The 23 best electric guitars: our pick of the best guitars for beginners and experts

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Finding the best electric guitar for you is a very personal choice - there are countless shapes and sizes to choose from, all of which suit different musical genres and goals. Here, we've recommended a host of instruments across several key price points, which cover all the bases.

Ahead, you'll find a selection of the most highly rated instruments from our rigorous reviews, ensuring that whichever one you pick, it will provide years of faithful service and great tone.

No matter what kind of music you play, or what you want to hear from your gear, we've got you covered: these electric guitars are sure to hit the mark.

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1. Fender Deluxe Series Roadhouse Stratocaster

The best-sounding, most playable Strat under a grand

Launch price: $799 / £679 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple/pau ferro (dependent on finish) | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 3x Vintage Noiseless Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Volume, 6-position V6 rotary tone switch, tone, 5-way pickup selector | Hardware: 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo, Deluxe locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Olympic White, Mystic Ice Blue, Classic Copper & 3-Color Sunburst

Noiseless pickups
Comfortable 305mm fingerboard radius
Included gigbag could be better
A few similar sounds from the V6 preamp

Fender has shown the spec sheets of its popular Mexican-built Deluxe Series Roadhouse Stratocaster model some love to create a reboot that comes seriously well appointed. The upgraded model features an alder body and bolt-on maple neck, with the option of maple and rosewood fingerboard, finished with satin polyurethane. Keep sniffing around and you'll find other features like the 'Modern C' neck profile, 22 narrow/tall frets, a contoured neck heel, synthetic bone top nut and a set of locking tuners with vintage-look buttons. While the previous editions of the Roadhouse and came with a 241mm (9.5-inch) fingerboard radius, the new model packs a flatter 305mm (12-inch) camber. Yes, the same radius as a Gibson Les Paul, making for easier string bends and lower action. The new Roadhouse features three Vintage Noiseless (1st generation) single coil-sized humbuckers wired to a five-way pickup selector blade switch, and master volume and tone controls. Lurking between the volume and tone knobs is the V6 preamp control, a six-position rotary switch that gives you access to a series of tweaked single-coil tones. Plugging in the Roadhouse reveals a slew of classic Strat tones. The pickups exploit the natural tone and woodiness of the guitar, while the Noiseless aspect lives up to their vow of silence, making them indispensable in a recording situation. As a result, bar metal, this is the best Fender electric guitar for just about all scenarios.

Read the full review: Fender Deluxe Series Roadhouse Stratocaster

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2. PRS SE Custom 24

The mid-priced, Korean-made, 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: Tobacco Sunburst, Scarlet Red, Trampas Green, Whale Blue

Classic sounds
Partial coil-splits
Excellent vibrato
More affordable version of PRS's classic solidbody
PRS's maple/birds aesthetic isn't to everyone's taste

The Custom 24 is PRS's original and still best-selling vision - thanks to its marriage of Gibson and Fender ideals, not to mention versatile, coil-splittable humbuckers - and the latest version now boasts Korean-made versions of PRS's latest date-series humbuckers, the 85/15s. They look like conventional uncovered 'buckers, unlike the USA versions with their rectangular bobbins, and despite their different specs, they look identical to those on the Santana.  This new Custom certainly retains the chameleon-like character of the USA model and there's a relaxed midrange that doesn't dominate: gritty rhythm tones falling easily into a classic rock genre, while the neck sounds fluty, expressive and definitely in the PAF-alike ballpark. This is a lot of guitar for the player who needs a wide palette of sounds. Bundle in that superb vibrato, the lively resonance and easy playability, and this electric guitar has to be money well spent.

