The holiday season is in full swing, and what better gift is there than a brand-new guitar?
This year has seen incredible innovation on the guitar front, with elite manufacturers packing more power, features and versatility into their builds – at a lower price – than ever before.
With that in mind, Guitar World has assembled a list of 10 killer guitars that can get you anywhere your creativity takes you – from no holds barred punk rock to introspective, delicate folk – without breaking the bank.
Epiphone Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior
Based on Armstrong’s go-to vintage Les Paul Junior, this electric stands out with its minimalist appointments and striking Classic White finish.
The Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior features a slab Mahogany body and a set neck for great tone and sustain. The Indian Laurel fretboard features 22 medium-jumbo frets to work with, while single master volume and tone controls shape the sounds of the guitar’s powerful PRO P-90 pickup. Its simplicity and power makes it a rock-solid choice for pros and beginners alike.
In keeping with the guitar’s aesthetic minimalism, its only signature touch is Armstrong’s autograph emblazoned as an emblem on the back of the headstock. It does, however, travel in style, coming as it does with a deluxe leopard, faux fur-lined custom hardshell case.
You can take Epiphone’s Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior home for just $549.
This head-turning hot rod of a guitar comes in an eye-catching finish: Blue Sparkle with Flames.
The flashy instrument has a history, too. The hand-painted original version of the guitar – custom-designed by Kramer Custom Graphic Artist Chris Stemmer – got a lot of attention at the 2020 Winter NAMM Show and was such a hit that Kramer soon made the guitar available to everyone.
Inspired by the glittery, collectible and insanely popular Hot Wheels cars of the 1960s, the fiery look of the Baretta conveys its speed-demon playability, perfect for fretboard-melting leads and tapping acrobatics.
The Baretta features an alder body, 22-fret hard maple neck, and a single Seymour Duncan JBTM zebra-coil humbucker pickup. There’s also a Floyd Rose 1000 series tremolo with an R2 1000 series locking nut, and a EVH D-Tuna Drop-D Tuning System.
To keep tuning stable with the D-Tuna, there’s also a convenient Floyd Rose LRT-L40 Trem Stop. Put all that in a package with the aggressive finish, and you’ve got one seriously hot guitar in your hands.
You can drive one of these Hot Rod Barettas off the lot – flames and all – for $999.
Dean MD24 Floyd Roasted Maple Vintage
The shred-ready Dean MD24 Floyd Roasted Maple Vintage comes in two fresh satin finishes: Vintage Blue and Vintage Orange. Both models feature a neck and fingerboard made from dramatic roasted maple that adds to the guitar's clean-and-simple good looks.
The guitar is built with a solid, flat top basswood body and a bolt-on, 25.5’’ scale “C”-shape neck with a dual-action truss rod. With 24 jumbo frets – and abalone dot inlays – the MD24 Floyd Roasted Maple Vintage plays fast and easy right out of the gate, with plenty of room for high-register explorations.
Sonically, the guitar features a pair of direct-mount Seymour Duncan TB5/APH-1 sandblasted Zebra pickups, controlled – in true superstrat fashion – by a single volume knob and a three-way toggle switch.
Elsewhere, the MD24 boasts a Floyd 1000 Series tremolo, Grover 18:1 tuners and sleek, black hardware that looks great on the satin finish.
The Dean MD24 Floyd Roasted Maple Vintage is lean and mean, and can be yours for just $899.
ESP LTD Black Metal Series
When ESP first launched it a few years ago, the LTD Black Metal Series offered players build quality comparable to the company’s LTD Deluxe “1000 Series” instruments, but with a twist: the Black Metal Series sported a dark and menacing design theme: an all-black finish, components, and hardware with just a single premium-quality pickup and Macassar ebony fingerboards without even an inlay to violate the look.
Possibly the darkest guitars on the planet, these guitars are only distinguishable on stage by their glow-in-the-dark side markers, and a specially-designed black metal LTD logo on the headstock.
The EC-FR Black Metal adds a Floyd Rose 1000 bridge to the existing EC-Black Metal model. It offers set-thru construction at 24.75” scale for smooth access to even the highest frets. This guitar also features stainless steel frets, a single direct-mount Seymour Duncan Blackened Black Winter pickup and a push-pull control on the volume knob for convenient coil-splitting.
Any guitar in the ESP Floyd Rose Black Metal Series can be had for $1,049.
PRS SE Custom 24-08
For PRS fans, there’s really nothing like the iconic design that started it all back in 1985. Changes to these versatile and highly-respected instruments tend to add something special and the PRS SE Custom 24-08 is no exception.
While the Custom 24-08 keeps all the foundational specs of the original design, this model offers some special sonic and visual updates.
It’s built with a maple shallow curve top, mahogany back, and maple neck with the PRS double-acting truss rod. The wide/thin neck shape and 10” radius rosewood fretboard with 24 frets and 25” scale length make the guitar perfectly playable.
The guitar features PRS TCI “S” humbucker pickups in both the treble and bass positions that provide sweet, vintage-informed tones, plus two mini-toggle coil tap switches that individually split its humbuckers into true single coils for a total of eight distinct pickup configurations.
Elsewhere, the guitar boasts the PRS patented tremolo at the bridge and PRS-designed tuners.
The sonic versatility, great-looking finishes (Eriza Verde and Vintage Sunburst), and playability of the SE Custom 24-08 are – for $929 – a tough combination to beat.
