Last Updated on
Looking to buy your first or even tenth guitar? There is a shed-load that will do the job and will fit the budget, but do you really want to settle for one that will only get you by?
Eliminate the potential for buyer’s remorse. Don’t settle for mediocre. Look for the best of what you can afford. All easier said than done, right?
That’s why you need our guidance if you’re serious about putting away the air guitar for good and realizing your dream of being a rock star outside of your bedroom.
We get into the nitty-gritty by providing an extremely comprehensive buying guide for everything you need to know about the best electric guitar that’ll do you right. Join us if you want to get in the know about what’s hot, what’s time-honored, what’s new, and what’s for you!
Begin searching by your…
- Budget Range: Best Electric Guitar for the Money
- Skill Level: Best Electric Guitar for Your Skill Level
- Size Requirements: Best Size Electric Guitar for Your Needs
- Playing Style: Best Electric Guitar for Your Playing Style
- Brand Preference: Best Electric Guitar Brands
- Aesthetic Style: Best Looking Electric Guitars
The Top 10 Best Electric Guitars
- PRS CE 24 Electric Guitar – Best Under $2000
- Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FRS – Best Under $1500
- ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB – Best Under $1000
- Epiphone Limited Edition 1961 G-400 Pro – Best Under $500
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V – Best Under $300
- Jackson JS Dinky Arch Top JS22 DKA – Best Cheap
- Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club – Best for Beginners
- Ibanez S Series Iron Label – Best for Intermediate Players
- Traveler Guitar Vaibrant Deluxe V88X – Best Travel Size
- Yamaha GigMaker PAC012 – Best Kids Size
Best Electric Guitar for the Money
We would all love an unlimited allowance to pull the trigger on whatever our heart desires that gets it racing as fast as we can riff and shred. The reality is, the budget sets the limits on what we can even consider as a potential buy.
To make it easier to sift through those potential buys, we’ve categorized awesome electric guitars within multiple price ranges that will fit everyone’s financial needs. If you find you can spend even more on an ax not listed here, share the dough with us, buddy!
PRS CE 24
- Mahogany back and maple top Bolt-on maple neck Rosewood fretboard Pattern Thin carve Satin nitro finish PRS 85/15 pickups Volume and push/pull tone control 3-way toggle switch Includes gig bag
- Since the dawn of rock and roll, the snap and response that comes from a bolt-on neck guitar has been an essential part of the mix
- These attributes have, in turn, become essential to many players trying to tell their story through music
We wanted to pick a guitar that could provide tonal variation suitable for anyone’s tastes and that’s why the PRS CE 24 won us over. Yep – it’s pricey, but it’s made in the USA, is sleek and slender, and it exudes an air of high-quality snobbery. With a mahogany back, maple top, maple neck, and rosewood fretboard, it’s a traditional CE made for the demands of today.
Tuning stability is a non-issue with the PRS patented tremolo and low mass locking tuners. Dive bomb all you want and feel free to shred it to the max with its super slick and Pattern Thin neck. 85/15 humbuckers take the trebles and low-end to a completely new level while maintaining articulation needed to cut through the densest mixes. Coil tap if you’re after the vintage goodness of single-coil sounds. As you can see, the CE 24 can pull off any genre from metal to blues and country. Warning: it may cause playing addiction and fingertip callouses – exactly what’s needed to become a rock star!
Other High-Quality Electric Guitars in This Price Range:
Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FRS
- Mahogany Body with Quilted Maple Top
- 3-Piece Mahogany Neck
- EMG Active 81-7/Sustainiac Pick-up Set
Rated as a hell of a good guitar by the masses, it earned its spot to be the highlight feature and could arguably be the best sounding electric guitar for metal there is. The Hellraiser is a thrasher with its 7-strings, so if you’re a newb – beware, this ain’t for the faint of heart. To rock your way to the realm of Hades, the Hellraiser C-7 is an all-mahogany guitar with a quilted maple arched top that metal heads will sure appreciate.
This guitar is equipped to roar with its active EMG 81-7 and Sustainiac pickups. The Sustainiac brings extreme heat to your music, infinite delay, and a lot more with its dedicated 3-way switch to access Fundamental, Mix, and Harmonic modes. With a Floyd Rose bridge and locking nut, tuning will remain stable as it can handle even the most demonic whammy bar moves you can dish out. There is no other guitar that can metal up your style and raise Hell while doing it.
Other Great Electric Guitars in This Price Range:
- Fender American Performer Stratocaster
- Fender American Performer Telecaster
- Fender American Professional Stratocaster
- Guild Starfire V
- EVH Striped Series 5150
- D’Angelico Deluxe Atlantic
ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB
- Designed to offer the tone, feel, looks, and quality that professional musicians need, while still being affordable
- Consistently one of ESP's most popular guitars due to its combination of incredible looks and great performance
- Offers a vintage looking body/neck/headstock binding and gold hardware and includes premier components
When you want to spend a grand, you must look for tried-and-true guitars that have earned the approval of the masses. What comes to mind? The ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 Vintage Black electric guitar. What’s more vintage than gold? More gold, at least that’s what it seems like on this guitar with its sparkling body/headstock binding and hardware – bling bling.
But, past its flashy accessories and all-mahogany body are active EMG 60 and 81 pickups that are great for metal, but they also raise the tonal bar for all other genres too. Couple them with a TonePros TOM bridge and LTD locking tuners, and you can bend those strings to the limits without pulling them out of tune. If you have the eyes of a magpie that’s attracted to shiny things, this EC-1000 guitar must be nicked and added to your collection.
Other Good Guitars in This Price Range:
- Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster
- Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Floyd Rose
- Yamaha RevStar RS820CR
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro
- Schecter Hellraiser C-1
- PRS SE Mark Tremonti
Epiphone Limited Edition 1961 G-400 Pro
- 1960’s era “SG” with Mahogany body and neck
- Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO 4-wire humbuckers with coil-splitting
- LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge, Stopbar tailpiece, and Epiphone "Deluxe" 18:1 tuners
It looks like the Red Devil, it kinda sounds like the Red Devil, but it’s not priced like the Red Devil – what is it? It’s an Epiphone G-400 Pro 1961 Limited Edition in Candy Apple Red – the working man’s version and every bit as sassy and sizzling as the first generation of SG guitars.
To achieve humbucker roar, the G-400 Pro is outfitted with Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers. Work the push/pull volume knobs to split coils for vintage single-coil tone. The all-mahogany guitar also sets itself apart with its Epiphone Deluxe tuners, LockTone TOM bridge, and glued, set-neck – features indicative of its Limited Edition status. What’s it good for? Well, the SGs were known for their tonal tendencies towards metal and rock, and as an inspired, modeled-after version, it has the savoir faire to achieve the same.
