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Last Updated on March 19, 2024 by Justin Thomas

Look. Some people have accused us…they say guitar brands pay us to be on this list. Let’s get this straight. We have received a big $0 (this means nothing) from guitar brands on this list. This article only reflects my opinions and experiences after playing guitar for 24+ years. Let’s get into it

BTW. We also have this amazing thing going on: People Decide The Best Electric Guitar Brand (Vote)

Author: DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 23 years. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist.

A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


Much like our article, 6 Best Acoustic Guitar Brands , this one took me years to write.

While I may be an accomplished bluegrass flatpicker and acoustic guitar fan, I also enjoy my electric guitars. I have played in punk and metal bands for many years and grew up wanting to be James Hetfield or Billie Joe Armstrong. Electric guitars are as dear to me as acoustics. After all, we’re not completely isolated here in the Appalachian Mountains. 

Touring with a band means new cities which means new music stores. You tend to have a lot of downtime before a show, and music stores are a great way to pass the time. It is also a great way to play new brands or try old brands that you have never played before. The more guitars you play, the more you figure out what you really like and what you do not. 

If you want custom build guitars without taking a mortgage, check this article out (I build my dream electric guitar online!).

Some of the brands on this list have been around for decades and others are fairly new. While you have most likely heard of most of them, the goal here is to highlight the best brands and not just pick names out of a hat. Each brand has carved its own niche in the world of guitars and the world wouldn’t be the same without them.

So let’s take a look at my top 6 picks and the runners-up!


TOP 6 Electric GUITAR BRANDS

How Did We Choose?

Before we get into the article, you must understand how I made this compilation. As I said in our acoustic article,

  • I use my own experience as well as the experience of fellow musicians.
  • I asked the guys in my current project to give me a little help on this one just to see what they had to say. 

I have to admit that some great points were made during our conversation. I mean, I could nail the “Big Three”, but I really wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about making the rest of the list. There’s definitely power in numbers because they gave me a lot to think about and consider. I took their suggestions to heart and followed them with research. 

How did Gibson and Fender help shape the history of electric guitars?

Here is the list that I came up with based on our collective experience although I will admit that I am the only Gibson fan in the group (we won’t go down that wormhole here). 

Summary

BrandProsEstablishedManufacturedPrice RangeFamous Players
GibsonHighest quality, iconic designs and finishes, incredible playability and tone1902USA$$$$$Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore, Peter Green, Slash
FenderQuality materials, lightweight, superb playability and tone1946USA, Mexico, Asia$-$$$$$Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck
IbanezQuality materials, incredible precision, fast playing, highly technical1935Japan, Indonesia, China$-$$$$$Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Jennifer Batten
SchecterComfortable necks, superb quality, variety of designs1976USA, South Korea, Indonesia, China$$-$$$$$Jerry Horton, Robert DeLeo, Al Jourgensen, Synyster Gates
ESPHigh quality tonewoods and electronics, durable, wide range of styles1975Japan, USA, Korea, Indonesia, China$$-$$$$$James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Stephen Carpenter, Gary Holt, Mick Thompson
PRSVersatile & balanced tones, durable, well built, beautiful to look at and touch1985USA, Indonesia, China$$$-$$$$$Carlos Santana, John Mayer, Mark Tremonti, Dustie Waring

1. Gibson

displays Gibson Logo

Gibson began modestly as a hobby for luthier Orville Gibson in his workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1894. In that small workshop, Gibson invented and crafted the archtop guitar. His creations sold well, and he officially started the company in 1902. 

In 1935, Gibson developed an electric lap steel guitar called the EH-150. While electric guitars were the “next big thing”, the company still decided to focus the majority of its attention on producing high-quality acoustic instruments. In 1937, they invented the Gibson J-200 Super Jumbo which became a huge success. 