Read the full review: PRS SE Custom 24

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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

Build-to-price ratio is very high
Hotter pickups broaden sonic potential
Centre block widens use at higher gains/volumes
Slightly sponge-y tuners
Thicker-than-Gretsch tonality
High-fret access not as good as an ES-335

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 the full review: Gretsch G2622 Streamliner

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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

PRS's American build at a solid price point
Great range of tones
Doesn't capture the 'classic' single-cut visual vibe

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 the full review: PRS S2 Standard Singlecut Satin

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5. Fender Classic Player Baja '60s Telecaster

A hugely versatile take on Fender's classic solidbody

Launch price: $799 / £826 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Pau ferro (rosewood reviewed) | Frets: 21 | Pickups: American Vintage '58 Single-Coil Tele, American Vintage '52 Single-Coil Tele | Controls: Volume (with S-1 Switch), tone | Hardware: 3-saddle American Vintage strings-through-body bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Faded Sonic Blue, 3-Color Sunburst

Smooth, high-end sounds
Clever pickup selection
Wide range of sounds
Not one for Tele traditionalists

It's the neat switching that makes this very classic-looking Tele act a little differently. All the standard Tele pickup selections - bridge, bridge and middle (in parallel) and neck - are in place, but it's a four-way switch, as opposed to the standard three-way; the additional selection provides us with both pickups in series for a bigger, louder and more humbucker-like 'secret' sound. The volume control has the S1 push switch in the top of the control knob: pushed down, the parallel and series-combined pickup selections are out-of- phase, giving three additional sounds over the standard Tele. The Baja sticks relatively close, of course, to the classic 60s Tele recipe. The rosewood 'board and alder body just seem to give that lovely smoothness to the high end that will make it less ear-wearing, especially if you're swapping over from an older-style humbucking Gibson. The standard mix is typically classic, wider than a Strat's but still nicely textured; the neck pickup here sounds a little fuller than some older readers or vintage Fender electric guitar owners will remember.

Read the full review: Fender Classic Player Baja '60s Telecaster

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6. Ibanez FR6UC-BKF Prestige

A Japanese-built modern music machine

Launch price: $3,066 / £1,589 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: 5-piece maple/walnut | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: 2x Bare Knuckle Aftermath humbuckers | Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way selector switch | Hardware: Gotoh Magnum Lock tuners, Tight End hardtail bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Black Flat

No-nonsense instrument
Great feel and tone
Particular appeal to heavier players
A little heavy in weight

The FR6UC's matt black flat finish and lack of bling lends the instrument a mean, no-nonsense aesthetic that would be a perfect fit for the modern metalcore player. There's an ebony fingerboard and its neck is a five-piece affair, with two thin strips of 0.5mm walnut between three sections of maple. The FR6UC's suitably rock-looking distressed pickup covers house a pair of Bare Knuckle Aftermath humbuckers with "accelerated bass response for exceptionally fast tracking of high-speed staccato riffing with crushing midrange and precise high-end articulation." The 14.7k-ohm bridge unit comprises a trio of ceramic magnets, while the neck is Alnico V with a DC resistance of 11.5k ohms. This instrument is built cleanly with excellent fretwork, as you would expect from a Japanese guitar at this price point, although it has to be noted that - considering its relatively compact proportions - it's a little on the weighty side, weighing in at 3.8kg (8.4lbs). The FR6UC's Bare Knuckle Aftermaths in full humbucking mode are perfect for a gamut of king-size-yet- articulate heavy rock tones, from Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age right through to Deftones and Slipknot. That said, the Aftermaths are by no means all about metallic high gain; back off the volume and switch to position two or four to get one of the inner coils in isolation and you'll enjoy pleasantly springy Strat-style tones. It may be none-more-black in appearance, but there's a broad range of hues on the FR6UC's sonic palette.

