Despite most of the world shutting down it seems many guitar makers are hell bent on continuing to release exciting new models, and I’m here for it. Let’s dig into a few new releases from the past few weeks that have caught my eye and should definitely be on your radar if you’re looking to pump some cash back into the economy!
Hit the headline for each guitar to learn more from the maker!
A new edition to Guild’s retro inspired Newark St. Collection, this stunning semi hollow checks in at a very budget friendly price of $599.00. Also available in Cherry Red, I think the Pelham Blue finish looks best, mixing classic Gibson aesthetics with plenty of vintage weirdness. Better yet it features Guild’s HB-2 humbuckers, the same that were in that amazing Guild Jetstar I reviewed and fell in love with last year. These toaster top looking pickups have a ton of top end sparkle that will definitely reverberate throughout that semi hollow body with plenty of warmth.
Check out this nuts new take on a Tele from Canada’s Godin Guitars. A classic Tele pickup and electronic configuration graces a small, almost Strat-Tele hybride shaped body. What really caught my eye was the Hard Rock Maple neck that just looks stunning. The string through body is made of super lightweight Canadian Laurentian Basswood and comes in finishes like Trans White (see above), Havana Brown, and Matte Black.
New for 2020 from Dean comes their NashVegas Select take on the classic Tele design. Featuring a heavy dose of Dean individuality, this dual humbucking Tele features a Floyd Rose system, and updated wiring configuration. The volume and tone knob are located somewhat nearby where a normal Tele would be but the 3-way selector switch is located on the lower horn of the guitar. Some guitarists prefer that, but I usually like my controls as close the pickups as possible so I can mess with them while playing quicker. Two Seymour Duncan humbuckers grace the front, an APH1 Custom Zebra in the neck and a TB5 Custom Zebra in the bridge.
If you’re like me, you’re probably starting to go a little stir crazy being stuck in your house. So while plenty of people will use this time to get in shape, learn how to cook, or drink, let’s focus on some easy/fun guitar related tasks to take your mind off of the quarantine! Pretty much all the tasks listed below require a fairly small time or financial commitment but will definitely keep you occupied and productive while hopefully learning some new tricks.
Assemble A Guitar Kit
I’ve written about this at length before a bunch for this site and Ultimate-Guitar.com and I won’t stop anytime soon. Guitar kits are basically how I learned everything I know about guitars. The first kit I ever assembled also directly lead to me being hired by UG and set off this whole career in guitar journalism. So who knows what putting a guitar together will do for you!
Really all you’re gonna need is probably a $15 soldering iron you got off Amazon and an electric drill. Finishing the guitar is up to you, as I do a really simple Polyurethane finish that I just sand in, but you can always go as hard as you want and try to a Nitro spray on finish. My recommendation, get a kit from The Fretwire, they have a ton of options, good prices, and on the off chance something is wrong with your kit they will be responsive to messages and compensate you.
Install New Pickups
Whether you have soldering experience or not, there are now more aftermarket options available than ever before. Try Guitar Fetish’s Kwik-plug system that takes no soldering and has crazy pickup options from Lipstick to Filter’Tron to EMG-style pickups. Want a really premium setup that will last a lifetime? Shell out a few more bucks to 920D for a custom, hand-wired harness with premium brand name pickups or boutique works of art and then just drop the pre-wired pickguard into your guitar! Or do what I do and endlessly search Reverb for cheap used pickups that you want to wire into something crazy. Again, get a $15 Amazon soldering iron, watch a few YouTube videos, and get off to the races.
Set Up Your Guitar
Hearing fret buzz? Is the action too high or low? Now is a great time to dig into some of the basic guitar tech skills needed to set up your guitar. Easier things like adjusting the truss rod to correct a forward or backwards bow can solve some action or fret buzz issues. While adjusting the string height at the bridge is another simple action adjustment. Feeling more adventurous? Look into how to properly level and dress frets and sand down those annoying fret edges you’ve been complaining about. All these skills are easier to master than you may be expecting and while you’re working on the neck, don’t forget to condition those dark wood fretboards with over the counter conditioner or an oil finish such as tung or lemon!
Refinish Your Guitar
Admittedly, I’ve always been hesitant to jump into the world of finishing guitars with anything more than some sand on Poly. But if I’m gonna be stuck home then it may be time to invest in some clear coat, spray cans, and study up. Likewise, if you’re in the same boat why not jump into guitar finishing while stuck at home, especially with the crazy amount of resources I’ve found on YouTube to set us all in the right direction.
