2022 is officially drawing to a close, meaning it’s currently the perfect opportunity to look back over the past 12 months to revisit some of the best guitar gear we’ve had the pleasure of coming across.
It’s certainly been a year to remember, with a number of knock-out new releases making their way onto the market, from long-awaited electric guitars and boutique acoustic guitars all the way to surprise pedal drops and modern-minded guitar amps.
Not only that, 2022 has also helped cement the status of numerous pre-existing products as serious fan favorites, with many guitars, basses, pedals, amps and more from previous years earning their way onto our end-of-year round-up.
With that said, here is our 2022 holiday ultimate gear guide for the best electric guitars of 2022.
Charvel Jake E Lee Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1
For anyone not in the know about Eighties metal, Jake E. Lee is revered for formerly making his mark with Ozzy Osbourne, and with a super-slim maple neck and a 12-16-inch compound radius rosewood fingerboard with rolled edges, the new Charvel signature JEL encourages comfort and nimble playability.
The JEL has one of the slimmest neck curves I’ve come across, which automatically puts you at an agile advantage for wide-interval finger stretches or wrapping your thumb over three strings from the top of the fretboard. The JB humbucker dishes out a punchy midrange and a broad bottom end with just enough searing gain for cutting through, while the reversed SDS-1’s boosted output adds a darker and fuller single-coil quack that never loses its lustrous detail.
A single volume Strat-style skirt control knob and five-way blade switch govern the pickups, and there’s a hardtail bridge with a black base plate and Charvel tuning machines with pearl buttons.
$1,299.99 street, charvel.com
Charvel Satchel Signature Pro-Mod DK22
Steel Panther guitarist Satchel is famous for carrying the torch of the Eighties, the decade of headbanging music and debauchery, and his signature guitar is a stripped-down time machine that sounds ferocious and is built to elevate your technical prowess game.
Sporting a 12-16-inch compound radius all-maple neck with rolled edges and 22 jumbo frets, the Satchel is geared toward dexterous fret burning. The active firepower comes courtesy of two Fishman Fluence Classic humbuckers with black/white bobbins, and the sole volume knob offering push/pull activation for the pickups’ dual voices.
Other features include a three-way toggle pickup switch and a top-loaded (non-recessed) Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo bridge system. The Satchel feels thoroughbred fast with a slimmer “C”-profile neck and a low-action Floyd setup that makes harmonics scream and squeal louder than the audience at Budokan. It’s a wildly fun guitar to brazenly wield even if you don’t own spandex or drown yourself regularly in Aqua Net.
$1,399.99 street, charvel.com
Cort G290 Fat II
Cort’s G290 FAT II is a serious and worthy electric that has all the potential to be on the radar of many discerning players. From its alder body with a gorgeous flamed top and one-ply white binding to its roasted maple neck and fretboard, everything about the G290 FAT II appears elevated.
The offset body feels snug pressed against you, with a generous belly carve and soft forearm contour for playing comfort. The Ergo-V neck profile is a palm-filling profile that’s close to a “60’s” “C” shape with a soft satin finish on the back of the neck. Articulate and detailed tones come courtesy of its Voiced Tone VTH-77 direct-mount pickups merged with a custom pickup wiring to the 5-way switch that offers single-coil sparkle and full-body humbucker roar.
Rounding out the guitar is Cort’s smooth traveling and floating CFA-III tremolo bridge mounted over a recessed cavity. It’s a very measured and dialed-in instrument.
$799.99 street, cortguitars.com
Dean Guitars MD24 Floyd Roasted Maple
This streamlined superstrat ticks all the shred-tastic boxes without forcing you to cough up Bezos bucks. The excellent MD24 Floyd Roasted Maple combines knockout looks with contemporary upgrades at a price guaranteed to make you “shred” tears of joy.
The MD24 shares the wider cutaways, 24 frets and headstock logo of a Dean DS90 superstrat from the early Nineties, but that’s where the similarities end. This bolt-on constructed MD24 is not a remake at all, but an inspired bare-bones model with taut refinement and tactile ergonomics. The premium roasted maple neck and fingerboard ensures exceptional stability, while the Seymour Duncan TB5 bridge and APH-1 neck pickups telegraph the right amount of kick and punch while being firmly articulate.
This is a big sounding guitar that’s substantially well-constructed with a setup that’s prepped for one speed: fast. And considering its bold look, you’ll agree you can no longer ignore the orange guitar in the room.
