We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›
Updated Sep 14, 2023 12:25 PM
From jazz and funk to country and heavy metal, the not-so-humble electric guitar has single-handedly shaped modern music's sound as we know it. In fact, some of history's most beloved guitar manufacturers still operate today, churning out streamlined tributes and historically-accurate reissues of their storied designs. Whether you're a seasoned pro looking for another axe to add to your collection or a beginner looking for the right place to start, this list of the best electric guitars has something for everyone.
How we chose the best electric guitars
We compiled this list of the best electric guitars with a heavy emphasis on brand reputation and sound quality: Martin, Fender, and Epiphone are all long-standing manufacturers with decades of experience designing iconic guitars. We also took care to represent different body shapes, pickup configurations, and other factors that affect a guitar's overall tone and genre suitability by including acoustic-electric, solid body, and semi-hollow designs. Comfort and ease of playability also played a role in whether a guitar made the cut, and we opted to choose designs that are fun and satisfying to play.
The best electric guitars: Reviews & Recommendations
From jamming with pals to moving to Philly, buying a loft, and starting a noise band, one of the electric guitars on our list will help you live out your rockstar dreams.
Why it made the cut: The American Performer Jazzmaster features a super versatile sound and an easy-to-play design that can pull off rock, blues, jazz, and everything in between.
- Body: Solid alder, polyurethane finish
- Neck: Maple bolt-on, modern C shape, polyurethane finish
- Fretboard: Rosewood, 9.5-inch radius, 22 jumbo frets
- Scale length: 25.5”
- Electronics: 2 x Yosemite Jazzmaster Single-coil pickups
- Bridge: 6-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo
- Accessories: Gig bag
- Wide tonal range for playing any style
- Comfortable, easy-to-play neck
- Non-traditional bridge offers wider tremolo range
- Lacks a traditional Jazzmaster rhythm circuit
- Stratocaster-style tremolo may put off Jazzmaster purists
Synonymous with surf rock and oozing with character, the Fender Jazzmaster is a quintessentially versatile electric guitar design with a wide range of tonal capabilities that's easy to play. The company's latest American Performer model brings this reputation to a whole new level, streamlining the design with thoughtful, modern updates to make it one of the most well-rounded electric guitars you can buy right now. The American Performer Jazzmaster features two Yosemite single-coil pickups that deliver all of the guitar's distinct clarity and punch but with a slightly higher output level that's more suitable for playing contemporary styles of music. A specialized built-in tone circuit also allows players to adjust the level of highs and lows using a single knob for a more subdued sound that never becomes muddy, further widening the range of the guitar's tonal capabilities.
The American Performer Jazzmaster's bridge assembly is a departure from the design's traditional floating tremolo, swapping in a Stratocaster-style design with bent steel saddles that allows access to a wider pitch-bending range than the original. The electronics have also been pared down to a single three-way pickup selector switch, leaving out the traditional Jazzmaster rhythm circuit. While these modifications might bother players looking for a true-to-vintage Jazzmaster experience, we prefer this streamlined design because it only makes it easier to access the guitar's range of classic tones. If historical accuracy is more your thing, consider the Fender American Vintage II Jazzmaster as a great-sounding alternative.
Why it made the cut: The 000-10E features a warm tone and solid body with a perfect balance of value and playability, making it an excellent guitar for the road and at home.
- Body: Sapele, cherry satin finish, scalloped X-bracing
- Neck: Select hardwood, high-performance taper
- Fretboard: Richlite, 16-inch radius, 20 frets
- Scale length: 24.9”
- Electronics: Fishman MX-T under-saddle pickup
- Bridge: Richlite, modern “belly” drop-in saddle design
- Accessories: Softshell case
- Midsize body and tapered neck are easy to play and comfortable to hold
- Scalloped bracing provides excellent projection and volume
- Convenient soundhole-mounted controls and tuner
- Lacks some of the low-bass response found in larger acoustics
- Short-scale neck and midsize body may feel small for larger players
Founded in 1833 and still going strong today, C.F. Martin Guitar Company is a significant contributor to music history and is known widely as the manufacturer of some of the most sought-after vintage guitars ever sold. You simply can't have a list of the best acoustic guitars and not have a Martin model on it. But these are the best electric guitars, you say. Well, the Martin 000-10E acoustic-electric guitar distills the company's heritage into an affordable and easy-to-play design that boasts fantastic projection and warm, rich tones. An “auditorium”-sized design with a comfortable-to-hold shape, the 000-10E's top, sides, and back are made from solid sheets of sapele, a slightly heavier and similar-sounding alternative to mahogany. This midsize body, paired with the 000-10E's short-scale tapered neck, makes it a great candidate for travel use and much easier to play than standard-sized dreadnought acoustic guitars.