Other Good Electric Guitars in This Price Range:
- Schecter Omen 6
- ESP LTD EC-256
- PRS SE Standard
- Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet
- Ibanez JEMJR Steve Vai Signature
- Yamaha RevStar RS320
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V
- Solid Alder Body
- Maple Bolt-On Neck
- Rosewood Fingerboard
Yamaha steps up to the plate with their Pacifica series, and the 100 line brings value and quality in the same package. While there are many competitive guitars worthy of a highlight, this Yamaha beats them out. You can see Fender inspiration in this model with its alder Strat-style body with double cutaways, 22 frets, and 25.5″ scale length, fortunately it lacks the Fender price tag.
It’s a guitar with many quality features that allows for a versatile platform. It has a vintage style tremolo bridge, so beginners can get acquainted with a whammy bar. It also has Alnico V magnets in the H-S-S pickups. A 5-way pickup selector blade allows you to experiment with tonal ranges. Plus, you can coil tap and split the humbucker to get that extra bite of having a single coil at the bridge. For a guitar under 300 bucks, you have an entry ticket into experimenting with features that can take your mediocre skills to the next level.
Other Good Affordable Electric Guitars in This Price Range:
- Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club
- Schecter 430 C-6 Deluxe
- Epiphone Les Paul Special II
- Epiphone SG Special
- Dean Custom Zone
Jackson JS Dinky Arch Top JS22 DKA
- Archtop Dinky Double Cutaway Body
- 1pc. Maple Speed Neck and a Compound Radius (12"-16") Fretboard with 24 Jumbo Frets
- Jackson High Output Humbucking Bridge and Neck Pickups
Jackson. Arch top. Humbuckers. Speed neck. Here lies the foundation of a great metal guitar in the making – wait until you hear the rest. Yep – it’s cheap, but we only mean that in terms of price. Jackson had a strong American foothold in the metal era of the ’80s, but today they’re dedicated to producing affordable guitars for those in the market looking for quality without compromise to please people like you.
What do people like you want? You must demand exceptional durability, and Jackson delivers with a poplar body, Amaranth fretboard, and a bolt-on maple neck with graphite reinforcement. You must demand a sleek and rapid neck to get your shred on, and with a compound radius 12-16″ fretboard, you can do all the shredding you think you manage. Jackson puts their own high output humbuckers on board and a 2-point synchronized fulcrum tremolo bridge to get your whammy on. Metal guitar in the making is now metal guitar made.
Other Budget Electric Guitars in This Price Range:
- Ibanez RG GIO GRX20Z
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC100
- Best Choice Products Electric Guitar Starter Kit
- Dean Vendetta XM
- Squier by Fender Bullet Mustang HH
- Ibanez RG GIO GRX70QA
Best Electric Guitar for Your Skill Level
Do you fall in with the beginner crowd or with the skilled players? We understand that green players are eager to buy up a drool-worthy ax. But, beginner kits are the economical choice to consider as they typically come with everything you need to get started and through the learning curves.
Now, whether you’re hunting for your 10th guitar for a private collection or for gigging it on stage, the buying process doesn’t get any easier just because you have some wicked skills under your belt. We shred some insight on what guitars will get you riffing under the neon glow of stage lights, will complete your collection, and compliment your playing style.
Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club
- Body Shape: Jet
- Body Style: Chambered Single Cutaway
- Body:Basswood, Gloss Urethane Finish, Arched Maple Top
The Electromatic G5425 is one of Gretsch’s entry-level guitars that will last you long after the learning curves are mastered. This model has a 24.6″ scale length, single cutaway, and Gretsch’s own dual-coil humbuckers. An Adjusto-Matic bridge with six individual adjustable saddles and a stop tailpiece offers easy intonation and guaranteed sustain.
The Electromatic has a two-tone color scheme with a silver arched top and walnut-stained back and sides and a maple neck. The rosewood fretboard has a radius of 12″ that will pave the way to master string bending in no time. There is no rule that beginner players must start on crappy guitars, and if there was, rules are meant to be broken.
The trade off in considering this guitar-only buy is you’ll have to spend more on getting the extra gear needed to plug in. But, we’ll throw you a bone and point you towards the best beginner packages that aren’t junk.
Other Guitar Starter Kits for Beginners:
- Epiphone Les Paul II LTD Special Player Pack
- Epiphone SG Junior Player Pack
- Donner DST-1S
- LyxPro Electric Guitar Starter Kit
- PylePro Beginner Starter Package
- Davison Guitars Beginner Starter Package
Ibanez S Series Iron Label
- Blue Space Burst finish 3pc Maple/ Bubinga "Nitro Wizard" neck Flamed Maple top/Mahogany body Bound Ebony fretboard Jumbo frets DiMarzio Fusion Edge neck pickup DiMarzio Fusion Edge bridge pickup...
- As the legion of converts to the “made-for-metal” Iron Label series keeps growing, Ibanez continues to tap the seismic underworld for inspiration
- Working their famous S Series body style from the “chassis” up, Ibanez speaks to the deft skills of the sinuous shredder with the SIX6FDFM
By now, you’ve likely discovered what playing styles you prefer and what you want to see on a guitar that can not only handle your sound but take things to the next level. If distortion and high gain is your preferred expertise, the Ibanez Iron Label is a must-have.
With the Nitro Wizard neck and 15.75″ fingerboard radius, it’s a shredder. If you’ve never been a huge fan of EMG pickups, you’ll be happy to see high output DiMarzio Fusion Edge humbuckers specifically designed for Ibanez. There is no tone pot, so there’s no treble bleed, and you can coil tap to access those single-coil tones for clean, vintage playing. A smooth, low-profile bridge, locking tuners, and luminescent side dot inlays are bonus features you can take advantage of on-stage and off. When you’re ready to add a looker to your collection and hone in your advanced skills, think Ibanez.
Other Guitars for Intermediate Players:
- Fender Player Stratocaster
- Schecter Damien Platinum 7
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC611VFM
- EVH Wolfgang WG Standard Quilt Maple
- G&L Tribute ASAT Classic
Best Size Electric Guitar for Your Needs
Whether you know it or not, guitars come in different sizes for all sorts of reasons. Some guys may be self-conscious about their smallish hands, or you may be after a scaled-down guitar that won’t take up much room for the road trip. You might also want a suitably sized guitar for the kiddo, so they’re not buried under the poundage of your full-size one.
Whatever the reason, getting the right size guitar can change the way you play – for the better. After all, if you can handle it comfortably, you can play it skillfully.
Traveler Guitar Vaibrant Deluxe V88X
- Full 25. 5" Scale guitar
- 5 lbs. 10 oz. And 33. 25" Long
- Double locking Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo
No, we didn’t spell “Vaibrant” wrong, although, this guitar is vibrant and outlandish. The Vaibrant Deluxe V88X is a tribute guitar to Steve Vai and models funky ’80s neon style. If you plan on traveling in style with a professional electric guitar, it’ll cost you. Instead of going some wacky route with foldable and dissecting parts, Traveler scales down the guitar in length and weight and yet maintains a full 25.5″ scale and a headstock.
