Buying a guitar online
Concerned about buying a guitar online without playing it first? You needn’t be. Online music instrument retailers like Thomann, Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend offer hassle-free returns as standard, so you can purchase a guitar, play it in the privacy of your home and send it back if it's not right. Most offer between 30-45 days to return an item, as long as it’s in original condition.
Finding the best electric guitar for you is a very personal choice. After all, there are countless shapes and sizes to choose from, all of which suit different musical genres and goals. Then, of course, you have to consider your budget at this time and what that amount of money will buy you.
In our expert guide to electric guitars, we've recommended a host of options across several key price points. These cover every base from beginner guitarists through to gigging musicians and experts, giving all of you tons of inspiration when it comes to finding your first or next electric guitar.
In addition to this round-up of the very best electric guitars in the world right now, we have also split our expert recommendations down further by price point. So you can also choose to check out the best budget electric guitars and the top electric guitars under £/$1,000.
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You'll find a wide selection of the most highly rated instruments from our rigorous reviews, ensuring that whichever electric guitar you pick, it will provide years of faithful service and great tone, whether you're playing at home or taking your guitar to the stage or into the studio.
From the best Fender Telecasters or Stratocasters to the greatest semi-hollow, shred and guitars for metal, no matter what kind of music you play, we've got you covered with this pro round-up of the best electric guitars.
What is the best electric guitar right now?
Beginners and those on a budget should consider Yamaha's Pacifica 112V. With classic double-cut looks and the company's renowned build quality, Pacificas have long been a go-to instrument for those seeking quality on a tight budget, making it our best electric guitar choice for newcomers and those on smaller budgets.
If you're after authentic classic rock tones, opt for something from the big players – and that means either Fender or Gibson. The Fender Player Stratocaster is a great all rounder for vintage and modern single-coil tones alike. And Epiphone (Gibson's budget brand)'s Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro adds contemporary spice to a classic recipe.
Choosing the best electric guitar for you
Investing in a new electric guitar? We've got your back with a few essential hints and tips to steer you in the right direction and help you buy the best electric guitar for you...
Here's the most important choice you'll face: humbuckers or single coil pickups? Very generally, humbuckers have less top end and are suited to heavier styles. Check out Epiphone's Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro and PRS's SE Custom 24.
Fender's Stratocaster and Telecaster models are perhaps the best known single coil-equipped guitars ever. Try the Fender Player Stratocaster for funky vibes or the Vintera Telecaster for fuller-bodied rhythm and biting country twang tones.
Think also about body shape. Planning to hone your shred chops? Deep double-cuts in the body will help with top fret access – both the Ibanez RG550 and Charvel's Pro-Mod DK24 HSS should be on your shortlist of the best electric guitars for you.
A locking trem is near essential if you give your guitar's wang bar regular aggressive abuse. But what if it's not really your thing? Take a look at the LTD EC-1000 on our list. Equipped with EverTune, it keeps strict tuning with a fixed bridge design.
Some body shapes cry out to be played a certain way. Gibson's ES-335 Figured screams blues and blues-rock. And Gretsch's G2622 Streamliner is one of the best alternatives to an ES-335 if you're on a budget.
Finally, we'll stress the caveat that these are general guidelines. You can make any guitar work for you, whatever style you play – and the history of rock is littered with players going against the grain with their chosen guitar. The choice is yours!
So, are you ready to find the best electric guitar for your playing style, the music you mostly play and the budget you're working with? Then let's dive in and take a look at these seriously awesome axes right now...
The best electric guitars to buy now
1. Fender Player Stratocaster
Fender's entry-level Strat delivers serious value for money
Launch price: $674 / £559 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple/pau ferro (dependent on finish) | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 3x Player Series Alnico 5 Strat Single-Coil | Controls: Volume, neck and middle tone, bridge tone, 5-way pickup selector | Hardware: 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with bent steel saddles | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Buttercream, 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Polar White, Sage Green Metallic, Sonic Red, Tidepool
This latest mid-priced take on Fender's pride and joy features an updated two-point vibrato design, plus three new Alnico V single coils. The satin neck provides a slick playing experience, while there’s little to fault with the build quality other than some slightly jerky tuners.
