The Best Electric Guitar Brands According To GuitarFella

Even if you have never held an electric guitar before, chances are you will have heard of Fender and Gibson – but what about Gretsch, Jackson and Dean? What’s the best brand for metal? What about vintage blues? And what does PRS and ESP stand for!?

Fear not! While there is almost too much information to get your head around, we have made things a bit easier by compiling a list of our favorite electric guitar brands, as well as a little about their history, their models and their price ranges. Let’s dive in and see who impresses!

Fender

We kick off this list with arguably the best-known guitar brand in the world. While a bit of a latecomer when compared to the likes of Gibson and Epiphone, no brand has made more of an impact on the world of electric guitar than Fender.

History of Fender
It all began in California in 1946, when inventor Leo Fender decided he could improve on the hollow-bodied guitars that were popular at the time by introducing the world’s first production solid-bodied electric guitar. Arriving in 1951, the Telecaster soon became a commercial success, shortly followed by the release of the sleek Stratocaster in 1954.

Since then, Fender electric guitars have been used by everyone from complete beginners to professional guitarists, including some of the biggest names in music – Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Paul McCartney, David Gilmour, Yngwie Malmsteen and Eric Clapton to name a few!

Leo Fender sold the company to CBS in 1965 and the brand continued to grow, with plenty of ups and downs along the way. Today Fender remains a giant in the world of electric guitar.

Notable Models
Where to start! Of course, the Telecaster – being the first solid-bodied electric guitar – deserves a namecheck. With its distinctive boxy shape and twangy tone, the Tele is an icon in itself and has been a staple of country and blues music since it was first released.

But it’s the Stratocaster that is still seen as Fender’s most popular guitar – and perhaps the most influential electric guitar ever made. It features a more ergonomic design than the Tele, with a beautiful sparkly tone that lead guitarists love.

Other Fender models worth noting include the Jaguar, the Jazzmaster and the Mustang, which are all legends in their own right.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
Fender electric guitars are built across the world. Their high-end American-made collections are made in Corona, California, while the respected Fender facility in Ensenada, Mexico produces a range of excellent mid-range models. Meanwhile, many of Fender’s cheaper models are built overseas in Japan, Korea and Indonesia.

Relative Price Range
While Squier (see below) produces very cheap versions of Fender’s core collections, the lowest price you can pay for a Mexican-made Fender will be around $500, while high-end made-in-America Fenders begin at around $1,000 and go well into the thousands.

Our Take on Fender
Not much more needs to be said about Fender – the brand’s legacy speaks for itself. We highly recommend Fenders to all levels of guitarist – you just can’t go wrong with a Strat, whatever your style!

Gibson

If there is one company that can truly rival Fender in terms of influence, it is Gibson. While the brand’s roots are firmly in acoustic guitars, since 1952 they have also been a leader in the electric guitar world.

History of Gibson
While Orville Gibson had been producing acoustic instruments from his workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan since 1894, the Gibson brand wasn’t officially founded until 1902. From then, the brand made many popular acoustic models through the first part of the 20th Century.

However, it was in 1952 when its most iconic creation was released – the Les Paul solid-bodied electric guitar. This was designed by the team at Gibson along with the popular jazz guitarist Les Paul, who endorsed this legendary model.

In addition to the Les Paul, Gibson is a brand well known for pioneering some classic guitar shapes and constantly innovating, introducing concepts such as the humbucker, the digital guitar, and – most recently – the Min-ETune automatic tuning unit. Since the fifties, Gibson electric guitars have been used by everyone from James Hetfield to B.B. King.

Notable Models
Naturally, the Les Paul tops the list of notable models as it is perhaps the most influential electric guitar in creation – alongside Fender’s Tele and Strat. Its curvaceous single-cutaway body has been copied by many, but nothing feels quite like an authentic Gibson Les Paul.

Then you have the SG, which was released in 1961. Originally a reinvention of the Les Paul, the guitar’s namesake was allegedly not a fan of the shape, so Gibson changed its name to the SG (standing for Solid Guitar). This model is actually the brand’s best-selling guitar of all time.

Of course, Gibson continued to innovate and also released another two ‘futuristic’ legends in 1958 – the Explorer and the Flying V, both of which are still in production today.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
All Gibson guitars are manufactured in America. There are three Gibson factories, although the solid-body electric guitars are solely produced in the facility in Nashville, Tennessee.