Even though it’s a guitar made for travel, it offers so much more than just a portable-friendly size. This is a stage-worthy guitar with its Floyd Rose bridge that comes with a locking nut so you can whammy it up just like Vai. The H-S-H V88X pickups were made for the Vaibrant series, and the fingerboard has a 17″ radius – perfect for shredding. This wild-looking guitar will scream and bark, melt brains, and of course, travel well.
Other Travel Size Guitars to Consider:
- Traveler Guitar Speedster Hot Rod
- Traveler Guitar Ultra Light Electric Guitar
- Asmuse Travel AD80-E
- Hofner Shorty Travel Guitar
- Jammy Guitar
Yamaha GigMaker PAC012
- PAC012 Old violin sunburst
- 15-watt Yamaha amp
- Quickstart DVD
There’s no room for junk and playthings when you stick with trusted brands for your kid’s first-time guitar. That’s why the Yamaha Pacifica electric guitar, the PAC012 model, is the top pick. As a quality instrument for older children to get started playing, it comes with the GigMaker kit that includes an amp, gig bag, clip-on tuner, and other essential accessories needed to learn some basic skills.
The guitar is highly playable. It has a 13.75″ fingerboard radius that might help small hands get a hold of those strings. To avoid the perception that it’s a child’s toy, the PAC012 has a full 25.5″ scale length, an H-S-S pickup configuration, and a vintage tremolo bridge. Whether in the hands of a 10-year-old or 16-year-old, it will sound legit and it looks legit because it is legit. Ditch the plastic guitars made for toddlers and give your kid a real guitar to start out on as they develop a passion for creating their own music signature.
Other Good Guitars for Kids:
- Glarry GST Electric Guitar w/Amp
- ZENY Full-Size Guitar Beginner’s Package
- WINZZ Kid’s Beginners Kit
- YMC Kid’s Electric Guitar Pack
- SmartXChoices Kid’s Mini
- Best Choice Products Jr Size Starter Kit
Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar
- A DiMarzio hum bucking DP103 PAF 36th Anniversary neck pickup and DP100 Super Distortion bridge pickup deliver legendary tone
- A modern "c" shaped neck and a 24" scale length give you a comfortable feel and smooth playability
- Accessories include a black textured vinyl hard-shell case and an exclusive Fender Kurt Cobain book with photos and commentary by Charles Peterson and an insightful interview with Nirvana guitar tech...
If you’re an adult with smaller hands, you still deserve to play a real guitar with a few modifications that makes it easier for you wield. Mods like a 24″ scale length, a modified C shape neck for easier neck action, and body contours for comfort – this sounds like a Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar to us.
Yep – it’s a pricey guitar, but if you’ve got some awesome talent despite your paw size, you’ll appreciate the quality in this Jaguar. Quality like Gotoh tuners, a bound fretboard, and PAF and Super Distortion humbuckers. Are you picking up what we’re putting down? Small hands? Not a problem.
But, we have other guitars for your smallish mitts that don’t cost nearly as much as the famed Jag. We can prove that not all guitars made for petite hands fall into the kid’s category.
Other Good Guitars for Small Handed Adults:
Best Electric Guitar for Your Playing Style
As your skills improve and you master techniques specific to your favorite music genre, you’ll want to look for the components of a guitar that would help you further your talent. Some guitars are outfitted for heavy metal or soulful blues while others have a more versatile platform to play any genre you think you can strum out. To help filter out the process faster and according to genre, look no further.
Guild Starfire V
- Arched Laminated Mahogany Top and Back, Laminated Mahogany Sides
- 3 Piece Neck (mahogany/maple/mahogany) with Indian Rosewood Fingerboard
- Guild Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Rosewood Base and Guild Vibrato Tailpiece
It’s not the original Starfire V, but it’s a hell of a lookalike done extremely well. It’s also why it’s pricier than many other quality bluesy guitars. It’s a semi-hollow body guitar with a center block running through it, f holes, and an arched top and back. To achieve those bluesy harmonics, the 3-piece mahogany/maple/mahogany neck has a 9.5″ rosewood fretboard best suited for chord grabbing.
It has some iconic hardware to boot starting with the Guild Little Buckers pickups to shape those blues, jazz, and even rock tones. Grover Sta-Tite tuners and a bone nut sit at the headstock, and if you’ve always wanted a Bigsby on a 335-inspired guitar, you got it with the Guild Vibrato Tailpiece. It’ll be the best blues guitar you’ll every buy when you add a whole lot of soul and passion to your playing – if you can afford it.
Other Blues Guitars to Consider:
Gretsch Streamliner G2420T Hollow Body
- Body shape: Single cutaway
- Body type: Hollow body
With the Gretsch Streamliner hollow body guitar, you can get both the authentic and organic sound of an acoustic and project and further shape your sound with its Broad’Tron BT-2S humbuckers when plugged in. With the Streamliner, you have a versatile, rhythmic platform to play with those jazzy, warm tones that pairs so well with the sax.
It’s made from maple with parallel bracing under the hood, nato set-neck, Laurel fretboard, and body binding. It fits the vintage theme with its Bigsby B60 tailpiece, vintage-style control knobs, nickel hardware, and Streamliner body shape with a single cutaway.
With a thin U neck and 12″ fingerboard radius, you can work the neck in any which way your jazzy heart leads you. To stand out on stage, this guitar has a shim shimmery Golddust gloss finish. You don’t have to have jazz hands to appreciate this guitar – just classy taste.
Other Great Jazz Guitars to Consider:
- Ibanez AG75BS Artcore Hollow Body
- Ibanez AS53TKF Semi Hollow Body
- Squier by Fender Affinity Jazzmaster HH
- Epiphone Les Paul Special II
- Grote 335 Jazz
Ibanez RG Prestige RG652AHM
- 5-piece maple/walnut "Super Wizard High Performance" neck
- Ash body, bound birdseye maple fingerboard
- Black dot inlay
Ibanez and metal have been synonymous terms for ages. The RG Prestige RG652 allows you to do it all with its compound radius fretboard, Super Wizard HP neck, and high-end hardware. DiMarzio humbuckers get the honor of being the pickups of choice for the Japanese made guitar with an Air Norton at the neck and The Tone Zone humbucker at the bridge, and there’s a coil tap to split the humbuckers. Hot, powerful, and articulate would be the best description of its sound.
While there’s no Floyd Rose on this guitar, Ibanez puts their version on board with the Edge Tremolo Bridge that comes complete with locking studs. Tonewoods are A-class with the body made from ash, the 5-piece neck from maple and walnut, and a fretboard made from Birdseye Maple. Further justifying its high cost is the included hardshell case to protect your investment.
