The Best Electric Guitar Brands
If you're looking for the best electric guitar - look no further - we have the ultimate axes here for you to drool over - updated for 2013!
When we rated these to see which were the best of the best, we took into consideration their quality, popularity with professional guitarists, and the impact they've had on rock music. After we originally published our selection of the top 5 guitar brands, it became clear from the feedback we received that many of you wanted us to name the best individual models, rather than just the brands. So here's are our selection of the best models for each of the top 5 brands.
The top 5 electric guitar brands are:
Although Fender are a bigger company, Gibson are the brand behind the iconic Les Paul. Both the guitar and the man with the same name have had a bigger impact on the electric guitar than any other.
(Gibson Custom 1959 Les Paul Reissue VOS pictured above)
The 'Les Paul' is the gold standard in rock guitar. The Les Paul solid body guitar was a huge innovation when it was first developed by Ted McCarty in collaboration with Les Paul, and the 1959 Les Paul Standard is one of the most sought after guitars by collectors.
You will find it next to impossible to get one of the originals, however the Gibson Custom 1959 Les Paul Reissue VOS is a limited edition tribute to the original and available at all good online music stores.
The MSRP is $8,8892 but you can buy it online for just under $6,299. If that's a bit too much for your budget you can always go for the Gibson Les Paul Classic 2014 which sells for around $1,899.
For more information visit the Gibson Custom 1959 Les Paul Reissue VOS page.
Here are some worthy alternatives from Gibson:
The Gibson SG started out as a lighter alternative to the Les Paul - which Les didn't like and eventually opted out of. What seemed like a failure turned out into a success story because many rock and metal guitar players loved the SG's sharp look, faster neck and higher fret reach. Now the SG continues to dominate in the realm of rock and metal with modern production models like the Gibson SG Standard 2014. This latest model features a truly modern addition to the classic SG, the automatic mechanical tuner "Min-ETune". It is currently retailing for less than $1640 online.Click here for more information.
The Gibson ES-335 continues to set the standard for semi-hollow body design since it was introduced in the late '50s. This guitar comes from Gibson Custom at Memphis, and faithfully follows the original ES-335 body design. It is equipped with 57 Classic humbuckers that can handle genres as diverse as ballads, jazz, blues and even rock. If you can afford it, this is an elegant guitar to reward yourself with. It has an MSRP of $4,233 but retails for only $3,000. Click here for more information.
The Flying V shape oozes with rock and roll attitude. It's the kind of guitar that you want when you're playing hard rock, metal and punk. Its unique shape makes the guitar lighter, this allows you to easily perform your various rockstar poses as you shred your axe on stage. This affordable signature Flying V rocks even harder with Flynn approved graphic finish. If you want to play guitar in style, get this Flying V. The MSRP is $1498 but you can buy it online for just $899. Click here for more information.
The beautiful Gibson Custom 1957 Les Paul Goldtop is a worthy investment. Its eye catching "blonde" look is matched with vintage sounding tones provided by Gibson's BurstBucker pickups, which are precise copies of the original PAF designs. The price is steep, but its enticing vintage appeal has turned it into a goal for hardworking guitarists to aim for. This is a guitar that's worth emptying your pocket for. It usually sells for about $4,500 online. Click here for more information.
And don't forget the 2013 Tribute to Les Paul from Gibson, it's called the Gibson Les Paul Signature "T" Electric Guitar
Fender are the biggest guitar company in the world with more sales than any other guitar manufacturer. Their first solid body electric guitar was the hugely successful Telecaster, but they are far better known for the Stratocaster - the guitar of choice for Eric Clapton and of course Jimi Hendrix.
(Fender Custom Shop 60th Anniversary 1954 Heavy Relic Stratocaster pictured above)
An original 1950s Strat is the top prize for most Fender collectors. It featured many innovations including the pick-guard attached to the surface of the body with all the electronics attached - just remove a few screws and you could remove all the electronics in one piece.