There’s a hugely usable set of tones across the five-way selector, which recall Fender’s fat Texas Hot single coils and respond beautifully to gain, and treble loss is minimal when rolling back the volume knob. The bridge pickup, which can be weedy on mid-priced Strats, is rich yet cutting - and if it’s still too spiky, the pleasingly responsive tone knob will enable a fairly precise treble cut. That may not sound like much, but it’s actually a big deal, as the two tone knobs are wired thusly: tone 1 handles neck and middle, while tone 2 adjusts the bridge.
Then there’s that new two-point vibrato, which is one of the smoothest- operating systems we’ve encountered at this price point, with no problems returning to pitch. The familiar ‘loose arm in the socket’ problem still rears its head, but it’s nothing a bit of tape around the thread can’t fix. By their very nature, Strats will always pay homage to the past, but this particular edition packs tones that span the decades and bring the format bang up to date.
Read our full Fender Player Stratocaster review
2. PRS SE Custom 24
The best electric guitar if you want a do-it-all solidbody
Launch price: $779 / £849 | Body: Mahogany with maple top | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 24 | Pickups: 2x 85/15 'S' humbuckers | Controls: Volume, tone (with push-pull coil-split), 3-way selector | Hardware: PRS vibrato, PRS SE tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Fire Red Burst, Tobacco Sunburst, Trampas Green, Whale Blue
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
3. Gretsch G2622 Streamliner
The budget semi-hollow with authentic Gretsch vibe
Launch price: $749 / £350 | Body: Laminated maple, semi-hollow | Neck: Nato | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x Broad'Tron humbuckers | Controls: Neck volume, bridge volume, tone, 3-way pickup selector | Hardware: Adjusto-Matic bridge, 'V' stoptail tailpiece | Left-handed: Yes: G2622LH | Finish: Walnut Stain, Black
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, this is among the best electric guitars for under $500.
Read our full Gretsch G2622 Streamliner review
4. PRS S2 Standard Singlecut Satin
The most affordable USA-made PRS is a stripped-back rock machine
Launch price: $1,049 / £999 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x #7 humbuckers | Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone (with push-pull coil-splits) | Hardware: PRS adjustable stoptail bridge, PRS low mass locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: McCarty Tobacco Burst, Vintage Cherry, Charcoal
The specs for this stripped-back Singlecut are identical to PRS's gloss Standards; the difference is in the paint - or, rather, the lack of it. Instead of that faster S2 gloss, here we have a nitrocellulose satin finish that doesn't bother with grain filler - you can easily see the body wood's grain and feel it on the neck - for a thinner finish, which will wear and age the harder you play it. Plus, thin finishes don't choke any vibrations or resonance.
Along with the dot-only fingerboard inlays, this Satin Singlecut looks very workmanlike, but the build and parts still deliver the goods. The body is one-piece mahogany, the neck three-piece. The bridge is the USA Stoptail, the locking tuners, like the pickups, made in Korea to PRS specs. The pattern regular neck is a nice mainstream handful, and setup and intonation are, as ever, top-drawer.
Mahogany guitars can be dark-sounding and here, yes, there's a throaty midrange focus, but a clean-edged ring and resonance that provides clarity and punch, much like the pickups that nail an almost P-90-ish sizzle and classic-rock poke. The four-control layout means there's plenty of adjustment, and the coil-splits on the tone controls add authentic single-coil cut.
Clean, low, medium or high-gain, this one's a banker: the most rock-out, resonant blue-collar PRS we've ever played, and that's why it's one of the best electric guitars, especially at this price point.
Read our full PRS S2 Standard Singlecut Satin review
5. Fender Vintera '60s Telecaster Bigsby
A super-cool electric guitar for playing country, blues and classic rock
Launch price: $1,049 / £819 | Body: Ash/Alder | Neck: Maple, bolt-on | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Pau Ferro | Frets: 21 vintage | Pickups: 2x 60s Single Coil Tele | Controls: Master volume, master tone, three-way pickup selector blade switch | Hardware: Chrome/nickel Licensed Bigsby B50 True Vibrato and Jazzmaster-style bridge, vintage Kluson-style tuners | Finish: White Blonde, Three-colour Sunburst
Fender's Vintera '60s Telecaster Bigsby pays tribute to the version released in the decade that gave us The Beatles and The Stones. '60s Teles generally had rosewood fingerboards. Here that prized timber is represented by the more eco-friendly Pau Ferro.
