The electric guitar is one of the most popular instruments ever made. From rock to metal, from jazz to country, the electric guitar fundamentally altered the course of music and history.
Nowadays, there are dozens of electric guitar brands offering hundreds of different models for all sorts of playing styles, music genres, and skill levels.
If you’re a beginner, it might be difficult to know where to even get started. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best electric guitar brands that have earned their place in history.
Our top pick is Fender because of its astounding versatility of tone, high-quality materials, and wide range of pricing options.
Quick Summary of the Best Electric Guitar Brands
- Fender (Best Overall)
- Gibson (Best for Hard Rock)
- PRS (Premium Craftsmanship)
- Ibanez (Best Playability)
- Gretsch (Best for Retro Tones)
- ESP/LTD (Best for Metal)
- Epiphone (Best for Beginners)
- Strandberg (Most Unique Design)
- Jackson (Best for Shredding)
- Yamaha (Best for a Tight Budget)
Best Electric Guitar Brands
1. Best Overall – Fender
Arguably one of the most well-known guitar manufacturers of all time and our number-one pick for the best guitar brands, Fender was founded in Southern California by Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender in 1946. For almost 80 years, Fender has established a worldwide influence that is hard to beat.
In 1951, Leo Fender took the world by storm when he introduced the Broadcaster (later, the Telecaster). The Broadcaster was the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar—and it would go on to change the way music was made forever.
A mere three years after that, Fender unveiled a guitar that would set the standard for generations to come: the Fender Stratocaster.
The Fender brand has continued to expand its line of guitars, its commitment to quality craftsmanship and attention to detail remaining consistent throughout its history.
They use high-quality materials and manufacturing techniques to ensure that their guitars meet the highest standards of playability and sound.
Wildly versatile, Fender produces a wide range of guitar models for various music genres, from rock and blues to jazz, country, and more. This versatility is part of what makes their guitars so irresistible to so many musicians.
Fender guitars come at various price points, making their instruments accessible to both beginners and seasoned professionals. This accessibility has helped expand their user base and contributed to their widespread recognition.
2. Best for Hard Rock – Gibson
The history of Gibson guitars dates all the way back to the late 19th century when founder Orville Gibson decided to build his own high-quality, standardized guitars. In 1902, he founded Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing, a company that would go on to set the standard for decades to come.
Further changing the course of history, Gibson invented the archtop guitar by constructing the same type of carved, arched tops used on violins.
In 1936, the company introduced the first commercially successful electric guitar, the ES-150. The iconic Gibson Les Paul was introduced in the early 1950s, further solidifying the brand’s legendary status.
Gibson produces high-quality guitars that are renowned for their craftsmanship and the use of premium materials. The company takes pride in their attention to detail, using premium tonewoods and components to create instruments that produce rich, resonant tones.
The guitars created by this iconic brand are celebrated for their warm, full-bodied, and often thicker tones. They have a distinctive sound that appeals to many players, especially those in genres like rock, blues, and jazz.
Even though Gibson is one of the best guitar brands in history, there is one downside. Gibson guitars usually cost thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible for many.
Luckily for us, Gibson does produce more affordable versions of their iconic guitars under the brand Epiphone—more on them later!
3. Premium Craftsmanship – PRS
PRS was founded by luthier Paul Reed Smith in 1985 after having previously worked at the guitar company Alembic, where he built custom guitars for artists such as Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia.
In 1985, Paul Reed Smith set out to create his own line of high-quality, hand-crafted guitars. And so, in 1987, PRS began producing guitars after releasing its first mass-produced model: the PRS Custom 24. This guitar became an instant hit among musicians and remains one of the most beloved guitar models to this day.
Today, PRS is one of the most respected guitar manufacturers in the world and is known for its high-quality instruments created with exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Each guitar is handcrafted by skilled luthiers using only premium materials, ensuring consistent quality and top-of-the-line playability.
PRS guitars come in a wide variety of models, each with its unique design and tonal characteristics. In fact, all PRS instruments are known for being versatile and capable of producing a broad spectrum of tones, making them a perfect choice for various music genres.