Relative Price Range
Gibson prides itself on being a premium brand and is therefore not the most easily accessible for all budgets. You can expect to pay a considerable amount for any of its models – at least $1,500 to $2,000 for a new ‘entry-level’ Gibson.

However, you can find budget-friendly recreations of Gibson models on sale by the brand’s Epiphone subsidiary (see below), while the ‘Maestro by Gibson’ beginner’s range also offers affordable versions of their top guitars.

Our Take on Gibson
Along with Fender, Gibson is the most iconic and respected electric guitar brand in the world. All things considered, due to the higher prices and exclusive American manufacturing, it is probably slightly more prestigious to own a Gibson (although don’t tell Fender fans that!).

Yamaha

Yamaha is a household name due to size and scope of the multinational company, making everything from motorcycles and golf carts to boats and robots. Of course, they also make a pretty great electric guitar, which is why Yamaha is next on this list!

History of Yamaha
While Yamaha makes countless products, the company’s roots are in musical instruments. In 1887, Yamaha’s founder, Torakusu Yamaha, set up the business which specialized in making pianos and reed organs. Fast forward to 1966, when Yamaha (by now a huge company) introduced their first solid-body model, the SG.

The brand continued to release new models through the sixties, seventies and eighties (namely, the RGX Series). Then, in 1990, Yamaha launched the incredibly successful Pacifica range, which combined versatility, reliability and great tone in an affordable package. It was pounced on by beginners who didn’t feel the need to splash out on a Fender. Needless to say, the Pacifica Series is still going strong in 2018.

Notable Models
Yamaha’s Pacifica Series spans many ability levels and price ranges, with notable models such as the entry-level PAC112 proving one of the most popular beginner’s guitars on the market. Then there is the RevStar Series, which launched in 2015 – another beautiful collection, inspired by the street-racing motorbikes of London and Tokyo in the sixties.

Yamaha has also created several signature models for specific artists, such as the AES620 – with its Red Rocker finish – designed for former Van Halen guitarist Sammy Hager.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
Yamaha are quite secretive about where it produces its guitars, but we know that all are made in Asia, in countries including Japan, Korea, Indonesia and China.

Relative Price Range
Yamaha is certainly one of the more accessible brands, with an overall feeling of value in any price category. Its entry-level electric offering comes in at around $180; you can expect to pay around $600 for a mid-range model; while its premium guitars stretch up to $2,000 and beyond.

Our Take on Yamaha
We are huge fans of Yamaha – a brand that always proves you don’t have to spend over the odds to end up with a great electric guitar. For beginners and professionals alike, Yamaha are a brand worth checking out.

Ibanez

The Japanese brand Ibanez is an absolute giant in the world of rock and metal electric guitar, with Ibanez models a permanent fixture on the world’s biggest stages. Yet the brand is very accessible to all abilities and budgets – which is why people love them so much!

History of Ibanez
Ibanez was founded in Nagoya, Japan in 1957. The brand began by building copies of Fender and Gibson models, but – after a few lawsuits – Ibanez started creating their own original models, which are now icons in their own right.

In the 1980s, when shred metal was at its peak, Ibanez took a big share of the market with models that were geared towards the fastest, loudest players – thin necks, floating double-locking tremolos and high-output pickups. These guitars were endorsed by modern day virtuosos such as Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, with many artists designing their own custom Ibanez models.

As we ticked into the new millennium, Ibanez’s popularity didn’t wane, with the Nu-Metal era proving another successful period for the Japanese brand. Having already introduced the first mass-produced 7-string guitar in 1990, Ibanez went a step further with the 8-string model in 2007.

Notable Models
The RG (Roadstar) is one of the most famous Superstrat guitars on the market and remains a hugely popular model in all price categories. However, they also produce other collections such as the streamlined S Series (standing for ‘Saber’) and the relaxed Talman collection. Also look out for the Iceman – an edgy original Ibanez design, famously used by Paul Stanley from Kiss.

Of course, being so popular with professional artists, Ibanez make a wide range of signature models too, including guitars for Steve Vai (the famous Jem, with added monkey grip), Joe Satriani, Mick Thomson, and Noodles from The Offspring.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
All Ibanez guitars are made in Asia, with the high-end models built in Japan, while the mid-range and budget models are made in factories in Korea and China.

