My Choices in Small Jazz Guitars for 2016 Holidays

Fantasy time. What if someone gave you a gift certificate valued at up to $1500 that you could use to buy a new guitar? Some of you may fantasize about a more expensive gift. I have practical fantasies. I won’t be buying a Gibson L5 or Martin 000-45 for $1500.

I don’t really need any more guitars. I’m not sure I even want more guitars. I downsized from 10 to 5 guitars last year. OK, I always want more guitars and miss some of the ones I sold. But, I don’t have room for them and probably wouldn’t play them if I did. That’s why I got rid of them. Still, I look and think about which guitars I would get next if I were to get any. Here’s my personal list of some guitars available  within the $1500 fantasy price range. As usual, these are small body archtop electric guitars for jazz. I’ll try to write up another post covering acoustic guitars at another time.

I think Ibanez has been improving in features and value over the past decade. They have a great selection of reasonably priced hollow body guitars that jazz guitarists should like. They’ve come out with lower priced George Benson Models which seem very nice.


The GB10SE is the small George Benson Model and is available at about $1300, including a hard shell case. It’s a small archtop that I’ve reviewed previously (but the more expensive version). This has floating mini-humbucker pickups and a rosewood bridge with an ebony fingerboard.


The Ibanez Artstar Solid Top SS300 is about the same size and price as the GB10. The appointments and finish of the GB10 may be classier but I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have the SS300 for $1300. It has traditional humbucker pickups mounted on the body and a rosewood bridge with a spruce top.


If you want something closer to the 16-inch body width of an ES-175, Ibanez has several choices, starting with another Geroge Benson model, the LGB30. It’s a pretty guitar for under $1100. It has traditional humbucker pickups mounted to the body and a tune-o-matic style bridge.


Another great value from Ibanez is the Artcore Expressionist Vintage AKJV90D. It looks a lot like a vintage ES-175. The price of $750 doesn’t include a case but your fantasy $1500 gift should cover a fitted hardshell case.


The roundup of ES-175-like guitars hasn’t changed much from previous years where I’ve reviewed the available 16-inch and smaller jazz boxes. One of my favorites is the Eastman AR371ce (or the AR372ce dual pickup model). I own an AR371ce. It’s available for under $900 with a case. Unlike most guitars from Gibson, Epiphone and Ibanez, this one has a wider nut width (1.75″). I like that a lot and wish other guitars had the same.


Gibson ES-175 models are outside the price range for this fantasy exercise, but the next best thing might be the Epiphone ES-175 Premium. The natural finish is available for under $1000 while you can get the sunburst model for about $840.


The last selection for this fantasy game is the most expensive model I’ve listed, yet is still under the fantasy limit of $1500. It is the Ibanez AF155. It is available in a beautiful flamed maple Aged Whisky Burst. It has an ebony fingerboard and quality humbucker pickups mounted to the body. The body is is still under 16 inches. The price as about $1375 from Amazon.com.

The following video shows Mark Whitfield trying this guitar with his band.

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