Featuring vintage correct 184mm (7.25") fingerboard radius, 21 thin frets and a comfy fat-shouldered C-shaped neck, this guitar is a joy to play, bursting with sustain before you even plug it in.
The pickups are great for country, blues and classic rock and the Bigsby will broaden your sonic horizons further. And we just love the white blonde finish.
The Vintera Telecasters prove just how right Leo Fender got it with his first solidbody electric. The excellent Fender Mexico quality control does him proud too.
6. Yamaha Pacifica 112V
The best electric guitar for beginners, with long-lasting appeal
Launch price: $299 / £199 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Alnico V bridge humbucker 2x Alnico V single coils | Controls: Volume, tone (with push-pull coil-split), 5-way selector switch | Hardware: Vintage-style vibrato with block saddle | Left-handed: Yes (Pacifica 112J) | Finish: Natural Satin, Old Violin Sunburst, Raspberry Red, Sonic Blue, Black, Silver Metallic
The Yamaha Pacifica has long proved a benchmark for quality and specification, and the 112V remains one of the best electric guitars 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. Neck and middle combined produces a fine modern Strat-like mix - the added brightness will cut through a multi-FX patch nicely.
Read our full Yamaha Pacifica 112V review
7. Ibanez RG550
One of the best electric guitars for shredders
Launch price: $999 / £899 | Body: Basswood | Neck: 5-piece maple/walnut | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Ibanez V8 humbucker (bridge), S1 single coil (middle), V7 neck humbucker | Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: Edge locking vibrato | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Desert Sun Yellow, Road Flare Red, Purple Neon, White
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 - your hand glides, 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
8. Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro
A seriously awesome sub-£500 Les Paul
Launch price: $599 / £499 | Body: Mahogany w/maple top and AAA flame maple veneer | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Pau ferro | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Epiphone ProBucker-2 (neck), Epiphone ProBucker-3 (bridge) | Controls: 2x volume (w/ push/pull coil-tap), 2x tone | Hardware: LockTone Tune-O-Matic/stopbar bridge, Grover 18: tuners | Left-handed: Yes (Heritage Sunburst only) | Finish: Trans Blue, Wine Red, Honey Burst, Vintage Sunburst, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Antique Natural, Cherry, Desert Burst, Iced Tea, Trans Black, Blueberry Burst, Blood Orange, Green Burst, Mojave Fade
Sporting a AAA flame slice of maple from which it takes its 'PlusTop' name, Epiphone's Pro model Les Paul seems like quite the steal at this price point.
And fans of the Standard design will be pleased to know that only minimal tweaks have been made to Gibson's classic design.
You get the twin-humbucker two-volume/two-tone layout, but with the addition of a coil-tap to switch to single coil style tones. And, though Les Pauls are known for generally chunkier necks, the PlusTop Pro features a slim and slinky D shape. Indeed the Epi's setup might just win over widdly shredders looking for more classic sounds and looks.
With Epiphone's wide range of available finishes, there's sure to be one that suits you. It's one of the best electric guitars available for classic rock tones at this price.
9. Charvel Pro-Mod DK24 HSS
One of the very best electric guitars for modern rock and shred
Launch price: $1,049 / £939 | Body: Alder | Neck: Caramelised maple with graphite reinforcement | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Caramelised maple | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Seymour Duncan Custom Full Shred SH-10B humbucker, Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 single coil, Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 RWRP single coil | Controls: Volume, No-Load tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: Gotoh Custom 510 tremolo | Finish: Left-Primer Grey, Satin Shell Pink
Charvel's hot-rodded superstrat is as much a modern rock machine as it is a pure shredder. The beautifully caramelised graphite reinforced neck is slim, though a little rounder than, say, an Ibanez Wizard. Its recessed Gotoh 510 vibrato will return to pitch flawlessly when you dump the strings on the pickups, and, with only a little less range than a Floyd Rose, it's a small price to pay for stress-free string changing.