Read the full review: Ibanez FR6UC-BKF Prestige

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7. Yamaha Pacifica 112V

One of the best beginner electric guitars 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

Ideal for beginners
Great design
Impressive build quality
Modern sounds
Versatile
Vibrato could be better

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 the full review: Yamaha Pacifica 112V review

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8. Cort Manson MBC-1 Matthew Bellamy Signature

The Muse frontman's signature model punches well above its price tag

Launch price: $599 / £500 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Hard maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Manson Design bridge humbucker, Manson Design neck single coil | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: Two-piece bridge and tailpiece, staggered height locking machineheads | Left-handed: Yes: MBC-1LH | Finish: Matt Black

Manson pickups and tones at a fraction of the price
Great design touches
Superb tool for gain-y rock sounds
More than a signature model
Limited finish options
Muse fans hoping for built-in effects will be disappointed

At £499, the MBC-1 is designed to hit a completely different price point to the Muse genius's full-fat Manson models, and although still designed by both Matt and Hugh, it's made in Indonesia by guitar-making giant Cort. Price aside, a quick strum lets you know this is a Manson through and through: it rings like a bell, the sort of acoustic response you'd expect from a quality guitar, but not always at this price. In style, the MBC-1 is a pretty accurate repro of the instruments used by Matt. That big upper shoulder won't be to everyone's taste, but in playing position, it's not only lightweight (3.52kg) but with forearm and ribcage contours, it fits like a glove. And the bolt-on maple neck feels superb, too, with a deep C profile and sloping shoulders that tell your hand it's thinner in depth than it actually is. Unusual at this price, too, is the compound radius fingerboard, which flattens out as you move up the neck; with tidy jumbo - but not over-tall - frets, it's a fast, fluid player, as well, which makes it one of the best electric guitars for hard-rock players. Pickup-wise, we have a fairly hot Alnico-powered humbucker at the bridge and a single coil at the neck. Along with a master volume, tone and three-way pickup selector, the upper shoulder also holds a kill button for stutter effects.

Read the full review: Cort Manson MBC-1 Matthew Bellamy Signature

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9. Squier Vintage Modified '72 Telecaster Thinline

Lightweight body, heavyweight tones from this budget stunner

Launch price: $499 / £406 | Body: Ash, semi-hollow | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: 2x Dual Wide Range humbuckers | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Strings-through-body Telecaster bridge with six saddles | Left-handed: No | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Natural

Fender Thinline tones at a Squier price
Nice attention to detail on the build
Gloss-finished neck won't be to every player's taste

Squier has now seen fit to introduce Fender's revered '72 Thinline to its own range, and it looks the business, with white pearloid scratchplate, finely carved f-hole and Fender- embossed humbuckers. While you'll find the gloss-finished modern C neck across much of Squier's Vintage Modified range, you're unlikely to find tones quite like the Thinline's anywhere else, certainly at this price. Cleans from the neck and middle positions are punchy and persuasive, not dissimilar to fat P-90-ish single coils, but flicking over to the bridge humbucker yields a burly, resonant voice that screams for big open chords and an overdriven valve amp. That's why it's one of the best electric guitars for Indie and alt-rock players.

Read the full review: Squier Vintage Modified '72 Telecaster Thinline

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10. Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body

A hollowbody for rock 'n' roll and rockabilly fans on a budget

Launch price: $1,149 / £709 | Body: 5-ply maple, hollow | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24.6" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x Blacktop Filter'Tron humbuckers | Controls: Neck volume, bridge volume, tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Bigsby vibrato, Adjusto-Matic with secured rosewood base | Left-handed: Yes, without Bigsby: G5420LH | Finish: Fairlane Blue, Orange Stain, Aspen Green

Great colour
Plenty of Gretsch style and sound
Good build and slinky playability
Be prepared to tweak the pickup heights
A wider-spaced bridge pickup would be nice

Part of Gretsch's mid-range Electromatic line, the single-cut G5420T is based on the classic 6120 Chet Atkins Hollow Body - the 'generic' Gretsch we all drew in our school books. It features a new-to-Gretsch colour, Fairlane Blue, which is a deep metallic blue, as well as a Bigsby vibrato and Blacktop Filter'Tron pickups. There are plenty of shades from the slightly damped, muted response with the pickup volumes and tone pulled back, to the thinner, brighter and twangier voices with the master volume rolled back and the pickup volumes full on. It's true that this would not be our first choice as the only guitar we took to a jam or function-band gig - but for a whole host of older-genre styles, from the obvious rock 'n' roll and rockabilly through to much rootsier swampier voices that love a little 'hair' or outright grunt and grunge, it's one of the best electric guitars out there.