In the years after WWII, Gibson was poised for a huge increase in the demand for guitars. In 1950, Ted McCarty became the president of the company and help launch the P90 pickup, the humbucker pickup, and Gibson’s most successful electric guitar model: The Les Paul. While this collaborative design was not a hit with players early on, it became one of the most recognizable guitars in music history along with the Fender Stratocaster. 

After suffering a little in the late 1960s and 1970s, Gibson relocated their manufacturing plant to Nashville in the 1980s and moved out of Kalamazoo. Their quality control began to pick up again in the ‘80s as well much to the relief of players everywhere. 

displays Gibson Guitar Factory in Memphis
Gibson closed its factory in Memphis in 2019

They once again suffered in the 2010s due to a lack of quality control and negative feedback from their instruments. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019. New management and ownership were introduced, and Gibson has been hard at work rebuilding their reputation in the guitar world.

Players such as Slash, Jimmy Page, Zakk Wylde, Gary Rossington, and Buckethead have all relied upon Gibson guitars to craft their tone. 

Key Features of Gibson Guitars

Gibson guitars are made of premium solid tonewoods such as mahogany, maple, rosewood, ebony, and even the exotic koa. Many of their guitars feature beautiful flamed or quilted maple tops with striking finishes. 

Gibson guitars also feature premium hardware. From the tuning keys to the wiring, everything is of the highest quality. 

All Gibson electric guitars are made in Nashville, TN. They are serious guitars for serious musicians. 

Pros
  • Made in the USA
  • Built using the highest quality materials
  • Available in several iconic designs and striking finishes
  • Known for incredible playability and tone
Cons
  • Many models (Les Pauls in particular) can feel quite heavy during long sets
  • A bit high for most beginner/intermediate players

Who are Gibson Electric Guitars For?

Gibson electric guitars are for players who want the thick, creamy tone of humbuckers. They are also for fans of the P90 single-coil pickups. Gibson guitars are a great choice for players who like to play heavier genres of music. 

Who are Gibson Electric Guitars Not For?

Gibson electric guitars are not for players who want the sparkling clean sound of a Fender-style single coil. They are not for players who like lightweight guitars. Necks of Gibson electric guitars also tend to be thicker and wider than with Fender and Ibanez guitars, so if you like slim necks, Gibson might not be for you.

Our Gibson electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

2. Fender

Displays Fender Logo

All great businesses need competition. That is exactly what Leo Fender created for Gibson when he started his company in Fullerton, CA in 1946. Leo Fender was a radio repairman turned luthier, and he quickly became the first person to mass-produce electric guitars. 

The first design that he mass-produced was the Telecaster (called the “Broadcaster” and “Esquire” at the time) in 1950. The Precision Bass (P-bass) followed and both went on to be very successful products for Fender. In 1954, the Stratocaster was released after Fender consulted musicians who gladly gave him their input. 

The Jazzmaster was released in 1959 and the Jaguar was released in 1962. Everyone from country twangers to surf rockers was buying up Fender’s designs like crazy. The company was sold to CBS in the mid-1960s which brought about design changes and a serious lack of quality control. 

displays Stratocaster electric guitar bodyshape
The most popular guitar body shape of the world: Stratocaster.

Quality control issues were prevalent through the 1970s. New management was brought in to assist with the quality control issues, and the entire manufacturing operation was moved from California to Japan in 1985. The company was then sold to its employees and new plants were constructed in Corona, CA, and Ensenada, Mexico. The Squier brand (sold by Fender as their budget line of guitars) continued to be manufactured in Asia.

American vs Mexican Fender Guitars: Which Are Better?

Today, the Corona plant and Ensenada plant are still cranking out guitars at a frantic pace. Their guitars can be found in the hands of some of the most influential players in history. Players like Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Jeff Beck helped make Fender guitars icons of rock and roll music. 

By the way, Fender also makes one hell of a guitar amplifier too!

Key Features of Fender Electric Guitars

Much like Gibson, Fender uses high-quality materials in their guitars. Tonewoods such as ash, maple, rosewood, and ebony can be found on their instruments. Their electronics are also highly regarded in the industry. All other hardware is made to last for many years of hard playing. 

