You will have seen on other guitar-related features that I’ve brought up the Boss / Strandberg collaboration a number of times om this site, and that guitar has been a somewhat long-term wishlist item, yet it like several of the others here are on the pricier side of the divide and slightly ’unobtanium’ at the moment. No doubt some of these will come down in price - and / or lower priced alternatives will be made available.
I really like the modernity of Headless Guitars, and their corresponding lightness and smart technical touches - hardware etc. I don’t feel the luthiers always get the guitar body proportions right though - and you can end up with some quite odd and angular designs.
I like the now ubiquitous Strandberg Boden design, but my way in the lead favourite design is that by Italian luthiers Marconi Lab - whose various EGO models look spectacular and start from a relatively reasonable €1,380. I’ve included a couple of oddball outliers here too - which very few will ever be able to afford - the very pricey Rick Toone Carbon Fibre models are $10,000+, and the cool but somewhat ludicrous Teuffel BirdFish sells at an eye-watering $18,300.
There are no doubt cheaper alternative available, but I tried to go for the more accepted industry standard models here - I would love to know if others have come across more appealing Headless guitars than I have. The increasing mainstream acceptance of Headless models is obviously a very recent development - and most of the traditional luthiers are noway near getting on that bandwagon.
I’m a 6-string player myself, so I’ve not featured guitars beyond the standard, while I do cover both standard and multi-scale fretboards.
Guitars listed alphabetically by brand:
This Boss / Strandberg collaboration is their sort of take on a Line 6 Variax - where you have two additional dials on your guitar - one which allows you to change tunings and another which allows you to change guitar voicings. It is essentially a Boden design with Lace Alumitone Pickups and a couple of extra bells and whistles as below. I also wonder why Line 6 have not done their own Headless Variax yet, as I'm sure there would be significant demand for it.
Kiesel does a number of headless models - Allan Holdsworth, Chris Letchford, Osiris, Vader and Zeus - I've selected the Vader as my chosen model here, but I could also have gone with the Chris Letchford or Osiris. The Vader starts from $1,199 - but I estimate the special woods etc of the pictured model would bring it up to around the $1,500 mark. With Kiesel the sky's the limit really in terms of customisation:
One of my favourite designs yet and super-modern - I really like the Orange / Black / Carbon Fibre scheme, EGO guitars currently range from €1,380 to €3,300 - with the model I have chosen nearer the upper limit. It's certainly an investment instrument for me, but still sort of within range. It combines the Little Thunder pickup which you can switch for Bass / Lower frequencies, and the more cutting Lace Alumitone Deathbucker!
A really cool top on this Hydra Elite, and nice body shape too. I kind of like the cut-out and brace bar on the base of the guitar, but worry if that it may be a touch fragile. It's a really decent take on the headless format with lots of lovely details and great pickups.
Australian Perry Ormsby has done much to popularise both Multiscale Fan-fret guitars as well as headless ones, and particularly in 7 and 8 string varieties. His export models are made in South Korea and deliver extremely good value for top quality hardware. They are carried inthe UK by both GAK.co.uk and GuitarGuitar.co.uk
I've featured Barcelona luthier Jose Ramos before on this site he really does make some great looking guitars, and the Arise headless looks to be a recent venture of his. It reminds me somewhat of the kind of thing Peter Malinoski would make - really smart modern design and quite different to the majority of what's out there in this category. He also throws a piezo pickup into the mix here:
Rick Toone is really an inventor and engineer turned luthier or perhaps the other way around, and is sort of in a very similar vein to German Maestro Ulrich Teuffel - q.v. Rick tends to reinvent the guitar every time he makes a new model, and uses the most modern of materials and engineers and patents every part along the way, possessing numerous patents for different types of guitar bridges. This particular guitar is a touch unusal in look and at times I think I would like to change the shape of the upper horn, but then I decide I actually quite like it as is.
This is more of a Fender Strat-style Strandberg really with custom-made Suhr pickups in a very versatile HSH layout and a very lightweight body. Most of the headless guitars have been largely targeted at metal and progressive rock players - while this one aims more at the mainstream I guess. Ola Strandberg is still the poster boy of Headless Guitars, and no one has done more to popularise this format - I always wanted one of these, but now I may want a Marconi Lab Ego more!
This modern classic was introduced back in 1995 - 23 years ago now. Ulrich Teuffel set the mould then for haute luthiery and continues to innovate. And while Rick Toone may be leading the new school, Ulrich still shows no signs of slowing down - still innovating, still creating. I just love the look of this guitar - the fact that you can chop and change Tonebars and Pickups and re-arrange and place in any order. Never was there a guitar created like this before, but I want to see more of this sort of thinking - where you can easily snap in new components. It obviously has a sky high price understandably, but were I to win the lottery, I would not hesitate to get one of these. Where I am right now though it's a touch out of reach!
The lowest cost guitar here is the Ormsby Goliath which will cost you the best part of £1,400. Headless guitars are still therefore very much seen as specialist instruments as there are none available from the mainstream brands say in PRS SE territory and at around the £799 to £899 mark.
I believe these types of guitars are very much in the ascendancy - it took 7 and 8 string a while to get mainstream acceptance, but both PRS and Ibanez as well as other majors are reeling those out now like nobody's business.
Once you get a decent quality Headless guitar at around the £800 mark you know that this is more than a passing fad or minority interest, and it's not quite there yet. I have been wanting a headless guitar for a while now, and I was heartened to hear that Phillip McKnight of 'Know Your Gear' fame has decided to get a Kiesel headless for himself - an Osiris I think he said he wanted, although people can always change their minds.
Before I wrote this article I was leaning towards Strandberg, I really like what the Boss version offers, but it's just s touch to dear really. In terms of all-round appeal for me then, my frontrunner is definitely the Marconi Lab Ego - I think I like the Thunder 21K7 model, but again may shift my attention to another model when I come to making the actual transactions - which is still a while off - priorities you know!