A look back on 10 favorites, not necessarily the top 10 guitars in terms of review score though.
I’ve never played a lot of shorter scale guitars, as my bigger hands feel about clumsy on them. But this was a punk rock dream. The Player Series Mustang 90 was affordable, light, super comfortable, and had dual P90s. Fender hasn’t always done P90s super well, but this was about the time they figured it out. And that natural wood finish?? Come on, this guitar was killer, even if other guitars from Ernie Ball, Harmony, or PRS were technically better.
I wanted to put this as the Morifone Spada, which is a guitar I’ll hopefully detail soon when they announce them. But the Quarzo is what set me on the path of Morifone worship. It was like a ’59 Les Paul that was actually well designed and improved, instead of being held back by traditional expectations and era correct specs. Morifone, and the owner Ren, is a dear friend of mine, but more importantly is one of the most forward thinking luthiers out there right now. Even if the guitars don’t look as futuristic as a Standberg or Keisel, but they are built to play and work flawlessly.
Soon I’ll have a Moon Guitars of my own. That’s how much fun I had with the Moon Burn I reviewed early in 2022. I love finding smaller builders to support, and Kyle from Moon Guitars has also become a great friend in the industry. He’s making some of the most creative and aesthetically pleasing guitars out there, that still cost a lot less than most Gibson or high end Fender products. He also pays incredible attention to detail, to make sure the guitar feels just as good as it looks. If I’m paying a premium, I want to know a high level luthier went over it as closely as Kyle does.
This was the first traditional-style Les Paul to really get my attention. And while it has been beaten out by another recently, this still gets the nod for the top 10. The stunning red finish, the hi-fi coil split sounds, and the bang for your buck was otherworldly. I would and one day will, buy this instead of a Gibson Les Paul. It simply feels too good and is too versatile to pay $2000 more to have the Gibson logo on the headstock.
Both the US-made version and SE deserve this spot, as my love of PRS continues to grow by the day. I’ve not got their SE McCarty 594 Singlecut and it’s the most impressive LP-style guitar for under $1000. However, the Silver Sky is just impressive in general. It’s the perfect Strat, and I mean it is perfect in terms of design and engineering, if you can give up on the mythos of a pre CBS ’65 Strat.
I almost put the Yamaha SA-2200 here, because that was a truly magnificent guitar. But ultimately, the affordable Revstar leans far more into my punk and garage rock heritage than the big semi-hollow did. Think of a Double Cut LP and bigger SG having a baby, and it being way cheaper than either of its parents while still sounding killer. Yeah, the Yamaha Revstar is another workhorse that earns a high place because I’d basically use this on stage with my current band EVERY DAMN NIGHT if I had one.
One of the first guitars I reviewed, and one of the absolute most vibing. The Guild Jetstar was a work of art, at a time when the mid-priced guitar market was flush with amazing options from $400-$800. These humbuckers had a lot of sparkle, and were affordable recreations of the old toaster top-style Guild pickups. But the Jetstar packed a lot of snap, and plenty of bite, as I often kept it in Drop D for garage rock and blues in the vein of the venerable Black Keys. And anything surf green gets extra points. But the reason this is so high is just usage, I loved using it and often picked it up ahead of guitars 2 times the price.
3. Stanford Crossroad Thinline 30
This Stanford Crossroad Thinline 30 can still be seen in many of my newest demo videos, because I still have it and love it. It’s the only hollowbody I need/want and ever since I got it, I’ve had zero serious urge or desire to get a Gibson ES-335 or any other alternative. The P90s are loud and a perfect for the brand of Clash meets Bad Religion punk I love. The cleans are also shockingly chimey, something I haven’t always had luck with when it comes to P90s. Stanford is a sub-brand of Maybach and is legitimately one of the top 3 bargains you’ll find in the entire guitar world.
While I don’t own this guitar anymore, it is not an indictment at all of how fantastic it is. If you can’t tell already, I love anything vaguely Les Paul Junior-ish. The roasted Maple neck, Korina body, one single pickup and wrap around bridge. Ugh, it was perfect. I only gave it up because of the impending move in my life and tough financial situation of being a graduate student. Plus, there’s a good chance Howl Guitars is soon to be back in business meaning I may not have owned my last piece of their art.
I really, really miss this guitar. It wasn’t the most flawless or perfectly engineered, but it was the most fun. All my Les Paul Junior dreams in one beautifully designed Fender package. I’m still constantly talking myself out of buying one. I need less guitars, not more. But the Noventa Tele was something special and I think I’ll be insanely mad I didn’t buy one when they’re double the price 10 years from now.