The elegant Fiore is one of Paul Reed Smith and co’s most notable new releases of the year.
A signature model for American guitar maestro Mark Lettieri, the Fiore gets its name from the Italian word for “flower,” because Lettieri wanted it to be a “free space in which its player’s personality can unfold” – like a flower opening up.
The Fiore model continues PRS’s journey into the bolt-on, single-coil guitar world and this new design in particular offers players at all levels a super-creative tool.
The guitar’s newly-designed pickups were carefully voiced by Lettieri and PRS to allow players a platform to explore and find their inner voice. To that end, the Fiore-S single coil offers exceptional malleability in tone on everything from whisper-quiet melodies to full-on funk and rock styles. Whatever it’s asked to do, this pickup tracks and reacts right along with the player.
The Fiore features a single volume and two push/pull tone controls, which further adds to this guitar’s tonal versatility, but the magic goes right down to the coils. The special Fiore-H humbucker in the bridge position was designed and placed to provide more than enough power and punch for high-gain lead tones, but it’s also got a smooth, clean top end – even with the volume knob wide open.
Together, the Fiore-S and -H pickups on the Fiore work to produce balance, clarity and that elusive ‘bloom’ in all five positions.
You can make your music bloom, too, with a PRS Fiore for $2,449.
FU-Tone FU PRO
FU-Tone is a unique company known (until now) mostly for its super tremolo upgrades. After 25 years of specializing in locking tremolo parts for pros to use on Strats, Les Pauls and Teles though, FU-Tone has launched a guitar line of their own.
Armed with a set of stock features that are difficult to find grouped together on a typical production guitar, the FU PRO line of electrics stands out in an increasingly crowded market.
As you might expect, FU PRO guitars come fully loaded with a custom FU-Tone FU2 Tremolo. That includes: a 42mm L brass big block, titanium saddle inserts, an EVH D-Tuna, heavy duty noiseless springs and a brass claw and claw screws.
Add to that a brass tremolo stopper that gives the user the option to float or stabilize the bridge and you’ve got one unique package.
The onboard FU-Tone Custom humbucker pickups provide individual coil tap switches for a feast of tonal options, while a kill switch gives players the opportunity to have some stutter-filled fun.
FU PRO guitars come in a number of eye-catching finishes – including Black, Ferrari Yellow, Natural and Transparent Purple – and come with a heavy-duty padded gig bag with strap locks included within – all for just $1,099.
Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT50HSS
Recently upgraded with a roasted maple neck, locking tuners and a new finish option, the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT50HSS gives you a ton of bang for your buck.
Designed from the ground up with versatility in mind, this model from the popular Cutlass line features the company’s trademark oversized 4+2 headstock, a versatile HSS pickup configuration with switching options, and a vintage-style tremolo for a solid feel and smooth playability.
The guitar is built with a lightweight poplar body with a Roasted Maple neck and fretboard boasting 22 medium jumbo frets at a full 25.5″ scale length.
The HSS pickup configuration – selectable via the five-way switch – makes for a diverse range of tonal options that will work for virtually any style of music you throw at it.
Coming in sleek finishes like Dropped Copper, Rose Gold and the new Firemist Silver, the Cutlass CT50HSS looks just as good as it sounds.
At $549, it brings a lot to the table for a relatively small investment.
A young, up-and-coming company, Orangewood is known for taking the time to carefully set up every guitar before shipment to provide the best “out of the box” experience for its players, and for its commitment to giving back and supporting music education programs through every instrument sold.
Orangewood’s Echo has a dreadnought acoustic shape that produces a resonant voice singer-songwriters are sure to appreciate.
The guitar is built with a solid Sitka spruce top – for a bold, crisp sound – and back and sides of ecology-conscious layered Pau Ferro wood. There’s also scalloped “X” bracing, and a mahogany neck boasting an Ovangkol fretboard with elegant abalone detailing.
The Echo Live acoustic-electric model, meanwhile, comes equipped with a Fishman Flex Plus-T EQ System and a built-in tuner to get your sound just right, as well as onboard volume/tone controls.
Orangewood’s Echo models come with all of those features – plus a premium padded gig bag – for just $345.
Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar
The Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar is really more like two guitars in one.
First, the Jamstik is a headless, 24-fret electric guitar, but it’s also powered by Jamstik’s signal processing technology and super-secret proprietary algorithms, so it’s also a state-of-the-art MIDI guitar.
As an electric guitar, the Studio MIDI has all your usual features, with a standard 1/4'' out so you can plug into amps and other interfaces. In the pickup department, there are two humbuckers with a coil tap option for single coil use. A three-way switch allows the player to choose between bridge and neck humbuckers.
The guitar features a maple “C”-shaped neck with 25.5” scale length, and a rosewood fretboard with 24 frets and a 13.78” radius.
Elsewhere, there are a number of MIDI out options, including USB C, 3.5mm TRS connectivity, and Bluetooth wireless. A Lithium ion rechargeable battery keeps you rocking for 8 hours or more between recharges. You also get Jamstik Creator software for Mac or PC bundled with it for free, so you can get creative right away.
The Jamstik Creator software is VST compatible, and features more than 125 customizable presets and high quality audio samples that were painstakingly recorded by the Jamstik team.
Color options for the guitar, meanwhile, include black, blue, and white matte with all black hardware.
All that – plus a custom padded gig bag – for $799.