Choosing the best electric guitar for you is pretty subjective, but that's precisely how it should be. Of course, the 'best' means different things to different people, which makes compiling this guide an arduous task. To some players, the ultimate electric is a high-end, tricked-out model that features all the latest gadgets, but to others, it could simply mean a guitar that helps you learn or a trusty companion as you embark on your first rehearsals with a new band.
For this round-up, we're presenting what we consider to be the best electric guitars around today, covering a broad spectrum of genres, playing levels and prices, to help you choose the right axe for you. You'll find options here from most of the main guitar manufacturers, so you can be sure they also come with sterling brand reputation and a proven seal of quality.
Our handy price comparison widgets have also found the best prices at trusted retailers to save you from having to shop around, and we've listed the guitars in price order, so it's easier to match the right guitar with your budget. We've compiled some helpful advice for this guide, too. Just click the 'buying advice' button above to head straight there. Or keep scrolling to get straight to our top choices.
Best electric guitars: Product guide
When choosing an electric guitar for a child, there are a number of things to consider. The guitar itself has to be reasonably light to ensure smaller shoulders can cope. It needs to be easy enough to play for small hands, with an appropriately-sized neck. And it needs to look cool. Because, let's face it, at that age the look of the guitar arguably trumps its ability to traverse multiple tonal areas.
There are a few dedicated mini versions of regular guitars, but we've gone for one which is full sized, fully equipped and affordable. The Squier Bullet Mustang features a slightly smaller scale length which, combined with the basswood body, make it easy to get to grips with. But, importantly, its double humbuckers ensure it can keep up with most grown-up guitars. And it is one of the most badass Squier guitars we've seen in a long while.
Read the full Squier Bullet Mustang review
The entry-level guitar market is in a much healthier place than it was even 10 years ago. Now, manufacturers and brands are employing far higher levels of quality control than they did. This means even 'cheaper' guitars deliver tones, construction and playability previously reserved for mid and higher level models.
The Squier Classic Vibe '60s Stratocaster is the perfect example of this. Previously, an entry-level guitar would tend to last a couple of years, have string action like playing razor wire, and tones like a horde of bees in a tin can. Not so any more.
This Classic Vibe looks, feels and sounds incredible, and even gives some of the cheaper Fender models a run for their money. Style and playability at a price that won't make your eyes water. Progress is a wonderful thing.
The Double Jet is one of the best all-purpose rock ’n’ roll electric guitars that Gretsch makes. You could play blues, rock, indie, rock ’n’ roll, jazz or country on it and we’d guarantee you a big fun time.
This Electromatic edition presents ridiculous value and comes in a variety of quite exquisite finishes. Choose Natural for that Malcolm Young vibe, Walnut Stain because it’s the classiest, or either of the metallic primer-style finishes because you’re a badass.
With two Black Top Broad’Trons, the Double Jet is quick to show its teeth, and there’s a treble bleed circuit to wring as much tone as you can out of them. The thin U-profile neck is super quick, with the comfortable 24.6” scale and12” fretboard radius offering a real contemporary feel, and that chambered mahogany makes it easy on the back. So cool.
Read the full Gretsch G5222 Electromatic Double Jet review
When we're talking value, one guitar instantly springs to mind. The Epiphone Les Paul Standard has been the go-to guitar for thousands of players over the years, and for good reason. Put simply, this guitar ticks a lot of boxes. It's exceptionally well-made, it sounds great and, importantly, it won't break the bank.
For many players, this guitar hits the perfect sweet spot between quality, price and performance. It's why you see so many people graduate to it as their first 'serious' axe, and why you see so many on the weekend warrior circuit. If a bona fide Gibson is out of reach financially, you can't go far wrong with one of these.
To many, the Custom 24 presents the pinnacle of PRS design, and the thing about great guitar design is that it translates well at different price points. The SE Custom 24 is stunning in anyone’s book.
