Is it really possible to say for sure what the best electric guitar is? In our opinion, not really. There are just far too many great guitars out there to narrow it down to a single option. Instead using the collective decades of experience from our writing team we've put together this list based on a long list of factors from price and looks right through to the sound and quality of the hardware.
As you might expect it's left us with quite a hefty list of instruments from every brand including stalwarts like Gibson and Fender right through to modern classics from ESP and PRS. We've aimed to spread out our selections to include instruments for many different styles, so whether you play rock and metal or blues and jazz, you'll find a great electric guitar for your personal preference right here.
At the end of this article, we've included some seriously in-depth buying advice that will answer any burning questions you have if you want to know more before buying. If you just want to see the best electric guitars available today, then keep scrolling.
Best electric guitars: The quick list
Not got the time to endlessly scroll walls of text? Here you'll find our top picks, with links to read more if you want to.
There are loads of different Strat's to pick from, but for us, the Fender American Pro II Stratocaster perfectly straddles the line between tradition and modernity.
Best Les Paul
If you're all about the traditional LP experience then the Gibson Les Paul Standard 60s sets the, err, standard. Classic LP tone with modern playability, this guitar is simply joyous to play.
Packed with premium appointments like a rolled fingerboard and locking tuners, yet reasonably priced, the Fender Player Plus Telecaster can cover a lot of sonic ground.
Mixing stunning looks with an incredibly versatile tonal palette, the PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo is a classy instrument with impeccable build quality.
If you're after something different from your usual Stratocaster or Les Paul-style guitars, the Squier Classic Vibe 60s Jazzmaster has a unique voice all of its own.
Best electric guitars 2023
MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.
Here you'll find the full writeups and reviews of all the best electric guitars available today. Our team of writer's have had hands on experience with many of the products in this list, so you can rely on our recommendations.
There are a lot of different options to pick from when it comes to Stratocaster guitars, but for us, the Fender American Professional II Stratocaster is undoubtedly one of the best. It’s got all the aura of an iconic Strat but adds some fantastic player-centric features that make it stand out from the pack.
This guitar will cover a huge amount of sonic ground thanks to the resonant body and trio of pickups. All of those classic Strat tones are available and we particularly loved the neck pickup on this model, which delivers a huge low-end that sounds phenomenal on the lower strings. It's also available in a HSS model if you want some extra oomph.
There’s an onboard treble bleed circuit so you can retain your high end when you roll off the volume knob and a push-push switch that gives you access to the tasty bridge and neck pickup combination. Add in a rolled fingerboard and deep ‘C’ neck profile, and you have an absolute tone monster of a guitar that’s a joy to play.
Best Les Paul
If you want the traditional LP experience with none of this newfangled weight relief then the Gibson Les Paul Standard 60s is just the ticket. Packed with the mojo of a classic Les Paul, this guitar is a return to form for Gibson after their troubled time messing with their vintage guitars.
The sound of the pickups is absolutely phenomenal, roaring when paired with a tube amp, letting you know just why the LP remains so popular. There’s a lot of variety in the different combinations of pickup and tone pots, and whether you like classic rock, hard rock, or blues, you’ll be able to dial in the perfect sound.
The neck is one of the highlights of the Standard 60s and it comes set up with a nice, low action. The Slim Taper feels relatively flat, with a ‘D’ profile that makes playing feel absolutely rapid. Hand-wired electronics with orange drop capacitors keep things period-correct, and overall it’s just a joy to play.
Read the full Gibson Les Paul Standard 60s review
The Fender Player Plus Telecaster is a fantastic instrument considering the cost, giving you features you’d normally find on instruments much higher up the big F’s ziggurat. As the owner of a Player Plus Tele, we can tell you firsthand that it’s a phenomenal instrument that can cover a lot of ground.
Two of Fender’s noiseless Tele pickups ensure amazing hum-free performance, and this guitar has all of that Tele spank in the bridge position with the thick, dark sound of the neck pickup. It’s got an ace up its sleeve too, pull up the tone knob and you get both pickups in series, giving you a thicker, humbucker-esque sound to add to an already versatile palette.
The neck feels phenomenal with Fender’s trademark ‘C’ profile and medium jumbo frets occupying a perfect middle ground for pretty much any style. It’s a joy to play thanks to the rolled edges of the fretboard and a set of Fender locking tuners that keep it perfectly in tune no matter how hard you play. The Player Plus Tele is a brilliant instrument for any kind of guitarist.
Read the full Fender Player Plus Telecaster review
Now, on the whole, hollowbody guitars can look a little bit outdated. We’ve all seen the super deep Jazz-boxes with floating neck pickups, and, especially if you want to explore the gain channels on your amp, these won’t do. It’s with great pleasure then, that PRS released the SE Hollowbody II Piezo - which can cover the last seven decades’ worth of tones while keeping up with the aesthetic of today’s most popular guitars.
