American-made guitars are the epitome of quality in the guitar world.
If you are looking to not only just buy a guitar but invest in a quality instrument, American brands are the best choice. There is no safer and better alternative, whatever your genre or playing style is.
Today, many non-US guitar builders offer great quality instruments. However, since the rise of the major brands in the last century, American builders were and still are the best at what they do!
Are you ready to invest in a premium guitar?
If yes, this article will show the best guitars from top American historical builders. The best guitars among a collection of hundreds of legendary models.
Even if you are not ready to buy one, it’s always good to know what guitar to aim for in the future.
The Best American Made Guitars
- Paul Reed Smith Custom 24
- Fender American Professional Stratocaster
- Gibson Les Paul Standard
- Fender American Professional Telecaster
- ESP USA Eclipse
- Gibson ES-335
- Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty
- Gibson SG Standard
- Martin D-28 Standard
- Taylor 214ce
PRS guitars were born out of the mind and work of master builder Paul Reed Smith in the ’70s.
In a time when all the market was taken by either Gibson or Fender, PRS guitars joined in by offering beautifully designed, high-quality build guitars with the tonal characteristics of both major brands combined.
The PRS Custom 24 combines all the elements that make this guitar brand great. It’s the first guitar Paul Reed Smith ever introduced and the one that started it all for PRS.
A lightweight mahogany body with a maple top makes the guitar as lightweight as possible. The neck is made out of mahogany and the fretboard with the all-familiar rosewood. This model offers more versatility than most guitars with the 24 frets, perfect for rock and metal shredders.
The PRS 85/15 Humbucker on the bridge and neck combined with the 5-way switch and tone control offer a huge variety of tones. The PRS custom 24 can achieve both the clean crispy cleans of a Stratocaster and the heavy warm tones of a Gibson Les Paul with ease.
The hardware is modern with the signature PRS Gen III Tremolo and locking tuners system. You have the playing possibilities of the tremolo without sacrificing tuning stability.
The high playability of this guitar along with its versatility has made many great players switch to a PRS. Names like John Mayer, Santana, Alex Lifeson, and many others made PRS their main instrument after spending many years playing other major brands.
The PRS Is much more than a mix of the best of other big brands, it’s a power horse guitar with unique features of its own.
The modern elements, vintage feel, high quality built, and wide range of tones combined with the high playability make this a premium model worthy of every guitar player’s collection.
If you can afford it, this guitar is great for almost every genre and can adapt to most playing styles.
- Excellent design and built quality
- Great versatility in tone and genres
- Highly playable guitar
- Very expensive
Check out our guide on the Best PRS Guitars
You can’t talk about electric guitars and leave out Fender.
The historic brand was and still is one of the big players in the guitar world and continues to produce high-end guitars that became icons of generations.
Probably the very image any non guitar player has of an electric guitar is exactly the one we are reviewing today, the Fender Stratocaster. The very same guitar that Jimmi Hendrix used to rock the world, Clapton to give us the blues, and Gilmour to send shivers down our spines.
The American ProfessionalStrat features a Thick C-shaped neck, 21 vintage tall frets, and the classic 5-way switch that can go from bright clean on the neck position, to bluesy warm on the neck pickup.
All the parts of this guitar are pure-vintage, from the pickups to the runners, everything is based on the legendary 65” Stratocaster.
The rosewood neck on this model balances perfectly the bright tonal qualities of the Fender and gives it the sweet necessary warmth.
If you are into classical rock, blues, funk or you want an all-around guitar for studio work and live shows, the Stratocaster is your go. It’s become a standard in the last 50 years for every semi-professional or professional guitarist to own at least one Strat.
The guitar comes with a premium price tag that is well deserved.
- Historical design
- Quality built and parts
- True vintage Stratocaster Tone
- Lot’s of tonal possibilities
- Single Coil Pickups can be noisy at high gain
Check out our guide on the Best Fender Guitars
The sound of rock is engraved in this guitar’s design and tone.
The legendary company started in Michigan more than a century ago making mandolin-family instruments. Gibson innovated the guitar world many times by first inventing archtop guitars and then the model that would become the icon of rock – the Les Paul Standard.