Other Shred Metal Guitars to Consider:
- Dean Michael Batio MAB1 Speed of Light
- Fender Jim Root Telecaster
- Dean Razorback Cemetery Gates
- Fender Meteora
- ESP LTD KH-602 Kirk Hammett
Fender American Professional Stratocaster
- Body Body shape: Double cutaway Body type: Solid body Body material: Solid wood Top wood: Not applicable Body wood: Alder, Ash on Sienna Sunburst Body finish: Gloss Polyurethane Orientation: Right...
- Often copied, but never surpassed, the Stratocaster is arguably the world’s most-loved electric guitar
- Electrifying the music world since its debut in 1954, its natural, versatile sound made the Stratocaster the benchmark for exceptional guitar tones
It should come as no surprise that a Fender would make an excellent rock guitar. But, this isn’t just any Fender guitar, it’s an American Professional Stratocaster. It’s pretty new to the market, but it definitely has the DNA to be the best all round electric guitar – ever. . . It’s a Strat after all. Yep – you have a 25.5″ scale length, a maple neck with a modified Deep C shape, and a real bone nut.
Sitting on the body are V-Mod single-coil pickups. It’s nuts because they seem to be a mishmash of magnet blends put together, stuck here, and put there. Or, were they intentionally designed this way? Nothing is ever done by accident, and the unique, Tim Shaw-designed pickups can scream, roar, and pull off tones needed for playing clean. Oh yeah, further adding to that potential migraine you’re trying to cause in the crowd is a treble bleed circuit – that’ll come in handy!
Other Good Rock Guitars to Consider:
Best Electric Guitar Brands
There have been numerous guitar brands that have come and gone, seen their heyday, and have relied on big name manufacturers to pump out their production line. But, the ones we see that come up the most have every reason to sit on top as the authority of guitar making. Their reputation has been earned over the decades, quality proven regardless of where they’re made, and their guitars have been man handled by the world’s best guitarists that have stomped and jazzed their footprint in history.
These are the electric guitar brands that have an undisputed right to be praised yesterday, today, and forevermore.
Grover Jackson birthed the Charvel brand most esteemed for its epic shredders in the metal heyday of the late ’70s and into the ’80s. They hit a quiet spell as all things shred-like took a spot in the back seat, but it was fated that they return with a thundering presence to bring back the distinctive “muscle car” guitars the brand is known for. High-end, hard-core, and high performing is what this brand stands for. There’s no such thing as half-baked quality when it comes to Charvel.
Charvel Pro-Mod DK 24 HH
- Alder Body with Quilt Maple top; Bolt-On 2pc. Maple Neck w/Graphite Reinforcement
- 25.5" Scale Length; 12"-16" Compound Radius Fingerboard with 24 Jumbo Frets and Dot Inlays
- Seymour Duncan Full Shred SH-10B (bridge) and Seymour Duncan Jazz SH-2Nl & No-Load Tone Circuit
The Pro-Mod Dinky 24 is the perfect example of Charvel’s legacy. It’s one of the newest electric guitars to hit the market, and it stands apart from the metal crowd with its Snow White finish that is a refreshing change from all the black and translucent ones out there. However, it’s not by any means as princessy as its finish may suggest. Looking past its fairy-tale color, you’ll discover this guitar has some hardcore features designed to get aggressive with.
Seymour Duncan Full Shred and Jazz humbuckers promise high-gain and high output. The Floyd Rose 1000 double locking bridge promises extreme dive bombing made to be tested to the limits. The compound radius, shredder’s cut heel, and speed neck shape promise rapid and breakneck shredding speed. Metal guitars have a lot to live to up to, but it’s been realized in this Dinky 24.
Once upon a time, Epiphone was Gibson’s archrival – true story. Nowadays, Epiphone pumps out affordable, entry-level guitars that quickly rise to the top among beginners and even veteran players. Many of their guitars are modeled after high-end Gibson classics and are highly desired because they can legitimately use Gibson specs to create the affordable versions.
On that note, every once and a while the most popular electric guitars from the brand pose a threat to Gibson’s sales, and they can’t have that now can they? If you think you’re compromising with this brand, you’re dead wrong. Epiphone is a brand that’s a friend to everyone with real budgets and with real demands in quality.
Epiphone Les Paul Special II
- Mahogany body
- 700T Humbucker pickups
- Rosewood fretboard
You can bet your money is well spent with a guitar that’s been highly rated and ranked by the masses, and we mean by the hundreds. The Les Paul Special II is budget friendly indeed but it’s no budget guitar. As a Les Paul classic, it has the single cutaway, 24.75″ scale length, and a 1960s SlimTaper D neck profile.
It’s made with Okoume tonewoods, a rosewood fretboard, and nickel hardware. The Les Paul Special II keeps things simple with a Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar providing long-lasting sustain and easy string replacement. Epiphone humbuckers keep tonal balance in check meaning you get decent output without it getting too hot and muddy.
It doesn’t matter if this guitar is for a beginner or intended as a solid platform for further modifications – everyone needs, no, everyone deserves a Les Paul.
- Epiphone Les Paul Special II LTD Player Pack
- Epiphone SG Junior Player Pack
- Epiphone Les Paul SL Starter Pack
- Epiphone Limited Edition 1961 G-400 Pro
- Epiphone SG Special
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro
- Epiphone ES-335 Pro
With the Stratocaster and Telecaster having dominated the market for decades, Fender has played an instrumental part in history of helping to shape music genres that continue to evolve. And, while many of their guitar series sport cutting-edge and modern features, they’ve also managed to maintain vintage elements that invoke the classics of yesteryear.
Fender is no doubt a brand the world watches. When they take away something tried and true, we probe into what they release as new. Fender has the reputation of setting the standard, and after giving the globe the best electric guitar in the world, the Stratocaster, they’ve earned it.
Fender Player Stratocaster
- Alder Body with gloss finish
- Three player Series single-coil Stratocaster pickups
- Modern C"-Shaped neck profile
The Player Stratocasters are brand new to the Fender family, and they proudly sport MIM (Made In Mexico) status. This model is the crème de la crème of the series maybe because of its Buttercream finish. But, it shares the redesigned contours, modern C shape neck, and 2-point tremolo bridge that allows for height adjustment that all the Players have.
The pickups were also specifically designed for this line with Alnico V magnets set in the S-S-S configuration. An extra fret was squeezed into the Strat scale length bringing the total to 22 frets – an added touch from the previous 21 of the discontinued Standard series. With upgrades here and there, attention to detail, and Fender quality under its belt, this guitar is set for success.
- Fender Jim Root Telecaster
- Fender Meteora
- Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster
- Fender American Professional Stratocaster 3-Color Sunburst
- Fender American Professional Stratocaster Olympic White
- Fender American Performer Stratocaster
- Fender American Performer Telecaster
- Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster
- Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster
- Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar
Gibson. Usually that’s all that needs to be said to inspire awe, wonder, and even jealousy from your peers. The Les Paul is by far the leading alpha of the Gibson pack – made in the USA with the highest craftsmanship you can expect, and of course, sporting a price tag that will forever be out of your budget.