$899 street, deanguitars.com
Donner Seeker Series DST-400
The Seeker Series DST-400 is an S-style guitar that features a solid alder body, a satin-finished maple neck and a laurel fingerboard carrying 22 medium frets. As with any budget guitar, how it feels in the hands is everything, but the DST-400 passes the test, offering good playability thanks to a factory setup that was good enough for a gig right out of the box.
The guitar packs a humbucker in the bridge position and a pair of single-coils in the neck and middle slots. The controls are volume and two tone knobs: one for the neck and middle pickups and a dedicated tone for the humbucker.
The tones are clear and balanced, and if a traditional S-style pickup complement is needed, pulling the rear tone knob provides a decent bridge single-coil sound. In all, the DST-400 is great value for a guitar that plays and sounds as good as it does.
$259 street, donnerdeal.com
Eastman Juliet/v Bigsby
Part Firebird, part SG, Juliet is Eastman’s first original solidbody design and something very different, both in looks and specs. In addition to the raised center section, the bass-side body wing is perhaps slightly Tele-derived, but with contours for ribcage comfort at the back and forearm at the front, while the treble side leans a little towards single-cut Les Paul.
The 25 ½-inch scale length adds a little extra chime and low-end tightness to the otherwise classic-inspired formula. The neck is full in the hand without being clubby, and feels comfortable and easy to play, right up to the joint. It’s a natural roots-rocker, with a big, warm voice that’s laced with good clarity and just a little grit.
These characteristics enable it to clean up well when you need something a bit twangier. Tone-wise, it’s bold and characterful with a personality all its own — neither SG nor Firebird as such, but something truly quite different.
Eastman Romeo LA
The Eastman Romeo LA is one of the coolest concepts for a semi-hollow model that I’ve ever seen. Its asymmetrical, compact body design makes a bold first impression thanks to its smaller, sharper treble horn with a deeper cutaway, but closer examination reveals several other distinctive details, including Seymour Duncan Phat Cat pickups and Göldo hardware.
What knocked me out was the Romeo LA’s distinctive yet versatile tonal character. The radiator Duncan Phat Cats are the coolest P-90-style pickups I’ve encountered, with that “just right” balance between singlecoil bite and definition and humbucker bark and power. The Romeo excelled at any style of music I tried, from rockabilly twang to fist-pumping metal.
The semi-hollow construction provides extra midrange punch, but the small f-holes help prevent unwanted feedback. A good semi-hollow thinline offers players exceptional versatility, but a great semi-hollow model like the Eastman Romeo LA is an ideal instrument that offers a lifetime of playing satisfaction.
$1,990 street, eastmanguitars.com
Considering Eastman got its start building quality carved-top violins and cellos, the T184MX is right out of the company’s wheelhouse. Following the popular format of guitars based on a reduction of the traditional ES-335 body size, this model is built in the tradition of fine acoustic archtops, though in a thinline body that’s hollow but for a mahogany block beneath the bridge and tailpiece.
The arched top is carved from solid flamed maple, with back and sides of solid mahogany, and there’s natural flamed-maple binding. The neck is carved from solid mahogany, with an ebony fretboard adorned with small pearl dots and multi-ply binding which extends up and around the headstock.
The pickups are a pair of U.K.-made Bare Knuckle Old Guard custom humbuckers, wired through a traditional four-knob control section with three-way switch. This all comes together in what is simply a gorgeous instrument, one that plays beautifully and expresses a confidence-inspiring quality of sound even unplugged.
$2,229 street, eastmanguitars.com
The Eastman String Company has long defied any “budget-brand” preconceptions normally heaped upon Chinese-made guitars, delivering instruments that punch well above their weight for build quality, tone and playability. The T64/v comes in a stunning cherry red and is a 1964-style, ES-330-inspired thinline hollowbody guitar, with a genuine Bigsby vibrato tailpiece (a non-vibrato version is also available), a fully hollow maple neck and ebony fretboard.
The T64/v’s resonant and balanced acoustic performance translates to a tasty plugged-in tone, and one that’s surprisingly versatile. The Lollar P-90s deliver the requisite throaty snarl from each position but are also impressively clear and crisp when you want them to be.
Putting the neck pickup through a clean amp delivers a delicious jazz tone: Flick the switch and step on a pedal, and it all translates to rock and roll with a vengeance. All in all, it’s an inspiring guitar, and earns an Editors’ Pick Award for its achievements.
