Apart from the Guild and Burns guitars which are endorsed by Brian May, there are also a number of commercially available copies of the Red Special. These products are not 'official' copies and are not endorsed by Brian, but if you're in the market for a Red Special-style guitar, they are certainly worth a look.
RS guitars produce very high-quality Red Special style guitars. Two versions are available: the 'RS Classic' model is a very accurate reproduction of Brian's original Red Special, featuring Kent Armstrong Burns Tri-Sonic pickups. The 'RS Custom' model offers many options and the RS website allows you to create your own unique guitar, based on the layout of Brian's Old Lady. Their website also features some excellent soundfiles of the 'RS Classic' in action.
User reviews of RS guitars
RS guitars website
K'z Guitar Works is a Japanese company which produces probably the best quality unofficial Red Special copy which has ever been commercially available. These guitars are hand-made to the highest standards. K'z also sell a variety of super-accurate replacement parts for Brian May guitars such as tremolo units and scratchplates and they are able to ship internationally. They don't come cheap, but they are still substantially less than the Guyton guitars.
The "Red Special Jr" model is a "low cost" version of the "Pro" model. It was a limited edition launched on July 2006. After the obtained success K'z Guitars has announced the launching of a new series of the " Jr" model , in this new series three new colors are available.
Review of the K'z Red Special
K'z Guitar Works website (English version)
Seiji Matsumura in Japan has launched his Sei Red Special. This is similar to the K'z model and is a very high quality copy of Brian's guitar, at a slightly lower price than the K'z. Two models are available, the SGFR and SGFR2.
The SGFR model is made with the same materials as the original while the SGFR2 is a "low cost model " where the only two differences are the election of mahogany for the body and ebony for the fretboard, the rest is exactly the same as the SGFR model.
Sei website (English version)
Dillion offer a range of low cost Brian May style guitars. The Korean-made DBM04 is the more accurate version, which is similar to the Burns models and is available in red and sunburst finishes. These have solid mahogany construction and are shown in the top two images. The Dillion VBM02QT (lower left) is an attractive Red Special-style guitar offered at a very reasonable price. The construction is less accurate (e.g. 25" scale length), but the guitar features good quality materials including the Burns Tri-Sonic pickups. Uniquely, Dillion also offer a Brian May inspired Bass guitar the VBMB-04 (pictured on the right).
Review of the Dillion VBM2QT
These low cost Italian-made guitars have recently come onto the market. Whilst they are different to the Red Special in several features, the overall look is similar. These guitars feature the Kent Armstrong Tri-Sonic pickups and a choice of either fixed bridge, Floyd Rose tremolo, or a Brian May style knife-edge tremolo.
Jim Reed guitars website
Legg guitars are also based in Italy and are offering their version of the Red Special. This is a pretty accurate looking copy and features a knife-edge tremolo system, which is probably the hardest part for Red Special makers to get right.
Legg guitars website
Japanese firm Greco have produced commercial copies of Brian's guitar since the 1970s, known as the BM80, BM90 and BM900. These guitars look quite similar to the Red Special, although in the early models some of the details were incorrect (e.g. the pickup switching and phasing) and the sound was poor. Brian apparantly contacted the firm to see if they were interested in making a proper 'Signature' model with authentic looks and sounds, but they declined. Brian can be seen playing his Greco copy on the Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy promo video. These guitars are still actually produced in Japan in very limited quantities although very few examples have ever been exported from Japan. The BM900s often featured unusual scratchplates, as in the above picture.
Thanks to Yoshi Kimura for the BM90 pic and information on the Greco guitars.
John Birch Guitars produce a model which bears some resemblance to the Red Special. This guitar is rather different in construction to the Red Special and the tone is also slightly different, but is nevertheless a high-quality instrument.
John Birch Guitars website
The Watson copies came onto the market in 2001, but are no longer available. They were lower in price than the RS guitars and received some good reviews from users. A range of options was available including DiMarzio or Burns Tri-Sonic pickups and either fixed bridge or tremolo.
User reviews of Watson guitars
Another Italian maker, Red Rome appeared in 2003 with some nice looking prototypes but then sank without a trace. Not been seen or heard of since.
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Web pages by Esteban Anderson