17 Sensational Signature Guitars for 2015

April 23, 2015
  • Love is about as subjective as anything can get. After all, like those Geico commercials, everyone knows the old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
     
    The intangibles of attraction aside, however, most guitarists can detail the elements they desire in an instrument that make it a tonal and creative muse for them. With that information in hand, a manufacturer can construct a guitar that veers extremely close to a particular guitarist’s wish list. If the planets align, that guitar may also possess some of the vibe, funk, and feel that attracted the guitarist to a specific model in the first place. And all of this is probably what most people look for in a well-considered signature model—an instrument that can get you close to the machinery deployed by your favorite guitarist to conjure all the sounds and licks that inspire you.
     
    This year, a pretty bountiful class of signature models debuted at the January NAMM show, and we’ve selected 17 guitars to spotlight in this guide. The instruments here hit budgets from $350 to nearly $12,000, and all were crafted to embrace their namesake’s desires. None of these models appear to be a stock guitar with someone’s name slapped on the headstock. So, if you want a smattering of mojo from any of the fine players honored here with signature models, just put one of “their” babies in your hands.
     
     

    Aero3
    Stuart Smith Signature
    “I was looking for a guitar that would have all the characteristics of my favorite Strat neck, but be lighter than a standard Fender Stratocaster, and with more sustain,” says Heaven & Earth’s Stuart Smith. “The woods Aero3 Guitars have used on my signature model—along with the aerospace technology—makes this guitar incredibly light at just over six pounds, and the sustain is out of this world. This guitar is the best-sounding and easiest guitar to play that I have ever held in my hands.”
     
    Contact aero3guitars.com
    Street Price $3,000

    Nut Width 1 11/16", Graph Tech
    Neck 25.5"-scale, one-piece flamed maple, bolt-on
    Fretboard One-piece maple, scalloped
    Frets 21 jumbo
    Tuners Sperzel Locking, chrome
    Body Alder mixed with aerospace technology
    Bridge Fender American Series Tremolo with Graph Tech saddles
    Pickups DiMarzio Chopper (bridge) and DiMarzio Fast Track 1 (neck)
    Controls Master Volume, Two Tone, 3-way selector
    Factory Strings Dean Markley Blue Steel Regular, .010-.046
    Weight 6.2 lbs
    Built U.S.A.
     
     
    Bourgeois
    Limited Edition Bryan Sutton Aged Tone Dreadnought
    “The Bryan Sutton Dreadnought is limited to 30 instruments, and it is based on his 1997 Bourgeois D-150,” says luthier Dana Bourgeois. “To say that the original is well-played is something of an understatement. The idea behind the Limited Edition is to get as close as possible to that elusive, broken-in sound. The new version will still require some playing to achieve the fullness, immediacy, and ‘old friend’ feel of the original, but we are convinced it will not require 17 years of playing by a picker as prolific as Bryan.”
     
    Contact bourgeoisguitars.com
    Street Price $11,645 

    Nut Width 1 23/32"
    Neck 25.5"-scale, mahogany, set
    Fretboard Ebony
    Frets 20 Dunlop 6190
    Tuners Waverly Gold
    Body Aged Tone (torrefied) Adirondack top with Premium Brazilian rosewood back and sides
    Bridge Ebony
    Factory Strings D’Addario EXP17 Coated Phosphor Bronze Medium, .013-.056
    Weight N/A
    Built U.S.A.
     
    Carvin
    JB24 Jason Becker Numbers Tribute
    “I wanted to build something that was a modern version of Jason’s original Numbers guitar and still stay true to the core things that made this model so good,” says Carvin vice president Jeff Kiesel. “My dad, Mark, worked with Jason on our first Jason Becker tribute model, the JB200C, and while this was my first project with Jason, he was always amazing to work with over the seven months it took to design and build the JB24. I was also able to work with the crew at Seymour Duncan, and they were great. It was nice to see how much they care about Jason. This model is very special to me, because with every sale, we give part of the proceeds to the Jason Becker Special Needs Foundation, which goes to help Jason’s high medical costs.”
     