The Seymour Duncan Full Shred 'bucker will deliver jangly cleans to blues-rock crunch and widdly metal solo sounds with aplomb, and the SSL-6 single coils will get you closer to those glassy //Little Wing// style cleans than you'd expect without the presence of a Fender logo.
Build quality and attention to detail places the DK24 above much of the competition. Its tonal versatility makes it one of the best electric guitars whatever style of rock you're into.
Read our full Charvel Pro-Mod DK24 HSS review
10. Ibanez Prestige AZ2204
A Japanese-built, high-spec electric guitar that can do it all
Launch price: $1,999 / £1,779 | Body: Alder | Neck: Roasted maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Roasted maple | Frets: 24 | Pickups: 1x Seymour Duncan Hyperion humbucker, 2x Seymour Duncan Hyperion single coils | Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way selector switch, Alter Switch | Hardware: Gotoh T1802 tremolo, Gotoh Magnum Lock machineheads with H.A.P. | Left-handed: No | Finish: Ice Blue Metallic
By design, the AZ series is all about function: a tool to do a job. That said, both the body and neck adopt a more vintage bolt-on guise that’s less pointy, more classic than we’re used to from Ibanez. There's also a completely new set of AZ-exclusive pickups: the Seymour Duncan Hyperion.
This HSS guitar also has the dyna-MIX 9 system introduced by a two-way mini-toggle ‘Alter’ switch placed between the master volume and tone controls, yielding a whopping nine pickup sounds. For the player wanting to cover virtually everything from jazz to shred, well, Ibanez has pretty much done it.
This is a seriously versatile, good-sounding, tidily made instrument that puts Ibanez squarely back into the mainstream.
Read our full Ibanez Prestige AZ2204 review
11. Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar
Spectacular reworking of the classic short-scale offset electric
Launch price: $2,419 / £1,943 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x Bare Knuckle Johnny Marr single coils | Controls: Volume, tone, 4-way pickup selector switch, 2x 'bright' slide switches | Hardware: Jaguar bridge with Mustang saddles and vintage-style floating vibrato | Left-handed: No | Finish: Olympic White, Metallic KO
Rarely have we come across a redesign of a classic instrument that is so thorough… yet still adheres so closely to the original! Neck shape, body contouring, hardware, pickups and electronics have all been under the microscope of Marr and his design cohorts in redesigning this short-scale offset classic.
The new bridge design swaps the threaded rod saddles of the Jaguar for the bigger, solid, non-height adjustable Mustang saddles that sit flush on the bridge tray.
The saddles just have a centre-placed string groove but this increased width means there's very little gap between the low E and the outer edge of the fingerboard the further up the neck you go. Marr has also ditched the traditional dual rhythm/lead concept. This Jag has just one circuit: standard volume and tone controls and a four-position lever switch mounted on the smaller of the three chromed plates.
In position one, it offers just the bridge pickup; position two, bridge and neck pickups (in parallel); position three, neck pickup; and lastly position four, neck and bridge pickups (in series). We still have the slide-switch style of the original Jaguar to engage not one, but two, of the original's high-pass filters.
The top switch is the master filter (up engages the cut); the lower switch, mounted at a right angle, only works on position four where forward is on (ie, it introduces the cut). Both these switches stick up less than the standard slide switches too, and are slightly more comfortable: typical of the thought and detail that has gone into this guitar.
There's Fender-aplenty in the sounds but, as Marr says, Gretsch and Rickenbacker spring to mind, especially with a little tone roll-off. Above all though, the clarity, and the musical sweetness of the tones allow for complex chord voicings for jazzier rhythms or simpler soul and funk styles.
The Johnny Marr Jaguar is a thorough redesign from the perspective of a very busy working guitarist. Aside from the low E being rather too close to the fingerboard edge in higher positions, it's faultlessly built for purpose, addresses five decades of 'Jaguar-ness' and puts a decidedly leftfield design squarely back in the mainstream.