Read the full review: Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body

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11. Fender Offset Series Duo-Sonic HS

An easy-to-play, short-scale model with a host of tones

Launch price: $499 / £509 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24" | Fingerboard: Pau ferro | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Duo-Sonic humbucker, Duo-Sonic single coil | Controls: Volume, tone (with push-pull coil-split on humbucker), 3-way selector | Hardware: Hardtail bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Surf Pearl, Daphne Blue, Canary Diamond, Black

Effortless playability
Short scale length is great for beginners
Versatile tones
Some players may prefer a longer scale

The Duo-Sonic is a short-scale student model that has become highly prized for its excellent playability and tone, making it one of the best electric guitars for beginner guitarists with cash to spare. This updated model - with its slab alder body, flawless in sparkly Surf Green - features the classic offset Fender waist that gives the series its name. The three-ply white/black/white scratchplate also plays host to a chrome-tipped three-position pickup selector switch and knurled (aka easy-grip) volume and tone knobs servicing two pickups, a neck single coil plus a bridge humbucker. The latter is also coil-splittable via the push/pull tone knob. We've encountered guitars at more than twice the price that don't play anywhere near as well as this thing does. Oh, and it doesn't matter what size your hands are. If we had to use a song to describe the tonal range of the bridge pickup, we'll have Smells Like Teen Spirit, please. A clean setting here echoes the clattering rhythm voice of the song's intro while a fuzz box unleashes a racket not unlike the heavy sound Kurt craved. If it sounds like we're typecasting this guitar then rest assured the Duo-Sonic is versatile enough to handle country picking, surf, indie, classic rock, whatever. Plus, the neck pickup warms things up perfectly for clean or dirty blues lead or jazz chords.

Read the full review: Fender Offset Series Duo-Sonic HS

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12. Wylde Audio Odin

Zakk Wylde's hard-rock and metal-focused LP-alike

Launch price: $999 / £999 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24.6" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 | Pickups: EMG 81 humbucker, EMG 85 humbucker | Controls: Bridge volume, neck volume, tone | Hardware: Tune-o-matic locking bridge, string-through-body bridge, Grover machineheads | Left-handed: Yes (Grail Bullseye finish only) | Finish: Death Claw Molasses, Grail Crimson Gold Buzz Saw, Grail Genesis Bullseye, Grail Gangrene Bullseye

Great playability
Classic EMG humbucker tones
Primarily suited to high-gain sounds
Divisive appearance

The Odin is a cool twist on Zakk Wylde's beloved Gibson Les Paul format. It's also the only Wylde model you can play sitting down. That's a good thing, 'cos this guitar is so addictive you might lose track of how long you've been playing. It's that neck that's got us hooked. In common with the rest of the Wylde bunch, the Odin has a fat-profile neck, like something you'd find on a pre-'59 Gibson Les Paul. It's made from three pieces of maple and that, along with its substantial girth, makes the neck feel rigid. That's great news for tuning stability and tone. The active EMG 81 bridge unit is a metal staple, stuffed with ceramic magnets for powerful output and sustain, and the razor-sharp response that you need with high-gain distortion. The 85 neck 'bucker is a bottomless pit of low-end, but in typical EMG style doesn't sound muddy when you kick in the dirt. The fat neck and bright attack of the Odin's ebony fingerboard propel riffs and licks through your amp. If metal is your gain, this is one of the best electric guitars for you.