Fender guitars are typically more lightweight than Gibson guitars. This is because of their use of woods like ash for the guitar bodies instead of mahogany. They are known for their incredible playability and smooth, bright tone. 

Pros
  • Made of quality materials for long life
  • Being lightweight means less fatigue during long sets
  • Superb playability and tone
  • Very easy to modify and customize
Cons
  • Simple designs mean they are easier to counterfeit
  • The price may be a bit much for beginner/intermediate players (check Squier guitars for similar cheap models)

Who are Fender Electric Guitars For?

Fender guitars are generally known for their incredible single-coil sound so they are great for players who want a guitar with a smooth, sparkly tone. Because of this tone, they are also good for finger-style players. If you like modifying or customizing your guitars, then Fender guitars are great. They are some of the easiest guitars to modify. 

Who Are Fender Electric Guitars Not For?

Fender guitars are not for fans of a big, thick, creamy tone right out of the box. Gibson would be better for that. 

Our Fender electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

3. Ibanez

Displays Ibanez Logo

If you’re a shredder, then you have probably heard of Ibanez guitars. They began life in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an importer of Spanish-made guitars by luthier Salvador Ibanez. The company was called Hoshino Gakki. 

In 1935, they decided to begin making their own instruments and called them “Ibanez” in honor of the instruments that inspired them. By the mid-1960s, they began doing what many other Japanese manufacturers were doing: manufacturing replicas of famous USA-made instruments by companies like Gibson, Fender, and Gretsch. 

In the 1960s, the overall quality of guitars was declining thanks to ownership changes with Gibson and Fender. Since copyrights were not established regarding body shapes, many small luthiers began copying them and producing instruments with much higher quality. In 1965, Harry Rosenbloom of Pennsylvania became the first importer of Ibanez guitars in the USA. 

In 1977, Norlin (the company that owned Gibson) was tired of trying to compete with the high-quality Japanese imports and sued Hoshino and Rosenbloom for copying their Les Paul design. After the suit was settled, Ibanez began focusing on producing their own unique designs. 

Displays an Ibanez electric guitar
Ibanez electic guitars are know for their pointy headstock.

The 1980s saw a large demand for high-performance guitars for the growing shredder crowd. “Shred” is a style of rock guitar that involves highly technical and very precise playing. Ibanez began cranking out super strat-style guitars that were tailored specifically for shredding. 

Features like Floyd Rose bridges, locking nuts, and super thin necks became instant hits with rock fans everywhere. Players like Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, and Steve Vai worked with Ibanez to design some of their most successful models of all time. 

Steve Vai’s 7-string Universe guitars paved the way for 90s Nu Metal artists like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and Fear Factory. Today, Ibanez is mostly aligned with heavy metal music but also makes custom guitars for jazz artists like George Benson. 

Key Features of Ibanez Electric Guitars

Ibanez guitars are made with high-quality parts and extreme attention to detail. Their most famous models, the RG series and the S series, are Strat-like bodies affixed with a super thin, fast-playing neck. 

Ibanez typically uses humbucker pickups in the majority of their models (Yvette Young’s signature model is an exception) because they are mostly used for high-gain styles of music. Many Ibanez models feature a floating bridge styled after the Floyd Rose bridge. 

What you get is an incredibly smooth-playing axe that allows you to play as fast as you can without fatigue.

Pros
  • Made with high-quality materials and extreme attention to detail
  • Fast playing, super thin necks make soloing effortless
  • Floating bridges with locking nuts make for incredible tuning stability
  • Cutting-edge electronics give them a modern tone
Cons
  • Necks may be too thin for fans of older guitars
  • Known for poorly applied paint jobs on some models

Who are Ibanez Electric Guitars For?

Ibanez guitars are for the modern player who is looking for a guitar that plays effortlessly from the first fret to the last. They are great for players of all skill levels. 

Who are Ibanez Electric Guitars Not For?

