Today, we’re going to help you get the best bang for your buck when purchasing a new guitar by identifying the best Chinese guitars available today.
Buying a guitar is an investment. So you need to do your research. No one wants to pay for a guitar only to find it doesn’t perform.
Should you pay attention to where guitars are made?
American-made guitars are the champions of build quality. The problem is, you’ll need big bucks for the luxury.
Not got a spare few thousand dollars?
Chinese-made guitars are an affordable alternative. But like anything that comes cheap, sometimes it’s at the detriment of quality.
That’s where we come in. We’ve gone mining to find the true gems and plucked the diamonds from the rough.
So let’s have a look at the 10 best Chinese guitars that don’t suck.
The 10 Best Chinese Guitars
- Our Top Pick – Epiphone Les Paul Standard ’60s
- Best for Blues – Epiphone ES-335
- Best for Beginners – Squier Affinity Stratocaster
- Best for Country – Squier Affinity Telecaster
- Best for Most Versatile – Yamaha PAC012DLX
- Best for Metal – Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS22
- Best Playability – Ibanez GRGR120EX
- Best Acoustic – YAMAHA FG800
- Best for Rock – Epiphone Tony Iommi SG Custom
- Premium Pick – Eastman SB59
Epiphone Les Paul Standard ’60s – Our Top Pick
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard captures the same look, feel, and sound like an original Gibson Les Paul at a fraction of the price.
Read our full Epiphone Les Paul Standard Review
Since it’s conception in 1952 the Les Paul has established itself as the iconic rock guitar. From Jimmy Page with his violin bow to Slash shredding outside of a church in the desert. The Les Paul is without a doubt—written in rock folklore.
If you have an eagle eye, you may have noticed these guitarists play a Gibson and not an Epiphone. So what gives?
Released in 1988, The Epiphone Les Paul is the cheaper version of the famous Gibson Les Paul.
So the Epiphone Les Paul Standard ’60s is more affordable than its Gibson counterparts. But does it offer value for money?
The standout feature is the choice of hardware. Fitted with Epiphone’s ProBucker humbucking pickups you can expect a full and warm PAF style sound that truly capture the classic Gibson Les Paul vibe.
It’s the perfect solution if the Gibson Les Paul is out of reach. Manufactured in Qingdao, China, this is an example of the better side of Chinese craftsmanship. The Tribute Plus covers all bases with robust build quality, epic tone, and professional action.
It deserves its place as the best overall Chinese-made guitar.
- Good value for money
- Classic Les Paul tone and playability
- Epiphone ProBucker Pickups
- Quality materials e.g. solid mahogany body
- Not the most ergonomic design
- Potential quality control issues
Epiphone ES-335 – Best Chinese Guitar for Blues
The ES series of guitars are creations of monumental beauty. Whether it’s the American manufactured Gibson ES-355 or the Chinese made Epiphone ES-355. They share similar characteristics that make them both look the part.
The shape, the sound, the f-holes, every tiny detail is oozing vintage class.
You can choose the finishing touch by picking your favorite color. So whether you opt for vintage sunburst, cherry or ebony is up to you.
Not only do they look amazing, but they replicate the vintage nuances in sound with its warm tone.
So why opt for a hollow body?
It’s a tried and tested formula that Epiphone needn’t reinvent. The hollowed body gives a thicker resonance, one reason they work great for blues.
Don’t take my word. Bluesman BB King testified to this. He was such an avid user of the ES series, he notoriously named his guitars Lucille.
If you want a classic sound without a vintage price. This is your guitar to channel the blues licks of the greats.
- Hollowed body
- Classic guitar sound
- Resonate and sustain
- Vintage style at an affordable price
- Hollow guitars can be susceptible to feedback
Squier Affinity Stratocaster – Best Chinese Guitar for Beginners
If you’re a beginner, you’ll have different criteria than an established guitarist.