From Jimmy Page playing his iconic Les Paul with a bow to Peter Green and his legendary “greenie” and Slash shredding in the November rain music video, this Guitar has a legacy of music behind it.
The Les Paul Standard brings back the vintage design and tone with the best-built quality and parts of a modern premium guitar.
The guitar comes with the typical rosewood fingerboard and 22 Jumbo frets. The Gibson Les Paul is known to be very playable due to the short scale length.
The Burstbucker 61T pickups on the neck and bridge are reminiscent of the iconic years 61’ when Gibson developed their iconic warm mid-range PAF tone.
The 3-way switch combined with the 2 tone and volume controls gives players a wide range of tonal controls. You can go from bright cleans to fuzzy and heavy mid-ranged tones.
This guitar is perfect if you are looking for a high-end quality guitar for rock, blues, or even metal. The Les Paul Standard is a power horse for both studio work and live shows.
The price of this guitar is premium, but so is the iconic instrument you are getting.
- Classic Tone and Feel
- The design is true to the classic Les Paul Standard
- Quality parts and built
- Lots of tonal possibilities
- The guitar is heavy
Check out our guide on the Best Gibson Guitars
The Telecaster, formerly known as a broadcaster, is the guitar that launched rock n’ roll and the modern age of guitars.
Made by Leo Fender in the 52’ and played by some of the greatest players of all time, the telecaster is widely known as the most reliable guitar for blues, rock n’ roll, and country.
The simplicity of the design with the fixed bridge has proved to be so effective that few changes have been made to the Telecaster over the years.
The Telecaster is the most recorded guitar in rock history and it would surprise you to know that even players like Jimmy Page, known for live performances with Les Pauls, recorded his most iconic songs using a Telecaster.
The tuning stability and precise intonation Telecasters are known for has made them necessary for session players.
Legends of the caliber of Keith Richards, George Harrison, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters have all chosen telecaster as their first guitar for both recording and shows.
The tonal range of the telecaster goes from twangy, crispy bright to chunky, and deep.
The unique bright characteristic of the ’52 single-coils made it the go-to guitar for country players and probably all guitarists looking the best sounding clean tone. The neck pickup is “woody” and gives a unique “roundness” to the mid-range.
The body is made of ash while the neck of the all-familiar Maple, which contributes to the overall bright tone of the guitar. The ‘U” shaped neck is very comfortable for the hand and is improved from the classic 52’ model by making it a bit wider and better for upper-register leads and bends.
If you are a country, blues, or rock n’ roll player, this guitar is the best in the market. The Telecaster is also great to get on the edge of breaking tones and crunchy rhythm and leads.
Overall the Fender American Professional Telecaster brings all the classic vibes of the model with improved modern features that justify its pricey price tag.
- Vintage tone and design
- Quality built and parts
- Tuning stability
- Can sound too bright if not balanced well
The Japanese brand, known as a high-end metal guitar builder, started its North American branch in 2014.
The company started out in the mid-70s and continued to grow along with the rise of glam and heavy metal in the 80s.
When it comes to a beautifully designed ESP guitar that embodies all the elements that make the brand great, the ESP USA Eclipse is the best example. This guitar is high-end in all aspects and would satisfy all-metal guitar players in every aspect.
The all-mahogany body, maple top, ebony fingerboard all combined with the EMG 66 Humbucker in the neck, EMG 57 Humbucker in the bridge, deliver heavy and warm tones, with enough bite and attack to cut through any mix.
The tone for the USA Eclipse can go from fuzzy and warm, perfect for classic rock and metal, to aggressive and tight for fast chugs and leads.
The TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic bridge along with the Sperzel Locking tuners offer great stability for this Les Paul model guitar.
ESP guitars have a long history of major artists as their ambassadors, Most noticeably the Metallica duo of Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, George Lynch, Alexi Laiho, and many others.
If you are a rock or metal guitarist that wants to upgrade to a high-end super quality instrument, there are few guitars better than the ESP USA Eclipse.
- Quality parts and built
- Modern guitar features
- Tuning stability even on low tunings
- Easy to play
- Very expensive
The other Gibson guitar from this list is a classic-looking legendary model.