Ibanez guitars are not for fans of vintage guitar tones or for fans of chunky necks. 

Our Ibanez electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

4. Schecter

Displays Schecter logo

Schecter guitars began with David Schecter in Van Nuys, CA in 1976. His shop manufactured and sold guitar parts – everything from replacement necks and bodies to pickups and electronic components. They began supplying major manufacturers with parts but never made their own guitars until 1979. These guitars were very expensive, very high-quality instruments. 

In 1983, they were purchased by some Texan investors and moved to Dallas, TX. They continued to make guitars, including the “Pete Townsend model” which was a Telecaster copy. Fender sued the company for their use of Fender’s headstock design, and the shop closed in 1987. 

The brand was purchased by a new owner in 1987 and was moved to California. They began a partnership with a South Korean guitar factory to make guitars that were much less expensive than their USA custom shop models. 

The rest is history. Today, Schecter Guitar Research has a massive following. Artists such as Jerry Horton (Papa Roach), Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Al Jourgensen (Ministry), and Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold) use Schecter guitars to craft their tones. 

Key Features of Schecter Electric Guitars

Schecter uses premium tonewoods and hardware. They are known for using a string-through-body design as well as Floyd Rose bridges. Premium hardware, such as locking tuners, is also a common feature. 

Schecter guitars will typically have high-output pickups (usually humbuckers) as a standard feature. Some of their models also come from the factory with coil-tapping capabilities. The necks are comfortable and fast, and they have some impressive inlay work.  

Pros
  • Comfortable neck profile is great for chording or lead work
  • High-quality materials mean a top-of-the-line guitar
  • Variety of designs means you’ll find the guitar that fits your style
Cons
  • Volume and tone knobs have been known to go bad 

Who are Schecter Electric Guitars For?

Schecter guitars are great for metal/hard rock musicians. Many of their styles are made specifically for heavy music. They are also great for anyone who wants a durable, well-made guitar with a lot of attention to detail. 

Who Are Schecter Electric Guitars Not For?

Schecter guitars are not for those looking for a vintage guitar tone. Most of them have a very modern sound. 

Our Schecter electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

5. ESP

Displays ESP logo

The company began as a shop specializing in replacement guitar parts in 1975. It was based in Tokyo, Japan, and was started by Hisatake Shibuya. The company was called Electric Sound Products (ESP). They also made their own line of guitars called “ESP”. 

The company came to the USA in 1983. They immediately began drawing artists such as Ronnie Wood and George Lynch. 

In the 1990s, ESP discontinued its US parts distribution and focused solely on producing guitars and basses. The LTD line was also created to reproduce more affordable versions of their ESP lineup. LTD guitars were made in Korea. 

Today, they are still one of the fastest-growing companies in the industry. Artists such as James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Stephen Carpenter, Gary Holt, and Mick Thompson use ESP guitars to churn out bone-crushing riffs. 

ESP LTD EC-10 displayed for readers
ESP’s budget LTD line produces great affordable metal guitars, such as ESP LTD EC-10.

Key Features of ESP Electric Guitars

ESP uses high-quality tonewoods and premium hardware to build their guitars. They use a variety of bridges including Floyd Rose tremolos and Tune-o-matic style bridges. High-output humbuckers are equipped on many models (EMG and Fishman pickups are used often).

ESP also uses locking tuners on their non-Floyd Rose guitars quite often.

Pros
  • High-quality tonewoods and hardware 
  • Durable with lots of attention to detail
  • Use a variety of electronics and hardware so you can get a guitar to suit your needs
Cons
  • High-end models are very expensive

Who are ESP Electric Guitars For?

ESP guitars are great for fans of heavy metal or hard rock. They are good for beginners or seasoned professionals. 

Who are ESP Electric Guitars not For?

ESP guitars are not for someone who is a fan of achieving a vintage guitar tone. They sound very modern. And if you don’t like metal, ESP axes are most likely not the best pick. 