The SE Hollowbody II Piezo combines the natural, rich tone of magnetic pickups with the crisp, acoustic-like punch of a piezo, to provide the player with a vast tonal palette. The piezo is co-designed by PRS and LR Baggs and provides some thoroughly authentic acoustic guitar tones, and the pair of 58/15 S humbuckers take care of the rest. The humbuckers deliver a rich, warm tone which - when combined with the hollow construction of the guitar - can put this SE into the jazz, blues, or rock wheelhouse - depending on the mood.
For those who just want one pickup type or the other, there’s no need to worry. This SE has two outputs - one for the piezo, and the other for the magnetic pickups. If you’re feeling creative, send them to two separate guitar amps or down two different signal paths. Yeah - it’s potentially a wildcard - but the versatility is totally unmatched at this price point.
Read the full PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo review
With its combination of fantastic value for money, stunning looks, and unique tone, the Squier Classic Vibe 60s Jazzmaster is a brilliant offset guitar. Although offsets are primarily used in alternative rock and shoegaze, they’re actually far more versatile than their reputation suggests.
With two Fender-designed single coil pickups, all that jangly guitar tone the Jazzmaster is renowned for is present here. It’s a characterful sound that’s a little thicker than a Strat or a Tele, whilst retaining more clarity than your average humbucker on an LP. When you use the knobs and switches properly, you can dial in some amazing tones with this guitar.
Of course, the single coils are noisy and so are the tremolo and bridge combo, but for us, that’s part of the charm of an offset. The movement of strings below the bridge adds to the overall sound, giving this Jazzmaster a totally different feel from any other guitar you’ll play.
It’s an incredibly simple setup, but the Kramer Baretta Special has been a sleeper hit just because it’s a rock-riffing machine and isn’t ashamed of it. Sometimes it’s nice not to worry about treble bleed circuits or fancy switching systems and just plug in and play. Add in the ridiculously low cost and you’ll soon see why this guitar is so popular.
The single humbucker pickup configuration is simple but delivers a raw and raunchy rock tone with a surprising amount of depth. It’s hot enough to do classic metal guitar tones with loads of presence that begs you for lead work with tapping and pinch harmonics, but it’s pretty good at clean sounds too, thanks to the Mahogany body.
The neck is slim and super fast playing as you’d expect from a guitar with this look, and it comes with a non-locking tremolo to add some pizazz to your playing. Whilst you won’t be able to do crazy dive bombs with the tremolo, the hardware holds its own when it comes to tuning stability and regular playing.
Of course, we could never condense down all the best electric guitars to just six, so here are some more of our favourites for you to peruse. There's a lot! So we've listed them in price order to make it a bit easier to navigate.
The Yamaha Pacifica has long proved a benchmark for quality and specification, and the 112V remains a top guitar for beginners. The 112 is far from fancy and simply concentrates on the bare necessities. Yet the construction is of excellent quality. Trust us, if looked after this will be a guitar for life.
By design, it's an altogether more modern, brighter, and lighter take on a hot-rod Strat. But when we say brighter that doesn't mean overly shrill. In fact, the bridge humbucker will surprise some, it's beefy without being too mid-range heavy, and although the coil-split proves a little bland played clean, with a distortion boost it's a pretty useful gnarly and wiry rhythm voice.
It's good to have the choice too when mixed with the middle pickup - switching between the full and split coil here is subtle but, especially with cleaner 'class A' amp voicings, there's enough character difference to be useable. The solo single-coils impress - plenty of percussion and with a little mid-range beef added from the amp these get you to the correct Texas toneland. The neck and middle combined produce a fine modern Strat-like mix - the added brightness will cut through a multi-effects patch nicely.
Read our full Yamaha Pacifica 112V review
Thomann's own brand Harley Benton guitars have a growing range of electrics that offer seriously impressive spec for the money. Its Fusion ranges of s- and t-style guitars typify that and this is a shining example.
Roasted maple neck, stainless steel frets… Floyd Rose 1000?! We wouldn't expect to see this combination of features on a guitar under £/$1000 but here they are. And the end result dazzles in the playability and build stakes for such a reasonable price point.
The Fusion-II is cast in the modern 'session' guitar mould; versatility and contemporary appointments are the calling cards here rather than any vintage vibe. And it excels at what it sets out to be. But if Floyd Rose trems aren't to your tastes, there are plenty more options to choose from in the Harley Benton Fusion range.