The Fender Custom Shop 60th Anniversary 1954 Heavy Relic Stratocaster is an excellent tribute to the original 50s Strats, and will become a collector's piece in its own right.
The MSRP is $4,900 but you can buy it online for around $3,920. The budget priced alternative is the Fender Standard Stratocaster which sells for just around $499.
See this home film tour of the Fender factory in 1959 featuring Leo Fender and people making Stratocasters.
Here are some other great models from Fender:
The Fender Classic Player Jaguar Special is a beefed-up version of the original sleek design, equipped with dual humbucking pickups and upgraded electronics. Aside from the usual bulk of switches and tone shaping options, this Jaguar has a circuit that allows bendable coil-splitting which further adds to the variety of tones you can produce. A versatile and stylish guitar which sells for around $900. Click here for more information.
The Telecaster, with its bright "twang" tone, is simply the most dominant electric guitar for country music. And it didn't stop there, because its presence is spread elsewhere including ballad, blues and even rock. Fender upped the 2012 Tele's output by equipping it with a Twisted Tele Pickup on the neck and retained the classic tone on the bridge with a Broadcaster pickup. You can get the latest Telecaster for just under $1250. Click here for more information.
The American Standard Stratocaster continues the Strat's old tradition of versatility and simplicity. Its flexible tone is further enhanced with vintage voiced Custom Shop Fat '50s pickups, matched by aged knobs and pickup covers. I'm not too fond of the "relic" hype but if that's your thing, there are various Strat models that will cater to your fetishes. No matter what guitars you have, there's always room for another Strat, and this one sells for around $1,250. Click here for more information.
3. PRS (Paul Reed Smith)
Paul Reed Smith is a relative newcomer having been born just 2 years after the Stratocaster was created, and founding PRS Guitars in 1985, but in that relatively short period of time PRS have made a huge impact on the guitar world, have been used by the likes of Carlos Santana, Ted Nugent, Dave Navarro. and Mark Tremonti, and have earned their place among the best electric guitar brands.
(PRS 2014 Custom 24 pictured above)
Although the "Pre Lawsuit Single Cutaways" have been the most collected PRS models, the PRS Custom 24 has become a collector's item in its own right, and looks set to be an instant classic.
The tonal spectrum is more spread out than most guitars with both a lot of high end and bass, and it has a number of notable endorsers including Tom Wheeler who was the editor of Guitar Player Magazine for over 20 years, and Davy Knowles- Paul Reed Smith says this is the guitar he plays himself.
You can find the 2014 PRS Custom 24 selling online for around $2,999. An alternative for the budget conscious is the Mark Tremonti Custom (Student Edition) which sells for around $739.
Some more great PRS models:
The PRS SC 245 is a single cutaway guitar that combines the eye catching design elements of the Les Paul with PRS' brand of playability and versatility. It has an appealing classic look, thanks to to the solid mahogany and carved maple top combination, but it stands out of the classic crowd by utilizing modern design and construction methods, most notable of which is the PRS 2-piece bridge that feature increased weight and mass for improved sustain. This model is a successful mixture of classic beauty and technology. The PRS SC 245 is retailing online for just under $3000. Click here for more information.
Paul Reed Smith made a special one-off guitar for Santana in 1976. Santana loved the guitar and went on to use it as one of his concert guitars. This was the first Student Edition of a Santana PRS signature model to have the same body shape outline as Carlos Santana's American-made PRS models. The MSRP is $1,115 but sells for about $724. Click here for more information.
Gretsch was founded in 1883 and started out making banjos - it wasn't until the 1930s that they began producing guitars - but during the 1950s their guitars began to take on legendary status. During the 1960s their popularity hit stratospheric levels because George Harrison was playing a modified 1957 Gretsch Duo Jet that he bought second hand for £70 from a ship crew member in Liverpool who had bought it brand new in New York. Most collectors agree that the 50s & 60s are the most sought after Gretsch guitars.