Our ESP electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

6. Paul Reed Smith (PRS)

Displays PRS logo

Paul Reed Smith (also known as PRS) guitars began in 1985 with none other than Paul Reed Smith in 1985 in Annapolis, MD. He began making guitars under the wing of former Gibson President, Ted McCarty. 

The production grew steadily and soon production was moved to a much larger facility on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay. It is still there to this day producing some of the finest guitars in the world. Artists such as Carlos Santana, John Mayer, Mark Tremonti, and Dustie Waring proudly play PRS guitars in the studio and on the stage. 

Key Features of Paul Reed Smith Electric Guitars

PRS guitars use high-quality tonewoods and premium hardware. PRS guitars are known for using a rotary selector switch instead of a toggle switch. This gives the guitars 5 different tones. PRS guitars are also equipped with their own hand-wound pickups (usually humbuckers). 

PRS guitars can often be found with intricate inlays (usually bird inlays) and gorgeous maple tops. Bridges are usually stop-bar tailpieces with several custom models equipped with Floyd Rose bridges. 

Pros
  • Versatile, balanced tone is great for both vintage and modern sounds
  • Durable and well built
  • Beautiful inlay work and finishes
Cons
  • Anything above an SE series is quite expensive

Who is Paul Reed Smith Electric Guitars For?

PRS guitars are for players who want a versatile guitar that provides a palette of tones. They can produce both vintage and modern tones. 

Who Paul Reed Smith Electric Guitars Are Not For?

They are not for most beginners who are looking for a cheap guitar to beat around. These are highly prized instruments of the highest quality. Necks of PRS guitars are also usually a bit meatier, so they are not always the best fit for small hands.

Our PRS electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

6 Runner-Ups

Jackson

Displays Jackson logo

Jackson guitars have been around since the late 1970s. They were one of the first companies to provide guitars specifically for heavy metal artists and shredders. They are fast-playing guitars with high-output electronics. Artists such as Randy Rhoads, Scott Ian, Chris Broderick, Jeff Loomis, and Phil Collen have crafted incredible riffs using their Jackson guitars. 

Who is Jackson Guitars For?

Jackson guitars are for heavy metal players that need a fast neck and high-output pickups. They also offer some extreme designs to suit players who want something that looks and feels a bit different than your average super-Strat. 

Our Jackson electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

Kiesel

Displays Kiesel logo

Kiesel Guitars have been around in some form since 1946. They became Carvin Guitars in the 1970s and offered custom-made-to-order guitars to artists. In 2015, they once again became Kiesel Guitars when they split from Carvin. They offer a wide variety of shapes, tonewoods, and electronics configurations – even producing headless and multiscale guitars. 

Who is Kiesel Guitars For?

Kiesel guitars are for players who want a fully custom-made axe from start to finish. They are also for players who want designs that are a bit more cutting-edge than what other mass-production guitar companies are offering. 


Solar

Displays Solar Guitars logo

Ola Englund launched Solar Guitars in 2017. They are modern guitars aimed primarily at heavy metal artists. They are made for guitarists of all skill levels. They feature beautiful finishes, high-output humbuckers, and a variety of designs. 

Who are Solar Guitars For?

Solar guitars are for the modern metal player who wants a straight-forward metal guitar. 


Gretsch

Displays Gretsch Logo

Gretsch is another American manufacturer that began in 1883 in New York. Like other manufacturers, they began jumping on the electric guitar bandwagon in the 1930s. Their semi-hollow body and hollow body guitars are known far and wide within the blues and jazz guitar world. Artists such as Chet Atkins, Brian Setzer, Bo Diddley, Keith Richards, and Chris Cornell have used “That Great Gretsch Sound” for their work. 

Who are Gretsch Guitars For?

Gretsch guitars are for players who want a vintage tone, look, and feel. They provide a warm, bright tone that is great for blues, jazz, or rockabilly. 