But, it doesn’t take away from the majesty of the brand, and that’s because Gibson tone cannot be duplicated. When the king sets the trend for the day, all other brands swiftly follow behind. Why? Because Gibson royally delivers the best electric guitars of all time.
Owned by Fender, outpeered by none. Gretsch is everything rock ‘n roll and jazz, and it’s why they’re famous for their semi-hollow and hollow body guitars. You know the saying, “That great Gretsch sound.” It wasn’t by chance that the jingle stuck, it’s the fact that they’ve been doing what they do best for over a century that their catchphrase has some depth – it’s earned.
While their guitars are elegant and beautiful, there’s more to them than what meets the eye. After all, that great Gretsch sound must sound better than good if its reputation spans over the course of two lifetimes.
Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT
- Solidbody Electric Guitar with Mahogany Body
- 2 Humbucking Pickups - Black
- Walnut Fingerboard
The Electromatic Series is the most popular and well-recognized line of guitars from the brand as they sport entry-level price tags in trade for quality and “that great Gretsch sound.” This model is fairly new to the Electromatic collection, but it brings with it upgrades that makes it a versatile guitar. It’s a chambered mahogany guitar with a maple top and slim 1.85″ body depth. Scale length is 24.6″ – true to form for the Electromatics.
The Black Top Broad’Tron humbuckers are an upgrade that can handle dirty, distorted playing but can also dish out articulate notes for clean and crisp tones. You even have a treble bleed circuit to keep hold of the high-end when you come on down, and with a thin U neck profile and 12″ fingerboard radius, you can practically do anything you like on this neck.
It turns out the Gretsch sound is really anything that lets you express your voice – Electromatic style.
- Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club Black
- Gretsch G5426 Electromatic Jet Club Silver
- Gretsch Streamliner G2420T Hollow Body
Ibanez was once under the microscope for their classic, American copies, but today they’re known for their many signature artist guitars, hard rock and heavy metal shredders, and even their affordable models that often rank in at the top. Truth be told, Ibanez is a brand that caters to all budgets and genres. With Japanese roots, they already have the deck stacked in their favor as craftsmanship is revered and innovation is at its best.
Now a household name among guitar aficionados, an Ibanez guitar is a guitar worth owning, and they provide some healthy competition to other big-name brands.
Ibanez RG GIO GRX70QA
- Fast, slim Maple neck
- Beautiful quilted Maple art grain top
- High output Infinity R pickups
We’re obligated to feature the guitar that gets bought out the most, and it’s no surprise why once you see the wallet-friendly price tag. While Ibanez can certainly deliver the quality and craftsmanship that demands a good chunk of your savings, their entry-level, budget model has satisfied the masses in a way that’s undeniable.
The RG GIO GRX70QA is very popular, and it’s often a guitar that’s sought after by beginner players and those on a strict budget. To get a brand name guitar in this price range is hard to come by, but Ibanez has you covered. The Transparent Red Burst finish and New Zealand Pine fretboard are exotic touches.
The ceramic magnet H-S-H pickups have high output, are responsive, and will work to get you heard through heavy mixes. Beginners can even try their hand at the whammy bar with the floating tremolo bridge. Playable, sounds good, cheap in price, and brand name – that’s Ibanez looking out for ya.
- Ibanez RG GIO GRX20Z
- Ibanez JEMJR Steve Vai Signature
- Ibanez miKro GRGM21BKM
- Ibanez RG421
- Ibanez ArtCore AG75BS Hollow Body
- Ibanez ArtStar AS53TKF Semi Hollow Body
- Ibanez ArtStar AS53
- Ibanez RG Prestige RG652AHM
Luthier Paul Reed Smith knows what it means to produce quality guitars even if there is a somewhat limited inventory compared to other big-name brands. It’s because luxury, innovation, high-end craftsmanship, and true figured maple tops are hard to come by. They’re seen as one of the classiest guitar brands on the planet, and when they sky-rocketed to fame, they came out with affordable models that may still reach past your budget limits.
They don’t pretend to be anything but the best when it comes to their expertise because they’re often seen as the best. When you see what PRS carefully pumps out from their state-of-the-art factory, you’ll agree.
PRS SE Standard
- Body wood: mahogany
- Neck wood: Maple
- Fretboard wood: rosewood
If there’s a PRS guitar that you may be able to pull the trigger on, it’s this one, the SE Standard. Affordable and yet deceiving at the same time. With quality features and performance beyond its price tag, you should recognize you’re landing genuine PRS quality for a steal. This model is designed for the learning guitarist who values longevity and ultimate playability.
With a wide thin neck made from maple, a solid body from mahogany, and fretboard from rosewood, it has the foundational features of a rock guitar. Combine these tonewoods with a PRS patented tremolo bridge, 85/15 “S” humbuckers, and coil splitting, and you have an electric guitar roaring to go. Base model or not – it’s a PRS. You’ve gotta have it.
If you have a thing for the dark side, welcome to Schecter. Having dabbled in providing replacement parts for the likes of Gibson and Fender, Schecter Guitar Research has riffed their own path to success in the guitar business. They produce some of the best looking guitars with sound to match that you’ll ever find.
Although known for their favoritism towards the heavy metal genre, you can bet you’ll find a guitar with appointments needed for your style of playing. Beware though, this brand is high-end and incredibly seductive. You may find yourself attracted to its edgy fashion and may come crawling back for more.
Schecter Omen 6
- Pearloid Semi Goth Inlays
- Basswood Body
- Rosewood Fretboard. Neck Material:Maple
Classy and yet ominous are the best words to describe the Omen 6. It’s blacked out, but it has subtle appointments that add some character to its dark pneuma. Appointments like the ivory body binding and gothic style inlays. Although you may not be able to tell, this guitar has an arch top with tonewoods made from basswood, maple, and rosewood.
But, this isn’t a brooding guitar by any means. Equipped with Schecter’s Diamond Plus humbuckers, it rings out in rock glory with warmth, clarity, and even bite. It features a TOM bridge with string-thru-body system, and a Graph Tech Tusq nut sits at the top overlooking all the action that happens on the smooth, thin C neck. Shred on the Omen 6 if you dare, and you just may be able to foresee what omens are in store for you.
- Schecter Hellraiser C-1
- Schecter Hellraiser C-7 Floyd Rose
- Schecter Damien Platinum 7
- Schecter 430 C-6 Deluxe
Squier has roots in the instrument industry dating back into the 19th century, but they didn’t release their own line of guitars until their parent company, Fender, ignited that spark in 1982. Since then, their production line has evolved to producing classic Fender models at a much lower cost. Like Epiphone is to Gibson, Squier is a brand that’s well-known for its inexpensive guitars, beginner packages, and Fender copies made with Fender specs.
