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According to musicologist Walter Everett, the sound of Harrison's chiming guitar, combined with that of Lennon's Fender Stratocaster rhythm part, produced "the Beatles' brightest guitar sound yet", and so served as "a fitting tribute to the Byrds".

Jackson writes that the sound on "If I Needed Someone" was "so transcendent", in its combination of elements from the two Byrds songs and the Beatles' "soaring harmonies" and treble-rich guitar parts, that Lennon chose to use it for his Rubber Soul track "Nowhere Man".

Bruce Eder of All Music identifies the song as a "near-classic" written by Harrison during a period when his association with the Rickenbacker guitar had helped define the folk rock sound of groups such as the Byrds.

Doug Collette of All About Jazz describes "If I Needed Someone" and "Think for Yourself" as "his most stylish tunes" and examples of Harrison's rise within the Beatles, although he highlights the guitarist's use of sitar on "Norwegian Wood" as a more creatively important contribution.

In his article celebrating the 50th anniversary of Rubber Soul, Rob Sheffield identifies the album as the work on which the Beatles became true recording artists.