Our Gretsch electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

Charvel

Displays Charvel logo

Wayne Charvel started Charvel Guitars in California in the 1970s. They originally started as a custom shop and then began making their own guitars. Charvel also manufactured bodies and necks for companies like BC Rich and Ernie Ball. Artists like Jake E. Lee, Eddie Van Halen, and George Lynch helped make the Charvel name synonymous with shredding. 

Who are Charvel Guitars For?

Charvel guitars are focused mainly on metal guitarists. They have fast necks, and high-output pickups, and are often equipped with Floyd Rose bridges. 

Our Charvel electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

Epiphone

displays Epiphone Guitars Logo

Epiphone guitars began in the 1920s in New York (Epiphone as a company was founded in 1873). Gibson later bought the company and they made electric guitars based on Gibson designs. However, their own models, such as the Casino, found their way into the hands of players like John Lennon and instantly became classics. Today, Epiphone still makes guitars that are “Inspired by Gibson” and are typically offered at a lower price than Gibson’s own USA-made guitars. 

Who are Epiphone Guitars For?

Epiphone guitars are great for guitarists that want a Gibson but don’t want to pay the price of a USA-made instrument. While often considered a “beginner’s guitar”, many are professional-grade instruments. 

Our Epiphone electric guitar articles, buyer’s guides, and reviews:

How to Choose The Right Electric Guitar Brand to Test and Look Closer at?

There are a ton of choices on this list alone so it is completely understandable to be lost when it comes to figuring out which brand to go with. You can narrow down your search by figuring out your basics:

  • What is my playing style? Soloing or rhythm? High-gain or clean?
  • What tone do I want? Bright and articulate? Well balanced? Heavy on the bass?
  • How will I be playing most of the time? At home? In the studio? On the road?

Once you figure these things out, you’ll soon see the direction you should go. If you are a heavy metal player, then you will want a guitar with a fast-playing neck and high-output pickups. If you are a blues player, you may opt for an electric one with single-coil pickups and a thicker neck. 

You’ll also want to think about weight. Woods such as mahogany can be quite heavy while woods such as agathis or basswood are much lighter. 

When you figure out the basics, you can then look at different brands that offer guitars that fall within your specifications. My advice is to play every single one that you are interested in (if you can). This will allow you to get a feel for the individual nuances that make them unique. 

Fun read: Top 7 Cities for Guitar Players in The U.S.


FAQ

What’s the Best Electric Guitar Brand for Beginners?

There are many great guitar brands for beginners. Some of the best are Ibanez, ESP’s LTD brand, and Epiphone. They all make high-quality guitars without breaking the bank. 

What’s The Greatest Electric Guitar Brand for Metal?

There are several great brands for metal players. Gibson, Ibanez, ESP/LTD, Jackson, Solar, Charvel, Schecter, and Epiphone – all of these companies make great guitars for metal. They all offer some form of high-output humbuckers. The neck size will vary between the brands with Ibanez often being the thinnest. 

What’s The Top Electric Guitar Brand for The Money?

For the money, it is hard to beat Ibanez. Even their “budget” guitars are good. The higher-end Ibanez models like the JEM and Universe are mind-blowing. These guitars are versatile and very playable. While they are targeted toward heavy music, they can be used to play other styles. 

Schecter and ESP’s LTD brand are also great guitars for the money. 

What’s The Best Cheap Electric Guitar Brand?

The best cheap electric guitar brand is Epiphone. They offer some great budget instruments that are based on Gibson designs. However, they are often 1/10th of the price of Gibsons which makes them great for beginning guitarists. 

Find our picks for the best really cheap electric guitars here.

What’s The Best High-End Electric Guitar Brand?

The best high-end electric guitar brand is Paul Reed Smith. With Gibson struggling with quality control issues in recent years, Paul Reed Smith is certainly a better way to go. From their SE series to their most expensive custom guitars, their quality is second to none. They offer some designs that are similar to Gibson, and they have even improved on some of Gibson’s designs. This is probably due to Ted McCarty’s influence during Paul Reed Smith’s early years. 