(G6128T GH George Harrison Tribute Custom Shop Duo Jet pictured above)
George Harrison's original guitar is not for sale, but you can get this meticulously presented tribute version, and it too will be a collectors' piece with only 60 if them ever to be produced.
It comes with some very special extras including one of George's own guitar picks, an original 1987 7" record and picture sleeve of his hit "Got My Mind Set On You", and a personal letter from the Harrison family.
The MSRP is $20,000 - and that's what you'll pay at the stores too. Gretsch don't do things by halves, so if you want a cheaper version the best you'll find is the G6128T-GH George Harrison Signature Duo Jet which comes with a $5,000 price tag, but you can buy it online for only $3,500.
Visit Gretsch for all the details.
Gretsch are also famous for their Hollow Body gutiars:
The G5420T Electromatic is Gretsch's effort to make the Chet Atkins signature model somewhat affordable to working class musicians. It has virtually the same head turning look of the original 6120, using affordable parts and production. The Gretsch G5420T has the sound and style which is ideal for a variety of genres like country, southern rock, folk and even jazz. This is great looking versatile guitar that you can buy online for just $875. Click here for more information.
If you want to get that twangy Chet Atkins sound from the 50's and 60's then this is the way to go. A more expensive model than the G5420T, the G6120 Chet Atkins comes with an MSRP of $3250.00 and is usually found online selling for under $2500. Click here for more information
Although Yamaha are a better known Japanese musical instrument company, Ibanez stands out from the crowd in rock guitars, not just in Japan - but the world over - with a number of big name guitarists such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Paul Gilbert having signature models. They originally built their American presence in the 1960s on the back of Gibson and Fender copies, however the RG series introduced in the 1980s was a more original design, based on Steve Vai's JEM Universal, and became one of the biggest selling metal guitars of that period and beyond.
(Ibanez 8-String JCRG813 pictured above)
Ibanez practically wrote the book on production line 8-string guitars, the JCRG813 showcases their innovation and creativity in the 8-string market. The brand truly goes beyond the norm when designing their instruments. This is one of the reasons why many of today's top virtuosos are more than happy to stay with the brand.
As expected the guitar features a slim 5-piece maple/wenge wizard 8 neck designed specifically to give you the fastest and most convenient fretting experience.
The Ibanez 8-String JCRG813 is currently retailing for around $4,299 but it can be difficult to get - you usually have to put in a special order and pay in advance. The Prestige RGD is an alternative if you want a 7-string quickly, and it usually sells for less than half the price. The introductory version for the RG Series is the 6-string RG450DXB which sell for around $399.99.
Some more great Ibanez models:
The JEM70V is a Steve Vai signature model based upon the early JEMs he helped create. It comes with 3 different DiMarzio Evolution pickups, an Edge tremolo, and a JEM Premium low profile neck to make it easy for your left hand to fly up and down the fretboard. This is the way to go if you want that Steve Vai sound. The MSRP is a steep $6,655 but it's selling online for less than $4,000. Click here for more information.
Ibanez gained a good reputation for their affordable semi-hollowbody guitars, and their Artcore series are their leading examples. From this line, the Ibanez AF155 ArtStar is highly recommended, thanks to its premium looks and tone. If you're looking for Jazz guitar that won't break your bank - check this one out. You can buy an Ibanez AF155 ArtStar online for only $999. Sweetwater currently has a demo model available for much cheaper. Click here for more information.
Other Electric Guitar Brands
Those above are the top 5 we've selected.
Some might argue for the inclusion of other brands like Rickenbacker, Jackson, Dean, Schecter, ESP, or others - but we had to make the cut somewhere.
Please feel free to share your choices in the comments below and say which electric guitar brands you feel should be included.
Thank you to Sweetwater for their sponsorship and providing the full specifications for the guitars above where possible. You can see more electric guitars at www.sweetwater.com/shop/guitars/electric-guitars/
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