For amplified use, the Martin 000-10E features a Fishman MX-T internal pickup paired with easy-to-access dial controls and a convenient onboard tuner mounted out of sight in the guitar's soundhole. In this guitar, the MX-T pickup itself offers a fairly typical acoustic-electric tone that can come across as a bit brittle or sterile compared to the unplugged tone of the guitar. If you are using the pickup on the 000-10E, adding a signal processor like the Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp will help reintroduce the guitar's natural tone and sustain the amplified sound. All in all, the Martin 000-10E is an incredibly well-rounded acoustic-electric guitar, but consider the Martin Road Series D-10E if you have larger hands or prefer the brighter highs and booming lows of a more traditional design.
Why it made the cut: This compact, fashion-forward Fender delivers classic single-coil tones and features a short-scale neck that makes it ideal for beginners and players with small hands.
- Body: Solid alder, polyester finish
- Neck: Maple bolt-on, C shape, satin urethane finish
- Fretboard: Pau Ferro, 9.5-inch radius, 22 medium-jumbo frets
- Scale length: 24”
- Electronics: 2 x Mustang Single-coil pickups
- Bridge: 6-saddle string-through-body hardtail Strat
- Accessories: None included
- Short-scale neck makes fretting easy for small hands
- Simple controls and biting tone in a stripped-down design
- Travel-friendly size and weight
- Tone may be thin for styles outside rock
- Small body and neck may feel uncomfortable for large players
- Doesn't include a case
Originally designed in 1964 as a student-series instrument, the Fender Mustang is somewhat of a rock-and-roll icon, having found favor with the likes of Liz Phair, Kurt Cobain, and countless others over the decades. True to its student-friendly design, the Fender Player Mustang features a 24-inch scale neck that makes it much easier for players with small hands to fret chords and stretch their fingers when compared to standard-scale designs. The guitar's two single-coil pickups deliver jangly, mid-forward tones that sound biting and aggressive when overdriven, making it a great choice for surf rock, punk, grunge, metal, funk, and other traditionally bright-sounding guitar styles. The Fender Player Mustang is also a great candidate for taking on the road thanks to its short scale and relatively small body, but you'll need to bring your own case—we like Fender's classic series wood case and short-scale bag.
While the Player Mustang packs all of the brightness and character for which its design is known, it's not the most versatile instrument if you're looking to venture out of bright genres into playing styles that require a thicker, fuller guitar tone. If you love the Mustang design but need a little more flexibility from your sound, the dual-P90 configuration of the Fender Mustang 90 adds a little more body and substance to the mix without forfeiting style points. The Mustang is also a fairly small guitar, so if you're a beginner who prefers a more standard-sized electric guitar, the Fender Player Stratocaster is another legendary design with a very similar sound and larger body.
Best for recording: Yamaha Revstar RSP20
Why it made the cut: The Revstar RSP20 is a superbly well-made instrument that's easy to play and capable of producing a wide range of tones.
- Body: Chambered mahogany, maple top, gloss polyurethane finish
- Neck: Carbon-reinforced mahogany set neck, Revstar shape
- Fretboard: Rosewood, 12-inch radius, 22 jumbo frets
- Scale length: 24.75 inches
- Electronics: Alnico V humbuckers
- Bridge: Tune-O-Matic
- Accessories: Hard case
- Balanced and lightweight chambered body
- Easy-to-play 12-inch neck radius
- Tough and sturdy construction with eye-catching looks
The versatile and easy-to-play Yamaha Revstar RSP20 comes straight from the company's factory in Japan. Equipped with some of the best quality control and design reliability found in a new electric guitar, the Revstar is one of our favorite choices for recording and other critical musical applications. Its café racer-inspired design features a two-piece chambered mahogany body and a carbon-reinforced mahogany neck that give the guitar outstanding durability and reliable intonation while remaining lightweight and balanced during play. The Revstar's sound and feel are reminiscent of a Gibson Les Paul—it shares the same 24.75-inch scale length, 12-inch radius, Tune-o-Matic bridge, and dual humbucker design—but its chambered body adds a unique touch of ear-pleasing resonance while being much lighter and more comfortable to hold. The guitar's body also features a double cutaway at the end of the neck, offering easy access to the upper reaches of the instrument's range on every string. While the Yamaha Revstar RSP20 does have a premium price tag, its promise of sonic versatility in a design that's more fun and easier to play than some classic designs out there makes it a workhorse that's worthy of any collection.
Best for blues and jazz: Epiphone Sheraton II Pro
Why it made the cut: Full, rounded tone and woody resonance are hallmarks of the ideal blues and jazz guitar sound, all of which the Epiphone Sheraton II Pro delivers in spades.