Read the full Harley Benton Fusion-II HH FR Roasted FNT review
The Streamliner concept is simple: to create more affordable Gretsch guitars without losing their specific DNA. Two new Broad'Tron humbuckers are controlled in classic Gretsch style by a three-way toggle selector switch on the bass side shoulder, a master volume on the treble side horn, and then a trio of controls by the treble-side f-hole for individual-pickup volume and master tone.
The G2622's construction gives a different response and resonance to other new releases from Gretsch and, with these pickups, moves further from the Gretsch sound. And while its construction gives it a more solid, or at least ES-335, character, it's a little more airy and less punchy with a softer, squashier tonality.
The beefier pickups certainly don't nail a classic Gretsch tonality - although if that's what you want, the full-size pickups are easy to replace - but they do broaden the sonic potential, especially for more gained styles, while staying close to the classic iconography. If you want a great-value semi-hollow guitar, this is among the best for under $500.
Read our full Gretsch G2622 Streamliner review
The PRS SE range has offered solid, well-built, great-sounding guitars for years now, and the PRS SE Custom 24 2018 is a perfect example. This Korean-built mass of maple, mahogany and rosewood is a classy-looking guitar. It’s a wonderful instrument to play too - PRS's expertise making eye-wateringly expensive guitars is evident from the moment you pick it up.
The bridge, for example, has a noticeably low profile. This makes palm-muting a much more pleasant experience, especially if you’re used to chugging away on a Floyd Rose-style bridge.
A lot has been made of the SE Custom’s pickups; 2017 models added Korean-made versions of the 85/15 pups used on the more expensive American Core line, dubbed “the perfect pickup” by Paul Reed Smith himself. Largely, they live up to that promise; the bridge pickup is capable of some serious chunky metal tones, which retain definition and clarity even at absurd levels of gain.
Spend some time with the SE Custom 24 and you’ll come to realise that there is no stereotype that fits. And therein lies its beauty. It’s not a guitar or a brand that concerns itself with cultivating a popular image; PRS has always favoured more obvious metrics like quality manufacturing, great sounds and classic looks.
Read our full PRS SE Custom 24 review
This pointy-horned devil has its roots so firmly in rock ‘n’ roll that it's hard to separate them. With iconic players such as Angus Young, Tony Iommi, and Derek Trucks relying on the SG to achieve their sound, it's no wonder it's Gibson's most popular model - yes, it really is more popular than a Les Paul.
We have decided to feature the Epiphone version on this list for a few reasons. First of all, for its price point, it's pretty difficult to beat. Working with Gibson's custom shop for this model, the level of finishing is phenomenal. Secondly, and arguably the most important is the sound. We must say, we absolutely loved the mid-range focus of this guitar's sound, with none of the 'honk' some humbucker-equipped guitars suffer from.
The SG is famous for its warm and punchy mid-range, making it a firm favorite for blues, rock, or even metal, and with Epiphone going the extra mile to improve the quality over the last few years, it had to earn a spot among the best electric guitars on this list.
Read the full Epiphone 1961 Les Paul SG Standard review
The Les Paul Prophecy is the latest metal-focused offering from Epiphone. This dark take on the famed single-cut has a rather impressive set of specifications that is sure to please even the most discerning metalhead.
The crowning jewel of this guitar during testing proved to be the Fishman Fluence pickups. As well as offering the bone-crushing high-output needed to make your riffs shake a room, they can also be switched - via push/pull pot - to a vintage PAF sound and even a single-coil, making this a surprisingly versatile guitar.
We must say this guitar has the look to match the impressive tone. The AAA figured maple adds a level of class to the instrument, with the semi-gloss finish completing the metal aesthetic - as well as giving the neck a phenomenal feel.
Introduced in 1987 and discontinued in 1994, the Ibanez RG550 remains the childhood sweetheart of many players. Designed as a mass-appeal version of Steve Vai’s famous JEM777 model, it had character in abundance. For this reboot, Ibanez has skilfully managed to extract the very essence of what was so popular about the original RG550 and piece it back together in a way that enhances its legacy.
The Japanese-made 2018 vintage is, essentially, a masterclass in everything that is good about shred and metal guitars. The neck feels lithe - our hand glided pretty effortlessly, rather than simply moving - while the Edge vibrato is rock-solid and the overall craftsmanship is exemplary. Tonally, the RG550 covers a lot of bases. It always did, despite its pointy appearance, meaning you could comfortably stray into all kinds of genres without too much fuss.
The US-designed V7 bridge humbucker delivers the razor-sharp riff platform you’d hope it would, while the V8 neck ’pup offers a hint of compression at higher gain settings, which levels lead lines nicely. It is, in the best way possible, everything you remembered from the original, and that makes it one of the best shred guitars available today.