Do Expensive Electric Guitars Sound Better?

Yes, expensive guitars typically sound better. This is because they use higher quality electronics and pickups than inexpensive guitars. Inexpensive guitars tend to use cheap pickups that need to be changed out and their components usually do not last very long. 

Expensive guitars tend to play better as well. There are some exceptions to this rule (Gibson, we’re waiting on you to get it together), but expensive guitars usually don’t have sharp fret ends or sharp spots on the bridge. There is more care that goes into their fit and finish. 

Does Electric Guitar Brand Matter?

In reality, a good guitar is a good guitar. One of the most solid guitars I have ever played was by “Stage” Guitars – a brand name with virtually no history to be found. I would have put this guitar up against a high-end Ibanez, Charvel, or Jackson. It was only worth a couple of hundred dollars at most simply because it wasn’t a popular brand. 

The only time an electric guitar brand matters is if you plan on selling it. People tend to look for certain brands that have been proven over time. While some cheap guitars play and sound just as good as expensive models, they do not have the appeal that big brands have and thus do not have value. 

Many may be familiar with the First Act brand of guitars that were sold in Walmart stores several years ago. They were known for being cheap beginner guitars. Little did many people know that they actually had a custom shop that made some high-end guitars (the First Act Delia guitars were awesome). This proves that you can’t always go by a name. 

What Electric Guitar Brands Do Most Musicians Use?

Fender is the most popular electric guitar brand in the world. Their artist list is miles long and features players like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, and Eric Johnson. They invented two of the most iconic designs in history: the Stratocaster and Telecaster. Many other manufacturers have taken those designs and made them their own. Still, the silhouette of the original Fender designs can be seen.

Gibson is the second most popular brand in the world. Like Fender, they sport a list of famous artists such as Slash, BB King, Adam Jones, Peter Frampton, Dave Mustaine, and Gary Rossington. They are responsible for inventing many different popular designs such as the Les Paul, Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird. Companies like ESP have taken those designs and made their own creations (check out this ESP Eclipse to see what I mean).  

Ibanez is perhaps the third most popular guitar brand. They perfected the “super Strat” design back in the ‘80s with their S series and RG series. They also designed the Xiphos and Iceman designs which are now instantly recognizable. Artists such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Brian “Head” Welch, Tim Henson, and George Benson all make Ibanez guitars their weapons of choice. 


Conclusion

What’s in a name? That’s a great question. As consumers, we learn that certain brands give us what we want and certain brands have nothing to offer. This extends beyond guitars and into our everyday lives – from the shoes you wear to the food you eat, you probably have your favorite brands. 

What works for one person may not work for another person. As for me, I am mainly a Gibson and Ibanez player because they offer a lot of features that I like. Fender is my least favorite because they just don’t appeal to me. Obviously, many other people feel differently, and that’s completely fine. 

The thing you have to remember is that you have to respect all brands. While I am not a Fender fan, I have played a couple of Fender guitars over the years that I liked. However, I know that whenever I pick up a Gibson, I’ll end up falling in love with it (in case you’re wondering, I play Explorers and Les Pauls). If you try them all out, you’ll find your favorites and your least favorites. 

As someone who has been in the music industry in some way for the past 25 years, it is interesting to see the new brands that blaze their own trails in the guitar world. Some rise to the top while others fall to the bottom. I never get tired of seeing what is next in the guitar world.

So go out there and play some guitars! These brands are tried and true, so go for any of them that you think would match your playing style. 

Happy picking from all of us at guitaristnextdoor.com! 

DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 25 years and teaching guitar since High-School. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist. A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia. Expertise: teaching guitars, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, guide pedals, flatpicking, bluegrass, metal, rock, and blues.
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Jay

No mention of Suhr? Easily the best guitar I’ve owned and I’ve had/got USA Gibson, Fender, Guild and Ibanez.