Read our full Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar review
12. Guild Starfire V
A Korean-made semi-hollow with classic styling
Launch price: $1,699 / £1,006 | Body: Laminated mahogany, semi-hollow | Neck: 3-piece mahogany/maple/mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x LB-1 humbuckers | Controls: Bridge volume, bridge tone, neck volume, neck tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Guild Tune-o-matic bridge with rosewood base, Guild vibrato, Grover Sta-Tite open-gear 14:1 tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Cherry Red, White, Black
Firmly intended to compete with Gibson's ES-335, the Starfire IV, V and VI retain plenty of Guild style, not least the more spacious cutaways and the wooden foot tune-o-matic-style bridge. Placed side-by-side with an equally new Bigsby-equipped Gibson ES-335, the Starfire V somehow looks more 'retro', more 60s. The body here is made from mahogany laminates with a distinct striped figure under the Cherry Red finish, which was introduced with the first Starfire. Then, as now, it all creates a different aesthetic to the Gibson ES-335.
A major difference is the control set-up, which here augments the Gibson layout with a smaller knobbed master volume control on the treble horn, just behind the three-way toggle pickup selector. The pickups here replicate the early-60s introduced 'Anti Hum Pickups' and are period correct, along with the black plastic, chrome-tipped control knobs. It's a fairly weighty guitar for a semi, thanks to the full-length maple centre-block, and has a classic strapped-on feel. It is, of course, thinline depth and feels every bit an ES-335.
It has a 'clean' sound, with low-end definition, slightly bright on the treble pickup with decent sustain and, importantly, a very respectable feedback threshold. It likes volume, and while similarly evocative of virtually all those classic styles, it's the stage version and effortlessly takes you on to early The Who, The Jam or Britpop voices, while seemingly equally at home with rootsy, strummier Americana.
Read our full Guild Starfire V review
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13. LTD EC-1000 EverTune
A svelte rock single-cut that never goes out of tune
Launch price: $1,427 / £999 | Body: Mahogany with maple cap | Neck: 3-piece mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Seymour Duncan JB humbucker, Seymour Duncan Jazz humbucker (EMG 81/60 reviewed) | Controls: 2x volume, tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: EverTune bridge, Grover tuners | Left-handed: Yes (without EverTune) | Finish: See Thru Black, Dark Brown Sunburst
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
14. Fender American Performer Stratocaster
The lowest-priced USA-built Strat with a wealth of tonal riches
Launch price: $1,099/£999 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood/maple (dependent on finish) | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 3x Yosemite Single-Coil Stratocaster | Controls: Volume, neck and middle tone, bridge tone, 5-way selector switch | Hardware: 6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo, Fender ClassicGear tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Penny, Arctic White, Honey Burst, Satin Lake Placid Blue
The newly launched American Performer Series represents the most affordable entry point to bona fide USA Fenders, and marks the Big F’s first refresh at this price point in over 10 years. The big changes lie in the all-new pickups that come fitted to all models in the range, in this case Yosemite single coils and the associated electronics.
Pulling up on the bridge tone control allows you to engage the neck pickup along with the bridge and middle pickups for two additional tones, while a reverse-wound, reverse-polarity middle pickup allows for hum cancellation in positions two and four. Make no mistake, a blendable neck pickup is a hugely welcome addition to the Strat’s tonal arsenal, and these are some of the best single coils we’ve ever heard, with a beautiful sense of compression that gives them the edge over cheaper models.
If you’re after a workhorse Strat with a bevy of additional tonal options, not to mention rock-solid, smooth-operating hardware, this is a strong Performer indeed.
Read our full Fender American Performer Stratocaster review
15. Ernie Ball Music Man Valentine
Maroon 5 guitarist's signature model covers all the pop bases
Launch price: $2,099 / £2,499 | Body: Ash | Neck: Roasted maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Roasted maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Music Man SH single coil, Music Man SH humbucker | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: Music Man Modern hardtail bridge, Schaller M6-IND locking tuners | Left-handed: | Finish: Trans Buttermilk, Trans Black, Trans Maroon, Satin Natural
James Valentine of Maroon 5 has a strong idea of what he wants in a guitar and so, along with the craftsmen at Music Man, has created his dream machine. Valentine's desire was for a guitar that blends innovation and a modern vibe, with a reassuringly classic appeal - a bit Gibson semi, a bit Fender Tele perhaps. So, with that in mind, an ash body - in this instance finished in what Valentine calls 'Trans Buttermilk' ('Trans Maroon' is, of course, available, too) - has been mated to a nutty-looking roasted maple neck.