While it’s tempting to dive in at the deep end with a guitar that you like the look of most, there are a few things to consider.
First, look at the price. The Squire Strat is one of the more affordable options, and this alone makes it a top contender for a beginner.
According to recent statistics, 90% of budding guitarists quit within the first 6 months. With this in mind, it’s ill-advised to spend big bucks if you’re going to be one of the 90%.
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster lends itself to the beginner in more practical terms too.
They design the neck of the Strat for ultimate comfort. The fingerboards 9.5” radius makes it one of the easiest to navigate. So if you’re finding your feet, that’ll make your learning journey a lot smoother.
Add your steely determination and consistent practice sessions. Bam—you’ll be a guitar hero before you know it.
- Timeless Strat shape
- Affordability for entry-level players
- Neck design for comfort and playability
- Three single-coil pickup for tone versatility
- Less resonance and than a Fender Strat
Squier Affinity Telecaster – Best Chinese Guitar for Country
What makes country music, country music?
Willie Nelson said, “three chords and the truth – that’s what a country song is.”
So is it all about a story told through the raw emotion of lyrics? Or do instruments play a part?
It’s safe to say that they’re a lot of factors that combine to make a great country record. But is there anything more country than the distinctive Nashville twang guitar? Would a country song be a country song without some unmistakable chicken pickin’?
Your first stop to get that Nashville twang is the right guitar. If you’re on a budget—look no further than the Squier Affinity Series Telecaster.
It might not have the same materials or hardware as a Fender Telecaster. But it’s robust build and playing comfort makes this an obvious budget candidate.
It replicates the crisp, bright twang of a Telecaster. Paired with the right amp; you can create your own slice of Nashville in your own room. The Squire Tele is your budget alternative for keepin’ it country.
- Affordable price point
- Pick from 8 different colors
- Crisp, bright, Telecaster tone.
- Vintage Telecaster single-coil pickups
- Cheaper hardware than a Fender.
Yamaha PAC012DLX – Most Versatile Chinese Guitar
Are you an eclectic music listener? Your guitar playing might reflect this. So why restrict yourself to one genre?
The Yamaha PAC012 is a versatile guitar that covers all bases.
So how’s it so versatile?
Yamaha has created The PAC012 with adaptability in mind. The trio of pickups all vary with an audible difference in tone. So whether you want a clear bright top end, a punchy full midrange, or a low-end growl and grit. It’s achievable with the ease of a flick of a switch.
They make the body of the PAC012 of agathis wood. This is a lightweight alternative that doesn’t weigh you down. Handy for the beginner when comfort is key.
Agathis wood divides opinions with guitar enthusiasts. The theory is it’s a dull-sounding wood. So it’s sometimes referred to as ‘commercial-grade mahogany’.
But here is the thing. While the body of the PAC012 agathis wood, the neck is maple. Maple wood is a go-to with guitars because of its durability and resistance to indentation.
So if you’re a beginner yet to find your niche, you’re free to roam genres with this guitar and it’ll withstand the trials longer than expected.
- Lightweight body
- Suitable for heavy or clean sounds
- Rosewood fingerboard and maple neck
- Pickup variety with tone-shaping options
- Agathis wood body might cause dull resonance
Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS22 – Best Chinese Guitar for Metal
The Jackson JS22 is perfect for your metal needs.
Let’s start with the demeanor of this evil-looking guitar. Instead of fret dots, it has shark fin spikes. The headstock is sharp-edged and full of attitude. All the hardware is black, and the satin finishes is as metal as it gets.
If metal is your jam, this guitar will attract your attention on looks alone.
But there’s more to it than a ‘pretty’ face.
Jackson has custom-built ceramic-magnet humbuckers to give your sound some serious bite.
You’ll also want those notes to sustain. Thanks to the arched basswood body, your power chords will ring for some time.
For thrashing at speed, you’ll need a smooth neck. The slender graphite-reinforced maple neck meets your demands.