Relative Price Range
The good news is that you can find Ibanez guitars in all price ranges. Models in the entry-level Gio Series can be found at around $150, although you will need to spend up to $500 for something stage-worthy. Ibanez’s high-end guitars reach around $3,000 and beyond.

Our Take on Ibanez
Ibanez is an innovative and diverse brand, most suitable for rock and metal players who value speed, tone and aggression. Another advantage is that, because the brand isn’t as prestigious in name as Fender or Gibson, Ibanez always offers good value for its guitars. In short, we love Ibanez!

Gretsch

With Ibanez we had a taste of heavy rock and metal, but now it’s time to soften things up with Gretsch – a big name in blues and vintage rock n’ roll, with a specific focus on retro guitars and replicas.

History of Gretsch
Gretsch was founded in 1883 in Brooklyn after German immigrant Friedrich Gretsch opened a shop to manufacture musical instruments – namely drums, banjos and tambourines. For Gretsch, guitar production came much later, in the mid-fifties when ‘the Golden Age of Gretsch guitars’ began.

The brand’s biggest boom through the fifties and sixties was largely down to the birth of rock n’ roll. Thanks to their excellent hollow and semi-hollow models, Gretsch guitars were used by icons including Chuck Berry, Chet Atkins, Bo Diddley, and George Harrison. Since 2002 the production side of things has been run by Fender, although the Gretsch family still own the company.

Notable Models
Gretsch has produced several very notable models through the brand’s long history. One of these is the 6136 White Falcon, released in 1955. Originally intended to be a promotional item, interest in the flashy Falcon – dubbed ‘The Guitar of the Future’ – was so high it soon became a production model.

Introduced around the same time as the White Falcon, the Duo-Jet (6128) became another hit for Gretsch, especially after a young George Harrison played one with The Beatles in the early sixties. While finding an original Gretsch is very expensive, the brand still makes faithful reproductions of most of its historic models and are popular with guitarists with a penchant for vintage.

Where are the Guitars Produced?
The majority of Gretsch models are now made in Korea and China, although custom shop models are still made in America.

Relative Price Range
Gretsch’s most affordable electric guitars start at around $300, while $500 will see a wider range open to you. The high-end production models can reach around $4,000.

Our Take on Gretsch
Truth be told, there is probably no better brand out there at delivering a true taste of vintage electric guitar nostalgia than Gretsch, which is why we love them. It’s not a brand that has as wide a scope as Fender or Gibson, but pulling out a Gretsch guitar is always likely to turn some heads.

…And the Rest!

Those five are major brands that are hard to beat when it comes to history, influence and production quality. However, not mentioning some of the other big players would be a crime! Here are some other electric guitar brands that keep the others on their toes.

Epiphone

Despite starting life in Turkey in 1873, Epiphone is actually one of America’s oldest and best-loved musical instrument producers, having moved to this side of the Atlantic in 1903. Although the brand had been making acoustic guitars since 1928, Epiphone was acquired by Gibson in 1957 and soon began producing wallet-friendly versions of Gibson’s most famous models.

While Epiphone has made several original models over the years (such as the Wilshire, WildKat and Genesis), it is still best known for its Gibson replicas and is the brand you should turn to when you want an affordable Les Paul or SG.

Dean

Emerging just before the shred-fuelled decade of the eighties, Dean Guitars was established in Chicago in 1977 by Dean Zelinsky. While it took until the following decade for the brand to really become big, Dean models were quickly snapped up and used by the likes of ZZ Top, Molly Hatchet and Kansas to name a few.

Dean has always had the reputation of making fast, loud and articulate guitars and is famed for its wide range of eye-catching models, including the ML Series and the iconic Razorback. Signature models are also a specialty and they produce guitars for the likes of Dave Mustaine and Michael Angelo Batio, as well as huge line of Dimebag Darrell signature guitars.

Paul Reed Smith

Better known as PRS, Paul Reed Smith Guitars is a Maryland-based brand officially founded in 1985 by (you guessed it…) Paul Reed Smith, who made his first hand-built guitar in 1975. In the following years a handful of pros began playing his models, including Carlos Santana (who took a little convincing) and the brand soon grew in popularity.

