There is no denying Rickenbacker’s status as one of the four or five most important electric guitar companies of all time and here we explore their beginnings and influence on guitardom.

Rickenbacker Contemporary Lead

Ricken Backer Contemporary Lead
Active humbucking pickups and a new bridge that facilitated easier string bending, piezo-pickup tones, and wider string spacing are among the walnut-bodied 380L's concessions to modernity. Its design was both an exercise in lending an upscale look to existing Rickenbacker body profiles and an effort to create instruments that were perceived as more suited to contemporary lead guitar.

There is no denying Rickenbacker’s status as one of the four or five most important electric guitar companies of all time. Still, for all the company’s iconic status, they are sometimes perceived as misfits within the pantheon. While the Stratocaster and Les Paul cemented Fender’s and Gibson’s reputations as the first choice for legendary lead-guitar hotshots and gunslingers, Rickenbacker remains, in the eyes of many players, a strummer’s guitar—fit for rhythm kings and ill-suited for lead aces.

It’s a much-too-simple generalization that diminishes not only the versatility of Rickenbacker guitars themselves, but also the groundbreaking achievements of the guitarists who have played them over the years. In a September 2010 interview with Premier Guitar, the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach praised their smooth playability and build quality. “You can do anything with a Rickenbacker,” he said. “Anything!”

And anyone who has witnessed Mike Campbell rip a Peter Green-style lead, beheld Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto driving a raging, off-kilter punk rhythm, or thrilled to Paul Weller slashing at a bellowing Marshall with a Rick in hand can attest to the veracity of Auerbach’s assertion.

Then there are the things only a Rick can do: Roger McGuinn’s celestial 12-string excursions, Townshend’s ringing dots-and-dashes power chords, Johnny Marr’s complex dancing-and-darting arpeggio intros. Sure, other guitars might get you 80 to 90 percent there. But there is something about the way materials, construction, electronics, balance, and feel conspire in a Rickenbacker that is singular, wholly original, and nearly impossible to reproduce.

It begins, perhaps, with the way Rickenbackers feel in hand. There’s an almost acoustic-guitar-like tension that invites you to simultaneously dig in, attack, or get delicate. But there is also an incredible smoothness—the slickness of low frets, lacquered fretboards, and low action—that invites bends, quick and aggressive arpeggios, hammer-ons, and legato flurries. Then there are the pickups. The toaster tops chime with pure crystalline beauty and ring in perfect, succinct harmonic balance for rhythm work, and the modern, high-gain single-coils veer from bell-like zing to highhorsepower kerrang in a manner quite unlike any other pickup.

And those are just the musical strengths of a Rickenbacker. But many discovered all this after being drawn to how Rickenbackers look. The guitars display a perfect synthesis of classic Bavarian/ European design motifs and Jet Age Californiaisms, and it’s a look that’s unmistakable even from a hundred yards away. Flash mod symbol, punk jackhammer, herald of the British Invasion, and blonde avatar of bangs-and-suede psychedelia from the West Coast—the Rickenbacker sweeping-crescent profile is each of these and more.

Here we’ve collected a few rare images from Rickenbacker’s archive, most never before published, to celebrate the company’s 80th anniversary (also be sure to check out our video tour of the Rickenbacker factory at

In a way, it’s refreshing to see how little has changed over the years. Many of these legendary shapes still roll out of the Santa Ana, California, factory looking much like the very first specimens of their breed—and each is still built as they always have been, entirely in the USA.

Equipped with noise reduction and noise gate modes, the Integrated Gate has a signal monitoring function that constantly monitors the input signal.

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Luthier Maegen Wells recalls the moment she fell in love with the archtop and how it changed her world.

The archtop guitar is one of the greatest loves of my life, and over time it’s become clear that our tale is perhaps an unlikely one. I showed up late to the archtop party, and it took a while to realize our pairing was atypical. I had no idea that I had fallen head-over-heels in love with everything about what’s commonly perceived as a “jazz guitar.” No clue whatsoever. And, to be honest, I kind of miss those days. But one can only hear the question, “Why do you want to build jazz guitars if you don’t play jazz?” so many times before starting to wonder what the hell everyone’s talking about.

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A modern take on Fullerton shapes and a blend of Fender and Gibson attributes strikes a sweet middle ground.

A stylish alternative to classic Fender profiles that delivers sonic versatility. Great playability.

Split-coil sounds are a little on the thin side. Be sure to place it on the stand carefully!


Fender Player Plus Meteora HH


After many decades of sticking with flagship body shapes, Fender spent the last several years getting more playful via their Parallel Universe collection. The Meteora, however, is one of the more significant departures from those vintage profiles. The offset, more-angular profile was created by Fender designer Josh Hurst and first saw light of day as part of the Parallel Universe Collection in 2018. Since then, it has headed in both upscale and affordable directions within the Fender lineup—reaching the heights of master-built Custom Shop quality in the hands of Ron Thorn, and now in this much more egalitarian guise as the Player Plus Meteora HH.

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