Record That EP or Mixtape or Demo You Always Wanted To
No, this isn’t a guitar tech project, but it is just as important. If you have an audio interface, recording gear, or even just a smartphone with a decent mic, take the time to finally get those riffs and melodies down. Even if you don’t record formal versions of your songs, having as nice a demo around as possible can save you endless hassle in the future. Plus, once you have your ideas down I always found it easier to add new parts or really finish the song. It’s a great feeling hearing your favorite riffs and ideas played back to you, so take all that time you’d spend at the bar and make a record!
Try Your Hand At A DIY Pedal Kit
This is something I’ve wanted to try ever since I saw Var Guitar try one of the Korg Nu:Tekt kits. It doesn’t seem all that much harder than soldering in some pickups. Plus it may give you some excellent insight into taking better care of and repairing your beloved pedals when they suddenly stop working. Maybe this will be the next project I work on after the partscasters and bigsby install video…
This guitar review is sponsored by Pelican Beach Music LLC, genuinely one of my favorite new online guitar retailers. I’ve been screwed over left and right by bigger names like Guitar Center (which you can read about in an article real soon!) that I’ve gone to extreme lengths to find smaller luthiers, builders, retailers, and companies to work with. The treatment you get, whether it is responsiveness to emails or set up of the guitars, is far and away great at Pelican Beach Music!
And if you want one of these gorgeous Stadium NY Strats you can now get them 25% off via a coupon from the owner directly, just reach out over email, twitter, facebook, instagram, or call +1 877-377-1285!
Overview & Final Score: 6.6
The Stadium NY Strat-style guitar is an overseas copy of Fender’s iconic Stratocaster design. These off-brand Strats feature Alder bodies with a gloss finish and come in a variety of finish colors. A bolt-on Maple neck is fitted with a Rosewood fretboard featuring 22 medium-jumbo frets. Dot inlays guide your hands along the 25.5″ scale length, all pretty standard for a Stratocaster guitar. Three single coil pickups, a 5-way selector switch, master volume, and two tones allow for control of your Stadium NY’s sounds. Chrome hardware, like the vintage style tremolo and die cast tuners sit atop the body, which has standard string-through-body construction. Like most affordable guitars, the only extras you get with the Stadium NY are Allen wrenches and a guitar cable.
Wow, I’m impressed with the sound, especially because I was not impressed with anything besides the finish before I plugged it in. The sound of this Stadium NY Strat actually feels better than any Squier Affinity Strat I’ve played before, much to my surprise. It’s got all those classic Strat sounds, from the in-between neck and middle position that John Mayer loves to searing Jimi Hendrix leads and even The Edge’s delay and chime. Now, it’s definitely not as responsive or rich sounding as a MIM Fender, but it certainly comes maybe 75% of the way there?
The bridge pickup impressed me the most, as it didn’t really have that much of an ice pick, super high treble tone that many of these cheap Strat copies have. It had a more rounded, full tone that sounded decent when clean but much better when layered with a Tube Screamer or Pro Co Rat2 on top. One other thing I noticed, aside from the bridge side of the controls, this guitar lacks a lot of the top end sparkle of Strats, even if most other great elements on there. Now I’m not talking about that ice pick tone I said before, this would be that warm, bright, bell-like treble just a few notches down. Overall, it feels very Strat-like for a way lot less money, I’m pleasantly surprised and think some of you will be even in just short Instagram clips.
Well now that my (relative) gushing is over, the playability of the Stadium NY Strat is not great and barely good. It’s still above average in my opinion, as it’s way ahead of that old Glarry Strat I tore apart. The fret edges are really rough, and some are even sharp. The neck isn’t uncomfortable and has a nice classic Strat-shape to it, but it’s barely finished and feels raw. Still, it isn’t too bad moving up and down the fretboard and the medium-jumbo frets are a nice touch.
The guitar came horribly out of tune, with the low E string not even fully installed on the guitar, and the tuning stability has been spotty throughout my time with it. Not awful as down stroked chords don’t really push it out of tone, but plenty of bends and even a little bit of whammy bar usage does. Again, it’s probably still above average compared to some really brutal Squier Bullet Strats, Glarry’s, or no-name Amazon Strat’s out there.