Teemu Suomala

Shur makes great high-end axes, my friend owns one and it’s awesome for sure. Its lineup could be a bit too narrow to fit the top 6, but it could be in the runner-ups for sure. Thanks for commenting Jay!

Slighter

Metal bias much?

Kakihara1

I hardly call it “metal bias”. Besides, the author didn’t even spell Randy RHOADS name correctly

Teemu Suomala

Hi! Maybe some metal bias….but metal opinion is an opinion too, haha! Thanks for commenting!

Donnie Kellerman

WOW!! You really have NO IDEA of what you’re talking about!!! PRS guitars are at the top of this list….if you had a clue! Over the years Gibson’s quality was like a roller-coaster. Theres been times that Gibson seemed as if they didn’t care what came from their factory. I’m talking stretches of YEARS!!
I could argue the rest of your list but in short, although PRS are extremely expensive & on the verge of pricing themselves right out of the beginner & intermediate market (I’m speaking of their core models & up) the quality is #1! Sounding , playing & looking like God’s very own guitar company. (check out some of the paint jobs).

Teemu Suomala

Hi Donnie! Budget SE lines have been a bit inconsistent in terms of finish during past years, that’s one reason why PRS missed the top 3. Also, even though they have a strong fan-base, PRS guitars are not that good fit for everyone! That’s another reason why they are not the #1.

Justin Thomas

As I have commented elsewhere on this site, I have played many PRS (US made) and never quite felt right. Always wanted to love them. Finally picked up a SE Paul’s and never put it down. Only went in for strings….

grumpybadger

kinda surprised G&L aren’t mentioned… made by Leo Fender “L” and George Fullerton “G” and still made in Fullerton, Ca, and still top notch guitars.

Between that and PRS being an “honorable mention” ….

dont look at market shares, look at the musicians that are poud to own their guitars.

Fender Mex is crap, and Fender owns Charvel, and Jackson
Charvel is okay in mexico, I have a 2018 model. but still no consistency, like buying from Sweetwater vs going into a store to check a particular guitar.

took me 20 mexican guitars to find the 2018 Charvel I am actually okay with, for the money – sub $900

Fender USA is “alright” but the quality of guitar and equipment vs say any Schecter – their Cort guitars, or let alone Japan and USA… and my best Schecter is not for metal, but Blues – A PT Van Nuys.

PRS is bar everyone else should be held to

Gibson for the longest recent memory has been very poor and just now starting to come back around

check witg musicians what they swear by, NOT market shares, certainly not sales. But Id put a Cort Korea Shecter against any american, let alone mexican signature model Fender. Squier at their upper end are better than mexican Fenders lol

Teemu Suomala

Thanks for revealing your experiences and perspective! Keep rocking!

Justin Thomas

As I sit looking at my SE Paul’s I find it hard to argue that PRS shouldn’t be further up the list. However, it took me 30 years to find a PRS that I enjoyed playing and that worked with me. That might be an experience that other people have.

That said, I have suffered Fenders too. I played a 1952 Tele previously owned by Dave Gilmour. It was a dream. Even since then, I have suffered Teles that I can’t play….until I played my first G&L. It was perfect.

We can see in these comments that everybody would write this list differently. I think that is the joy in guitars for all of us. The sheer variety that produces such polar opinions. As long as we keep liking different things we’ll get these wonderful instruments to enjoy.

Rock on, or blues on, or jazz on.

A real guitarest

No way this was written by an actual guitarist. This is an opinion article based only on popularity. I’ve owned everything on this list and my top 5 favorite brands didn’t even make the cut. I will never again buy most of what was on this list. But again, just my opinion.

Teemu Suomala

I’m pretty sure Darren is a real guitarist. He is currently a guitarist for the metal band Seronova: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100094103243836 This article is just Darren’s opinion based on what he has experienced. Take care!

Tyler Connaghan

Tons of big-name brands on our list, but I’m interested if you guys have any suggestions for boutique electric guitar brands. Always on the lookout for what smaller luthiers are cooking up!