Made with metal heads in mind, the Jackson JS22 has achieved what they’ve set out to do. A great sounding, nice playing metal guitar at an affordable price.
- Metal look
- Tremolo bar
- High gain tone
- Graphite reinforced neck for fast playing
- Not versatile. The very specific design and sound only suits one genre.
Ibanez GRGR120EX – Best Playability Chinese Guitar
Japanese company Ibanez has gained a bit of a reputation with guitarists.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal is an example of the wide reach of the company. This overdrive pedal has its place on pedalboards on the biggest stages across the world.
It’s safe to say that Ibanez has all the credentials to create guitar tech of epic proportions.
So for guitars, Ibanez thrives on covering all levels of expertise at an affordable price. A browse on their site proves that this is the case—there’s something for everyone.
In this price range, Ibanez guitars excel in playability. The GRGR120EX is no exception, and its comfort has earned this guitar a popular opinion.
The GRGR120EX has a maple neck with a treated New Zealand pine fretboard. The jumbo-sized frets allow for improved finger mobility. This is all-important for smoothness when playing fast.
Ibanez claims it’s “responsible for launching numerous musical careers around the world“. With playability and smooth action, you’d struggle to disagree.
- Tremolo bar.
- Treated New Zealand pine fretboard
- Jumbo frets for improved playability
- Three-way selector switch for tonal variations.
- Hit and miss craftsmanship. Some reviews suggest fret ends can be sharp.
YAMAHA FG800 – Best Acoustic Chinese Guitar
When buying an acoustic your requirements will differ from an electric. For starters, you needn’t worry about hardware and electronics. This is unless you’re looking to invest in an electro-acoustic guitar of course.
With no hardware and components manufacturers can use more budget on quality wood. At least you’d hope.
In this price range, we’d forgive anyone for thinking that the
The material list is a standout feature of the FG800.
Let’s start with the body. Yamaha crafts the back and sides from nato wood (eastern mahogany) and okume. Then there’s the recognizable pale spruce top. And if the material list couldn’t; impress anymore, there’s a walnut fingerboard.
But why does this matter?
In short, the raw materials make this acoustic guitar sound amazing.
The spruce top improves projection making professional recording a possibility. Expect warm tones to resonate from the nato and okume wood. Then the walnut fret makes playing this guitar a comfortable experience.
It comes as no surprise that the Yamaha FG is the best-selling acoustic guitar series worldwide. At this bargain price, it’s ideal for beginners and day to day professional use.
- Dreadnought body shape
- Pro looks and performance
- Nato and okume wood deliver warm tones
- Spruce top for improved punch and projection
- Walnut fingerboard with comfortable rounded edges
- High action towards 1st fret.
Epiphone Tony Iommi SG Custom – Best Chinese Guitar for Rock
Let’s talk about Tony Iommi. Guitarist of rock royalty Black Sabbath, Iommi is a pioneer of the riff.
Fellow guitarists, you’ll agree—there isn’t anything better than a powerful guitar riff.
Tony Iommi’s riffs became the cornerstone of rock and inspired the heavy metal genre. Heralded as the “Godfather of Heavy Metal” because of his integral influence, he’s a legend in the guitar world.
So what’s his weapon of choice? This is the SG. And he wasn’t the only one to favor this distinctive looking guitar. The SG became as important to AC/DC’s Angus Young image as his choice of clothes.
When Tony Iommi teamed up with Epiphone to design an SG, it was always going to end well. It’s safe to say Iommi knows what he’s doing with a guitar.
There are only 2,000 made of this limited-edition Epiphone SG. If you’re left handed, you must be quick, only 250 of the 2,000 are for you.
You’re owning a part of Iommi’s legacy if you get your hands on one of these guitars. So much so, each guitar comes with a hand-signed certificate by the man himself.
So it’s a collector’s item, but what about all else?