PRS guitars have very distinctive aesthetics too, with their elegant curves, beautiful finishes, and unique inlays.
Additionally, PRS’s patented tremolo systems (PRS Tremolo and PRS Piezo) are highly regarded for their stability and smooth operation. These systems allow players to achieve expressive pitch modulation and offer an alternative tonal palette.
While PRS guitars are often associated with premium quality and craftsmanship, the company also offers more affordable lines, making their electric guitars accessible to a broader range of players.
4. Best Playability – Ibanez
Ibanez had its humble beginnings in 1908 when the Hoshino Gakki company was created as the musical instrument sales division of Hoshino Shoten, a bookstore chain.
In 1935, Hoshino Gakki began making Spanish-style acoustic guitars under the name Ibanez in honor of Spanish luthier Salvador Ibañez.
During the guitar boom of the 60s, Ibanez got into some legal trouble for copying the popular models of brands like Fender and Gibson, including the renowned Les Paul.
Soon enough, however, Ibanez began creating their own style of guitars, starting with the Ibanez JEM and Universe models, which helped popularize the classic Ibanez design. Not long after, Ibanez created the guitars that later morphed into the RG and S series: the Roadstar and the Saber.
One of the most attractive selling points of Ibanez guitars is their excellent playability due to their thin and fast neck profiles, which makes them ideal for shredding and fast playing styles.
In addition to their higher-end models, Ibanez offers more affordable options, making their guitars accessible to players with different budget ranges. This has contributed to their popularity among beginner and intermediate guitarists.
Over the years, Ibanez has introduced various innovations and features to enhance the performance of their electric guitars. These innovations often cater to the needs of contemporary guitarists and reflect ongoing improvements in technology and earning them best guitar brand status.
5. Best for Retro Tones – Gretsch
The history of Gretsch began in 1883, when German immigrant Friedrich Gretsch founded his shop in Brooklyn, New York, and began to make banjos, drums, and tambourines. Friedrich died a mere 12 years later, leaving the fledgling company in the hands of his teenage son Fred.
Young Fred would go on to establish a century-plus-long musical legacy. By 1916 he had turned Gretsch into one of America’s leading importers and manufacturers of musical instruments.
But Fred knew that listening to what the public wanted was the key to growth, and the public wanted guitars. So, Gretsch began creating guitars.
Nowadays, Gretsch guitars are known for their unique and distinctive sound, characterized by warm, rich tones with a strong emphasis on the midrange. This tonal profile has made them particularly popular among players in vintage-oriented styles of music.
Their iconic designs, such as the hollow and semi-hollow body models like the Gretsch Duo Jet, White Falcon, and Country Gentleman, have become classics in the music industry.
Contributing to their unique aesthetics are stylish finishes, ornate inlays, and signature “F-holes” on many of their hollow body models. These elements undoubtedly distinguish Gretsch from the crowd.
While Gretsch instruments guitars are often associated with vintage styles, they are surprisingly versatile and can be used in a wide range of musical genres, including jazz, blues, rock, and alternative music.
6. Best for Metal – ESP/LTD
ESP (short for Electric Sound Products) was founded in Japan in 1975 by Hisatake Shibuya to produce top-quality components for electric guitars and basses, as well as custom shop models for the now guitar-obsessed Japanese market.
Similarly to Ibanez, ESP also started their guitar-making journey by making quality copies of the more famous instruments. Following a lawsuit by Gibson, ESP redesigned its lines to be less similar to the American models.
Today, ESP and its sub-brand LTD have become extremely popular among players of heavier genres, especially metal guitarists, as well as those who prefer that characteristic high-gain sound.
Aside from the high-quality craftsmanship, ESP is known for, part of its claim to fame is its Custom Shop service, which allows musicians to order custom-built guitars according to their specific preferences and requirements.
Over the years, ESP has introduced several iconic guitar designs that have become synonymous with certain music genres. For example, their Eclipse model is highly regarded in the rock and metal community.
This is not to say that ESP electric guitars are solely for rock and heavy metal players. ESP offers a diverse range of guitar models, including various body styles, pickup configurations, and tonewoods. This extensive lineup allows players to find instruments that suit their musical preferences and playing styles.