Finish & Construction: 6
This was a hard call on the Stadium NY Strat because I really love the metallic red finish, it looks so good and is going to make this a really fun guitar to mod and hot rod. On the other hand, the neck is in questionable shape with rough/sharp fret edges and a raw finish on the back. Also, the pickups were not well installed as they are really high out of the body and super loose. You can see them shake a little bit when you really move around with the guitar. The finish is superb in look and quality though, with a nice feel and no visible dings or scratches. The hardware is pretty cheap, but really well installed otherwise with everything lining up nice and tightly.
Overall, I’d say the Stadium NY Strat is a nice alternative to a Squier Affinity Strat, especially because it’s about $70 cheaper than that guitar. It’s also still far more playable and useable than any $100 or $60 guitar you’ll find on Amazon or Alibaba. It has some big flaws, like poor fret work and loose pickups, but also has a stunning finish, surprisingly strong Stat tones, and is very affordable. It’s a mixed bag for sure, but I think the Stadium NY Strat deserves a look, especially for DIY Modders who may be stuck indoors for the foreseeable future, but beginners may want to pony up for a Squier if they prefer playability over tone. I’d say you can even look forward to me doing something nuts to this guitar…
Good for:DIY Modders, Players Who Need A Backup Strat, Beginners Who Want More Tone Than Comfort
Pelican Beach Music LLC is an authorized dealer of brands like Danelectro, Aria, Stadium, Revival, and Verano guitars, more more brands being added every day! Rumor has it even some Morifone guitars may pop up on there shortly!
Acoustic bass guitars have long been something I found incredibly fun. The Orangewood Oliver Jr Live takes that idea and brings it down to a more compact and affordable package. This acoustic-electric bass has a 23.5″ scale length, Fishman Sonitone EQ, and a C-shaped neck that feels almost guitar-like. This miniature 4 string is controlled by tone and volume dials that sit inside the top of the sound hole, not easy but not hard to reach while playing. The Oliver Jr Bass Live features layered Mahogany back and sides with a solid Mahogany top. The Mahogany neck is covered in an Ovangkol fretboard, that pairs with the Ovangkol bridge. Plus all these features come delivered to you inside a plush gig bag as well.
The acoustic sound from the Oliver Jr Bass Live is good if unspectacular. The small body size and shorter bass scale does it make hard to get the huge, rich acoustic bass tones that a full size would offer. It’s not too loud and a bit muddy, but still perfectly fine as the practice instrument it was intended to be. Where the real extra points come from are the electric tones, which are surprisingly huge. I was shocked when I plugged this in and felt like I had a much more expensive, high output acoustic bass. If you really crank the volume, you almost get a hollowbody electric feel that easily goes back to a snappy acoustic once you roll down the volume and tone and controls just a bit. When cranked, I even layered on some distortion and had a ton of fun of with this little Oliver Jr bass.
But back to the clean tones, which were surprisingly snappy, responsive, and percussive when played through a cheap Fender Rumble. The Oliver Jr Bass Live is definitely great for couch players or musicians looking for a bass that’s easier to take around their house, hometown, or region.
Right out of the box the action was excellent, as was the fretwork which featured smooth edges and no fret buzz. The C-shaped neck was really fast and easy to slide up and down the neck. The only real complaint had to be that the smaller neck and frets take some real getting used to. Both me (a guitar player) and my roommate (a bass player) still took awhile to get used to the really small frets and neck. There was also this really strange rough patch between the 3rd and 5th frets, but everything else was incredibly smooth and fun to play.
Finish & Construction: 9
While the Oliver Jr Bass Live has to lose a point for the rough patch on the neck, everything else was in tip top shape on this acoustic bass. The action was great, the finish was spotless and gorgeous with a dark natural satin look that felt a bit “harder” than most acoustics . I was especially impressed with the tuning stability and impressive neck. The small size makes it super easy to transport, especially with the padded case. It’s gig ready in the sense that it feels reliable and comfortable when plugged into an amp, but certainly isn’t meant to be anyone’s main gigging instrument. Overall, it doesn’t feel like it will let me or anyone else down in anyway.
This score may seem harsh, but for me it seems hard to justify paying $350 for a travel bass guitar. As fun as it is, it isn’t perfect, and if this was a $300 electric guitar was a rough patch on the neck or a certain lackluster tonal quality, I may have been harsher. It’s a really great little bass that would be super convenient to have laying around the house or take on the road, but $350 is starting to move towards gigging instrument level. I do love the Oliver Jr Bass Live overall and will definitely be enjoying my time demoing it and playing it, but this is one of those instruments that I’m not begging the company to give me or sell me. If you’ve got the money to burn, you won’t be disappointed at all, I’m just not sure many budget minded players will be jumping on this bandwagon.