Check out the iron-cross inlays on the fretboard. A unique touch that you won’t find anywhere else.
Then there’s the two Gibson USA made signature humbuckers. Designed with attention to replicate the Tony Iommi sound. Your guitar playing will be powerful.
It’s not all about loudness though. The pickups ensure highs are crisp with no nastiness and the lows pack a punch.
Manufactured to meet the live performance standards of Tony Iommi this guitar is an undoubted classic for all your rock needs.
- Limited Edition
- Designed to Tony Iommi’s specs
- Two Gibson USA Tony Iommi Signature Humbuckers
- Bound ebony fretboard with iron-cross inlays
Eastman SB59 – Best Premium Chinese Guitar
With a premium budget, you’ll get a premium guitar. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?
The cold facts are that if you want the performance and sound of an expensive guitar, you have to pay for it.
But what if you like the look of a Les Paul, but a Gibson is out of reach? You could opt for the best overall pick in the way of the Epiphone Les Paul?
What if I said there’s a middle ground? A guitar less costly than a Gibson but a performance upgrade on an Epiphone.
Introducing the Eastman SB59. Yes, it’s in the upper price range, but it comes in cheaper than the Gibson Les Paul.
So what are you going to get for your investment?
The SB59 isn’t a product that’s fallen off a production line. Quite the opposite. Every guitar is the work of accomplished luthiers and the craftsmanship shows.
This is what you’ll get for the bucks. A solid ‘one piece’ mahogany body that’s sturdy and withstands life on the road. An ebony fingerboard with beautiful pearl crown inlays balancing both performance and look.
The icing on the cake is in the form of the pickups. The Seymour Duncan Classic ’59 will capture the midrange growl and grit. While Eastman may not be a household name fortune will favor the brave. The SB59 is a premium choice in every way.
- One-piece mahogany
- Antique varnish topcoat finish
- Pearl crown inlays on ebony fingerboard
- Seymour Duncan Classic ’59 pickups for professional capture
- High cost
- Not one of the more famous brand names
Are Chinese Guitars Any Good?
Chinese-made guitars have somewhat of a bad rep when it comes to build quality. But guitar snobs might be too quick to dismiss the Far East manufactured guitar.
First, let’s look at some ways Chinese manufacturers keep the costs down.
Using cheaper wood alternatives is one way to cut the costs of materials. Finishing the guitar with polyester instead of a vintage lacquer can scrimp a bit too.
Then geography plays a part. Situating a factory in the Far East has its number-crunching benefits. There are cheaper labor costs compared to the USA.
These factories also engage in mass production techniques rather than a more hand made approach.
So all these factors contribute to keeping manufacturing costs down.
But does a budget price tag mean budget performance?
A large proportion of Chinese-made guitars will not compete with American craftsmanship. However, the quality control and craftsmanship has risen a tremendous amount over the past few decades.
Nowadays, you can find some exceptionally built guitars that are made in China. You just need to know where to find them.
Whether you’re a beginner or a budget conscience seasoned pro. A Chinese manufactured guitar will have a place on your guitar stand.
So there’s the good and the bad, but with a bit of knowledge, you can find a downright amazing Chinese-made guitar.
How to Choose The Best Chinese Made Guitar- Buyer’s Guide
Above are a selection of great Chinese-made guitars that offer both affordability and performance. But they may not be for you. If you want to go on your own quest to find the right one for you—here is what to look for.
Materials & Build Quality
Material and build quality will play a major role in your guitar sound and performance.
Fake guitars are saturating the market. It’s essential to avoid these. Always buy from reputable sites to ensure quality. The above links in this article go to trustworthy sites to assure that you’re getting the real deal.
American-made guitars will rule the roost from material and build quality standpoint. But if you’re going down the Chinese-made route, the type of wood will play a pivotal role in the build quality.
Often the neck wood will differ from the body. Top-end guitars often use maple wood because it offers a bright and direct sound. Rosewood is rounder and warmer but its peak quality.