The Wide Thin neck profile strikes a neat balance between comfort and speed. The flame maple veneer strikes a neat balance between opulence and ostentatious. Everything about this guitar’s design seems to exist in perfect equilibrium.
Other options in the SE Custom 24 line include the eye-popping Burled Ash and big-ticket 35th Anniversary models. Whichever you choose, you’ll be rewarded with a super-stable vibrato, bridge pickup that can handle everything from southern rock snarl to metal chunk, with neck humbucker tones that are inherently suited to blues, rock and showing off your comping skills. The coil-taps open up a whole range of possibilities – country, funk, you name it. The Custom 24 does it all.
- Grab a do-it-all axe with these PRS SE Custom 24 deals
The SE Hollowbody Standard feels like a proper semi-acoustic, with a larger body than its US-built counterpart, and there is something about these dimensions that elicit a Pavlovian ii-V-I response when you pick it up.
Not that this is just a jazz box. Far from it. The PRS 58/15 humbuckers are well-suited to jazz when you roll some of the treble back, but through a cranked tube amp you’ll get an ES-vibe and a tone that is relevant for a wide manner of styles.
Built in China by Cor-Tek, the SE Hollowbody Standard is typically immaculate, and it’s a real credit to the SE line that it manages to present that sense of PRS luxury for the price.
No question, this is a serious instrument, its Wide Fat neck profile bang-on as far as the name on the headstock goes, and it wears that understated plain top well.
Read the full PRS SE Hollowbody Standard review
Within guitar styles, there are certain sub-genres. Arguably the biggest niche is guitars made for heavy styles of music. This manifests itself in the body styling, ergonomics and hardware, with certain brands – like ESP and Schecter – dominating this world. But it's arguably the biggest name in metal guitars we've opted for here, and in one of their most iconic models.
Step forward the Ibanez RG550. Reissued last year, and based on an absolute legend of the genre, the RG550 is engineered specifically with metal in mind. The wafer-thin neck, locking trem, locking nut and high-output humbuckers give this guitar everything it needs to shred.
Vibe is a somewhat nebulous concept. Essentially, it's a guitar which evokes a certain mood or level of cool. While any number of axes could fit the bill, we've gone for the excellentFender Vintera '60s Telecaster Modified.
The Vintera combines a simple Tele layout with some clever tweaks under the hood and oodles of aforementioned vibe.
Underneath the standard alder body, you get access to some pretty unique pickup options. A special four-way switch offers both single coil pickups in series, while the S-1 switch on the volume knob inverts the phase giving you plenty of usable tones to choose from.
The original Superstrat returns and it has never looked better. This is one where we are best ignoring the name on the headstock and getting our heads around a guitar that offers lightning quick playability, heavy-duty humbucker tones, the snap and twang of a Strat, and a boutique feel, all for around a grand.
Everything about this is geared towards the player. Firstly to performance, with Luminlay side-markers helpful in onstage conditions, rolled fretboard edges and a 12"-16" compound fingerboard radius helpful to anyone who wants to give their chops a workout.
Tone-wise, this is what you make it. The stacked bridge ‘bucker is a modern classic that’ll eat up high-gain and squeal when needed, but is also rich in detail. The Strat pickups in the middle and neck positions allow you to sell the illusion that it really does say Fender on that Stratocaster headstock.
Read the full Charvel Pro-Mod DK22 SSS 2PT CM review
For many players, there comes a time when they want to branch out. To try new styles of playing, sounds or genres. And, while it would be nice to have specific guitars for each of these styles, sometimes that isn't possible. So we look for a jack of all trades. The Fender American Performer Stratocaster is one such guitar.
Offering the dual benefits of classic single-coil Fender attack, with the extra heft of a bridge humbucker, we get a guitar that can handle most styles of music with ease. Add to that the ability to split the humbucker into two single coils, and you have all the versatility you could ever need. And, being a high-end Fender, you know the sounds on offer are all top-notch. This is easily one of the best Fender Stratocasters on the market.