$1,939 street, eastmanguitars.com
Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass HT
The Cutlass HT might appear familiar, but it represents a significant shake-up for a modern classic from the Ernie Ball Music Man stable. It’s their take on the classic asymmetrical-double-cutaway, bolt-neck model from Fullerton, with three single-coil pickups, vibrato and a 25 ½-inch scale length. The neck on the Cutlass HT represents a component long regarded as one of EBMM’s most innovative.
The five-bolt attachment with sculpted heel, body-end truss-rod adjustment point, and four-plus-two headstock are joined by an extremely comfortable asymmetrical profile. The HT pickups are extremely dynamic and expressive, and capable of doing anything I’d hope to achieve with this style of guitar.
They’re also well balanced, with just enough added grunt from the bridge position to beef up the twang and sidestep the ice-pick treble, while attaining traditional tones. Overall, the HT represents a significant upgrade and an advanced level of performance that plenty of players should really dig.
Ernie Ball Music Man Dustin Kensrue Stingray
Designed in collaboration with Dustin Kensrue, Thrice’s heavy-hitting guitarist and singer, this latest variant in the revamped StingRay series has several notable features, including being tuned D to D to deliver the gutsy crunch that Kensrue often deploys, along with a stealthy, push-button pickup-wiring scheme.
Going sans amp with this guitar is a fun way to get in touch with its deep, muscular vibe, and the Kensrue StingRay is a vibration machine that resonates with authority and sustains beautifully. It delivered the goods whether cruising on the neck single-coil for girthy clean tones and fat overdriven textures, or summoning twangier and more open sounds with both pickups selected.
The Dustin Kensrue StingRay is an impressive guitar that stands out not only for its low-down sound but also for its ability to wring a ton of tones from its passive pickups. It presents a unique spin on the StingRay that earns it an Editors’ Pick Award.
ESP LTD Deluxe SN-1000HT Fire Blast
The LTD Deluxe SN-1000HT Fire Blast sounds as wickedly tremendous as it looks. The first thing you’ll notice is its stunning sandblasted threetoned Fire Blast finish blended over a swamp ash body. The bolt-on roasted maple neck combines a sculpted heel for easy upper-fret access along with a compound radius that encourages speed and instant comfort.
The guitar comes loaded with Fishman Fluence Modern Humbuckers (an alnico in the neck position and a ceramic in the bridge), with a push-pull at the tone control to activate each pickup’s second voicing, plus a three-way blade switch. These humbuckers have been lauded for being noise free and for their ability to clearly accentuate note articulation and pick attack while also capably executing a spectrum of tones that range from fat-sounding cleans to high-definition, high-gain crunch.
This guitar screams so loudly that you can’t help but want to burn notes all day long on it.
$1,299 street, espguitars.com
Fender 60th Anniversary Jaguar
In 1962, Fender rolled out the Jaguar, going offroad with a 24-inch scale neck that had a bound rosewood fretboard, a pair of tall single-coil pickups, and an elaborate switching system that occupied three separate chromed plates and eight controls: two knobs, two thumbwheels and four slider switches.
The 60th Anniversary Jaguar is a time capsule affair that suggests what it must have been like to open the case and revel at the radical new Fender back in the day. Played clean and overdriven, the Jag is fun and easily deployable on everything from alt-country to rock, soul, R&B, jazz and world music.
Kudos to Fender for celebrating the Jaguar in this 60th Anniversary rendition while also providing a different spin with the Ultra Luxe version, which — with its dual humbuckers, 25 ½-inch scale and no trem — highlights what a great platform the Jaguar is for those who love hot-rodded classic Fenders.
Fender JV Modified ’50s Stratocaster HSS
During the late Seventies, several Japanese guitar factories were making copies of classic American electric guitars: Instead of suing the competition, Fender opted to join forces with them. This led to Fender’s acclaimed Japanese-made Vintage reissue models in 1982: These guitars played important roles in reviving the company’s reputation during the CBS era and by providing manufacturing facilities during the transition to FMIC.
The new JV Modified series (with JV meaning “Japanese Vintage”) marks a return of Japanese-made Fender guitars to the export market. The ’50s Stratocaster HSS is equipped with a Hot Vintage Alnico humbucker at the bridge and Vintage-Style single-coil Strat pickups at the neck and middle.
A five-position blade selector switch provides the usual separate and “in between” settings. The Strat’s humbucker delivers fat midrange bark, and I particularly liked the bridge/middle setting with the bridge humbucker’s tone control at 1. It’s a welcome return to the US market of the Japanese Stratocaster.