They’re often the go-to brand of choice when value and budget are the primary needs when you’re just starting out to play the guitar.
Squier by Fender Affinity Telecaster
- Maple neck with "C"-shaped profile
- Maple fingerboard
- Vintage-style single-coil Telecaster pickups with three-way switching
The Affinity Telecaster is a classic in itself as it’s modeled after the Fender Telecaster but with affordability in mind. As a first-time buy, it focuses on playability and ease for the beginner player. A Top-Load Telecaster bridge couldn’t be easier to make string replacements with, the C shape neck is smoothly finished with a satin layer, and there are 21 frets for the beginner to get acquainted with.
But, even though it’s a good guitar for children and newbies, it has real guitar appointments that provide that Fender sound that players of all skill levels will appreciate. The bridge has six individually adjustable saddles so you can learn to intonate the guitar yourself. There are two single-coil pickups that are modeled to imitate the vintage tones of a Telecaster, and even the headstock and single cutaway body shape looks like that of the original Telecaster.
It may not be the OG model, but it looks and sounds like one without the hefty price tag.
Yamaha is a household name because they dabble in a little bit of everything from dirt bikes to lawn mowers including multiple types of instruments. While they’re well-known to producing various types of products, they’ve been in the guitar-making industry since the early 1940s. Their acoustic guitars are a well-known hit in the market, and their electric guitars are worthy of notice.
They produce entry-level guitars as well some higher-end models within their series, but they’re a more affordable brand that offers value and brand name hardware on their guitars. It’s obvious they know what they’re doing, and it explains why they’ve been able to carve out a permanent spot for themselves in the music business.
Yamaha Pacifica PAC611VFM
- Solid Alder Body with a Flamed Maple Top
- Maple Neck with Tinted Finish & Rosewood Fingerboard
- Wilkinson VS50-6 Bridge
This intermediate model is a perfect example of Yamaha quality at its best. This guitar is part of the Pacifica series that’s designed to provide ultimate playability and outstanding tone. To get an idea of what you can do with this Pacifica, let’s look at the specs.
With a body shape modeled after a Super Strat, it has long horns and a 25.5″ scale length. The body is made from alder and is capped with a Flame Maple top. When looking for brand name hardware, you don’t have to look very far. A Graph Tech Tusq nut, Grover locking tuners, Wilkinson VS50 bridge, and Seymour Duncan Alnico V pickups make up the guitar.
Usually these features are what advanced players choose to modify their guitars with, and yet, the Pacifica already has them. With no reason to mod the guitar and no reason to overspend, you now have every reason to own it.
- Yamaha GigMaker PAC012
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC012 Deluxe
- Yamaha RevStar RS320
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V
- Yamaha RevStar RS820CR
Best Looking Electric Guitars
Cool Electric Guitars
We saved this section for the coolest and best-looking electric guitars, and it takes some big cahunas to pull off the confidence needed to wield them. Shy guy? Let your guitar be an outward expression of what’s boiling deep inside. Natural extrovert? It’s an obligation to be seen with a wild and fierce guitar that compliments your gregarious personality. Either way, these expressive guitars are not for the faint of heart.
Dean Razorback Cemetery Gates
- Mahogany Razorback-style body with Cemetery Gates graphics
- 24-3/4-inch scale, 22-fret set mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard and custom inlays
- Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker and Dean humbuckers with two volume controls, tone, and three-way toggle
It looks more like gothic wall décor than it does an actual, functional instrument, but wait until you hear it scream as it’s every bit capable of raising the dead. Just because it looks preternatural, it doesn’t mean it’s without solid guitar quality. A Floyd Rose Special bridge, Grover tuners, and monster pickups make up the hardware on this distinctive electric guitar.
Just its graphic finish should clue you into the fact that this guitar has some high output and unparalleled humbuckers meant to shake the earth and bring down roof tops. The bridge pickup is made by Seymour Duncan and designed by Dimebag Darrell – the metal head this guitar is a tribute to.
You won’t need to wear a razor blade like Dimebag does because it’s already sitting at the 12th fret. There are few guitars that can make as big a statement as this one. The question is, do you have the guts to own it and rock with it?
Other Crazy Looking Electric Guitars:
- Dean Michael Batio MAB1 Speed of Light
- EVH Striped Series 5150
- Dean Custom Zone
- Traveler Guitar Vaibrant Deluxe V88X
Buying Guide: How to Choose an Electric Guitar
Buying an electric guitar is a personal experience as everything is based on player preference. If you already know what you want out of a guitar, you can make a beeline to the features that’ll compliment your playing style. However, if you have an idea of what you want but you can’t quite put your thumb on what specific features or what ground you need to cover, this buying guide is for you.
From the basics to the hottest electronics, we’ll make an informed buyer out of you yet.
Since you’re the one that must explain the charge on the credit card statement, we highly recommend that you set a reasonable budget. A budget also narrows down the guitars you must sift through to consider as potential buys. So, how much are you willing to spend?
Well, how much you’re willing to spend is very different to how much may be needed. You must muse over these questions to determine what price points can be justified.
- Who are you buying a guitar for?
- Is it a first-time buy for learning and practicing?
- Do you need a guitar to perform and record with?
- Are you looking to play with a specific music genre in mind?
- What is your skill level?
- Do you have or need electric guitar gear that includes an amp and case?
It’s perfectly acceptable and even recommended that younger and beginner players start off with package bundles and with cheaper guitars. However, it’s important to remember the better the guitar, the more likely they will stick with it and continue learning to play. Nothing encourages and inspires continued learning more than a good-sounding and highly playable guitar.
Skilled players are often looking for an upgrade or a guitar that they can further modify to customize it to their specs. This calls for a guitar with higher quality, excellent craftsmanship, and more attention to tonewoods and hardware. As expected, these types of guitars will cost more.
But, there’s more to include in the budget than just the guitar. You must be prepared to do some setup. High-end guitars can come ready to play from the shop with maybe a minor adjustment needed here or there. However, inexpensive and entry-level guitars are notorious for needing more setup work to get it playable and pleasing to the ears. Frets may need to be smoothed down, intonation done, strings replaced, and truss rod adjustments to lower the action. If you’re not skilled to do this yourself, you’ll need to pay for this service to be done.
If you don’t already have some gear, you’ll also need to set aside a budget for it. Even intermediate and advanced players may need to upgrade their amp to match their new high-end buy. An extra, high-quality cable is always a must-have, and an accurate and dependable tuner can make all the difference for a beginner.
Since you’re the one that’s been diligently putting aside a bit of cash here and there, we did you a favor and amassed the best electric guitars at multiple price points that will fit your budget. How much are you willing to spend? Well, have you figured out how much you need to get playing?