Good for:Beginners, Musicians Who Need A Compact Practice Bass, Acoustic Fans
Demos and UG reviews on the way, hopefully even faster than ever because of this lovely lockdown!
One of Fender’s best reveals at Winter NAMM 2020 had to be the metallic purple Player Series Lead III. A remake of the original Lead Series that was produced from 1979 until 1982, Fender unveiled only the II and III versions, the dual single coil and dual humbucker designs. This stunning HH model features a smaller, double cut take on the Strat shape. A more modern C-shaped profile is a paired to a 9.5″ fingerboard radius to give the neck a real 21st century feel despite the vintage origins. A hard tail bridge replaces the classic Strat-style tremolo, and 22 medium-jumbo frets grace the neck.
Two overwound alnico humbuckers can each be split by the second of two 3-way switches. The first is a traditional 3-way selector that lets you go between the neck, bridge, and both configurations. The 1st and 3rd positions of the coil split switch give you either the neck or bridge split, with the middle selection turning the split off. A black pickguard contrasts the low-key sparkling purple gloss polyester finish incredibly well. An Alder body sits beneath the Maple neck and Pau Ferro fretboard giving you a lightweight, and familiar feeling six string.
I think the best part of the Lead III has to be the tonal versatility. The dual humbuckers are overwound and incredibly crunchy. Plugged right into my Vox AC15 it took a matter of seconds to find huge, overdriven tones without any pedals involved. The bridge is hot, but never felt too hot or icepick-like despite boasting some big treble. The neck had an almost Les Paul neck pickup feel to it, just with less sustain, but all the volume and richness. The Lead III is definitely better suited for players in the rock spectrum, with punk/garage/low-fi sounds just pouring out of this purple beast. In a lot of ways, this is a very non-Fender guitar, as it works better as a fuzzed out electric guitar than a chiming, crystal clear Strat/Tele.
The coil splits add an interesting dimension. They lead to a drop off in volume fairly noticeably, which made me knock a few points off. On the other hand, it completely changes the dual humbucking guitar into a far more Fender-like guitar. While it doesn’t have the clear bell tones like I mentioned above, it really captures that great percussive, snappy single coil tone. Despite having less definition, it was really easy to go from buzz saw riffs to atmospheric rhythm tones in seconds. The versatility is really impressive, and just fun to play with. It’s certainly not going to give you the crystal clear tones you may expect from a Fender, but it will be a lot more fun than your average Tele.
The back of the neck on the Lead III is very comfortable, no doubt about that. Where it lost me was the fret edges were a lot rougher than I expected. It felt a lot more like a Squier Affinity Series fret job than a Player Series fret job, which was pretty disappointing. On the other hand, pretty much every other feature was excellent to Fender’s credit. The tuning stability was awesome, and the hardtail bridge looks and works great. The tuning machines on these Mexican Fenders have always impressed me, with my longtime go-to HSS Strat barely ever needing a retune. The modern neck is sleek, thin, and fast giving the Lead III a very inviting presence on my guitar rack. While the fretwork may need a touch up either by you or a professional, everything else should be set to impress you.
Finish & Construction: 9
When it comes to looks, the Lead III is not lacking in any departments. The metallic purple finish is just stunning and definitely has gotten the attention of everyone who has walked past it. The smaller body shape is both familiar and just quirky enough to make you want one. Aside from the fret edges, which was annoying, it seems everything else was really well put together and constructed. I loved the look of the hardtail bridge, and the decision to place the two toggle switches where they are was genius, as it makes them super easy to access while playing. I would say the Lead III is certainly gig ready right now as is, though I will definitely be doing some fretwork before taking it out of the house.
For about $600, the Fender Lead III is a nice balance between affordable enough to buy on a whim but expensive enough to retain reliable quality. That’s a tough line to walk, with a lot of these vintage reissues either priced too high to be enjoyed by the mass public or too poorly made to really be fun. The Lead III is incredibly versatile, lightweight, comfortable, and a little weird, which are some of the best features you can find in a production run guitar. I also have to give Fender credit for making this part of their Player (MIM) Series, as those Mexican guitars have a long history of high quality, low prices, and loyal fans. As one of those fans myself, I’m super impressed with the Lead III and cannot wait to make it a permanent part of my rig in the future.
