The 10 Best Electric Guitars

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Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive

This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in February of 2015. If you want to become a real guitar hero, you'll need to put the right ax in your hands. Our selection of electric guitars includes something for just about everyone, from simple, inexpensive options best suited for beginners to top-tier models coveted by amateur and professional musicians alike. We've ranked them here by their playability, tonal range, durability, and style. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best electric guitar on Amazon.

10. Jackson Dinky

9. Squier Bullet Strat

8. Gretsch G5422 TDC Electromatic

7. Ibanez RGD Iron Label

6. Paul Reed Smith SE 277

5. ESP LTD EC-1000

4. Epiphone Sheraton II Pro

3. Fender Ultra Telecaster

2. Epiphone Les Paul Standard

1. Fender American Ultra Stratocaster

Special Honors

Gibson Standard SG '61 This is an iconic, solid-body option that's been manufactured in the USA for generations. It's a classic model that features a mahogany body and a maple neck, the balance of which has finally been perfected, eliminating the line's previous top-heaviness to better complement its lightweight design.

Shabat Guitars Puma This boutique option is made by hand in a small outfit in California, and it takes inspiration for its body design from the Fender Jazzmaster series. What sets this apart from the better known brand is its outstanding set of pickups and electronics, both of which are virtually noise-free, and offer a wide range of expression to any player.

Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s This has been one of the world's most celebrated models since the 1950s. It's suitable for almost any genre of music, with warm, smooth tones in the neck and tight, articulated highs from the bridge. In features trapezoidal inlays and comes in three attractive finish options, but it's undeniably on the expensive side.

Editor's Notes

December 06, 2019:

One of the biggest shifts to this category comes from Gibson, who seem to have limited the availability of their lineup significantly, forcing us to relegate their iconic SG and Les Paul models to our special honors section. Make no mistake that these are two of the best models in the world, but that availability issue is something we can't ignore.

Fender has updated their American lineup from the Elite line to the so-called Ultra lineup, which features upgraded pickups and electronics designed to give players even more tonal flexibility. Most of the other specs have remained the same, as Fender apparently understands that if something isn't broken you shouldn't try to fix it.

We also added a 27-inch scale Paul Reed Smith SE 277 for players interested in a different tonal range. It might have climbed higher on the list if the finish on its body had been a bit finer, but it remains a smart choice for rhythm guitarists and a certain kind of soloist. And shredders looking for good action and steady, reliable tuning in a Les Paul body design will find the ESP LTD EC-1000 a wise selection, especially if they only have so much money to spend, but its three-piece neck design harms its potential for sustain.

Music Becomes Electric

A guitar's string is where the sound begins, and it's through the design of the body that the sound is amplified.

If you've ever stretched out a rubber band and plucked it, you've created the most basic principle behind the guitar.

A guitar's string is where the sound begins, and it's through the design of the body that the sound is amplified. You can even make your own ridiculously rudimentary acoustic guitar at home, but don't expect to get to Carnegie Hall with it.

Acoustic guitars are designed to enrich this sound by creating a large wooden chamber that catches the vibration of the string, reverberates it and projects it back out.

But most electric guitars don't have any kind of reverberation chamber. They also don't make use of the traditional nylon strings found on classical acoustic guitars.

Instead, electric guitars pair metal strings with magnetic pickups built into the body. We call them pickups because they literally pick up the specific magnetic frequency of the vibrating string and translate that into an electrical current.

That current makes its way to your amplifier where it is translated back into your notes and chords.

You can control the tone of your pickups on most guitars by turning the tone knobs assigned to each pickup. Turn the knob all the way up, and you're using 100 percent of the pickup's information. As you turn the knob back toward zero, you're cutting off higher frequencies for a bassier, sometimes muddier sound.

There's A Lot To Choose From

There are about as many variances in guitar type out there as there are guitarists.

If you're just getting started, you might not want to drop thousands of dollars on the best of the best. Beginning guitarists likely won't have the touch, skill, or ears to appreciate the differences among higher end guitars anyway, so you won't miss out on much by starting with something made with cheaper wood and rattier pickups.

That said, if you feel inclined to cut right to the top and make an investment in a guitar that you'll never grow out of, go ahead and reach for the stars.

That said, if you feel inclined to cut right to the top and make an investment in a guitar that you'll never grow out of, go ahead and reach for the stars.

One great thing about nicer guitars: they hold their value tremendously over the years, and at a certain point–if you've taken good care of it–that value can actually go up.

For the seasoned guitarist looking to expand his or her collection, or looking to make that leap toward greater sounds, the questions turn toward your personal playing style and aesthetic.

You'll be able to access better tones for jazz, country, and classic rock from Fender's stock pickups, and chunkier sounds for rock and metal from the humbucking prowess in Gibson's lineup.

Of course, the beautiful thing about guitars is that when you make them your own, your sound becomes uniquely yours. Go shred some hammer-on solos with a telecaster, or play the coolest jazz lines on that SG.

Find yourself in your guitar, and you'll never sound better.

Out Of The Frying Pan

The first guitar to make the intentional leap from acoustic to magnetic electric was the "Frying Pan" in 1931.

By the mid 1930s, the first wooden solid body electric guitars hit the market and began to change the landscape of music forever.

Over the next 30 years, the electric guitar would inform the sounds of jazz, blues, and rock, though not all genres were excited to adopt it.

By the mid 1930s, the first wooden solid body electric guitars hit the market and began to change the landscape of music forever.

Rather famously in 1965, Bob Dylan, who traditionally performed alone with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival backed by an electric band. The reaction was mixed to say the least, but it marked a significant change in the direction of folk music.

These days, guitarists are finding amazing ways to augment their instruments, with the charge toward greater degrees of expression being led by the likes of Matt Bellamy, whose guitars feature everything from built in synthesizers, to auto-detuners, and Korg touchpads.

As the instrument evolves, so too will the music it creates, but among the things that never change are six strings, quality wood, clean pickups, and a little inspiration.

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Daniel Imperiale
Last updated on December 09, 2019 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

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