Premiums brands like Gibson use mahogany for its profound bottom end and warmth. Fender uses Alder wood for its roundness and bite.
An industry standard for the top wood of an acoustic guitar is spruce. It’s the crisp articulation and the ability to resonate with a broad frequency that makes it a go-to.
If you see any of these woods, you know you’re onto a good thing.
Guitars infatuate, and people will go to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on one they desire. At the upper end of the scale, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour sold his Black Strat’ sold for $3.975 Million.
Now I’m assuming you don’t have a few million to splash. This is merely to prove a point that the sky’s the limit. So set a price that you can afford.
Your budget will be a determining factor in buying a guitar. As your price lowers, it can compromise quality.
But with a little attention to detail and a few hundred dollars, you can pick up your dream guitar.
Of course, you want to buy something that won’t fall apart within years or has awful action. But be honest. Would you be able to notice an audible difference between a $400 guitar and a $4,000 one?
Besides, if what you’re playing is pure gold, it doesn’t matter how much it cost right?
The pickup is the heart of your guitar that’ll convert string vibration into electricity. If your pickups are shoddy, your guitar sound will suffer.
Seymour Duncan, Gibson, and Fender all manufacture pickups top-end pickups. These aren’t the only top brands, there are many high-quality pickup manufacturers. So if you’re unsure, do a little research and ensure your guitar has a healthy beating heart.
The body of the guitar catches the eye. Let’s face it, you want your guitar to look cool. If your hero is playing an ES series, Epiphone. You want to replicate that shape and style.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Why play a guitar that you don’t like the look of?
There are a few things to consider though. Try playing the guitar to see how it fits for size. If you’re used to playing smaller-bodied guitars, a bigger body might be difficult to grasp.
Weight can also be a deciding factor. Longer sets with a heavy guitar can cause serious shoulder pain.
Then there’s stage presence. If you’re quite the showman and want to swing your guitar around. That’ll be a true workout and quite dangerous with a big bodied, heavy guitar. So go lightweight and small.
You need to be comfortable when you play and this is when playability comes in.
The radius of a guitar’s neck influences playability. Some might find smaller necks easier to combat when starting out. There’s no one size fits all approach though, and it’s down to the individual.
Fret size and string height will also play a part in how comfortable a guitar is to play.
Things to look out for when trying a guitar is trying different techniques. Can you play open and barre chords? Can you play solos and bend the string clean without hum? Is the action low all along the neck?
Trying these will ensure your guitar is a winner across the board.
Genre of Music
If you’re a guitarist in a folk band, a death metal guitar will look out of place. But is it all down to look?
Certain guitars will have nuances in sound that lend them to a particular genre. A bright and crisp guitar tone will fit nicely in genres like country and indie. For heavier genres like metal and rock, sustain and high output will be on the agenda.
Metal guitarists have different requirements for a blues guitarist. Playing the blues is all about big scooping bends, so a wide neck is suitable. Metal requires quick-fire movement, so a close configured neck will make it easier to thrash out.
Recap of the Best Chinese Guitars
|Best Chinese Guitar
|Epiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus
|Best for Blues
|Squier Affinity Stratocaster
|Best for Beginners
|Squier Affinity Telecaster
|Best for Country
|Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS22
|Best for Metal
|Epiphone Tony Iommi SG Custom
|Best for Rock
There we have it!
The 10 best Chinese guitars that don’t suck.
These aren’t the only 10. There are more out there but be sure to follow this guide to make sure you’re getting bang for your buck.
Be warned, there are sites selling fake guitars. Take a firm look at the guitar logo before buying it.
The last thing you want to do is spend hard-earned cash on a fake guitar that doesn’t perform.
The truth is there are some fantastic Chinese-made guitars out there you’ve got to know where to look.
I hope this article has given you the knowledge and confidence to find the guitar that’s right for you.