New bracing and pickups make this mid-priced take on a Gretsch classic a lively and engaging inspiration machine.

Smooth playability on par with much more expensive instruments. Airy, open pickup sounds with lots of clean-to-mean latitude.

Blue finish is pretty but thick in spots. Vintage sticklers might miss some old-school Filter’Tron bite.

$799

Gretsch G5420T
gretschguitars.com

4.5
4
5
4

Though big hollowbodies like the Gretsch G6120 are beautiful and an essential ingredient in countless classic records, they can be a tricky playing experience for the uninitiated. Navigable fretboard space is limited by solidbody standards. Big bodies can feel bulky. They’re sometimes feedback prone in high-volume situations, too. Consequently, I’ve watched many solidbody-oriented chums who rarely play hollowbodies handle a big Gretsch with the baffled look of a spacefarer deciphering an alien tongue.

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Johnny Marr’s latest LP spans influences from New Order to the Staple Singers while staying rooted in his clockwork timing and copious talents as arranger and melodicist.

When the great Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes passed away earlier this year, I thought a lot about Johnny Marr. Marr was moved deeply by the girl groups of the ’60s—their positivity, energy, and the convergence of ecstasy and melancholy in the music. He was even fired up by the audaciousness of their style: The impressive beehive hairdo worn by Spector’s bandmate Estelle Bennett famously inspired the jet-black pile Marr wore at the height of Smiths fame.

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Parlor dimensions and upscale appointments add up to a flattop that’s a pleasure to cradle.

Ultra playable, super comfortable, and great action. Beautiful design details. Sweet fingerstyle voice.

Pricey for an import.

$829

Fender Paramount PS-220E

fender.com

4
4.5
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3.5

Fender’s new Paramount PS-220E Parlor is a million kinds of fun. For starters, imagine picking up a little old Stella tucked away in a dusty corner of a garage sale—only to find the action is perfect and the tuners actually work. Then consider the basic joys of any good little acoustic: how easy it is to hold, how light it is, how little room it takes up when you leave it sitting around the living room waiting for whatever spark of inspiration hits at random. The PS-220E dishes oodles of those small pleasures. And while the price isn’t exactly small for an imported instrument of this stature, the playability and versatility are equal to much more expensive instruments.

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Unconventional construction methods help set a very unusual acoustic/electric hybrid apart.

Beautiful playability. Stable under neck-wobbling, pitch-bending maneuvers.

Polarizing styling and construction if you’re strictly traditional. Expensive for a niche instrument.

$1,999

Riversong Glenwood TS6
riversongguitars.com

4
4.5
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3.5

The first and perhaps most important thing to know about Riversong’s Glennwood TS6 is that it aspires to hybridize elements of electric and acoustic guitars. This is not a new idea—certainly not in the amplified acoustic era, where the straightest route to eliminating feedback is by reducing the resonant elements that cause feedback in the first place. Some acoustic/electrics achieve these ends by slimming bodies down to electric-guitar thickness. Riversong, however, sticks to traditional acoustic formula by making the TS6 a full-sized instrument. Its dimensions are a little bit atypical: the 16" wide body and 4 3/4" thickness are about the same size as Martin’s “jumbo” J body and the Taylor Grand Pacific. The pretty silhouette also echoes the curvaceousness of those larger guitars. Those similarities sometimes feel like an exception, though. At nearly every other turn, the TS6 very happily breaks the acoustic design mold.

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