This is delightfully figured and comes with Music Man's proprietary wax and oil finish for a tactile but drag-free experience. Build and finish are, as always, dead on. Pickups and controls are interesting: while both pickups are standard humbucking size, the bridge unit is actually single coil, its pole pieces slanted like a Tele or Strat across the chrome cover. Controls are simple, but with a couple of neat twists in the form of push-push pots on both controls - an active boost of up to 20dB on the volume, and a coil-split for the neck humbucker on the tone.
We like the 'hidden' nature of these sonic extras, because it adds genuine usability but keeps things uncluttered and intuitive. The Valentine looks familiar but just different enough, feels great sitting or standing, boasts a real player's neck, and its palette of tones - delivered in a fuss-free manner by a clever control and switching setup - is simply superb. Of the hundreds of models that have sought to blend humbucking and single coil tones, this has to be one of the best electric guitars.
Read our full Ernie Ball Music Man Valentine review
16. Gibson ES-335 Figured
One of the finest ES-335 electric guitars money can buy
Launch price: $4,149 / £2,999 | Body: 3-piece maple/poplar/maple with figured maple top | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x MHS Alnico II humbuckers | Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: ABR-1 bridge with titanium inserts and stopbar tailpiece | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Sunburst
A thermally engineered centre block and bracing make this 335 acoustically louder, open and with more clarity. The 'burst top and back also look more modern than vintage, while the translucent dark brown/ almost-black sides and neck-back finish add contrast that creates a classy appearance, along with the nickel hardware.
We also get a lightweight aluminium stop tailpiece with locking studs, but this is all-very-classic ES-335 fare, such as the small block inlays and the small fleur head logo. Again, Gibson's build specs tell us we have MHS 'buckers and here the 'Memphis Tone Circuit' includes matched pots with a tight five per cent tolerance, with the same 'orange drop' tone caps as the ES-275.
Plugged in, it's like all our Christmases have come at once. There's a more solidbody response here, as you'd expect, and it really pushes out the sound. It's expensive, but as an investment, this is one of the best electric guitars on the market.
Read our full Gibson ES-335 Premiere Figured review
17. PRS McCarty 594
A 1959 Sunburst LP reimagined as a double-cut
Launch price: $4,200 / £3,235 | Body: Mahogany with carved figured maple top | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.594" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 58/15 LT Treble humbucker, 58/15 LT Bass humbucker | Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone (with push-pull coil-splits), 3-way selector switch | Hardware: PRS two-piece bridge, Phase III locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: McCarty Sunburst, McCarty Tobacco Sunburst, Orange Tiger, Trampas Green, Violet, Antique White, Black, Black Gold Burst, Blood Orange, Champagne Gold Metallic, Charcoal Burst, Emerald, Faded Whale Blue, Fire Red Burst, Frost Green Metallic, Gold Top, Gray Black
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 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 electric guitars.
Read our full PRS McCarty 594 review
18. Gretsch G6659TG Players Edition Broadkaster Jr
The best electric guitar for Gretsch fans craving classic looks
Launch price: $2,799 / £2,399 | Body: Laminated maple | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24.6" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x Full'Tron humbuckers | Controls: Bridge volume, neck volume, master volume, tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: Anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge, Gotoh locking tuners, Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut | Left-handed: | Finish: Cadillac Green
Play a classic 6120 or Duo Jet and it can seem a bit, well, old-fashioned. A growing number of players desire the brand’s looks, sound and unmatched vibe, but also want something a tad more versatile and user-friendly.
Enter this latest Players Edition model with its neck set lower into the body for improved access, higher-output Filter’Tron-style humbucking pickup (Full’Trons) and a modernised Bigsby vibrato where through-stringing replaces the notorious ‘hooking the ball-end over a peg’ system that scuppered any chance of a quick change.
Mate these modern tweaks with another recent innovation (for Gretsch, at any rate), the Centre Block range, and you have a guitar ready to compete with anything out there, in virtually any style.
Read our full Gretsch G6659TG Players Edition Broadkaster Jr review