This is the realm of the luxury guitar, the zenith of your G.A.S. ambitions - either a solo star, or the centre-piece of a collection. If you've got $/£1,000-plus to spend on an electric guitar, chances are you're looking for more than another plank to bash on weekends.
However, with a big budget comes a big responsibility - and an even bigger range of potential six-string suitors. This kind of money gets you into USA Gibson and PRS territory, to the upper echelons of the Fender lines and a world's worth of tone woods, exacting hardware specifications and incredible custom builds.
Finding the best electric guitar for you is obviously a very personal choice - there are countless shapes and sizes to choose from, all of which suit different musical genres and goals, so here, we've recommended a host of instruments which cover all the bases.
Ahead, you'll find a selection of the most highly rated instruments from our rigorous reviews. Rest assured, whichever one you pick, from the below 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 guitars are sure to hit the mark.
The best high-end electric guitars you can buy
Rather than being period-correct reincarnations, Fender's Original series aims for a ‘best of decade’ vibe. So, this Strat is alder bodied with a ‘round-laminate’ rosewood fingerboard that was implemented in mid-1962. In a mid-'60s style we get Pure Vintage ’65 Gray-Bottom single coils on an 11-screw mint-green pickguard with aged white controls. Meanwhile, a concession to modernism is the second, lowest, tone control, which originally would have been for the middle pickup, but here works on both the middle and bridge pickups. Another 'modern' inclusion is the ubiquitous five-way lever switch, which didn’t actually replace the original three-way switch on the Stratocaster until 1977. We defy anyone who opens a case and sees one of these beauts not to have an ‘OMG’ moment. The guitar that launched thousands of dreams back in the day still impresses 64 years on. You’ll find these ‘fixes’ on many Fender Custom Shop models, of course, but while these don’t come with any ageing or relic’ing they are significantly cheaper. Yet, viewed from a 2018 perspective, it gives Fender’s USA models a rare unity, a vintage nod to the escalating modernism of the Professional and ultra-tweaked and posher Elites. If you hanker after a new USA-made production Fender and want the most vintage-spec possible, this is now it. Vintage-inspired, yes, but with the fixes that many players will embrace.
Read the full review: Fender American Original '60s Stratocaster
As its name implies, the Traditional is closest to the Les Paul we’ve known and loved over the past six-and-a-bit decades. If you believe old is best, the Traditional is probably the Les Paul for you. It has no weight relief, yet it’s still nicely under 4kg/9lb. The neck, too, will appeal to those players who prefer an older style with more front-to-back taper (4.2mm) and a bigger, rounded feel. In many ways, the Traditional is the Fender American Original of this interim Les Paul line-up: it’s the most vintage spec before you get into the Gibson Custom Historics. It looks great with that deep red ’Burst to the front and the lovely red hue to the rest of the guitar, but it’s the simplistic drive that makes it such a pleasure. The crisp, clean acoustic response gets the guitar working as it should with an almost second bloom to the sustain tail - so much a part of this classic design. The Traditional has a subtly, vintage-y voice - snappy with volume reduction and smooth in the highs. Unplugged, the Traditional is a beauty. But it’s more than that: the good weight (without weight relief), the bigger neck... it feels like a good Les Paul and looks the part.
Read the full review: Gibson Les Paul Traditional 2019
The Professionals, just like the Standards before them, are designed to appeal to a wide range of players with a wide range of styles. These are not for vintage obsessives. Most of the changes are relatively subtle: a new 'modern deep C' neck shape; new narrow/tall frets; and the Teles revert back to three (compensated) brass saddles over the previous six Strat-style saddles. Both single coils here use Alnico 5 rods on the bass side and Alnico 2 on the trebles and we have a treble bleed RC network on the volume. A basic trio of sounds shouts 'contemporary Tele' from the biting harmonically rich honk of the flat- pole bridge, through the wider, less quacky pickup mix, to the less hard-hitting but not soft neck voice. It's like someone has EQ'd the sound to balance and maximise its Tele-ness. There's a very lively ringing resonance, too: all the planets seem to align, the maple neck/alder body perhaps pulling down a little edgy spike, while those brass saddles - not to mention the through-body stringing and the more classically voiced pickups - combine to create what seems like a modern Tele in spec but one that has plenty of classic, vintage reference.The colour/wood choices are wide and the subtle improvements to the build - on an already very well proven chassis - make a noticeable change, not least the new neck shape and the taller fretwire. Yes, we've played thicker, beefier-sounding Teles, and thinner, brighter ones, too, but as a foundation tone, which also includes a very smart and practical, lightweight moulded case, it all becomes a bit of a no-brainer.
Read the full review: Fender American Professional Telecaster
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
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
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
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
This Charvel is the signature model for Guthrie Govan, widely regarded as one of the finest guitarists around. Its caramelized ash body model is also up there with the finest bolt-ons we’ve ever played. The neck is extremely tight-fitting and held in place with four screws, each recessed into the contoured heel. Like any HSH set up you have huge choice on exactly how you wire it - this is no different. While the outer positions select the full humbuckers, position two voices bridge (slug single coil only) and the middle single coil; position three gives us bridge and neck (both slug single coils); position four offers the screw single coil of the neck pickup with the middle pickup. A ‘secret’ two-way mini toggle that simulates a coil-split via an old-school passive filter (a 0.1 microfarad capacitor). In many ways this feels more like high performance rifle, not a guitar. It gives off a tuned-to-perfection vibe that’s like an instrument you’ve owned for a while, gigged, modified and tweaked. Which in reality is exactly what it is only Charvel and Guthrie Govan have done it for us. But don’t dismiss this as a virtuoso rock shredder axe. Yes, if your technique is up to it, you won’t have a problem there and using just the bridge pickup you’ll probably have all you need: big and ballsy, a hint of a cocked wah-like high end it’s certainly in the JB area. But it’s offset by a pokey PAF-like neck voice, tube-y and soupy but far from one dimensional. If that was it, we’d be smiling. But there’s plenty more... Guthrie Govan’s vision for an all round workhouse that’ll stand up to the rigours of professional touring is superbly realised in this signature. Every detail is wonderfully considered. It’s not a cheap date, but it’s an astonishing guitar: a player’s tool of the highest calibre.
Read the full review: Charvel Guthrie Govan Signature
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 the full review: Ibanez Prestige AZ2204
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
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