Good for:Indie Rock, Garage Rock, Players Looking For A Versatile Guitar, Vintage Guitar Lovers
Per usual, demos will be up on Instagram soon and the UG review will be right behind them!
While this isn’t breaking news to some, as it was first pointed out around NAMM, Fender seems to be cooking up some interesting Squier models. Dubbed the Squier Paranormal series after a Guitar Center leak, it seems some of Fender’s Alternate Reality/Parallel Universe guitar madness will come down to a more affordable price point.
First off, as a broke guitar player this is incredibly exciting. Even if the pickups or set up are no good, these are going to be crazy partscaster bases. And if they do come out great, like the Starcaster did, then we all get access to electric’s that were out of our price range. Let’s dig into a few of my favorites highlighted below as we await Fender’s announcement about these whack jobs.
Yeah, how can you not like that? Telecaster fans rejoice as it looks like Fender’s coming out with a thinline Cabronita with Jazzmaster pickups and a baritone Cabronita with P90s. They’re both just so weird, it’s like Fender just started picking features out of a hat and mixing them onto a Tele body. I’m here for it, especially that thinline (@ Fender).
WOAH. I have wanted a Meteora since they came out but couldn’t drop $1000 on one (or convince Fender to send me one). Listed on Guitar Center as an Offset Tele, this is basically a rounder, less offset Meteora, but it still has that crazy vibe that really catches my eyes. Classic Tele wiring and tones should make this familiar, versatile, and inspiring electric.
Another new addition, this one is a re-release of a classic forgotten Fender model. The new Squier Cyclone takes a thicker Mustang-style body and adorns it with 3 Strat-style pickups. Originally, these 1997 made electrics had Jaguar pickups, so some historical buffs may want to swap these out for aftermarket Fender models. Still, it seems to have retained some of that Mustang switching capacity.
Hopefully the wait isn’t much longer until these hit the shelves, they’ve certainly got my attention. Plus, with Epiphone’s new re-launch, the competition on the affordable guitar market will be stiff in 2020.
One of D’Angelico’s many new 2020 guitars, the Premier Mini DC takes their popular Premier DC and brings it down to a more compact size. Much like how a Gibson ES-339 is a shrunken ES-335, smaller profile players can now enjoy a fine D’Angelico semi-hollow. The 14″ wide body also has a smaller headstock before returning to more traditional D’Angelico specs. Multi-ply binding surrounds a laminated Maple body with a Spruce top. Tune-o-matic and stop bar tailpiece provide a reliable and familiar bridge system paired to Rotomatic Stairstep tuners. The 25″ scale length makes the Premier Mini DC an excellent in-between option for Gibson or Fender players.
On the electronic side, two Seymour-Duncan designed humbuckers, a HB-101 and HB-102 power this semi-hollow beauty. Two tone and two volume 500k pots provide tone control over the three way switch configurations that are pretty standard on most HH semi-hollow guitars. An Ovangkol fingerboard holds medium sized frets with convenient fretboard and side markers. On the side of the neck you get dot fret markers while acrylic block inlays look great right on the darkwood fretboard.
Despite the smaller size, the new Premier Mini DC still packed a big punch. The Duncan-Designed humbuckers sound pretty close to the real thing, even if they didn’t quiet push the tubes in my Vox as hard as I would have liked. Once I layered drive and distortion on top, these humbuckers really howled though! On the other hand, they were incredibly clear and articulate in all configurations. Fingerpicked arpeggios and chords had a surprising amount of a chime, making the Premier Mini DC far more versatile than I expected.
I’d say everything from pop to jazz to blues would pour out of this guitar in the right player’s hands. The electronics were solid, providing sensitive control of the guitar’s volume and tone, no cheap pots with poor sweep here. The more compact body size still had a ton of that classic semi-hollow resonance. Chords ring out naturally, with strong sustain, and an impressively small amount of buzz from feedback.
D’Angelico’s new Premier DC Mini seems to have all the sounds and tones I would expect from their classic Premier DC, just making it more comfortable to play, store, and transport. It’s very versatile, has some big tones, and brings classic D’Angelico features down to a small price and package. The only downside? I still wasn’t super impressed with the guitar’s ability to naturally overdrive and push a tube amp.