This semi-hollow body guitar is one of the first archtop guitars ever made and the first “Thinline” model of its kind. Since the first appearance in the 60s, the ES-335 became a standard for jazz, blues, and even rock players.
The rounded C shape Mahogany set neck with rosewood fingerboard, comfortable body shape, and easy access to all 22 Plek’d frets make it one of the most playable guitars of all time.
The design of the guitar is beautiful and elegant. Some describe it as in between the slickness of a Strat and the Elegance of a Les Paul.
The 335 is a guitar like no others when it comes to versatility and precision. The greatest session guitarist of all time, Larry Carlton, can be heard playing the same 335 in thousands of records, from Steely Dan to Joni Mitchel.
The tone of this guitar is one of the most recognizable. The characteristic punch and warmth of the Calibrated T-Type humbucking pickups are unique to the 335.
2 volume knobs, 2 volume controls, and the 3-way pickup switch give the player almost endless possibilities of tweaking the tone. The Handwired potentiometers and Capacitors give an extra flavor to the tone.
This guitar can go perfectly from crisp clean, to dirty and fuzzy in an instant, without losing clarity.
Apart from Larry Carlton, the 335 has been played by the likes of B.B. King, Eric Johnson, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Dave Grohl, and many others. All the greatest bluesmen have owned, played, and recorded with an ES 335 at a point in their career.
This ES-335 comes with a very high price tag, but if you are into blues, jazz, funk, or even classic rock, this guitar is the ultimate axe.
- Excellent design, build quality, and parts
- Very versatile
- Highly playable guitar
- It can feedback slightly at higher gains
Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty
Music man started in the 70s in close collaboration with Leo Fender to first produce guitar accessories. Years later and after getting officially bought by Earnie Ball, the company entered the guitar market aiming to craft the most playable high-end instruments.
The biggest ambassador of Ernie Ball is probably John Petrucci. The highly technical shredder chose Music Man for his signature model – The Earnie Ball Music Man Majesty.
The Music Man Majesty is the perfect guitar for technical players, especially if they are more into heavy music. Everything in the Majesty is high-end and aimed to make your playing as easy and precise as possible.
The design is elegant with some pointed edges that make it more aggressive. The cutaway allows for easy access to all 24 stainless steel frets.
The mix of the mahogany neck-through design with a maple capped African mahogany body and ebony fingerboard make for a mix of premium tonewood. You can expect a lot of sustaining and a nice bite from this guitar.
With the Dimarzio rainmaker, dreamcatcher humbuckers, and a piezo bridge, this guitar is extremely versatile and reliable. It also features an active preamp with a gain boost.
The floating tremolo paired with the locking tuners system allows players to use the whammy bar for hours without any tuning issue.
The Majesty is as solidly built as a guitar can be and has all the modern features any player would want. It’s easily the ultimate shredders guitar that can make its way to any genre/style and still shine.
Of all the guitars on the list, the Majesty holds the highest price tag. But, if you can afford it, you won’t ever need another guitar of its kind.
- Excellent design and built quality
- Modern elements added
- Very versatile guitar
- Easy to play
- Very high price tag
The SG Standard is a classic rock machine that offers the highest playability combined with a classic look and tone.
The 3rd entry from Gibson in our list is well deserved. This mean-looking guitar rocked arenas for decades and built a legacy as a must-own from rockers and blues guitarists and
A made-in Nashville guitar tells a lot about quality. As with all premium Gibson guitars quality is never overlooked. The best parts and electronics are used by the best US luthiers to make these classic models as good as possible.
The lightweight mahogany body, fast mahogany rounded short-scale neck, Plek’d rosewood fretboard and overall design make the SG one of the most comfortable rock guitars ever made.
The 22 medium jumbo frets are easy to reach as the guitar rests perfectly against the body, making it a great choice for live shows.
The tone of the SG is dictated by the 490R humbucker on the Neck and 490T on the Bridge. Switching between the 3-way pickup switch and tweaking the 2 volume and tone controls can get you from tight biting tones to fat fuzzy ones.
The impact of the SG on rock music is immense. The image of Angus Young, Tony Iommi, Pete Townshend, and many others invented the sound of rock n’ roll with an SG.