Just like judging a book by its cover, we tend to judge guitars by what they look like, how shiny they are, and how devilish they appear – guilty as charged! There’s no denying that a glossy finish, quilt maple top, and exaggerated horns will spark some excitement. It’s why there are flashy guitars with outrageous graphics and why the same model guitar comes in 4-10 different colors, and why we all look to what type of inlays it has.
We can’t deny our right to pick a guitar we’re attracted to even if it is by appearance alone. So, we may as well take the chance to educate you about different aesthetic features if you’re going to be as shallow as we are, but we’ll save body shape for its own section.
Few pay attention to the finish on the guitar body, but what they don’t know is that it can muffle tone and diminish resonance and sustain. But, the purpose of a finish is to protect the guitar and provide an attractive and beautiful appeal. Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over what finish comes on a guitar, but here are the two most common types to expect.
- Nitrocellulose – Often used by Fender and Gibson and popular for vintage and expensive guitars. It doesn’t cure, so it won’t seal the porous nature of tonewood allowing it to behave in a more natural and organic way when it comes to vibration and resonance.
- Polyurethane – Extremely durable and hard. When applied, it dries quickly and is the preferred choice of finish for most manufacturers. It’s what we recognize as the glossy, glassy, and smooth finish to the guitar body.
You may love the guitar but can’t stand the headstock shape. There are even “headless” guitars that completely lack a headstock if you wanted to go to that extreme. But, even though we all know its purpose is to house the machine heads, we still give a care about what it looks like, and so do manufacturers as this is where they stamp their name.
As to its appearance, it’s usually a manufacturer-specific design, so it will be different across the board. Fender likes their curved 6-in line profiles, Gibson, PRS, ESP, and Dean incorporate the 3+3 headstocks, and Ibanez, Jackson, and some ESP guitars sport the pointed headstock. But, further than just its profile is its construction: straight and angled. Here’s what you need to know.
- Straight – This is where the fretboard and headstock are in line with each other, no angles, and usually the neck and headstock are constructed from this one piece of wood. Straight headstocks are strong, cost-effective, favored by Fender, but they often need the help of string trees to keep the strings in the nut from coming out.
- Angled – The headstock is set between a 3-25-degree angle from the flat surface of the neck. Gibson likes their angled headstocks. The angle provides improved string stability within the nut due the downward pressure. However, it’s an expensive feature.
Some guitars are decked out with a detailed graphic to add to its aesthetic appeal like the Dean Michael Batio MAB1 Speed of Light guitar. Others stamp their logos on the guitar, decorative control knobs like on the Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club, and they even use the pickguard to provide an added flair like with the Gretsch G5426 Electromatic Jet Club Silver.
Body Shapes & Types
There are three types of electric guitars with the solid body being the most common. They’re made with a solid slab of wood, although some can come “capped” with a different top wood. To project sound, they rely solely on being plugged in. They’re often the most versatile electric guitars because they can be played for any genre and most playing styles. The neck, hardware, and pickups will further determine what you can do on it and how you can shape sound.
Semi-hollow & Hollow Body
These guitars provide both resonance and plugged-in capabilities. They’re easily recognizable by their f-holes that are essentially sound holes. However, both types are susceptible to producing feedback when connected to an amp. To minimize this, the semi-hollow body is constructed with a center block running through the body, but it’s also been said to provide a snappier attack and response tonally.
Now, to the shape. There are three guitar types that will always come to the forefront when pondering what type of guitar is right for you, respectively: Les Paul, Stratocaster, and Telecaster. Sure, there will always be variants out there, but we’ll always raise an eyebrow and see the similarities that stem back to the dominant body styles that Fender and Gibson have given us.
The Les Paul is famously one of the most versatile electric guitars in the world and is highly revered and respected as a high-end instrument that helped to forge much of the music styles we have today. Recognizable by its single cutaway, 24.75″ scale length, 2x humbuckers, TOM bridge and stopbar tailpiece, 3+3 headstock, and solid mahogany body with a maple top. There are many copies of the Les Paul, but Gibson and Squier own the specs. Others can try to copy, but there will never be a legitimate duplicate.
Looking for ways to one-up the competition couldn’t have paid off more when Leo Fender stepped outside of the box to design the Stratocaster in the ’50s. Too cool, full of attitude, and incredibly rockin’. A 25.5″ scale length, double cutaways to allow the thumb access to the higher frets, 6-inline string tuners, 3x single-coil pickups, and the tremolo bridge is what sets the trend.
Designed prior to the release of the Strat, it was known by another name. But, putting its murky history behind, the Telecaster comes in with country twang as the alternative to the rock ‘n roll Stratocaster. It has a single cutaway, 2x single-coil pickups, and it originally featured an “ashtray” bridge with three saddles. Designed as a simple guitar for the working man’s budget, the Tele shape is still strongly associated with the Fender brand.
Then there’s the Super Strat and the SG body styles that follow close behind these dominant three. Furthermore, signature artist guitars sport their own variants and body contours. You may be attracted to a certain style of guitar, or you can always check out what other brands are coming up with these days.
The neck is where all the action happens. It must be strong, smooth, and playable. But, of course, it’s not easy to identify if a neck is all these things just by looking at it.
Shape refers to the profile of the back side of the neck where you cradle it with your palm and maybe with your thumb if you play like that. Manufacturers assign a C, D, U, or V to give you an idea as to how its shaped. However, there is no industry standard, but manufacturers tend to stick to the same guidelines when using these letters to describe the neck. The only problem with the letter system is the fact that it doesn’t take width into consideration.
So, you’ll see terms such as modified C, deep, thin, wide, and fat to further explain its shape. The C shape and its variations usually pairs well with beginners. Thinner necks are desired for their sleek profile that allows for rapid action. Thicker necks, perhaps like the U shape, work well for longer fingers and larger hands.
Bolt-on necks are the industry standard. They’re cost-effective to produce, easier to repair or replace, and are strong. While they’re mostly associated with inexpensive guitars, you’ll see high-end models with bolt-on necks. Like all things, it’s all in what wood is used and how it’s done.
Set-necks are considered a mid-range and intermediate feature as they up the ante in strength and durability due to their set-in/glued design into the body of the guitar. They’re also said to produce more sustain and tonal warmth than bolt-on necks.
Neck-thru-body necks are typically a high-end feature because they’re the most labor intensive and expensive type of neck construction. Since they run through the guitar body, they’re strong, but there’s the potential of adding a lot of weight to the overall guitar. Some neck-thru-body necks are made with laminate over a lightweight basswood to shave off some of the poundage.
They’re said to produce a tight low-end response and note articulation that’s especially needed in high-volume mixes, but choice of tonewood and fretboard may help to determine its tonal properties even more. As you may have guessed, if your neck-through neck gets screwed over, your guitar may be screwed.
We’re not going to give a play by play of every available tonewood used on electric guitars as sound is largely subjective regardless of what wood it’s made with. Plus, the pickups can shape and change that sound. But, we’re not saying that tonewood is inconsequential, there’s just more than the choice of wood that contribute to tone.