7. Best for Beginners – Epiphone
Epiphone is one of America’s oldest and most revered instrument makers. Their story began in 1873 in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), where Greek founder Anastasios Stathopoulos made his own fiddles and lutes.
Stathopoulos moved to the United States in 1903 and continued to make his original instruments until he passed away in 1915, and his son, Epaminondas (“Epi”), took over.
Their connection with Gibson started in 1957 when Gibson bought Epiphone and entrusted them with the production of affordable versions of their most prized instruments.
While Gibson guitars are handmade and Epiphone guitars are mass-produced, Epiphone has nevertheless benefited from Gibson’s expertise and quality standards, which reflect positively on the overall craftsmanship of their guitars.
Epiphone is, of course, best known for creating affordable instruments as alternatives to Gibson’s models, making their guitars accessible to a wider range of players. This affordability allows aspiring guitarists to own instruments with similar designs to Gibson’s at a lower price point.
Epiphone offers a wide variety of guitar models, including classic designs like Les Paul, SG, ES, and others. They also produce signature models in collaboration with famous artists, catering to many playing styles and musical preferences.
In fact, Epiphone guitars are often recommended as first guitars for beginners due to their affordability, playability, and overall quality. They provide an excellent entry point for aspiring guitarists to start their musical journey.
8. Most Unique Design – Strandberg
Innovation is the name of the game for Strandberg. Based in Uppsala, Sweden, founder Ola Strandberg started what is now .strandberg* Guitars as a hobby project called the Ergonomic Guitar System that was conceived in 2007.
While Ola’s skills as a luthier date back to the mid-eighties, when he also played in a number of local bands, his professional career was primarily in software.
Ola’s innovative ergonomic designs quickly gained momentum through Internet forums and soon led to him quitting his day job and acquiring a patent for his EndurNeck neck shape.
Strandberg has become increasingly renowned for its innovative and ergonomic guitar designs. Their guitars feature unique body shapes, lightweight materials, and a headless design, all of which contribute to enhanced playability and comfort for musicians, especially during long playing sessions.
Another of Strandberg’s standout features is its use of multi-scale fretboards, also known as fanned frets. This design allows for more balanced string tension and improved intonation across the fretboard, resulting in better overall playability and tone.
Strandberg offers a variety of customization options, allowing musicians to tailor their guitars to their specific preferences. This level of personalization is appreciated by players seeking a unique instrument.
While Strandberg is known for its association with progressive and extended-range music styles, their guitars are versatile and capable of producing a wide range of tones, making them suitable for various genres.
9. Best for Shredding – Jackson
Jackson began in the 1970s when founder Grover Jackson obtained part ownership in Charvel’s Guitar Repair in Glendora, California. Wayne Charvel eventually filed for bankruptcy and sold his interest to Grover Jackson, which gave him control of the Charvel name.
In 1980, guitarist Randy Rhoads approached the company with an idea for an individualized guitar. This resulted in the creation of the Concorde, an innovative revamp of the traditional Flying V.
These designs were such a departure from Charvel Guitar’s Stratocaster-based models that Jackson elected to label them under a different brand name. He chose his own last name and created the first Jackson guitar.
Jackson has a long-standing association with heavy music genres, particularly in the realm of rock and metal. Their guitars are praised for their ability to deliver aggressive and powerful tones for high-gain playing styles.
What sets Jackson’s guitars apart is their slim neck, making their guitars an excellent fit for players who enjoy shredding and playing intricate lead work.
Similarly to ESP, Jackson guitars are often associated with heavy music, but they are versatile instruments that can handle a wide range of guitar playing, making them great for genres beyond metal and rock.
Jackson guitars have a distinct and eye-catching appearance, with their sharp edges, bold finishes, and unique headstock designs appealing to many players who appreciate more aggressive aesthetics.
10. Best for a Tight Budget – Yamaha
Yamaha entered the global guitar market in 1966 when it was established by the Japanese Ministry of Education for the purpose of promoting music education and popularization.