- Body: Semi-hollow body laminated maple, urethane finish
- Neck: 5-piece maple and walnut set neck, ‘60s-style taper
- Fretboard: Pau Ferro with binding, 12-inch radius, 22 medium-jumbo frets
- Scale length: 24.75”
- Electronics: ProBucker-2 and ProBucker-3 humbuckers
- Bridge: LockTone Tune-o-matic Bridge
- Accessories: None included
- Wide range of tones also suitable for rock
- Semi-hollow design delivers fantastic resonance and sustain
- Flat 12” radius is great for dexterous playing
- Semi-hollow body prone to feedback at high volumes
- Slightly heavy and large for a semi-hollow instrument
- Doesn't include a case
Epiphone's history as an instrument manufacturer started in 1873 on the western coast of what is now Turkey before the company relocated to New York in the early 20th century. Today, the brand is owned by Gibson and is used primarily for offering high-quality versions of the company's classic designs at affordable price points. The lush-sounding, eye-catching Sheraton II Pro lifts its inspiration from the infamous Gibson ES-335, a guitar known for its chime-like attack and thick midrange that's been favored throughout history by players like Chuck Berry and B.B. King. Despite being priced at over $2,000 less than the ES-335, the Sheraton II Pro punches way above its class and produces fantastic rock, blues, and jazz guitar tones in an easy-to-play design.
The Sheraton II Pro's distinctly rich sound comes from its resonant semi-hollow body, which is supported by a central tone block, and its two vintage-style humbuckers, which encompass a range of tones from warm and subtle to bright and bold. The Sheraton's humbuckers give it a full, bass-heavy sound and long sustain that's ideal for jazz and blues but also great for heavier rock styles when paired with an overdrive, though its semi-hollow design makes it prone to feedback when playing at louder volumes. Despite being semi-hollow and sporting a thin, easy-to-play neck, the Sheraton II Pro is also a bit heavy and bulky, which may make it tough for smaller players to use. If you're looking for something a little more wieldy, the Epiphone Casino Archtop of Beatles fame has a smaller frame and skews slightly more toward rock-and-roll tones.
Why it made the cut: Fender's Acoustasonic Player Telecaster offers a unique blend of acoustic and electric tones in a futuristic package, making it an intriguing all-in-one choice for gigging and songwriting.
- Body: Semi-hollow body mahogany, spruce top, polyester finish
- Neck: Mahogany bolt-on, modern deep-C shape
- Fretboard: Rosewood, 12-inch radius, 22 narrow-tall frets
- Scale length: 25.5”
- Electronics: N4 single-coil, under-saddle piezo
- Bridge: Rosewood, modern asymmetrical
- Accessories: Gig bag
- Very lightweight frame and comfortable-to-play design
- Offers a customizable range of unique electric and acoustic tonal combinations
- Built-in overdrive via the blend knob
- Unplugged sound isn't as full or loud as traditional acoustic guitars
- Doesn't sound exactly like a solid-body guitar
- Suffers from mild neck dive
In every aspect, from its tone to its construction, the Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster blurs the line between acoustic and electric guitar, making it a great option for studio and touring musicians who want a little creative inspiration. The guitar is constructed like a traditional acoustic guitar with a braced spruce top and a hollow body. Still, its unique electronics can blend between six onboard tonal varieties to make the guitar sound like everything from a dreadnought and small-body acoustic guitars to an overdriven solid-body Telecaster. In practice (and we've had a bunch, as our full review shows), the Acoustasonic's built-in Telecaster pickup doesn't fully nail the sound of a solid-body Tele; however, the resulting tone is every bit as responsive as its solid counterpart with a little added resonance and midrange thanks to the guitar's hollow body.
As an electric guitar, the Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster is a singular instrument that doesn't sound quite like anything else. Its plugged-in acoustic tones are super-versatile and ear-pleasing, but the guitar's unplugged acoustic sound is a bit thin and quiet due to its small body. Because the design combines a hollow body and a solid wood neck, the Acoustasonic Player Telecaster also suffers from a very mild case of “neck dive” when used with a strap, but don't let that deter you from strapping one on and trying it out—it's really like nothing else currently out there.
Why it made the cut: This full-size electric guitar offers a huge range of tonal options and lots of extra accessories in an affordable bundle.
