Best Guitars of 2020: 10 guitars that should be on your radar
These guitars by Fender, Gibson, Epiphone, PRS, EVH, Manson Guitar Works, Ibanez and Harley Benton had us drooling this year!
2020 was, by almost any conceivable measure, a year to forget. But even as the epidemic took hold and people were forced to stay indoors, we were treated to some great guitar releases. This list covers all price points, from entry-level guitars to premium instruments, from retro six-strings to rock axes. Here are 10 guitars from 2020 that should be on your radar.
Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT Faded Cherry
My list of the Best Guitars of 2020 would be woefully incomplete without this model. The Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT Faded Cherry has earned a bit of a cult status on guitar forums across the world. It offers a stripped back, no-nonsense approach to the electric guitar, with its single pickup, the ‘split-able’ the Roswell P90D stack STK4P alnico-5, a P100-style pickup.
With a price point that is more than reasonable and bags of great tones on offer, this guitar should certainly be on your radar as one to try out, if you haven’t done so already. I’ve always been a fan of fat neck guitars, especially when they have single bridge pickup, as you can coax some great tones with them and just enjoy playing, with no fancy switching options and push/pull gimmicks. You can pick one up for £225*, a steal for such a useful, fun instrument. There’s a lefty version available, too.
Gibson USA Lukas Nelson ’56 Les Paul Junior
At the other end of the price scale from the Harley Benton DC Junior, is the Gibson USA Lukas Nelson ’56 Les Paul Junior. Its specifications are so high, it’s practically a Custom Shop guitar. The single dog ear P-90 pickup features Alnico 3 magnets and should give you all the tones you need.
As a devotee of single pickup guitars, I feel that this guitar was one of Gibson’s best releases in 2020, with all the right ingredients for a great-sounding guitar. And it comes in at well under Gibson Custom Shop * prices too. If you can find one, then I would heartily recommend you give it a go.
Manson Guitar Works MBM-1 Matthew Bellamy
This new, affordable MBM-1 Matthew Bellamy model by Manson Guitar Works and Cort Guitars is one seriously well specified guitar. It’s based on the Muse frontman’s own bespoke instruments. As a modern day take on the bolt-on neck formula, it has many subtle updates that all add up to a superb playing instrument, I reviewed one earlier this year and was blown away by the quality, especially at this price point.
If you want a modern instrument that can handle many styles of music, but don’t want too spend £1000 plus, then I recommend that you go try one out. For the money the MBM-1* is hard to beat. The twin humbucker design covers a lot of ground and is voiced to handle styles from blues to full-on shred with ease. Plus it has amazing upper fret access due to that clever neck/body join positioning.
EVH Limited Edition Wolfgang Special Sassafras
In the year that took Eddie Van Halen from us, we found solace in the great guitar designs he left behind along with his musical legacy. The EVH Limited Edition Wolfgang Special Sassafras is not the most expensive Wolfgang in the range, far from it. Yet it offers players some great rock tones and the finish is pretty stunning too. Eddie spent years tinkering with and re-designing the electric guitar, and this model is a great example of a solid instrument that will put a huge smile on your face the second you pick it up.
I love the decked Floyd Rose locking trem system and the attention to detail with the 12”-16” compound radius baked maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets. All that adds up to a super slinky playing experience. Thankfully, there are lots of variations on the Wolfgang these days and so they have something for all budgets, but I was particularly gratified to see this model released in 2020.
Fender Squier FSR Classic Vibe ’70s Jaguar
Fender had a treat in store this year for players looking for something a little retro on a limited budget: the Squier FSR Classic Vibe ’70s Jaguar. A high note for Fender in 2020, this wallet-friendly guitar is offered in two great finishes and is based on a model you don’t see too often, which I see as a win-win for players.
Available in either Daphne Blue or Shell Pink these two offset models look sumptuous but don’t have a Custom Shop or boutique guitar builder price tag. They also have a nice set of Fender Designed Alnico Single-Coil pickups, so they should also sound the part as well. Perfect for some retro-riffage!
Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard
The Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard was great addition to the Epiphone line up this year. Gibson re-invigorated the Epiphone brand in 2020 and I love that Gibson finally gave Epiphone some decent access to the company’s back catalogue and even involved the Custom Shop on this model.
