Jazzmaster Heirs: 10 Contemporary Offset Alternatives

It's no mystery that over the past decade or so, offset guitars like the Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar have emerged as the weapon of choice for a massive array of rock guitarists. The body shape is so popular that in 2014 Jazzmaster topped our list of most searched words on Reverb. The official Fender Jazzmaster, of course, remains the absolute benchmark in the class, and Fender produces more excellent offset options now than ever before.

But what if you're a player looking for something a little different in an offset? You could consider some overlooked vintage option like a Harmony Bobkat or any number of '60s Japanese guitars, but these instruments tend to suffer from inconsistent quality and limited tonal range. Or you could consider something a little newer. Here are our picks for ten outstanding modern Jazzmaster alternatives to consider alongside the normal Fender fare.

10. Tom Anderson Raven

Tom Anderson Guitarworks out of Newbury Park, California are known for their modern designs and features, as well as the outstanding build quality the firm has delivered over the past several decades. The Raven is a newer addition to a lineup that already includes a number of variations on classic designs such as the LP-inspired Bulldog and T-family of guitars. With the Raven, Anderson sought to offer the classic balance and style of an offset while addressing some of the flaws with the original offset Fenders of the '60s. The body is smaller than your typical JM, and you won't find a full-on floating tremolo systems on the Raven. What you will find is the wide range of custom options and top-end appointments you'd expect from a luthier-grade Anderson guitar.

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9. DiPinto Galaxie

A lot of the guitars on this list seek to replicate the timeless appeal of a '60s Fender, and several come with price tags not too far off from the actual original specimens. The Galaxie series by DiPinto guitars, however, takes its visual queues more from Japanese and Italian designs of the day, and come with a price tag comfortably under the $800 range. There are a few different Galaxie models, but the stand out is the Galaxie 4, which comes equipped with four single-coil pickups with individual kill switches. Similar to other makers like Reverend, the DiPintos are assembled overseas but receive final setup and inspection state-side in DiPinto's shop in Philadelphia.

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8. Trussart Steelmaster

James Trussart easily stands as one of the more unique luthiers in the current high-end, custom guitar landscape thanks to his unmistakable finishes, artistic flourishes, and of course, the use of steel as the primary building material. Trussart's range of guitars includes all the usual suspects of classic body shapes, with the JM-inspired Steelmaster filling the spot of the vintage offset. Like all Trussart guitars, each example is 100% original and customizable, so no two Steelmasters are exactly alike. More so than other Trussart models though, the Steelmaster model often comes with a wood body capped with a steel "top plate" for a distinct, yet well-rounded tone.

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7. Charvel Skatecaster

Intended as an homage to the '90s Charvel Surfcaster, the Desolation Skatecaster is an original modern design. With pleasing slightly offset proportions and matte or flamed finishes, this guitar is a solid blend of modern aesthetic and classic, clean design. The upper tier SK-1 models feature all Mahogany construction with neck-through design, pairing either a Floyd Rose trem or hardtail bridge with active EMG humbuckers. The more accessible SK-3 models use exposed humbuckers and a bolt-on neck. If you're considering playing a Jazzmaster for harder rock a la Troy Van Leeuwen, the Skatecaster is an affordable, no-nonsense alternative.

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6. K-Line San Bernardino and Texola

The eponymous "K" of K-Line guitars is Chris Kroenlein of suburban St. Louis who's all about consistency and quality. K-line produces a number of takes on classic designs, with the San Bernardino and Texola occupying the offset column. With the San Bernardino, the style is given more of a Les Paul treatment, with a Gibson-style tailpiece and a steeper neck angle. The Texola falls into the category of what we might call "Telemasters" (or is it Jazzcaster?) combining the offset shape with with the pickups and bridge of a '50s Telecaster.

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5. Bilt Relevator and Zaftig

Bilt is something of a newcomer to the boutique guitar scene, but is unique in its total focus on offset guitar design. There's the solidbody Revelator and semi-hollow Zaftig, which borrows as much from the Starcaster as any other guitar. Both models feature full-fledge floating trems as well as that secret weapon of all offset obsessives, the Mastery bridge. Like the Klon Centaur, Bilt benefits from an association with endorsee Nels Cline, though the list of Bilt users is growing strongly. If you see yourself on that list, snag up any used Bilt that pops up as the current wait list for a new one is close to six months.

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4. Grosh ElectraJet

The Grosh ElectraJet doesn't follow the Jazzmaster template as closely as some of other higher-end options on the list, but instead delivers an original spin on the offset with tremolo format. Since its introduction, the ElectraJet has become a staple of the Grosh lineup, and several variations have been developed. On one end, there's the ready-made Standard ElectraJet, which sheds some of the custom options found on most Grosh guitars for a more basic and budget-friendly design. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Grosh SuperJet and TurboJet add a PRS/Gibson-esque flamed Maple top to the equation.

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3. Nash JM-63

More so than any other offset we've mentioned, the Nash JM-63 capture the essence of a genuine vintage Fender (specifically a '63 Jazzmaster). And it's no surprise coming from Bill Nash, a luthier who's built a reputation and brand based on expert recreations of vintage showpieces. Each Nash JM is highly customizable and unique, and like other Nash axes typically come with some degree of relic work to the finish and hardware. Nash also produces their own Tele-Master style guitar as well a shorter-scale J-63 Jaguar-style offset.

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2. Kauer Daylighter

There are a few guitars on this list that combine a Jazzmaster body style with more Gibson-influenced appointments and parts, but none do it quite like the Kauer Daylighter. There are several different Daylighters in production, all of which tap into a classic Les Paul layout from Junior and Special, to Standard and Custom. But the Daylighter is much more than just an offset body with some P-90s or humbuckers. Lots of players commend the excellent balance and upper register access of the Daylighters, and the builds use Spanish Cedar (aka South American Mahogany) as their primary wood with some incorporating Ambrosia Maple. Throw in a PRS-esque finish and you have a guitar that's fresh and original, yet totally familiar.

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1. Fano JM6

Like the Nash JM's mentioned above, the Fano JM takes much from an original Jazzmaster. The Fano approach, however, deviates further with a range of special options and additions that weren't present in the '60s. This manner of reinterpretation lies at the crux of Fano's entire Alt De Facto series: guitars that weren't but might have been. There are JM6s with Bigsbys and racing stripes, humbuckers and tune-a-matics, and even the occasional 12-string example. The current range of Fano guitars are built by the Premier Builders Guild who also produce b3 by Gene Baker guitars, as well as Two-Rock and Tone King amps.

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