    Contact carvinguitars.com
    Direct Price $1,599

    Nut Width 1.68"
    Neck 25.5"-scale, maple, bolt-on
    Fretboard Maple with special colored inlays
    Frets 24 medium-jumbo
    Tuners Carvin locking
    Body Swamp ash
    Bridge Original Floyd Rose with locking nut
    Pickups Two multi-colored Seymour Duncan humbuckers (Jason Becker’s signature Perpetual Burn in the bridge) and one Seymour Duncan colored single-coil (center)
    Controls Master Volume, 5-way selector
    Factory Strings Elixir, .010-.046
    Weight 7.5 lbs
    Built U.S.A.
     
 
Cordoba
F7 Paco
On the heels of legendary guitarist Paco De Lucia’s tragic passing, the Cordoba F7 Paco is inspired by various instruments in De Lucia’s arsenal. The F7 Paco features non-traditional body woods for a flamenco guitar. Built with a solid Canadian cedar top and Indian rosewood back and sides, this guitar has a warmer, darker sound than traditional flamencos, which are typically built with brighter woods such as spruce and cypress. 
 
Contact cordobaguitars.com
Street Price $529

Nut Width 52mm
Neck 25.6"-scale, mahogany, set (Spanish heel neck joint)
Fretboard Rosewood
Frets 19 (12 to body)
Tuners Black and gold floral
Body Solid Canadian cedar top, Indian rosewood back and sides
Bridge Indian rosewood
Factory Strings Savarez Cristal Corum 500CJ High Tension
Weight 3.5 lbs
Built China
 
Cort
MBC-1 Matthew Bellamy Signature
“It took three years of development to bring this guitar to market,” says Hugh Manson of Manson Guitar Works, co-designer of the MBC-1. “There was a lot of refining of pickups and Matt trying out various things until he was happy. The neck shape is exactly as Matt has it, and we opted to go without string trees—none of Matt’s guitars have string trees, in fact—because we believe the sound is more alive and resonant without them. The matte black finish looks simple, but it took a long time to develop, in order to ensure that it’s resilient and won’t come up shiny after years of use. Matt is very happy with this guitar.”
 
Contact cortguitars.com
Street Price $699

Nut Width 43mm
Neck 25.5"-scale, maple, bolt-on
Fretboard Rosewood
Frets 22 medium jumbo
Tuners Cort die-cast locking
Body Basswood
Bridge Adjustable with stop tailpiece
Pickups Manson single-coil (neck), Manson humbucker (bridge)
Controls Master Volume, Master Tone, kill switch, 3-way selector
Factory Strings D’Addario, .010 set
Weight 7.7 lbs
Built Indonesia
 
Epiphone
Limited Edition Gary Clark Jr. “Blak & Blu” Casino
“I pretty much knew from day one that I needed a few things for my arsenal,” says Gary Clark Jr., “and the Epiphone Casino is the one that always stood out. Getting my first Casino changed my life.” When Clark  got together with Epiphone luthiers to design his first signature guitar, his goal was simple: Produce a great, classic Epiphone Casino like he would have found in stores in the 1960s, right down to the Gibson P-90s loved by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Magic Sam, and others. The “Blak & Blu” finish was in honor of Clark’s Grammy-winning 2012 album, Blak and Blu.
 
Contact epiphone.com
Street Prices  Trapeze, $799; Bigsby, $849

Nut Width 1.68"
Neck 24.75"-scale, mahogany, set
Fretboard Rosewood
Frets 22 medium-jumbo
Tuners Grover Rotomatics, 18:1 ratio
Body Laminated, 5-ply maple/birch
Bridge Trapeze or Bigsby B70 Vibrato
Pickups Two Gibson USA P-90s
Controls Two Volume, two Tone, 3-way selector
Factory Strings D’Addario, .010-.046
Weight 6.6 lbs (trapeze); 7 lbs (Bigsby)
Built China
 
ESP
Gary Holt Signature Series LTD GH-600
“The core of Gary’s signature models was to take a traditional aesthetic, and then add a Floyd Rose and modern accessibility to the higher frets,” says ESP Director of Artist Relations Chris Cannella. “To begin the design process, Gary tried all of the Eclipse and EC Series guitars in the ESP and LTD lines. His favorite was actually the LTD Deluxe EC-1000, which we then used as a starting point for his signature guitar. He wanted the guitar to have some weight—he likes the instrument to feel substantial. We chose the red and black color themes because Gary has consistently used that on his guitars going back to the 1980s. We have three tiers of Gary Holt signature models. The GH-200 is a high-quality ‘everyday’ guitar. The GH-600 is meant for professional touring and recording players. The ESP Gary Holt—which is hand made in the ESP Custom Shop—has the strongest appeal for collectors. All three are great guitars that really encapsulate Gary’s vibe, and the process of working with him on the designs has been nothing but excellent.”
 