It took a bit longer than I would have liked for the guitar to get in tune, but once it stabilized, it proved to be fairly reliable. The stop bar tailpiece and ornate tuners certainly did their job, with the guitar only slipping out after a few too many huge bends and over aggressive downstrokes while playing some punk tunes. While the tuning stability wasn’t perfect, it did not disappoint and seems ready to hit the stage. The neck and fretwork were impressive however, with smooth playability and no fret buzz. Even the higher frets felt comfortable and easy to access, more so than some other oversea’s made ES-style guitars have felt. Even the action was great out of the box!
Finish & Construction: 9
The finish and looks of this Fiesta Red beauty was definitely my favorite feature of the Premier Mini DC. The sounds and feel were well above average, no disrespect to them, but D’Angelico’s unique headstock, pickguard and tuning machines make it such an appealing guitar. The build quality was excellent too, with only a few small cosmetic issues. Some poorly cut binding around the f holes and a loose washer on the pickup selector were the only issues. Everything else was tightly secured, properly installed and adjusted, and seems built to last on stage or in the studio.
I think for the money you spend, you do get far more than your average Epiphone HH semi-hollow. Especially when you consider the comfortable size, unique looks, and build quality. $800 certainly isn’t cheap, but as guitar prices creep higher and higher it is nice to see you will still get reliable tone quality and aesthetics for the price. The surprising versatility of this D’Angelico also makes it feel like a guitar you could purchase and rely on as your main weapon for a number of applications. Selfishly, I’m a big fan of compact semi-hollows and they certainly aren’t well represented on the affordable/overseas market. Considering the circumstances, I think you could do far worse for $800!
Good for:Blues, Jazz, Pop, Gigging Musicians, Semi-Hollow Fans
Yeah, so before anyone accuses this of being a paid ad I received zero dollars and zero guitars from PRS for doing this, I just freakin love this guitar.
John Mayer’s signature PRS Silver Sky was a divisive guitar when it first hit the open market, as many claimed it was just a high end Fender Strat with a PRS headstock. Since then, pretty much everyone who has picked one up has fallen in love with the guitar and PRS even released new finishes and neck options at Winter NAMM 2020 to great fanfare.
The 2020 Silver Sky I was sent contains the new Maple fretboard atop a Maple neck, joined to an Alder body. 22 frets with bird inlays grace the 7.25″ radius fretboard on this 25.5″ scale length beauty. While I was told I was originally getting an Orion finish, it seems I have been playing a “Golden Mesa” model that has completely captured my heart. PRS’s tightly guarded 635JM pickups that are only found on the Silver Sky power this SSS configured electric. The key differences between these pickups and classic Strat pickups? They are noiseless (something I saw first hand) and have some of the brightness and treble suppressed as John Mayer himself shared that he wanted to “take out a lot of those frequencies that you sort of have to work to roll off”.
The rest of the wiring and controls are pretty much standard Strat layout, with the volume – tone – tone and 5-way selector switch we all know and love. A steel tremolo bridge that only works when pushed down, is paired with locking, vintage-style tuners and a bone nut for supreme tuning stability.
The pickups are so subtly different from a vintage or high end American-made Strat, making it easy to morph the Silver Sky’s tones into both familiar and new directions. Chords, arpeggios, single notes, they all ring out very clear from the Silver Sky. It is just as articulate, if not more articulate, than the Fender Ultra Strat I reviewed last December. Up until this, that was the best guitar I’ve reviewed.
The neck setting is smooth as butter and obviously, I pulled a ton of John Mayer’s amazing lead tones out of it and the 4th position. However, the Silver Sky is not limited to just being John Mayer’s guitar, something that the popularity and sales record clearly displays.
Pretty much any premium Strat tone was achievable through my rig with this guitar. I went from John Frusciante to The Edge to Jimi Hendrix with ease. In many ways, the Silver Sky is just an upgraded, modern take on the Strat. This is not unlike the Ultra Series, but while the Ultra Series focused on showcasing S1 switching, neck heel contours, and fancy finishes, the Silver Sky feels like a more genuine next step for the Stratocaster.
Layers of drive and distortion produced rich, harmonic sounds that felt more vintage than modern. Of course, these single coil pickups are more percussive and chimey than thick and sustaining, like you would get with humbuckers on a heavier, slab guitar like a Les Paul. The Silver Sky is a superb sounding Strat guitar, through and through.