Finally, the Epiphone models get a decent headstock shape! The pickup choice is pretty decent too, with a set of Gibson USA Burstbuckers. The guitar has a mahogany body with a maple top and an AAA figured maple veneer, paired with a mahogany neck with a vintage correct long neck tenon, which is what players want form a decent Les Paul. A great release from Epiphone that I think will be super popular.
PRS SE Tonare Parlor
Yes, an acoustic! Since 2020 was the year of working from home, I thought that a nicely made, easily accessible acoustic should be on this year’s list. The new PRS SE Tonare Parlor stood out from the crowd for me. With a sweet tone and comfortable size, it feels perfect for musicians to use on the couch when songwriting. Bit you could easily go and gig with one as well, so it’s a good all-rounder.
You can go for standard P20 or the P20E with an onboard Fishman GT1 pickup system for a little extra, opening up the recording and live possibilities of this fun acoustic model. The price point* is more than reasonable on both versions. If you’re looking for an acoustic, these new PRS SE models have a lot to offer. Colours available include black, natural and power blue.
Fender Parallel Universe Vol II Troublemaker Telecaster Deluxe
I just loved the combination of a Fender Tele and Gibson-style Custom twin humbucker guitar Fender came up with for the Fender Parallel Universe Vol II Troublemaker Telecaster Deluxe. It looks cool and offers some really sweet tones that are very useable indeed. On the whole, I don’t like many of the Fender Parallel Universe hybrid mashups of recent years, but this one works for me.
The fact that Fender has made a Telecaster with a mahogany body and matching bolt-on neck, loaded it with twin humbuckers and given it some Les Paul Custom styling pleases me no end. My two gigging guitars are a Fender Telecaster and a Gibson Les Paul Custom, so this mashup is the best of both worlds for a player like me. Sure, they aren’t exactly the cheapest* on this list, but they are one of the coolest! There are also cheaper versions available, too, without some of the Deluxe features like pearloid block inlays or gold hardware. So if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the Deluxe version, the “standard” versions in red or arctic white are worth a look, too.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo
The PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo set guitar forms alight across the world, thanks to its range of great tones in a stylish package. I think that it offers a lot of possibilities, with the LR Baggs/PRS Piezo system paired with a set of PRS 58/15 “S” humbuckers. That should give you an immense range of sounds to play with.
PRS made some great guitars this year, but I think that this cheaper SE model was one of the winners among its electric guitar releases in 2020. If you want some great tones without spending thousands, then this guitar really should be on your list of ones to try out.
Ibanez RG565-FOR Genesis
The Ibanez RG565 Genesis Collection is scrapes into this list, as it was only announced earlier this month. But it ticks all my boxes for a great shredder guitar. Those Emerald Green and Fluorescent Orange finishes look great and I love the fact they are made in Japan and have proper Edge locking trem systems. If you want a do-it-all modern guitar, Ibanez has you covered.
These new Ibanez models look stunning and I think they will also be very popular with players that remember the original versions from the early ’90s. If you like RG models then these new twin pickup guitars have all the tones you need and the Ibanez Super Wizard necks are always a joy to play. I could happily own one of those fluorescent orange ones and I’m sure they will sell well with these specifications and cool colours.
What do you think?
So, these were my Top 10 new models for 2020! I tried to select 10 instruments across different price ranges and styles, so there should be something for everyone. What were your favourites from 2020 and why? Let us know in the comments section below.
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- Harley Benton DC-Special FAT Faded Cherry: Harley Benton
- Gibson USA Lukas Nelson ’56 Les Paul Junior: Gibson
- Manson Guitar Works launches MBM-1 Matthew Bellamy: Manson Guitar Works
- EVH Limited Edition Wolfgang Special Sassafras: EVH
- Squier FSR Classic Vibe '70s Jaguar: Andertons
- Epiphone and Gibson Custom Shop '59 Les Paul collaboration: Epiphone
- PRS SE Tonare Parlor: PRS
- Fender Parallel Universe Vol II Troublemaker Telecaster Deluxe : Fender
- PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo: PRS
- Ibanez RG-565 Genesis Collection: Ibanez