If you are into classic rock and blues, or just want a highly playable guitar with a great tone and stability, the SG is perfect for you.
Surprisingly enough, compared to other high-end guitars, the price of the SG is one of the most affordable compared to other models on the list.
- Classic design and feel
- True Gibson SG rock tone
- Quality built and parts
- Easy to play and comfortable
- Might have tuning issues but they are easily fixable
The first acoustic guitar in our list is probably the definition of a superb-sounding acoustic instrument.
Martin guitars have been crafting some of the world’s best instruments for over 180 years. A true American legacy of guitar handmade craftsmanship. Martin has set over the last century set the bar on how a good acoustic guitar should sound.
The best example of the Martin Legacy it’s the iconic D-28 Standard. The guitar has a fascinating backstory, as its large body design is inspired by Britain’s HMS Dreadnought Gunship.
On acoustic guitars, it’s all about tonewood, and Martin used the best ones for the D-28.
The classical Dreadnought large body, solid Sitka spruce top, and Solid East Indian rosewood back and sides give the D-28 a wide tonal range, sweet mids, and present low end.
The presence of the high frequencies on the Martin is something to admire. The guitar can cut through any heavy instrumented mix and also is enough to complement your voice in a singer-songwriter type of situation.
Martin has done an excellent job at keeping its classic model’s quality intact and bringing modern elements that make the guitar even better.
The neck profile is modern and improved for playability, making the guitar an easy-to-play instrument for all styles.
To expand a bit on the legacy of the guitar, names such as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, David Gilmour, Joni Mitchel, Bob Dylan, and many other players recorded with a Martin D-28.
Overall, if you want a superb acoustic guitar and can afford the very expensive price tag, the Martin is one of the best guitars you can find.
- Great tonewoods and quality build
- Improved modern neck
- Great acoustic tone, well balanced in all frequencies
- Very expensive
Check out our guide on the Best Martin Guitars
Another giant in the acoustic guitar world, Taylor is one of the oldest and most prestigious US-based guitar companies.
A relatively new company, founded in 1975, Talor quickly made its way to rival the oldest acoustic guitar makers by offering the same level of craftsmanship and also some value models.
The Taylor 214ce is a great example of a superb quality value acoustic-electric guitar. As with all quality Taylors, the depth of sound is equal to large dreadnoughts. The Grand Auditorium design however is more modern and slick.
The tonewoods used are among the best. Indian rosewood is used for the back and sides, tropical mahogany for the neck, and West African Ebony for the Fingerboard.
The excellent playability makes it great for fingerstyle, strumming, and some lead playing. The Venetian cutaway helps out a lot when reaching for the higher frets, 20 in total.
The built-in ES2 electronics are clean and do not color the tone of the guitar. The Equalizer is super handy when in live show situations to shape your tone.
Taylor guitars are widely used among all-acoustic guitarists and singer-songwriters such as Tori Kelly, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews, Zac Brown, and many others.
All in all this guitar is a great value high-quality choice. The price tag is well worth it and quite reasonable considering you get a well-balanced, easy to play, and reliable acoustic-electric guitar.
- Great value with great tonewoods and build quality
- Highly playable guitar
- Good flat build-in electronics
- Balanced acoustic tone
- Does not have a built-in tuner
Check out our guide on the Best Taylor Guitars
How to Choose The Best American Made Guitar- Buyer’s Guide
The best guitar is the one that suits you best!
In the search for finding your new axe in the sea of the best brands, the choice ultimately will be dictated by your playing style. If a quality American-made guitar fits you as a player then you found your new guitar!
Below I will give you some general points that will help you make your decision.
Materials & Build Quality
The main thing to look out for is the quality of the materials and overall build quality.
When considering the guitars in this list, their price tag, and brand, there is no need to suspect that the materials used are among, if not the best. The tonewoods used, pickups, electronics, and finish on all models are excellent.
However, when choosing your new guitar from premium models, you should consider materials used in the context of the tone they produce and how they fit your style.
For example, if a rosewood is not to your liking due to the warm tonal characteristics and feel, a guitar with a maple fretboard such as a Telecaster might be best for you.