Read our full Ibanez RG550 review
The EC-1000ET is an all-mahogany single-cut loaded with an set of EMG 81 and 60 active humbuckers, a comfortably modern neck and a high level of construction quality. Its key selling point, however, is a fitted EverTune bridge - unlike other tuning systems, it doesn't tune your guitar for you or offer altered tunings. Instead, once set and tuned, it simply aims to stay there, thanks to a series of tension-calibrated springs and levers.
We tried everything we could to knock it out of whack: huge, three-step bends, wildly exaggerated string stretching... we even put the guitar into a freezer. It came back perfectly in tune every single time. What's more, a guitar that's perfectly tuned and intonated up and down the neck seems to play much more musically. We're not aware of any tone compromises, either.
The EC sounds as full and aggressive as ever, with the more mellow tones of the neck EMG being pleasantly rounded, and all bereft of any metallic spring clank. If never going out of tune is important to you, this is one of the best electric guitars going.
Read our full LTD EC-1000 EverTune review
It doesn't get much simpler than this - a slab of mahogany with a solitary P-90 pickup drilled directly into the top. It may be basic, but man, does it sound good! Initially designed for students, this no-nonsense guitar quickly became a firm favorite of many rock and punk players.
Despite the limited setup, the new "original collection" Les Paul Junior delivers plenty of retro tones. By simply using the volume or tone controls, you can go from sparkling clean sounds to in-your-face rock tones and everything in between. The 50s neck - although not the most comfortable for everyone - does lend a sense of authenticity to the Les Paul Junior, making it feel remarkably close to a vintage example.
Other features like the vintage white button machine heads and glossy nitro finish also help to make it look like it came straight from the 1950s. So, if you are looking for a simple guitar that gets straight to the point, you could do far worse than the Gibson Les Paul Junior.
Read the full Gibson Les Paul Junior review
Fender's Ultra series arrived in 2019 as a follow-up to its acclaimed Elite models and again successfully balanced innovation with tradition for timeless guitar designs. There's some great upgraded features for here that genuinely enhance the playing experience…
The rear of the Tele Ultra's body is contoured to allow players easy access to the top frets. The 10" to 14" compound radius fingerboard to allow for the lowest possible action above the 12th fret on the modern D neck profile (currently exclusive to this series and deserving of wider use), while still delivering easy chording in the open positions.
The fourth generation of Fender's Ultra Noiseless Vintage single coils feature here - and we felt the tones they offer up were suitably fat, with plenty of clarity - without the hum - and there's the Fender S-1 circuit to switch between series and parallel mode for additional tonal voices.
Other contemporary features include locking tuners and Ultra-exclusive finish options (including the wonderful Texas Tea shown above), but the nod back to the 60s with body binding is most welcome.
Read the full Fender American Ultra Telecaster review
The ES-335 is one of the most beloved electric guitars of all time - and for good reason! Its timeless appearance, effortless playability, and out-of-this-world tone have melted the hearts of every type of guitarist imaginable. From blues enthusiasts to riff-rock connoisseurs, jazz cats, and cowboy chord strummers, everyone loves this larger-than-life semi-hollow.
Gibson's latest ES-335 features everything you'd want from this classic guitar, from a hand-rolled mahogany neck, Gibson's Calibrated T-Type humbucking pickups and hand-wired control assembly, as well as Vintage Deluxe tuners and lightweight Aluminum ABR-1 bridge and stop bar tailpiece.
This guitar delivers bags of vintage styling and tone with modern construction, resulting in one of the best ES-335s Gibson has put out in years. Yes, we are very aware that this is an expensive instrument, but with a guitar this good, it could be the only one you ever need.
The McCarty Model - named after Theodore 'Ted' McCarty, Gibson's president during its 1950s to 1960s heyday and, much later, 'mentor' to Paul Reed Smith - originally appeared in the early 1990s and was the company's first attempt at a more vintage-informed guitar. It takes its name, primarily, from its scale length of 24.594 inches. However, the focus of the 594 is not just that scale length but a desire to recreate, as closely as possible, the 'holy grail' of vintage Gibson tone - a 1959 Sunburst, but in a modern double-cut guitar.
A change comes, to our ears, with the pickups, which are PRS's latest date-series 58/15 humbuckers but with an 'LT' (Low Turns) suffix, which on a meter shows the bridge unit to have a lower DC resistance than the standard McCarty's 58/15, although the neck pickup seems virtually identical. The four-control layout (the first PRS double-cut guitar to use it) possesses the classic LP setup and feels immediately comfortable to any player used to the much-copied Gibson layout.
Full humbucking, or with the partial coil splits engaged, full volume, half volume, tones rolled off - not to mention the shades with both pickups on - there's not a duff sound that we can find. Dynamic, expressive - it purrs, it roars, it's one of the best high-end electric guitars.
Read our full PRS McCarty 594 review