Although PRS offers a range of affordable models (the Korean-made SE Series) and the mid-range S2 Series, the brand is still best known for its elegant high-end signature and custom guitars which are a prominent part of the modern rock and metal scene. As such, PRS boasts a full roster of artists playing its guitars, including John Mayer, Mark Holcomb, Mike Oldfield, Dave Navarro and Mark Tremonti.

ESP

ESP started life in Japan in 1975 as Electric Sound Products – a single store that produced replacement parts for guitars. After a year, the company began manufacturing electric guitars and soon took off in the Japanese market, before arriving in America in 1983.

Fast forward to 2018 and ESP is still going strong, with a huge range of speedy guitars tailored for heavy rock and metal, including several 7- and 8-string models. ESP offers a range of popular models in the budget market (under its LTD subsidiary) as well as high-end guitars, played by some of the biggest names in heavy metal – Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield and Stephen Carpenter to name a few.

Jackson

One of the newer brands on this list, Jackson Guitars was established in Glendora, California in 1980 by Grover Jackson. This rock-focused brand is another that emerged in the golden age of heavy metal and its guitars were renowned as high-quality, American-made shred machines.

Some of Jackson’s most famous models – such as the Soloist, the Kelly and the Rhoads – are a common sight on the biggest stages around the world as the biggest names in metal use them, including Randy Rhoads, Adrian Smith, Marty Friedman and David Ellefson. Thankfully it’s not just premium guitars on offer, meaning guitarists on a budget can easily pick up a quality Jackson (the Dinky Series in particular) for just a few hundred bucks.

B.C. Rich

Predating many of the newer brands on this list is another Californian company – B.C. Rich, who has been producing heavy rock guitars since arriving on the scene in 1969. Since the seventies, B.C. Rich has been a name synonymous with high-quality electric guitars featuring weird and wonderful shapes, including the Warlock, the KKV and the Mockingbird.

These models have been put to great use by the likes of Slash, Kerry King and Paul Stanley, with many pro artists enjoying their own B.C. Rich signature model. As with most others on this list, you can indeed find some affordable B.C. Rich guitars, although expect to pay a considerable amount for an American-made model.

Schecter

Yet another giant in the world of heavy rock, Schecter Guitar Research was originally founded in California by David Schecter in 1979 as a company that made replacement parts for guitars. However, Schecter went on to produce models of its own, which are now very well known – such as the Hellraiser Series and the Omen collection.

They make both American handmade custom shop guitars as well as an awesome range of affordable production models. Like the others on this list, Schecter also provides signature guitars for some big names including Dan Donegan, Keith Merrow and Jeff Loomis.

Godin

Established in the Canadian town of La Patrie, Quebec in 1972, Godin has been a family-owned brand ever since. Even today, the name is associated with high-quality instruments, made entirely in their factories in Quebec or New Hampshire.

The brand produces a good range of electric guitars, both solid-body models – including the Stadium Series and Summit Series – as well as hollow-body varieties, such as the 5th Avenue collection. Godin is primarily associated with mid-range and high-end electric guitars, with the cheapest model starting at around $500.

What Are the Best Electric Guitar Brands for Beginners?

The good news is that many of the guitar brands we have featured on this page are a good call for beginners – providing you can pick up one of their more affordable models. Of course, learning on a premium made-in-America Gibson wouldn’t be a bad thing for any beginner, but spending that much would probably be a little unnecessary!

In particular we feel Epiphone, Yamaha, Dean and Ibanez have some of the best low-cost beginner-friendly models to offer, although there are also some other brands worth considering.

One of these brands is Squier. Originally a string manufacturer based in Michigan, Squier was acquired by Fender in the sixties and, in 1982, it became a subsidiary that produced low-cost versions of Fender’s most famous guitars – now made everywhere from Mexico to Japan.

Providing comfortable, playable, low-cost Strats and Teles, Squier is a brand we recommend to beginners for good reason!

The Final Word

We have covered some of the most popular electric guitar brands in this article, although many others exist – all with something different to offer.

You can find models from most of the brands we have mentioned in our chart on the best electric guitars, while beginners may prefer to check out our page on the best electric guitars for beginners.

Do you agree with our list of the best electric guitar brands? Are we missing any? Let us know in the comments section below!


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