Best Electric Guitars 2024: Choices For Every Budget
Published on 20 December 2023
As we jump into 2024 I’d like to glance back over my shoulder at the year that was, and select a few of my favourite guitars from this year.
Now, these choices are entirely subjective: they are the guitars that made me do a double take before crossing the office to take a closer look. Given how many new, used and vintage guitars I see, it’s easy to get a little blase about it all, but I like to keep as enthusiastic as possible, and this year has introduced some beautiful electric guitars to the world!
Here, then, in no particular order, are the ones that had me mentally making space at home for…
- Ibanez Iceman IC240
- Fender Tom DeLonge Stratocaster
- Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen
- Fender Vintera II Jaguar
- Ibanez RG
- PRS SE CE24
- Gibson Custom Shop Murphy Lab 1968 Les Paul Custom Antique White
Ibanez Iceman IC240
It’s no secret that I have a lot of love for the Iceman shape. I think it’s such a charismatic alternative to the usual ‘mahogany & humbuckers’ styles we see, and it always puzzles me that Ibanez don’t offer far more Iceman models.
For many, it’s a ‘KISS guitar’, but I never cared about Paul Stanley: it was always White Zombie’s next-level riffing on Astrocreep 2000 that sold me on the idea of the Iceman!
These IC420 Iceman models thankfully revert to the more ‘correct’ retro headstock shape (previous models had regular Ibanez headstocks and sharktooth inlays, both big mistakes on such an iconic guitar) and some fun colours. Importantly, the neck is glued in, as it should be, and there are nice details like engraved pickup covers and a 12th fret inlay detail that seal the deal here.
I wouldn’t mind a black one though, but that’s a minor quibble. It’s great to have the Iceman back!
Fender Tom DeLonge Stratocaster
I’m not the world’s biggest Blink 182 fan, but I have no problem falling in with Tom DeLonge when it comes to his taste in guitars! The Fender Tom DeLonge Strat that was released earlier this year was pretty much a reissue of an earlier signature model, right down to the colours on offer.
No bad thing, when it’s such a fun, classy guitar. Although it’s a Strat, its single Seymour Duncan Invader humbucker means that it sounds nothing like a typical Strat. There’s no whammy bar either, so this is a solid, no nonsense rock machine with the same ‘plug in and go’ vibe as a Les Paul Junior, despite being a very different guitar!
Which colour though? They all look amazing, and whilst my sensible self would encourage the Daphne Blue one, there’s a part of me that loves how bold the Graffiti Yellow finish is! Hey, why not buy all four?
Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen
This is one of those guitars that has the feeling of genuine ‘future-forwardness’ about it. The Music Man Kaizen is a more-or-less signature guitar for Tosin Abasi, the outrageously talented Animals as Leaders guitarist, and it certainly befits such sci-fi music.
Indeed, the Kaizen uses terms like ‘infinite conical radius’ to describe the fingerboard, so we know we are not in standard guitar territory here! The shape is unique (something that Music Man are increasingly known for) and it is available as both a 6 and a (more appropriate) 7 string, both with custom pickups and multiscale fretwork.
This is definitely a design that, like the Concorde/Parker Fly/lightsaber, pushes design itself into new areas. Guitarists are traditionally slow to pick up on genuinely new vibes, but if anyone can get people playing this impressive guitar, it’s Abasi!
Fender Vintera II Jaguar
This next choice is maybe as far from the previous one as possible! The Fender Vintera II Jaguar is a great example of this most hip of offsets, with several cool features that make it quite an exciting guitar.
The Fender Jaguar is a guitar that, despite its popularity, is typically not a guitar for the lead players, let alone shredders. If guitars influence how we play (and I’d say they do to an extent) then the Jaguar encourages you not to play loads of solos, just by virtue of its distinctive design and 24” scale length.
This Jag offers up the goods in some style! Block inlays and a push-in trem arm are both great additions, and the pickups are less overtly ‘janky’ than some Jaguar pickups I’ve experienced over the years, so for me, this is a win.
Sometimes, however, some high octane, entirely over the top shred is just what the doctor ordered, and few guitars out there will be as prepared for it as this! The Ibanez RGA622XH (Ibanez being as catchy as ever with their guitar names) sports no less than TWENTY SEVEN FRETS, which nobody can really call ‘necessary’, but for those who need that really high G (‘A’ I suppose, if you bend the string), this would be the guitar to do it on.
It’s a classy looker with its black finish and gold hardware, and Ibanez have obviously seen fit to spec up some top flight DiMarzio pickups - complete with coil tap - to ensure that the sonic possibilities are as exciting and high quality as the build.
PRS SE CE24
So, PRS’s bolted-on-neck guitars are known as ‘CE’ models, and their non-USA guitars are called the ‘SE’ range. Never before have the two met…until now. Behold, for the first time ever, the PRS SE CE24!
It’s pretty much what you’d expect, if you’re a fan of the brand: attractive colours on figured maple veneer bodies, 24 fret necks with a 10” fingerboard radius (bird inlays included, naturally) and some coil-tappable 85/15-S pickups, based on the units used on the USA-made guitars.
Really, it’s just the neck join that sets this model apart (though is it just me or is that upper horn a little different to all other PRS guitars?), but that plays a relatively significant part in determining how this guitar feels, plays and sounds. I’ve always enjoyed the bolt-on PRS vibe, and it seems like the most obvious move in the world to introduce this style to the SE range. Whilst they can perhaps no longer be called ‘cheap’ guitars, the PRS SE models most definitely offer up the goods for very reasonable prices.
Gibson Custom Shop Murphy Lab 1968 Les Paul Custom Antique White
I will always be a sucker for a good Les Paul Custom, and the ones I’ve seen coming through from the Murphy Lab this year have been absolutely ass-kicking.
Antique White is such a cool colour for this guitar (instant Randy Rhoads vibes!), and the ageing on this 1968 Les Paul Custom is super impressive when you see it up close. These are indistinguishable from actual vintage Gibsons - something I’ve had a little experience with - and the feel, response and sheer tone on offer here is next level.
Trying this guitar with a Soldano head may be the quickest - and certainly most satisfying - way to empty your bank account ever.
What Did You Love?
These are my choices for the best guitars for 2024. What did you make of my list? What might you have added in instead? I can personally attest to having played each of these myself, and I like them all for pretty different reasons. For example, if you can afford them, Gibson Custom Shop are producing some unbelievable guitars. They are pricey, but they are also quite lovely, and still hugely less expensive than actual vintage examples.
The Ibanez RG that I chose is one of those guitars that makes you feel like you can do anything on them, as if there are no boundaries. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often get that feeling when playing other guitar styles! It’s maybe not for the indie brigade, but those players are pretty well served anyway!
The point is, in addition to all of the expected Strats, Teles and other standard guitars that we all know and love, there are some cool additional things out there that all deserve space and attention.