyes of the offset turned to the JM-6 model; and with the same custom Fano pickups as their Standard Series counterparts, it’ll sound as good as it looks.

Read more: Fano announces its most affordable guitars yet with the Omnis series

Charvel Pro-Mod SO-CAL STYLE 2 24 HH HT CM

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Super strat style guitars are fine, but if you’re a Tele addict, you end up a bit empty-handed away from Fender. So its sister company Charvel is here to give you some extra GAS as its new $899/$999 Pro Mod guitars tick the boxes for us.

This is a real licensed Tele doll – with reverse rotation giving it a distinct vibe. Available in black and white editions with a satin alder body ($899) or an ash body ($999), the 24-fret models are testament that few currently offer such high spec for the price as Charvel.

Fishman Fluence Open Core PRF-COC pickups with three distinct voices, graphite reinforced neck, heel adjustment wheel, hand rubbed urethane finish on the back of a speed neck, Luminlay side dot markers…brass saddles in the easel. It’s a serious guitar in every way.

Read more: The EVH, Charvel and Jackson stands – in pictures

Gibson Les Paul Junior

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Yeah, okay, it seems absurd to praise Gibson for simply bringing back a black-finished model to its original series that they’ve known how to make since 1954. But look at it!

Even with the likes of Eastman’s new SB55/v-SB biting into its single-pickup care, we watched Gibson’s creator, for quite a while… drool collecting at our feet in an unsightly puddle. Because the Junior takes everything to heart, and we love it for it. And now back in ebony with a tortoiseshell plate? Irresistible!

The ingredients are simple; single dogear P-90, ’50s-style neck, wraparound bridge, single-slab mahogany body and a proven track record for rock. It really doesn’t have to be complicated…as long as you can raise $1,499.

Read more: NAMM 2020 video – The main Gibson and Epiphone offerings filmed

Gretsch G2210 Junior Jet Club Streamliner

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We always support the Gretsch booth at NAMM – and we always know they’ll provide at least a few affordable models that look like the company. We’ve already seen the quality of the Streamliner series over the past few years, so we were delighted to see a new model added to the lineup.

And what a deal it is; the versatile Broad’Tron BT-2S mics in one package for £305/$299.99/€350.

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This Junior Jet features a 12-inch laurel fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets for a balance of contemporary and vintage look. We particularly like the Imperial Stain finish.

Read more: Gretsch Launches All-New Streamliner and Electromatic Models, Exquisite Penguin and More

Ibanez AZ2204B Prestige

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We’ve seen pastels, neons, swirls, sandblasts and amazing poplar burl finishes at this year’s show, but we can’t help but think that the good old black finish still has a lot to do in the elegant, simple, goes with- any stake. Especially when delivered like this – coming as an AZ take on the Gilmour Black Strat.

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The AZ line celebrated its first anniversary with a pair of new models – and two of them were black. We know these high-end guitars are indeed very good, but this black with white detailing might find them appealing to players previously put off by the flashier AZ finishes.

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Read more: Ibanez Breaks the Cover With Stunning New AZ and RG Guitar Models


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