When you talk about workhorse guitars, you're looking for something which is equally at home in the studio, on the road or stored under the sofa to be brought out during the commercial breaks.
Pound for pound, you can't go far wrong with the Gibson Les Paul Studio. As well as being built to survive a nuclear war, the Studio line combines the tones, playability and durability of a solid, high-end guitar with the price tag that keeps it in range of the masses.
In order to achieve this balance, Gibson removes some of the aesthetic touches you'd find on a Standard model, like binding around the body, but the rest of it is largely as you'd find on guitars higher up the price bracket.
Launched in November 2019, Fender’s American Ultra Series visited sweeping changes across its Californian-built premium production line: noiseless pickups as standard, “Modern D” neck profiles, sculpted neck heels. Fingerboards now had a compound 10”-14” fingerboard radius, rolled edges and medium-jumbo frets for a contemporary feel.
These were player-orientated features – not to mention the gold foil Fender logo and some of the nicest finishes we had seen in years. All fancy appointments, and the Telecaster wears them well.
Tone-wise, the bridge pickup is classic Telecaster, weapons-grade treble, bright, articulate, and takes on a really musical Nashville crunch with more gain. The neck rounds out the attack, while you might well find the bouncy sweet spot with both pickups in parallel. The S-1 Switch offers a little on-tap thickness and a little more volume, and underscores the Tele’s reputation as the ultimate workhorse – versatile, punchy, impossible to put down.
Read the full Fender American Ultra Telecaster review
There’s a sense that the souped-up S-style is just for the shredders, or it’s just for the progressive metalheads, but that’s not strictly true. Manufacturers such as Suhr have proven that there is a niche for super-playable but grown-up instruments that expand upon the Strat’s template. Ibanez’s AZ2204 is built with this spirit in mind, and is quite possibly the most playable electric you’ll get your hands on.
The HSS configuration offers a cornucopia of tone possibilities, with Seymour Duncan Hyperion pickups a smart choice – heaps of gain, plenty of clarity – in a control circuit that features dyna-MIX9 switching tech and offers nine different combinations.
Other cool touches include luminescent dot side-markers, a Gotoh T1802 vibrato, an oval C profile neck with a bit more meat on it than its Wizard siblings, and Gotoh locking tuners. Well spec’d, beautifully finished, it’s a true player’s guitar.
And now for something completely different. When you think about jazz guitars, you think large bodies, semi-hollow construction and warm humbuckers. Combine these things together and you get an instrument capable of producing those silky smooth, rounded tones which form the cornerstone of jazz guitar.
The Gibson ES-335 is a heavyweight in this field. It marries up a range of exceptional tones, with the highest levels of build quality and silky-smooth playability. Gibson has been producing variants of the ES-335 for over 70 years, and that heritage is evident in every note, trill and legato.
It's not cheap, but that tells its own story. Jazz guitars don't get much better than this.
The original Sabre design dates back to 1978 and came from the drawing board of Leo Fender and George Fullerton, but this is much evolved, and has gone through a super-premium makeover.
There is no skimping on materials. The Sabre’s okoume body is topped with a 13mm thick piece of bookmatched flame maple. The thick top’s exposed edges serve as de facto binding. It looks the ticket.
The custom-wound humbuckers are controlled with a five-way blade selector, meaning that between the heat and punch of the bridge ‘bucker and the warm clarity of the neck, there’s plenty of mileage to be had with in-between tones. This is a guitar that invites you to express yourself. Locking Schaller tuners and a very stable vibrato keep things in order should you get carried away. Oh, you will.
Read the full Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre review
Best electric guitars: Buying advice
Buying a guitar is a personal and subjective thing - what might be the best electric guitar for you might not be right for someone else. However, there are quite a few things to take into consideration when buying one that can make choosing a little easier.