Fender JV Modified ’60s Telecaster
Fender’s new JV Modified series (with JV meaning “Japanese Vintage”) includes this ’60s Custom Telecaster, whose primary appeal lies in the modifications that provide an ideal balance of timeless classic features and upgrades that are essential for modern players. Instead of traditional ash or alder, the body is made of light, resonant basswood, with a maple neck and a slab rosewood fingerboard.
The Telecaster has a pair of Vintage-Style single-coil Tele pickups and a four-position pickup selector switch that engages bridge, neck/bridge parallel, neck and neck/bridge series settings. The hardware is vintage correct, including a vintage-style Tele bridge with three barrel brass saddles.
The Tele’s voices are all very useful, including the out-of-phase settings, a couple of which had the funky nasal bite of some of Jimmy Page’s Led Zep tones. The coolest feature is how it provides all of its beloved original vintage tones along with making an expanded palette of modified voices instantly available.
Fender Kurt Cobain Jag-Stang
In 1993, Fender approached Kurt Cobain about collaborating on the design of a guitar. Cobain quickly conceived a new design that combined features of his favorite guitars: a modified 1965 Fender Jaguar and a 1969 Fender Competition Mustang. The Nirvana guitarist called his creation the Jag-Stang, and used it for a handful of shows before he took his own life on April 5, 1994.
Fender produced the Jag-Stang from 1995 through 2005 when it was discontinued, but recently revived the model in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind album. The new version differs slightly from the original run, which had a basswood body: This version’s body is made of heftier alder and feels well balanced thanks to the extended lower treble bout.
The large CBS-era-style headstock also enhances the tonal range, resulting in a surprisingly big sound for a relatively small guitar. The slim “C” neck is exceptionally comfortable as well.
Fender Noventa Stratocaster
Players seeking to improve Stratocaster performance have often replaced the thin-sounding single-coil in the bridge position with a humbucker, or perhaps a P-90 — a single-coil pickup introduced by Gibson in 1946.
Fender has gone down the P-90 road in the past, but the pickups haven’t been offered on recent production-line Strat and Telecaster models until the Noventa series landed in 2021. The Noventa is louder and meatier than a standard Strat, and the pickups sound great combined for a full, crisp tone that’s less biting than the bridge pickup by itself.
The neck position is balanced and has plenty of top-end for solos, yet easily cops a cool jazz vibe with a downward twist of the tone knob. As a do-it-all guitar that can cover a lot of bases, the Noventa Strat could easily be a go-to axe for players who gig in a variety of situations and need one guitar that can do it all.
$1,009 street, fender.com
Fender Player Plus Meteora HH
One of Fender’s most recent successful ventures was the Meteora, introduced as part of their Parallel Universe Collection back in 2018. Its radical offset body design proved to be a success, so it’s back again as an affordable Player Plus series model, with a few changes that promise to make it the most desirable Meteora yet.
Like the previous version, the dual-humbucker format remains but the tuneomatic-style bridge is replaced by a two-point vibrato. Under the hood it’s truly a modern instrument. The neck has a slim Modern “C” profile, flat 12-inch radius fingerboard with rolled edges and 22 medium jumbo frets, and the pickups are a pair of Fireball humbuckers with medium output.
Combining several classic style elements with a forward-looking design, the Fender Player Plus Meteora is a great choice for guitarists who love the feel and vibe of a Fender but want something bolder and more modern in terms of looks and sound.
In 1957, Gibson president Ted McCarty designed a guitar in a doodle, which was stashed away and forgotten for 65 years. In 2022, Gibson has finally turned McCarty’s forgotten design into a very special custom shop Archive Collection model called — appropriately — the Theodore.
Gibson is building only 318 Theodore guitars offered in natural, cherry or ebony finish versions. The Theodore is not 100 percent faithful to McCarty’s sketch — most notably the pickup switch is moved to the lower bout and the pickguard shape and knob locations are modified.
Thanks to the body’s slim 1 ½-inch thickness, narrow shape and alder material, the Theodore is quite comfortably light, but it still provides that solid, distinctively Gibson feel. The Theodore’s tone occupies a distinct territory between a Les Paul Special and a Telecaster, delivering a punchy attack and bright overtones. Construction and attention to detail is perfect, as one would expect for a Gibson Custom Shop product.
