airline guitars

Although it's not a Kessel or Gold K series instrument, this Airline/Kay Swingmaster P-5 is a gorgeous hollowbody with appointments that revisit those earlier premium models.

The Kay-made Swingmaster P-5 carries the torch for its higher-end predecessors, like the company's Barney Kessel model.

When the guitar boom of the 1960s hit, manufacturing operations all over the world rushed to meet skyrocketing demand. There were factories in Japan and Italy, in Southern California and Czechoslovakia, and, perhaps most prolifically of all, in Chicago, Illinois—that long-established center of American retail distribution. Chicago instrument makers churned out entry-level guitars in enormous volumes, and by the time of Beatlemania, it seemed like they couldn't build them fast enough.

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Can an entry-level modeler hang with the big dogs?

Excellent interface. Very portable. Nice modulation tones.

Some subpar low-gain dirt sounds. Could be a little more rugged.

$399

HeadRush MX5
headrushfx.com

3.5
4
4
4.5

The allure of portability and sonic consistency has become too much to ignore for some guitarists, making smaller digital modelers more appealing than ever.

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The signature Kasper Jalily guitar features a chambered Alder body, stainless steel frets, and roasted maple neck & fretboard.

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