Since their inception in 1931 with the Rickenbacker ‘Frying Pan’ lapsteel, electric guitars have come a long way, though early models are still popular today. The Fender Esquire was introduced in 1950 and evolved into the Telecaster which is still played by beginners and pros alike. After that, the Gibson Les Paul was released in 1952, and the Fender Strat in 1954. Whilst there are many different brands and models out there, these classics are still incredibly popular.
Think about what you want out of your new electric guitar; do you want something to learn on? Are you upgrading after having played for a few years? Are you adding to a collection of guitars? Are you playing mainly one style of music, or a few? Answering these before you part with your cash can really help find the best electric guitar for you.
Electric guitar body shape
The body shape of your guitar plays quite a large part in how comfortable it will be to play. If you’re sat down, the contours of the body determine how it sits on you, likewise if you’re stood up - most of the weight is in the body, so you need to take that into consideration.
Electric guitar wood types
As well as the shape and size of the guitar, weight is largely determined by the wood used. Though often contested, the general consensus is that denser woods tend to yield more sustain. Mahogany, used a lot by Gibson, usually lends a slightly mellower, warmer sound, with beautiful low and mid frequencies.
Fender often use alder as it provides an even frequency response, without it being too light or too heavy, as well as ash, which is usually a little brighter sounding. Something like basswood is quite light and, because it’s easily sourced, is usually cheap so gets used on many budget guitars. Don’t let that put you off though - tone-wise, it’s fairly transparent and evenly balanced.
Pickups play the biggest role in shaping your electric guitar’s sound (alongside you of course!). Pickups are basically magnets housed in a bobbin, wound with wire, that convert the vibrations caused by your moving strings into an electrical signal which is then sent to your amp.
There are many different pickup types out there, but the most popular types are single coils and humbuckers. Single coil pickups are found in a lot of Fender guitars, like the Strat and the Tele and deliver a bright, clear sound, often with a slight scoop in the mids. Strat pickups often sound ‘glassy’ and ‘chimey’, and ‘twang’ is synonymous with the Tele.
Humbuckers tend to sound bigger, beefier and warmer. They fill out slightly more space in a mix and usually give out more output than single coils, making them break up sooner. If you already play a guitar with single-coils, then maybe look for something with humbuckers, or vice versa, so you can cover more ground.
There are guitars out there that feature a mixture of single coils and humbucker pickups, like the HSS Strat, giving you the best of both worlds. There are also coil-tapped or coil-split humbuckers that, when engaged, effectively act as single coils.
Electric guitar hardware
An electric guitar’s hardware can help improve tuning stability, tone and longevity. As you start to spend more, you’ll get things like better quality tuners (sometimes locking tuners), sturdier hardware that fits together better and improves sustain, as well as better and more reliable electronics that keep your signal clearer.
Neck profiles can vary too, and should be considered when looking for the best electric guitar for you. It’s all very much down to personal preference, but neck profiles can range from super thin, like on the Ibanez RG550, to thicker, more vintage-style profiles like on the ES-335. Generally speaking, faster, shreddier players prefer thin necks, and old-school blues and rock players go for either a thick neck or something in the middle.
There is definitely space for a bit of 'gut feeling' when you're shopping. We've all had situations where we've played a guitar we'd never normally have looked twice at and had it pleasantly surprise us. Keeping an open mind is no bad thing. Sometimes when you pick up a guitar you just know. There's no rationale.
But, instinct aside, you can at least put yourself in the right ballpark by using guides like this one to hone in on what works for you. With so many variables, it can be hard to know where to start. Maybe you'll find your dream guitar with a quick scroll, or maybe it will take some further research, but we hope to help you start that journey right here.
How to look after your electric guitar
As with any guitar, regular maintenance will help you get the most out of it and mean you won’t be replacing parts - or your entire guitar - prematurely. Restringing every 2-3 months can keep it sounding fresh and lively, plus that gives you a chance to give it a proper clean, to stop dirt building up. Wiping down the strings after use will help too, and given that necks can break easily if dropped or knocked over, investing in a quality guitar stand is a wise purchase.
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