Or, if you feel like you need a general darker warm tone, a guitar with humbuckers and a Les Paul heavy body is probably better for you.
For acoustic instruments, the most important material to look out for are the Tonewoods used.
So to recap, find the materials that work best for you, as quality is assured for these models.
The body style is very related to your personal playing style and taste for tone.
Heavier genre-oriented guitars usually leave out the rounded corners and offer pointy ones for a more aggressive feel and look. The Music Man Majesty is a perfect example of that. Also, heavy bodies and variations of classic Les Pauls like the ESP are among the most common among metal players.
The body style can dictate a lot on the playability too. For example, the Gibson SG and the Gibson ES-335 stand out with the cutaway that allows access to all the fretboards. This thing is usually more common also for shredder models such as the Majesty.
When choosing the body shape, go for what you like, but make sure that the shape you like is comfortable and plays well for you.
Playability is a very personal choice, unique to all players.
The guitars in this article are among the most playable you can find. That means, that for a specific type of design and setup choice these are the best.
For example, for shredder-oriented guitar low action and short scales are usually preferred. In this category, the Majesty is one of the best in the market. For blues and funk players, the Stratocaster and Telecaster offer the right balance of design, action, and string tension for most players.
There are also noticeable models, like the ES-355, which Larry Carlton praises as the most easy-to-play guitars of all time.
Whatever your preferences are, rest assured that all the models above will stay in good shape and in maintaining the setup for a long time.
Genre of Music
Guitar models can sometimes become the icon of an entire genre, but that does not mean they are only good for that specific genre.
If you are a metal player, guitar models that give you a heavy tone, access to all frets, and a heavy feel are what might suit you best. The Majesty and ESP, along with Les Paul Standard are the models in the list that are best at that.
Referring to icons of genres, the Telecaster is probably the best example. Country music, blues, and rock n’ roll have been played and recorded with the Tele for decades now.
Apart from some specific models, most guitars in this list are highly versatile. Think about the tonal range of the Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul.
Modern guitar models also offer features that make them fitting to genres. Such is the Majesty. Even though it’s mostly oriented to shredders, it has a piezo pickup to emulate acoustic guitar tones.
When talking about acoustics, the genre is related a lot to playability. Think about fingerstyle guitarists that might prefer big body acoustic like the Martin that have the low end they need to fill in the lack of other instruments.
From value guitars like the Taylor to extremely expensive ones such as the Martin D-28 or Music Man Majesty, all costs are justified by the quality build of the instrument you get.
If you are a professional guitarist, consider these guitars as an investment for touring and for studio work.
If you are a casual player, you can fulfill your dream of playing the guitar your idol played or the one model that made you pick up the guitar.
Read Also: How Much Does An Electric Guitar Cost?
Why are American-made guitars so expensive?
Built quality, quality of parts used, the tonewoods, electronic and overall the best luthiers are involved in the making of a high-end American-made guitar.
Of course, like everything marketing, some brands are more expensive than others based on their history and impression buyers have about them. However, in the guitar world, when you buy a quality American Fender or Gibson Les Paul you get all the quality you would excerpt from that guitar and are rarely not satisfied with what you get.
Are American-made guitars better?
Short answer – yes!
Talking about the general quality of the instrument, American-made ones are the best. That is well reflected in their history and price.
Most other non – US guitar brands in the world started and continue to make models that are based on US ones, but at a lower price and quality. Think about all the Stratocaster-inspired models in the world today from hundreds of builders and how do they compare with an original American Made Fender.
What are the cheapest American-made guitars?
What’s great with American builders is that they also give alternatives at mid-range prices.
If you are keen on a particular model you can sometimes find cheaper variations of it from the Company itself.
For example, the are many Stratocaster models made in the US that cost less than other well-known Stratocaster vintage models. There are also many Fender Squire models made in the US that are cheap but still great.
The same thing goes for ESP guitars and Music Man guitars that offer mid-range models that maintain the quality you’d expect.
If you are going after value acoustic guitars, Taylor sells mid-range quality acoustics at an affordable price.
Although the main game of American guitar brands is high-end models, there are lots of alternatives in their vast collection, some of which are cheap to mid-range with the casual player in mind.