Champagne gear on a lemonade budget
We all do it; dream of a sudden windfall and know, pretty much to the penny, which expensive guitars we’d spend it on. Some would track down every piece of expensive and rare equipment used by their favourite player. Some might fancy a trolley dash in their nearest Dawsons (you’d be more than welcome to do that.) Some might even travel the world seeking out obscure guitar shops and enjoying their more esoteric wares.
The bad news is that some of the most desirable, lust-worthy kit would simply be out of reach to all but a lottery win. And, let’s face it, the chances of that are slim to non-existant.
So where does that leave us? Just because we can’t afford the most expensive guitars doesn’t mean we can’t find more realistic alternatives. Here’s a look at five elite level instruments, and their relatively inexpensive counterparts.
1.Gretsch G6118T (top; est. value = £7,000) vs. Gretsch G5422TDCG (bottom; £891)
The Gretsch G6118T Anniversary, originally created in 1958 to celebrate Gretsch’s 75th anniversary, has a certain unique appeal to it. And, with a list price of just shy of £7,000, it may find favour among rich Americana nostalgists with quiffs and leather bomber jackets. For everyone else however, the Gretsch G5422TDCG may be a more prudent choice. Packing the same unique stylings at around a tenth of the price of its more illustrious stablemate, this guitar will provide you with rockabilly kudos galore without compromising your ability to feed and clothe your family.
2. Ibanez M8M (top; est. value = nearly £5,000) vs. Ibanez RG8-BK (bottom; £339)
Meshuggah, the onomatopoeic Swedish metal veterans, have carved out a long career in a genre they (pretty much) created themselves. To mark their influence and impact on heavy music, Ibanez created the M8M, unofficially the manliest guitar on the planet. Seriously, if you can’t grow a beard or if you struggle to get the lids off jars, you should move on to the next entry in the list. This is the guitar Thor himself would choose. Eight strings of perfect bowel bothering brutality; yours for around £5,000. If that’s too much, or you’re too busy scaring small children to raise that amount of money, the Ibanez RG8 is a perfectly good alternative for just £339.
3. Gibson ’57 Les Paul Goldtop (top; £3,379) vs. Epiphone Les Paul Standard in Metallic Gold (bottom; £325)
A Les Paul Goldtop; still one of the finest sights in the guitar world. Somehow managing to remain on the right side of gaudy despite having sparkly gold plastered all over it, the ’50’s era Goldtop is top of many a players list of lust. With a price tag of nearly £3,800, the full-fat Gibson ’57 Les Paul Goldtop VOS may be a tad out of reach for most of us, but the Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar – Metallic Gold (£325) is a worthy recipient of the famous name. It’s two Alnico Classic humbuckers, which makes those rich, warm bluesy tones a more than realistic proposal, but also gives you the option to make it snarl when you want to.
4. Fender American Vintage 65 Stratocaster (top; £1,577) vs. Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster (bottom; £374)
What list would this be without some kind of Strat-shaped entry. Quite frankly, with the sheer volume and breadth of the Strat range, it was hard to pick just one. As far as these classic guitars go, perhaps the most iconic of all are the Hendrix-style 60’s models. And, before the pedants come forth and cry foul in the comments section, this isn’t the identical Hendrix model; it doesn’t have the backwards headstock, and it isn’t on fire. That aside, it is still a beautiful instrument which still, somehow, doesn’t yet look dated or old-fashioned.
The proper, authentic Fender 2016 American Elite Stratocaster will cost you around £1,300. More reasonably priced however is the Squier Classic Vibe series, which marries the style of it’s bigger brother with some unique characteristics of its own. Squier has undoubtedly shed its (somewhat unfair) tag as a producer of solid, entry-level, ‘first’ guitars, and with instruments like the Classic Vibe, that’s not without good reason.
5. Gibson Hummingbird (top; £2,699) vs. Epiphone Hummingbird (bottom; £229)
Finally, an acoustic option to consider. Long favoured by the likes of Keith Richards and Neil Young, the Gibson Hummingbird is one of the most recognisable acoustic guitars there is. Players love its range of tones, which make it ideal for all styles of acoustic playing. And, if £2,699 is a bit out of reach, there’s a superb quality Epiphone Hummingbird which can be yours for less than 10 per cent of the price of the Gibson. Can’t say fairer than that.
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.