Anyone that reads my guitar articles on Gearnews will no doubt already know that I am a huge fan of offset guitars. So for my Best Offset Guitars list I have attempted to show you all the best models, across various budgets that you should check out.
What makes an Offset Guitar?
There’s sometimes a bit opf confusion about what exactly constitutes an ‘offset guitar’. I’ll start with my personal opinion: an offset guitar has a waist that has one side further forwards when compared to the other. This will give an appearance of the guitar pushing forwards when played. That makes for a very comfortable seating position and puts the guitar in the optimum position for many guitarists.
Traditionally, we often refer to offset guitars as being designs from Fender, typically form the late ’50s and ’60s including the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar. Other manufacturers have similar offset body designs that are much more recent and include guitars like for example Eddie Van Halen’s Wolfgang design, which also falls into the offset category.
With this in mind, here is my list of the Best Offset Guitars you can buy today!
Squier CV Late 50s Jazzmaster
This budget series is based on the very first Fender Jazzmaster design from the 1950s, but at a price point that’s achievable for many players. The Squier CV Late 50s Jazzmaster has a poplar body with either a 2-tone sunburst or a white blonde finish, with a gold anodised pickguard and black plastics.
Both are a great staring pint for any player wanting a more traditional looking, vintage-syle offset that’s going to play well but doesn’t cost the earth.
Squier J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster
I owned possibly the first one of these to come into the UK, and can honestly say that these guitars are an absolute bargain. In a similar manner to the Squier CV Late ’50s above, this J Mascis model offers vintage styling. But it’s been tweaked a little and so moves away from the more traditional vintage formula.
What’s different? First, the pickups are hotter! They’re not the single coil units you normally see on a Jazzmaster. These are more like a P-90 and work very well with drive tones and cleans. Then the trem system has been moved closer to the bridge, which makes for a steeper break angle, helping to prevent strings popping off bridge saddles. And finally, the bridge has been swapped out from a more traditional moving Jazzmaster bridge to a more stable, fixed Tune-o-matic-style bridge.
You also have a basswood body, with a maple neck and an Indian Laurel fretboard with jumbo frets. Older pre-2018 model has a rosewood fretboard. I’ve played both and there is little to no difference.
Fender/Squier is rumoured to be discontinuing this model and so you may need to move quickly to pick up a new one, though they are still listed on the main Fender site.
Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster and Jaguar Modified
Coming it at just under a grand, the Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster Modified and the matching Jaguar are both offset models that you should be checking out. Both these models offer a few twists on on the formula, with humbucker versions available for the Jaguar and either standard ‘60s Jazzmaster wide single-coils or Hot ‘60s Jazzmaster wide single-coil pickups.
This run comes in some sweet colours. I think they all offer good value for money and will be a great first offset guitar for anyone new to this style.
Fender Jim Root Jazzmaster
The Fender Jim Root Jazzmaster is available in a few incarnations. This takes the offset into a more stripped back direction, with a hard tail bridge and twin EMG pickups wired to a Volume control only and three-way selector switch. It’s also missing the trem system you often find on vintage offset guitars. This is as ‘modern day’ as you can currently get in the way of Fender offsets – which is no bad thing. It’s a glorious guitar and perfect for many styles, not just crushing riffs. But you have to like that totally stripped-back look and functionality.
Black or White?
We’ve recently seen Jim’s personal Black Paisley edition, which may or may not make it into production. The original all-black version is available as well. Whichever one you opt for, they’re great guitars and a lot of fun to play, especially through a really loud amp!
Fender Noventa Jazzmaster
What’s better then two P-90 pickups? Three P-90 pickups! That’s exactly what the Fender Noventa Jazzmaster has to offer. This one is available in Surf Green, Fiesta Red and Walnut finishes.
The three P-90s are wired via a three way pickup selector and a master Volume and Tone control. It’s a nice twist to the standard Jazzmaster formula and certainly one to check out.
Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar
The Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar is available in various finishes and has been around for nearly 10 years now. It has been tweaked to perfection by Mr Marr and is a huge fan favourite with a lot off offset aficionados.
Decent switching at last!
Johnny has ironed out all the annoying Jaguar quirks, which means you get a great set of BareKnuckle pickups wound to his spec. The four-position blade switching system and updated switch hardware are also an upgrade over regular Jaguar models. It also has a quality bridge with no rattles.
Fender Troy Van Leeuwen Jazzmaster
The Fender TVL Jazzmaster comes in two colours, Oxblood and Copper Age, each a ’60s style model with blocks and binding on the neck. The original Oxblood version has a rosewood fingerboard, whereas the newer Copper Age version has a more unusual maple board. I own the original version myself – it’s a stunning guitar, and the Pure Vintage ’65 pickups are sublime.
Again, the switching has been modified, though not drastically. You still get the original Rhythm Circuit, but Troy had Fender swap out the original slider for a two way toggle switch on the upper horn instead. This makes it easier to engage the circuit.
PRS Vela and Vela Semi-Hollow
Okay, the first non Fender/Squier offset model on the list, and I had to choose the PRS Vela. These are great guitars. Yes, I own one of the original models from the very first run. PRS has since added a semi-hollow model, which is also one you should check out.
PRS took a Custom 24 body shape, cut it down the middle and pushed the top half forwards to create the Vela body shape, making it a true offset model.
Apart from being a super-lightweight and very playable American made instrument, the pickups are the star of the show for me. These guitars come equipped with PRS Starla “S” pickup in the bridge and a PRS-Designed Type-D single-coil in the neck, with a split for the bridge pickup available from the push/pull control.
Another highlight for me is the twin barrel, Telecaster-like bridge. It’s a unique Paul Reed Smith design and pairs beautifully with the locking tuners.
Gordon Smith Guitars Gatsby
A newcomer from the UK! This is the first offset design by an established guitar brand, with a nice twist to the classic vintage offset formula. The Gordon Smith Guitars Gatsby has a Poplar or Swamp Ash body, with a bolt on maple neck.
The pickups are a set of Gordon Smith’s “home wound chrome-covered GS P90” models and you get some quality hardware that includes a set of Gotoh SG381 – 05 tuners, and an HK41 vibrato paired with a low profile brass roller bridge.
I also love the colours on offer and am really taken by the metallic blue Rockingham finish above.
I could probably add another 15 models to my list! But the guitars above are the ones that shone for me. The list also includes a few perennial favourites. Other guitars I’d encourage you to take a look at are the EVH line of Wolfgangs in their various permutations, the vintage-flavoured Rivolta Guitars Mondata and the Fender American Professional II Series, for player that want something more modern.
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