Read the full review: Wylde Audio Odin

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13. Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR

The looks scream '80s but this is one of the best mid-priced shredders available

Launch price: $899 / £709 | Body: Alder | Neck: 2-piece maple with graphite reinforcement | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Direct Mount Seymour Duncan JB humbucker, Direct Mount Seymour Duncan '59 Zebra humbucker | Controls: Volume with push/pull coil-split, No-Load tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Floyd Rose FRT-O2000 double-locking vibrato | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Rocket Red, Neon Pink, Matte Blue Frost, Satin Black, Snow White

Superb, speedy playability
Shred-ready tones
Doesn't clean up as well as other coil-splittable guitars

The So-Cal defines the 'SuperStrat' concept as originally nailed by Eddie Van Halen in the late 70s. That classic body shape, the Floyd Rose double-locking vibrato, the slim maple bolt-on neck with its compound radius and fat frets... It all adds up to one of the best electric guitars for shred. The Charvel's thick single-ply scratchplate comes loaded with a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers, a TB-6 Distortion in the bridge position and a SH-6N Distortion at the neck. These are wired through a volume control with push/pull action to split the pickups' coils, the aforementioned No-Load tone pot and a three-way pickup selector blade switch. In the full-on, non-coil-split setting, the switch gives you three options: bridge 'bucker, the inner coils of both pickups and the neck unit solo. Lift the volume knob and you engage the coil-split mode. Now you get an additional tonal trifecta: the bridge humbucker's outer coil, both pickups' outer coils, and the neck's outer coil. Granted, the So-Cal doesn't clean up quite as sweetly as the other models in this line-up, but who cares? If you're looking for a brutal-sounding guitar with flawless playability and unshakable tuning then you won't be able to wipe the grin off your face.

Read the full review: Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR

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14. Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar

The Smiths genius's 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

Fantastic Jaguar tones
Updated, practical playability
Not everyone will like the vintage frets

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 the full review: Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar

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15. 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

Classic feel and tones
Great value for money
Period looks
Quite weighty for a semi

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 the full review: Guild Starfire V

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16. Schecter Hellraiser Hybrid C-1 FR S

An ultra-versatile rock double-cut with infinite sustain

Launch price: $1,649 / £989 | Body: Mahogany with maple top | *Neck: 3-piece maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: EMG 57 humbucker, Sustainiac humbucker | Controls: Volume, tone, Sustainiac intensity, 3-way selector switch, Sustainiac on/off switch, 3-way Sustainiac mode switch | Hardware: Floyd Rose 1500 Series | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Ultra Violet, Trans Black Burst

Build and finish quality
Loaded with features
No case
Sustainiac can prove addictive!

The Hellraiser Hybrid series guitars borrow some of the more sought-after features from the popular Hellraiser and SLS ranges (hence the 'Hybrid' name), such as the SLS's ultra-slim neck. The 'Ultra Thin C' profile neck is made from a three-piece maple laminate for strength, with 'Ultra Access' low profile glued-neck-to-body joints and a two-way adjustable truss rod. A particularly nice touch is the satin finish, stylishly cut in at an angle at the body and head end of the neck. An active EMG 57 humbucker, housed with a brushed black chrome cover, graces the bridge position of the guitar. Although the C-1 features master volume and tone controls, pickup selection is with a Fender-style three-way lever selector. Above these are two micro switches and an Intensity control. These govern the onboard Sustainiac system that features a special combined 'string driver transducer' in the neck position, resulting in infinite sustain. As a result of these extras, we have two battery compartments situated on the rear of the guitar. It's amazing to us that you don't see the Sustainiac system on more production guitars; it really is a fantastic (though hardly new) invention. That aside, the build quality is utterly faultless, like the playability.