Peavey HP 2
The original Peavey Wolfgang model, developed by and for Eddie Van Halen in 1995, was one of the company’s biggest successes. That success continued when the model re-emerged as the HP 2, now being built in Europe. The specs of the new HP 2 remain consistent with the original iteration, including a thick, carved, figured maple top over a basswood back and select birdseye maple neck.
The electronics consist of Peavey-designed zebra-coil high-output humbuckers with master volume and tone controls, each with push/pull switches to engage coil tapping. Playability is top-notch, with a very comfortable feel and exquisite playability. The humbuckers are expertly dialed in to deliver outstanding tone with detailed definition, expressive midrange, crispy upper harmonics and robust bass that is tight, punchy and percussive.
The HP 2 sounds like a beast when played with high-gain distortion, but it sounds equally impressive when played with clean settings, delivering full-bodied tone with an alluring treble sparkle.
$2,499.99 street, peavey.com
PRS S2 Custom 24-08
Evolution is the name of the game at PRS, so it’s not surprising that the S2 Custom 24-08 carries things forward with a switching system that puts a range of tones at your fingertips. The 85/15 S pickups don’t present exaggerated midrange or bass frequencies, and they stay very smooth on the top, even when digging in on the bridge setting.
Activating the single-coil mode on the rear pickup reduces output and brightens the response, but without causing spikiness. The noise is nil in split-coil mode too, which is another benefit of the 85/15 S design. Using the mini-toggles to select splitcoil on the neck pickup and full humbucker on the bridge yielded tones that cover everything from crisp, funky cleans to ballsy dirty-rhythm tones. Paul Smith changed the game in 1985 by creating the Custom 24: this guitar carries forth the legacy, earning an Editors’ Pick Award for doing so.
$1,929 street, prsguitars.com
PRS SE Silver Sky
PRS’s Silver Sky SE is a more affordable version of John Mayer’s signature PRS, the Silver Sky. The guitar is crafted in Indonesia and comes with a poplar body instead of the original’s alder, and if you’re willing to opine the differences between the two, I’d argue they’re almost negligible.
The bolt-on satin-finished maple neck with a rosewood fretboard preserves Mayer’s “635JM” evenly-rounded C-shape neck carve found on the original, and the three single-coil 635JM “S” pickups have been voiced to mirror the original model too. With import guitars, you can generally feel or find areas on the instrument where corners are cut to make it less costly.
With the SE Silver Sky, everything about its fit and finish is astonishingly on point. It’s easy to see why Mayer didn’t just sign off on it solely as an affordable alternative — he’s just as at home playing this SE version as he is playing the original one.
$849 street, prsguitars.com
Reverend Billy Corgan Signature Z-One
Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan started collaborating with Joe Naylor on his first Reverend signature model more than six years ago. The new Reverend Billy Corgan Signature Z-One is now his third signature model.
At first glance, the Z-One looks similar to the original with its dual humbucking pickups, roasted maple neck, and maple fingerboard. However, the Z-One has an alder body and a pair of specially voiced Railhammer humbucking pickups. The neck pickup is aggressive, with a throaty growl like a hot-rodded Strat neck pickup, while the high-output bridge pickup delivers a distinctive midrange voice along with mellower treble and tighter bass.
Backing down the tone knob summons throaty “woman tone” mids, and the bass contour focuses and slightly thins the tone. Playability and construction are top notch, particularly the neck profile that maintains Reverend’s reputation for speed and comfort. Thanks to the versatility of the newly voiced Railhammer pickups, the third time’s the charm.
$1,799 street, reverendguitars.com
Reverend Reeves Gabrels Dirtbike Royale
Reeves Gabrels has a long list of credits that includes stints with Tin Machine, David Bowie and the Cure. The Dirtbike Royale is his latest Reverend Guitars signature model: it’s a sleek guitar with an offset double-cutaway korina body, and a set, three-piece korina neck.
It differs from the original Dirtbike in two ways: It has a Wilkinson GTB Stop-Bar wraparound tailpiece with an adjustable B-string saddle, which helps steer it in a Les Paul Junior direction, and to further the LP leanings it has P-90–style pickups, specifically a MojoTone Hot ’56 Quiet P-90 in the bridge position and a standard ’56 Quiet P-90 at the neck.
The tones that the Dirtbike Royale dishes out range from very clear with a touch of twanginess to rich, mids-forward growl when you unleash the beast. The fact that Gabrels deploys it onstage for all the textures that Cure tunes require is a testament to the DBR’s versatility.
$1,199 street, reverendguitars.com