That same year saw the introduction of the company’s first electric models: the SG-3 and SG-2, which featured custom-designed pickups, bridge, and whammy bar, with a retro-futuristic look that seemed to embody the era of surf music.
As Yamaha grew and evolved, so too did its electric and acoustic guitars. Today, Yamaha offers a diverse range of electric guitar models, catering to players of all skill levels, musical preferences, and budgets.
Yamaha guitars are designed to be versatile, capable of producing a wide range of tones that will work great with all sorts of different music genres. This versatility makes them a great choice for beginners or seasoned players who are looking to explore different styles.
Because Yamaha is a massive multinational corporation that makes a ton of different products—such as motorcycles and robots—it’s no surprise that they also incorporate their innovative technology into their electric guitars.
One such case is the Virtual Circuitry Modeling (VCM) effects on some of their guitars, providing additional tonal options and onboard processing capabilities.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the best guitar brands for beginners?
We already mentioned that Epiphone and Ibanez both offer beginner-friendly guitars, but there are some brands that didn’t make our list but are also excellent alternatives.
One of those brands is Yamaha. This brand is highly regarded for producing affordable and reliable acoustic and electric guitars, making them an excellent choice for beginners. Yamaha guitars offer often provide a good balance of playability and quality sound.
Fender’s Squier line is also worth looking into. It offers more budget-friendly versions of their iconic Stratocaster and Telecaster models, as well as a solid build quality. They’re particularly great as pop and rock guitars.
What are the best guitar brands for left-handed players?
It’s hard to believe this is still the case nowadays, but left-handed players can have a hard time finding a guitar that suits their needs since most guitars are designed for right-handed players. However, there are several guitar brands that offer left-handed models.
For starters, Fender offers a good selection of left-handed models for their popular guitars, such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and other series. They are one of the most accessible brands for left-handed players.
Both Gibson and Epiphone also offer left-handed versions of their guitars, including iconic models like the Les Paul and SG.
Other brands known for offering left-handed guitars are PRS, Ibanez, ESP/LTD, Gretsch, Jackson, Schecter, and others.
In some cases, the availability of left-handed models may vary depending on the region and the specific guitar model. It’s important to check with local guitar stores or reputable online retailers to see which left-handed options are currently available.
Which brand sells the most guitars?
These are the top electric guitar brands in the United States as of 2023:
Gibson holds the largest share at 34%, followed by Fender at 30%. Ibanez, Yamaha, Epiphone, and other brands make up the rest of the market.
- Gibson: 34%
- Fender: 30%
- Ibanez: 12%
- Yamaha: 7%
- Epiphone: 4%
- Other: 9% (includes Ovation, PRS, Charvel, ESP, Jackson, Dean, Washburn)
These statistics come from NAMM (the National Association of Music Merchants), which surveyed 2,000 American music store owners.
According to NAMM, electric guitars are more popular than acoustic guitars, with a market share of 60% to 40%.
Do expensive guitar brands sound better?
The price of a guitar is not the sole determinant of its sound quality. While expensive guitars can often offer high-quality materials, craftsmanship, and components, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will always sound better to every player.
Factors such as tonewoods, construction, electronics, and hardware all contribute to the overall quality of a guitar.
Ultimately, the best guitar for a player is one that feels comfortable to play, suits their musical style, and inspires their creativity.
Expensive guitars can provide excellent craftsmanship and sound quality, but it’s always a good idea to try out various guitars across different price ranges to find the one that resonates with you.
Many professional musicians use mid-range or even budget-friendly guitars that suit their specific needs and preferences, further emphasizing that sound quality is not solely tied to the price tag.
Choosing the best electric guitar brand ultimately depends on individual preferences, playing style, and budget. As we’ve seen from this list, each brand has its unique strengths, and what works for one player may not be the same for another.
Some brands excel in producing classic and vintage-inspired instruments, while others focus on modern and innovative designs.
Our top pick for the best electric guitar brand is Fender for its versatility of tone, high-quality materials, and wide range of pricing options.
Whether it’s a well-established brand or a boutique manufacturer, the right guitar brand for you is the one that makes you excited to play and allows you to express yourself musically with ease.