Contact espguitars.com
Street Price $999 

Nut Width 42mm
Neck 24.75"-scale, mahogany, set
Fretboard Ebony
Frets 22 extra jumbo
Tuners Grover
Body Mahogany
Bridge Floyd Rose
Pickups EMG 89R Red (neck), EMG 81 Red (bridge)
Controls Two Volume (Volume 2 with push-pull coil split), 3-way selector
Factory Strings D’Addario, .009-.046
Weight N/A
Built Korea
 
Fender
Dave Murray California Series Stratocaster
“We have two maple fretboard Fender Stratocasters which have the same configuration as Dave’s main Strat—a Floyd Rose locking trem, and Seymour Duncan Hot Rails and JB Jr. pickups,” says Colin Price, Dave Murray’s tech. “These both sound fantastic, and they have been out on the road for over ten years constantly, but it’s the tobacco burst California Series Stratocaster which has that special feel and sound that made it the number one choice for the new signature guitar. The Dave Murray California Series Strat was modified from a standard rosewood California series, and fitted with the Floyd Rose and Seymour Duncan Hot Rails to keep the look of a classic Strat, which was a change from the humbucker/single-coil/humbucker setup, which had been in use since Dave’s original, black Paul Kossoff Strat in the early ’80s. The Hot Rails give us a huge output, but without losing the clarity, and the look of the pearl pickguard gave it a cool look. We changed the center Hot Rail for a JB Jr. a couple of years ago as an experiment, as it gives us a lower output which works really well during the quieter sections of songs.”
 
Contact fender.com
Street Price $999 

Nut Width 1.6875"
Neck 25.5"-scale, maple, bolt-on
Fretboard Rosewood
Frets 21 medium-jumbo
Tuners Vintage-style chrome
Body Alder
Bridge Floyd Rose R3 Locking
Pickups Two Seymour Duncan Hot Rails humbuckers (neck/bridge) and one Seymour Duncan JB Jr. humbucker (middle)
Controls Master Volume, Two Tone (for neck and middle pickups), 5-way selector
Factory Strings Fender USA 250L, .009-.042
Weight N/A
Built Mexico
 
Fender
Tim Armstrong Signature
“We chose to do a limited run of the popular Tim Armstrong Hellcat in a matte-white finish that Tim coined ‘Ghost White’,” says Michael Schulz, artist relations manager at Fender. “We all wanted to give guitar fans the option to get a great-sounding, quality acoustic that looks very unique. We sat down with Tim to go over the details, and we all said kind of the same thing: ‘If it ain’t broken, why fix it?’ So we decided to leave the Hellcat stock, other than the finish. Tim said to us, ‘A flat-white finish would look awesome—subtle, but classic looking.’ ”
 
Contact fender.com
Street Price $349

Nut Width 1.69"
Neck 25.3"-scale, maple, bolt-on
Fretboard Rosewood
Frets19 vintage-style
Tuners Vintage-style with aged white plastic buttons
Body Mahogany top, back, and sides
Bridge Rosewood with compensated Graph Tech Nubone saddle
Pickup Fishman Isys III with onboard preamp and tuner
Factory Strings Fender Dura-Tone 880L, .012-.052
Weight N/A
Built China 
 
Framus
Phil XG Signature
“Basically, there were three things that I wanted in my guitars,” says Phil X, who replaced Richie Sambora in Bon Jovi two years ago. “First, I wanted a sweetness to the high end with no harshness or abrasiveness. Second, I was looking for a super-fat neck—kind of like a Gibson SG, but fatter, wider, and more contoured—with those traditional Framus inlays from way back on the fretboard. Finally, I wanted “awesomeness,” and this dream-come-true guitar has a lot of it. It’s a rock and roll guitar for a rock and roll guy.”
 