Read the full review: Schecter Hellraiser Hybrid C-1 FR S

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17. 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

EverTune bridge ensures constant tuning
Great metal and rock guitar
No tangible tone compromises from the bridge
Unobtrusive bridge design
EverTune is complex to get to grips with initially

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 the full review: LTD EC-1000 EverTune

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18. Fender American Professional Stratocaster

A flagship Strat that's a gig-ready workhorse

Launch price: $1,499 / £1,419 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood/maple (dependent on finish) | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 3x V-Mod Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Volume, neck tone, bridge and middle tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: 2-Point Synchronized vibrato, Fender standard staggered tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Antique Olive, 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Candy Apple Red, Natural, Olympic White, Sienna Sunburst, Sonic Gray

Top-notch build quality
Superb, 'produced' Strat tones
Spec could be a little bland for some

The Professionals - just like the Standards before them - are designed to appeal to a wide range of players with a wide range of styles - which makes this Strat one of the best electric guitars available. The major difference between these new styles, however, is the new single-coil pickups. The basic premise lies in using different rod magnets for the treble and bass sides of the pickups from a choice of Alnico 2, 3 and 5. All the Strat pickups use 42 gauge Formvar wire and are calibrated for their positions, plus the centre pickup is RWRP so the parallel mixes are hum-cancelling. The new neck shape here isn't hugely different from the ubiquitous modern 'C' of the previous Standards; it's marginally deeper back- to-front with a subtly fuller shoulder. Plugging in, this is a modern, clean-voiced Strat that almost sounds like it's been 'produced' to maximise its Strat-i-ness. Where are you going to take it? We find ourselves driving in a slightly different way, pulling back the tones a little to lose some of that edge for rougher tones, while the treble bleed cap keeps things bright as we knock back the volume and hit the pop/funk button.

Read the full review: Fender American Professional Stratocaster

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19. D'Angelico EX-DC Standard

A classy Korean-built semi-hollowbody

Launch price: $1,659 / £1,349 | Body: Laminated flame maple (semi-hollow) | Neck: 3-piece maple/walnut/maple | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x Kent Armstrong Vintage 57 humbuckers | Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: D'Angelico Stairstep tailpiece, Grover Super Rotomatic tuners, bone nut | Left-handed: | Finish: Surf Green, Grey Black, Cherry, Vintage Sunburst, Natural Tint, White, Black, Natural Clear, Blue Burst

A classy spin on the classic ES-335
Expanded colour options
Versatile sounds
A little weighty
Slightly pricey

Originally conceived in the jazz age by John D'Angelico, these guitars have been reissued on occasion over the years. Then, back in 2011, the brand was kick-started again and today has quite serious presence and a number of top-line users. The EX-DC's ES-335-alike shape is easy to manage on a strap, but suffer the ill of many a modern thinline in that the guitar is quite heavy. Still, it balances nicely seated, not least with the help of that elongated headstock - which isn't always the case with heavier-bodied ES-335-alikes. The EX-DC illustrates what thousands of players already know: the ES-335 is hugely versatile! Clean, there's a little more sustain, more 'solidbody' to the character yet the tonality would easily suit your jazz gig. But kick in some gain and we're into near-perfect blues ballad soloing territory. If that sounds like your bag, this is one of the best electric guitars you can buy.

Read the full review: D'Angelico EX-DC Standard

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20. 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

Individual styling
Custom shop quality
Fabulous neck
Great range of tones
Some people just don't like signature guitars
Pricey

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 the full review: Ernie Ball Music Man Valentine

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21. Gibson ES-335 Figured

One of the finest ES-335s 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

 Possibly the best non-historic ES-335 out there 
A serious investment

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 the full review: Gibson ES-335 Premiere Figured

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22. PRS McCarty 594

A 1959 Sunburst LP reimagined as a double-cut - with spectacular results

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

Four-control classic layout and shoulder-placed toggle switch
Superb build
Oh-so-classic vintage single-cut tones
Not cheap

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 the full review: PRS McCarty 594

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23. Gretsch G6659TG Players Edition Broadkaster Jr

A highly desirable Gretsch with classic looks and modern tweaks

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

Amazing looks
Beautifully built
Vintage and modern sounds
Updated playability
We could lose the master volume control

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 the full review: Gretsch G6659TG Players Edition Broadkaster Jr

For more buying choices, try these…

The best budget electric guitars under £500/$650

The best electric guitars under £1,000/$1,300

The best high-end electric guitars under £2,000/$2,600

The best top-end guitars over £2,000/$2,700

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