When it comes to playability, the neck of the PRS 2020 Silver Sky did not disappoint one bit. The 22 frets are just as they should be in this price point: smooth, fret buzz free, and immaculately landscaped. The locking tuners, bone nut, and bridge had this guitar in tune from the minute I unzipped the gig bag. No exaggeration, when I crack it open after it arrived it was 99% perfectly tune, the G string just needed the slightest turn. Needless to say, it hasn’t gone out of tune yet. The neck also feels like it has ever so slightly rolled edges, making power chords feel a bit more comfortable. This also allows for players to reach their thumb around the low E string easier for that Jimi Hendrix (and John Mayer) style of playing.
Finish & Construction: 10
There wasn’t a screw out of place or a scratch on the guitar once I unboxed it. And thank god, because every time I open up one of these really expensive guitars I get nervous that today is going to be the day I get sent a dud. But PRS’s QA/QC seems to be reliable, it really is just a lightweight and well built guitar. The pickups are truly noiseless, the tuning stability is phenomenal, the finish is beautiful and feels strong without having that thick layering that can be heavy or poorly sprayed on. The “Golden Mesa” finish is gorgeous, though I definitely would have gone for a green or blue color had I purchased this guitar and had a choice. I see no reason to be concerned, the Silver Sky feels and sounds stage ready and built to last.
You didn’t think I’d give it a perfect 10 did you? No matter the quality, I’m always going to be hesitant about rating a $2000+ brand new guitar as a perfect value. Even the Fender Ultra Strat costs less than this, and is about 95% the guitar this is. That being said, this guitar does have the feel, sound, and soul that I would expect from a pre-CBS Fender. It’s an excellent value and no one should be disappointed when they receive and plug in their Silver Sky. I think the Silver Sky will be the best value as your main guitar, you should be purchasing this to be a heavily used and loved studio, live, or bedroom instrument as it is built to chase that one, perfect electric guitar design.
Good for:Blues, Classic Rock, Pop, Studio Musicians, Gigging Musicians, Stratocaster Fans
Per usual, expect a UG review of this about a week or so after this article and hit Instagram to hear a few sounds from the PRS Silver Sky!
A full scale, modern take on the Mustang body shape from Fano’s new affordable series.
Big shoutout to Chad from Fano for hooking this review up!
Cost: $849.00 new from Fano or find a dealer on Reverb.com!
Overview & Final Score: 8.9
At Winter NAMM 2020 Fano surprised and impressed many with the announcement of their new affordable line of guitars, the Omnis series. One of the most impressive of the bunch, the re-introduced MG6 is a full scale variant of the Mustang guitar design. This compact offset features an Alder body, Maple neck, and Pau Ferro fingerboard. Unlike most Mustangs, the MG6 is a full 25.5″ scale length electric with 22 medium-jumbo frets. The Early ’60s C-shaped neck also gives the guitar a surprisingly vintage feel despite a clean, somewhat modern look.
Two Fano designed P90’s grace the front of this beautiful guitar, held inside a black pickguard. A tune-o-matic bridge holds a whammy bar for extra tonal versatility. A three way selector switch is paired with a single volume and tone pot as well. Lastly, you get this beautiful, polyurethane finished guitar with a Fano gig bag!
I was pretty stoked to pick this Omnis MG6 up, as I’m a huge P90 fan and a huge offset guitar fan. The P90s did not disappoint, providing a mid frequency-rich sound that has that vintage “honk” that I never got from my Gibson Les Paul Special. The neck and bridge are both fairly clear and punchy, despite having the ability to take up a huge amount of tonal space. I think this Omnis MG6 really shined when played without many effects on top. The clean tones and natural overdriven tube amp tones were enough for me, and gave this guitar kind of a vintage feel when playing Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, or even Bob Dylan cuts.
Of course, the P90s sounded great when fuzzed out using my BigMuff pedal. While they aren’t the most versatile, mainly because the spread of the tone knob makes them get muddy really quick, they absolute scratch that fuzzed out, garage rock P90 itch. The middle position had the articulation and percussive sound that make this an underrated funk guitar, almost an out of phase Strat-like tone. The things that the MG6 does do, it does extremely well. But you need to be looking for just P90 tones and not too much else to make this affordable Fano your go-to guitar.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the feel of the early ’60s C shaped neck. It really felt more Fender-ish than I was expecting, which is my personal preference. Players looking for a more modern feeling or playing guitar may be slightly disappointed, but that’s where my criticism ends. The fret work was impeccable, the tuning stability was superb, but I did not mess around with the whammy bar so I’m not sure how this could throw it out of tune quicker than normal.