So, if you’re relying solely on tonewood to produce certain tones you’re after, an acoustic is the guitar for you. But, if you want to maximize tonal properties to swing your sound heavily one way, or if you’re just curious about what your guitar is made with and what possible tones you can expect to mold, here’s a brief rundown of the most commonly used tonewoods to date.
- Alder – favored by Fender, light in color, cost-effective, and has bright mid-range attack and ringing sustain.
- Agathis – relatively new tonewood, light in color, lightweight, and seen on entry-level to mid-range models. Tonally, it’s bright and crisp.
- Basswood – cost-effective, very popular tonewood throughout all price ranges, and is lightweight. It produces warm tones and accentuates the mids.
- Mahogany – dense, strong, and medium weight. Very warm, fat, and mellow sounding, strong in the mids and low-end, and offers excellent resonance.
- Maple – dense, strong, hard, and used for arch tops, necks, and fretboards. It’s bright, articulate, and offers long-lasting sustain.
- Nato – extremely strong, very warm sounding, and is a cost-effective alternative to mahogany.
- Rosewood – hard, dense, and heavy; usually only used for fretboards. It has a tonal variation of sounding warm, and yet bright, at the same time. Excellent response.
When we talk electronics, we mean the pickups. It’s the primary feature that shapes your sound and tone, and your choice of pickup can be the difference between being able to melt brains with high gain or swinging in style to bluesy rhythm.
Single-coil pickups could be described as basic, but we see them as necessary as they provide their own distinct sound that is bright, thin, crisp, clean, and clear. These pickups were used on the first electric guitars and consist of a single wire wrapped around a magnet.
The magnetic field it produces picks up string vibrations and is converted to electronic signals that we hear as sound. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughn come to mind when we hear the distinct voice of a single-coil. But, they are susceptible to humming as they pick up electromagnetic interference in the air.
Humbuckers with their two coils wrapped around a magnet were designed in the ’50s to buck the hum that single-coils experienced. The coils are wrapped in opposing polarity and each coil is a transmitter of two signals: a noise signal to buck the hum and a string vibration signal that produces thicker, warmer tones and higher output. Humbuckers are versatile pickups and can be used for many genres including rock, jazz, and blues.
But, they are especially hot for hard rock and heavy metal. Many guitars with humbuckers come with a coil tap feature that “turns off” one coil so you can achieve single-coil sound.
Active pickups, like EMG, are powered with a 9V battery and incorporate a preamp system to further shape sound. They’re especially popular with metal genres because they have much higher output and can produce highly saturated tones. When pushing distortion to the limits with passive pickups like humbuckers, you risk losing clarity and its hot output ends up sounding muddy through the amp.
Active pickups don’t lose note articulation and they have their own power source, so you’re not driving your amp as hard.
The only way to know which pickups are right for you is to try them out, listen to what tonal ranges they offer, and determine if it fits your playing style. Many guitars come with various pickup configurations identified from the bridge up to the neck positions, for example, S-S-S, H-S-S, H-S-H, S-S, and H-H.
A toggle switch onboard allows you to move between the pickups depending on the sound you want to achieve. Some will allow you to combine coils between the neck and bridge pickups, and some humbuckers with a coil tap can split the coils to pump out single-coil sound.
Hardware does a lot more than just sit and look pretty; they play a vital role. You’ll appreciate quality tuners only after you’ve experienced constant unstable tuning. You’ll appreciate a locking nut and locking bridge every time you pull up from a dive bomb Eddie Van Halen style. You’ll appreciate a correctly slotted nut only after you’ve seen them come out of their grooves. You’ll appreciate smooth and rounded frets after you’ve struggled with fret buzz and roughed up your fingertips on sharp ends.
Get the point?
Most people bash a quality guitar because of some crappy hardware. It’s true, many entry-level models sport trash hardware, but these parts can be upgraded. Most won’t spend the money until they’re fed up with the stock versions, but with a new set of tuners or a properly seated nut, your guitar could be an epic ax. Here’s what you need to know.
Usually stock tuners are nothing fancy. Die-cast, sealed or open, and they do a decent job of keeping the guitar in tune if you’re not getting overly excited with your rhythm. But, then what’s the point if you can’t maximize that beat? Grover and GOTOH are renown brands for providing high gear ratio tuners that keep those stings taut and in tune.
You might also want to look for upgraded manufacturer tuners that are a notch up from stock. If your guitar is coming out of tune more often than it stays in tune, don’t trash the guitar, just get new tuners.
The nut may be small but it’s in charge of a lot. Its grooves hold the strings in place and controls the spacing between each string, determines the distance from the edge of the fingerboard and the height between the strings and fretboard at the first fret. If you’re experiencing fret buzz, high action at the first fret, can’t achieve intonation, or the strings move between the grooves, you’ll likely need to replace the nut. But, what should you replace it with?
They can be made from many types of materials, but bone is the perceived as the best and natural sounding material. Synthetic bone is commonly used on mid-range and intermediate guitars. You’ll recognize this material termed as TUSQ, Micarta, and Corian. Plastic is often seen on entry-level models, metals like brass and steel are used, and graphite is even a popular nut material.
The function of a bridge is to keep those strings in tune and maintain scale length for each individual string as to keep the guitar intonated. Some bridges also allow for string height adjustment where you can raise or lower the height of the strings from the fretboard – this is called “action.” The tailpiece is where the stings end and are held in place. Some models lack a tailpiece on the top of the guitar where the strings go through the body and are held in place.
To keep things simple, there are two common types of bridges you’ll come across – the fixed bridge and the tremolo. The fixed bridge is easier to make string changes with, are said to provide more sustain, and are low maintenance.
The tremolo bridge and its variants require more work to change the strings, but the upside is you get to use a whammy bar. However, tuning issues become a problem as strings are pulled past the nut and/or saddle anchor points. This is what leads to bridges like the Floyd Rose Double Locking bridge that incorporates a locking nut and a locking bridge mechanism. Ibanez and Wilkinson also produce locking bridge systems designed for ultimate tuning stability with heavy whammy bar use.
Expand Your Knowledge – And Your Electric Guitar Collection!
Finding the best electric guitar is a personal process. You may find one that you love today, and when you hear what a pair of different pickups can do to change your sound, you’ll be hitting the market once again. But, there lies the passion to keep on developing your skills, trying out new playing styles, and expanding your guitar collection and knowledge bank.
We can tell you as much as we can about what a guitar sounds like, how it should play, and why it makes a good rock guitar, metal guitar, or a guitar for all genres. But, the real factors that matter are what it sounds like to you and how it feels in your hands.
Finding and creating your unique music signature is up to you. At least now, armed with all this knowledge from our comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to buy informed and well-pleased with what you choose. What are you waiting for? Get playing and let’s hear it!