- Body: Solid alder, gloss polyester finish
- Neck: Maple bolt-on, slim C shape, satin urethane finish
- Fretboard: Laurel, 9.5-inch radius, 22 medium-jumbo frets
- Scale length: 25.5”
- Electronics: 2 x Seeker series single-coil, 1 x Seeker series humbucker
- Bridge: 2-point synchronized tremolo with vintage-style saddles
- Accessories: Gig bag, guitar strap, guitar cable
- Two single-coils and a humbucker offer a wide tonal range
- Stratocaster-inspired construction and sound
- Includes everything you need except an amp
- Will likely need a setup to reach full potential
Electric guitars under $500 have come a long way over the years, thanks to modern developments in machining tech, and the Donner DST-400 may be the best example of this fact that we've tested so far. At first glance, it's easy to tell that the DST-400 draws heavy design inspiration from the ubiquitous Fender Stratocaster, with its contoured body, tremolo bridge, and three pickups with two single coils in the neck and middle positions. The DST-400 departs from Strat tradition at its bridge position, opting for a split humbucker that can be switched between humbucking mode and classic single-coil operation to pull off a wide range of tones ranging from slinky and crisp to thick and loud.
The Donner DST-400 is well-built and holds its tuning admirably, considering that it's a budget guitar. Still, its lower price tag starts to show in its lack of finishing touches: its fret-ends are a bit sharp out of the box, it has some problems with intonation across the neck range, and it's prone to fret buzz. All of these things can be fixed with a proper setup, but if you don't know how to do it yourself, it'll definitely add to the overall cost of the guitar. Apart from this caveat, the Donner DST-400 is a pretty sweet deal for the money—as is their digital piano—made only sweeter by the cable, gig bag, and guitar strap included with the purchase.
What to consider when buying the best electric guitars
An electric guitar is an investment. Here's how to pick one that's right for you:
Do you have the required accessories?
Unlike their fully acoustic counterparts, electric guitars require extra equipment to function. If you're looking to buy your first electric guitar, you'll also need a guitar amp (or amp emulator pedal), a guitar cable, and some guitar picks at minimum, plus a guitar strap if you want to play standing up. You'll want a guitar tuner, especially if you're a beginner, and maybe a pedalboard if you're at the point that you're gigging (or at least heading to band rehearsal regularly). It also can't hurt to pick up a guitar stand for when you're not playing but want to admire your new axe. And don't even get us started on what you need if you want to record yourself—okay, get us started, but an audio interface, microphones, etc., aren't a priority if you're just starting out.
Do you have small hands?
If you have smaller hands or shorter arms, consider a short-scale electric guitar over a standard-sized model. Short-scale guitars are designed specifically with small players in mind, and they're comfortable to play thanks to their close frets that require less reaching when playing chords.
What type of music will you play?
Electric guitars come in all sorts of designs and configurations, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. For most rock genres, any solid-body or semi-hollow-body electric guitar with single-coil or humbucking pickups should do the trick. If you're playing jazz primarily, consider a semi-hollow or hollow-body guitar, and if you play folk music, go for an acoustic-electric design.
Q: How much do new electric guitars cost?
New electric guitars span a wide range of costs—anywhere from around $200 to around $20,000.
Q: Does the number of frets matter for electric guitars?
Most electric guitars have between 20 and 24 frets. Still, the number of frets doesn't really matter unless you're playing technically demanding genres like metal or fusion that require frequent access to the highest ranges of the instrument.
Q: How much should a beginner spend on an electric guitar?
A beginner should spend anywhere from $250 to $800 on an electric guitar, depending on how serious they are about continuing. A large part of an electric guitar's cost comes from its quality, which in turn directly affects its playability—and it's not fun or easy to learn on a guitar that's hard to play.
Q: How should I care for my electric guitar?
Electric guitar care involves storage, safe transport, and maintenance, all requiring time and consideration. A proper-fitting hard case made specifically for your instrument's model and shape is the best tool for safely storing and traveling with your guitar. Strings should be changed on an average of every three months, and the fretboard cleaned with a microfiber cloth each time. To keep your strings and fretboard cleaner longer, try wiping down the neck after each time you play.
Finals thoughts on the best electric guitars
For our money, the Fender American Performer Jazzmaster takes the cake for being an incredibly well-rounded electric guitar that's easy to play and can tackle a wide range of styles. If you're looking for an instrument that can deliver smooth acoustic tones and snappy electric bite all in one, the Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster is a unique electric guitar that's worth a look; if you prefer a more traditional acoustic guitar experience with the added benefit of an electric pickup, we love the Martin Road Series 000-10E for its easy-to-play design and warm, round tone. Beginner guitarists and players with small hands should check out the Fender Player Mustang, a short-scale design with an immediate, rock-and-roll-friendly sound. If blues and jazz are more your thing, the Epiphone Sheraton II Pro is worth a look, thanks to its thick, bass-heavy sound and high-output pickups. If you're looking for a set-up on the cheap, consider the Donner DST-400.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we're reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don't know everything, but we're excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don't have to.