But every other box is checked off by this Fano Omnis! While it isn’t necessarily a “cheap” guitar, it certainly has all that Fano quality, charm, and magic for a far more accessible price. The fretboard and neck are straight, the tuners seem super reliable, I’m very happy with this Omnis MG6!
Finish & Construction: 10
Definitely the highlight of this new Fano guitar. The finish is spotless, well polished, and seems very sturdy and chip resistant. This is an exactly electric guitar to gig or tour with, it just feels solid, sounds great, and isn’t too expensive to worry about needing a mortgage to replace. The fret ends were well filed, the hardware was all tightly and correctly installed. The action was great right out of the box and the strings don’t feel cheap either! Everything here is well built, well wired, and sturdy. It also doesn’t hurt that this white finish is beautiful with the shiny silver P90s and looks great on any wall or guitar rack.
While the Omnis series introduces the most affordable Fano guitars ever made, they still certainly aren’t budget instruments by any measure. This MG6 is certainly a great bargain for $850, considering you can get everything you want in a Fano for far less than a new Alt De Facto MG6. At the same time, this MG6 is likely a little too expensive to be an impulse buy for most players. But do I think you get great value for the price? Oh yeah, it’s hard to find a full scale length Mustang. It’s hard to find a cheap Fano. This fulfills both those needs without any disappointments. Is it the best dual P90 guitar out there? Ehh, it’s really good, but you can certainly plenty of good options below $850. So keep that in mind when shopping and if you’re looking for a Fano in 2020, the MG6 may be the guitar for you!
Good for: Indie Rock, Blues, Classic Rock, Funk, Offset Guitar Lovers, Players Who Couldn’t Afford A Fano
Instagram demo is up now with both clean and fuzz tones! Ultimate-Guitar review coming next week, stay tuned!
I usually bash Gibson, but this is a big step in the right direction!
Now I have spent the better part of my journalism career criticizing Gibson here or at Ultimate-Guitar.com. And while their PR disasters don’t need any more bashing, I also was always struck by their misuse or mismanagement of their Epiphone line. In my opinion, one of the reasons Fender has been killing them in the past decade or more has always been Fender’s Mexican line of guitars. You could get quality guitars that were exact replicas of popular new and vintage Fender models, with Fender specs, and the Fender label on the headstock.
While many of us know that the label on the headstock shouldn’t matter, it still does to a lot of people in the guitar community. And being able to buy a “Fender” guitar for $400-$600 is a very appealing, very marketable product that Fender has long cashed in on. Gibson on the other hand, didn’t even make affordable models of their guitars that had the same headstock shape, let alone logo.
So for a lot of people, shallow as it may be, they simply would rather have a cheap Fender than a cheap Epiphone. And to top that off, they had so many weird inconsistencies between their Gibson and Epiphone lines. Why not just call the Epiphone Dot an Epiphone 335? Why was there no Les Paul Junior option despite the guitar’s huge rise in popularity? No SG with Maestro?
Also, why not make some of these Epiphone creations align more closely with these cheap, beloved Fender guitars? If you can release high quality Epiphone’s closer to $400 and $500, more people will see them as a genuine affordable alternative to a pricey Gibson. I’m ranting, but I just had so many issues with their marketing, design, and pricing. A MIM Strat is an awesome guitar, and can be had dirt cheap now a days, why would any beginner pick a weirdly priced Epiphone LP that was either cheaper and a far worse guitar, or more expensive and marginally better?
ANYWAYS, it seems Gibson finally figured some of this out! First off, they gave each guitar in the “Inspired by Gibson” collection a Kalamazoo headstock that is not only vintage correct, but looks far more elegant and Gibson “open book”-like than the previous design. This gives, in my opinion, each guitar a more Gibson feel and appearance, something you likely want if you’re buying an Epiphone.
Better yet, they introduced many of the models I listed above as missing from previous lines as well as just some awesome looking, new models that have been long time Gibson favorites. The Tobacco burst Les Paul Junior is gorgeous and will definitely be reviewed by GuitarsForIdiots this year. The Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird models provide vintage vibes thanks to their specs and no-frills, classic Gibson finish options. Dots are even called the Dot ES-335 now!
Better yet, they released a ton of amazing looking SG guitars, including this Pelham blue beauty with P90s that is sure to be a top seller.
Are these guitars high enough in quality to make me never buy a Gibson again? No shot, but they definitely have got my attention and will be thoroughly reviewed by me. Check out Trogly’s review of this SG in a worn cherry finish for more details on these eye catching guitars.