Contact warwick.de
List Price $6,499

Nut Width 1.69"
Neck 24.75"-scale, mahogany, neck-through
Fretboard Rosewood (inlays optional)
Frets 24 small, high nickel-silver
Tuners Graph Tech Ratio Locking with wooden knobs
Body Mahogany
Bridge Tonepros stoptail or Bigsby
Pickups Two Arcane PX8 or PX90
Controls Master Volume/Tone switch (serial/single-coil/parallel) or Master Volume and Master Tone
Factory Strings Cleartone, .010-.046
Weight 8 lbs
Built Germany 
 
  •  
    Ibanez
    PS120 Paul Stanley Signature
    “Renewing my collaboration with Ibanez feels like going home to where it all started,” says Stanley. “Since 1977, you’ve heard the guitar I created on countless platinum albums, and you’ve seen it rattle coliseums from Texas to Tokyo. Now, I’m making sure that my weapon of choice can also be yours.”
    When Ibanez sat down with Paul Stanley in 1977 to collaborate on a signature guitar, they thought they would produce a totally unique design. However, while flipping through the Ibanez catalog, the Kiss frontman became intrigued by the asymmetrical shape and unusual body of the Artist 2663—not exactly a popular model at the time. Stanley chose this style—later to be known as the “Iceman”—as the template for his signature instrument. Now, for the first time since 1996, Stanley and Ibanez have reunited to introduce three exciting new Paul Stanley signature models.
     
    Contact ibanez.com
    Street Price $899

    Nut Width 43mm
    Neck 24.75"-scale, mahogany, set
    Fretboard Ebony
    Frets 22 medium
    Tuners Die-cast machine heads
    Body Mahogany with maple top
    Bridge ART-1 Full Tune III
    Pickups Seymour Duncan SH-1n ’59 (neck), Seymour Duncan SH-14 Custom 5 (bridge)
    Controls Two Volume, Master Tone, 3-way selector
    Factory Strings D’Addario, .010-.046
    Weight 10 lbs
    Built China
     
    Kiesel
    LPM7 Lee McKinney Signature
    “My favorite thing about my new signature models is the versatility they have,” says Lee McKinney, guitarist for the band Born of Osiris. “I can get all the tones and sounds I need for any recording project that comes my way, as I write and record all types of music, ranging from extreme metal to clean jazz. Aesthetics are important, and the attention to detail in these models is beyond other custom guitars I have seen or played.”
     
    Contact carvinguitars.com
    Direct Price $1,299

    Nut Width 1.69"
    Neck 25.5"-scale, hard-rock maple, set
    Fretboard Ebony
    Frets 24 medium-jumbo
    Tuners Carvin locking
    Body Mahogany
    Bridge Floyd Rose with locking nut
    Pickups Two Kiesel K14 passive humbuckers, Graph Tech piezo saddles
    Controls Master Volume, Master Tone, 5-way selector, Acoustic Volume, Mini-toggle for acoustic/electric modes
    Factory Strings Elixir, .010-.056
    Weight 7.5 lbs
    Built U.S.A.
     
    Knaggs
    Steve Stevens SS2
    “Steve was looking for a more traditional-sounding instrument in the SS2, as compared to his SS1,” says Knaggs Guitars’ Peter Wolf. “He had specific ideas on weight, shape, headstock angle, neck specs, feel, and sound. It has been a pleasure working with him. Both Steve and our team couldn’t be happier about this collaboration and its outcome.” 
     
    Contact knaggsguitars.com
    Street Price $4,800

    Nut Width 1 11/16"
    Neck 24.75"-scale, mahogany, set
    Fretboard Rosewood
    Frets 22 medium
    Tuners Grover, mother-of-pearl buttons (or nickel or gold)
    Body One-piece mahogany with maple cap
    Bridge TonePros
    Pickups  Bare Knuckle Steve Stevens Signature
    Controls Two Volume, Two Tone, 3-way selector
    Factory Strings D’Addario, .010-.048
    Weight 8.6 lbs
    Built USA
     
    PRS
    SE Alex Lifeson Thinline 
    “I was very pleased when PRS presented me with my SE Angelus acoustic—a beautiful guitar of stunning quality,” says Alex Lifeson. “It was a challenge to build a guitar that shared the integrity and attention to detail that the Alex Lifeson Private Stock Angelus possesses in a package more broadly accessible, and the SE Alex Lifeson Thinline is that model. Carefully selected materials, expert craftsmanship, and a smart approach to concept resulted in a guitar that is beautiful to look at and rewarding to play.”
     
    Contact prsguitars.com
    Street Price $799

    Nut Width 1 21/32", bone
    Neck 25.35"-scale, mahogany, set
    Fretboard Rosewood
    Frets 20
    Tuners PRS Designed
    Body Solid spruce top, dao back and sides
    Bridge Rosewood, bone saddle
    Pickup PRS undersaddle (Volume and Tone controls accessible through soundhole)
    Factory Strings D’Addario, .012-.053
    Weight 4.8 lbs
    Built Korea
     
    Reverend
    Bob Balch Signature
    “Bob wanted a straightforward, clean looking, reliable guitar with increased resonance and clarity,” says Reverend’s Joe Naylor. “We added a chamber under the pickguard, which makes the guitar more flexible and resonant, allowing Bob to easily summon controlled feedback. We also designed a signature set of Railhammer pickups with medium output and enhanced midrange, which improves clarity when used with high-gain fuzz.”
     
    Contact reverendguitars.com
    Street Price $949

    Nut Width 1 11/16", graphite
    Neck 24.75"-scale, korina
    Fretboard Rosewood, 12" radius
    Frets 22 medium-jumbo
    Tuners Reverend Pin-Lock
    Body Korina
    Bridge Tune-o-matic with stoptail
    Pickups Two Railhammer Bob Balch Signature
    Controls Master Volume, Master Tone, Bass Contour, 3-way selector
    Factory Strings D’Addario XL, .010-.046
    Weight 7.5 lbs
    Built Korea
     
    Rock N Roll Relics
    Gilby Clarke Model
    “Being a big fan of vintage guitars, I love the look and feel of a worn-in looking guitar,” says Gilby Clarke. “This is a great playing and sounding guitar. I’m able to stay clean for a Stones vibe, but hit the bridge pickup for some pure rock and roll gain. I’ve been playing the sh*t out of it.”
     
    Contact rocknrollrelics.net
    Direct Price $2,895 (via rebel-guitars.com)

    Nut Width 1 5/8", hand-cut bone
    Neck 25.5"-scale, maple, bolt-on
    Fretboard Maple, 9.5" radius
    Frets 21 Jescar stainless steel
    Tuners Gotoh Vintage
    Body Ash
    Bridge Gotoh with brass compensated saddles
    Pickups Two David Allen Specials.     single-coils
    Controls Master Volume, Master Tone, 3-way selector
    Factory Strings Dunlop Nickel, .010-.046
    Weight 7 lbs
    Built USA
     
    Warren Guitars
    Arlen Roth Signature
    “When I met Arlen, he had a number of other luthiers wanting to work with him making his signature edition,” says builder Don Warren. “I promised him I could build a guitar that would play and sound like his beloved vintage Telecaster, but with a variety of other tones that would capture the fat singing tone of a Les Paul and convincing Strat tones, as well. Though it looks like typical three-pickup models, the pickups are voiced and spaced exactly where I need them to create the guitar’s tonal complexity. A major part of my tone is in how I dry the woods. This is something I stumbled upon, and, while time consuming, it is so worth it. I won’t say what it is, and nobody has guessed it yet!”
     
    Contact warrenguitars.com
    Direct Price $2,495

    Nut Width 1 11/16", Bone (also available, Tusq or graphite)
    Neck 25.5"-scale, rock maple, bolt-on
    Fretboard Maple, 10" radius
    Frets 22 vintage
    Tuners Vintage Kluson
    Body Swamp ash
    Bridge Vintage Tele-style
    Pickups Three Lollar or Lindy Fralin/    Warren Guitars custom-design single-coils
    Controls Master Volume (custom push-pull pot), Master Tone (custom push-pull pot), multi-function 5-way selector
    Factory Strings D’Addario, .010-.046
    Weight 6 lbs and up
    Built U.S.A.
     
     
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