If you’re in the market for an electric guitar, it can be hard to know where to start.
Since there are literally hundreds of different electric guitar brands to choose from, it can be quite difficult for a beginner to distinguish the differences between them.
In the past few decades, guitar brands have transformed from simple guitar builders to icons in the music world. Our favorite players, genres, and even whole generations of musicians are at times represented by a memorable guitar model.
Beyond the emotional values a musician can have towards a guitar brand, different builders offer different qualities and specifics that guitar players should know off.
In one thing we can all agree, a different guitar brand plays a huge role in the overall sound, playing, and appeal of a guitarist. So it’s important you choose yours wisely.
In this article, we’ll share our picks for the 15 electric guitar brands that rule the guitar world and have offered fine instruments across all genres and generations.
For each brand, we’ll give some background info, popular guitar models, and famous artists that have made their name using the brand.
Table of Contents
The Best Electric Guitar Brands
- PRS Guitars (Paul Reed Smith)
- Ernie Ball Music Man
- B.C. Rich
PRS Guitars (Paul Reed Smith)
PRS Guitars is the initiative of master builder Paul Reed Smith. After building his first guitar as a challenge to his college music professor he decided to pursue his dream career as a guitar builder.
Located in Stevensville, Maryland this American guitar brand started in 1985 and is now one of the world’s premier guitar and amplifier manufacturers.
You can say that the quality of PRS guitar is a direct output of Paul Reed Smith’s dedication and love for the instrument.
PRS guitars stand in a fine midpoint between the creamy heavy Les Pauls and bright and crunchy Fenders, but also offer some very specific tones that only a PRS can achieve.
Build quality is superb and playability is also assured from the high-end parts used.
During its history, PRS has seen many guitar greats endorse their instruments, some of which like the likes of John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Alex Lifeson, Mark Lettieri, and many others. One thing to mention is that most of these artists have switched from bigger brands to PRS later on in their careers.
A flagship PRS model that embodied all of the brand’s qualities is the PRS Custom 24 – beautiful design and extreme playability. You can also get a great semi-hollow or hollow body electric guitar with the same quality build.
If you are looking for a high-end quality built guitar that can cover perfectly many genres, the PRS is a great choice!
Check out my roundup review of the Best PRS Guitars
Not much can be said about electric guitars without mentioning Fender. In fact, the very image of an electric guitar, even by people who don’t play, is that of a Fender Stratocaster.
The design and tone of the Fender guitar have become the icon of genres and whole generations of music, from blues, rock, to country and pop.
From a Radio Service company that started in late 1938 in Fullerton, California, Leo Fender started getting in the guitar business by first manufacturing lap steel guitars in the mid-’40s. In 1950, Fender introduced the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, the Telecaster, originally named Broadcaster.
Like the electric guitar brand that started it all, Fender has maintained its status as one of the world’s finest builders of Electric guitars. Spanning from mid-range to extremely high-end instruments endorsed by some of the world’s greatest players.
When you think of Fender guitars the Image of Jimmi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and many other legends come directly to mind. How can anyone imagine Gilmour without his iconic black strat, or Hendrix without his white strat?
The most iconic models of Fender are 2, the Stratocaster and Telecaster. Both models don’t need much introduction as their reputation precedes them. Both became an “industry standard” as these guitars were played in so many records.
There is no professional guitarist that doesn’t have at least one Fender guitar in his collection!
Fender now is well established as a high-end builder and the flip side of the company is that it also offers many mid to high range models along with its iconic, but very expensive vintage models.
Gibson guitars are for many people the sound of rock music.
Orville Gibson, the founder of the brand, started the company as early as 1902 in Kalamazoo, Michigan with the goal of making mandolin-family instruments.
From its roots to modern-day Gibson was the first to invent archtop guitars and later on, in 1952, launched its most successful model, the Gibson Les Paul – the guitar model that became the icon of rock.
As one of the world’s legendary learning guitar brands, the built quality, finish, and quality of the part in any Gibson guitar is as good as they can get.
If Fenders guitars sit on the bright specter of sound, Gibson guitars are usually known to offer that creamy, warm tone that can also become heavy the more you crank up the amp. A Les Paul has become a must for any passionate guitarist to add to its collection.
Talking about endorses and famous players, the image of Jimmy Page, Peter Green, Slash, Bob Marley, Randy Rhoads, and the iconic Les Paul Himself – the man behind the most innovative and known guitar models.
Another Gibson iconic model, apart from the Les Paul, is the SG. No one can imagine Angus Young without his custom SG, doing his iconic walk across the stage.
Gibson is no doubt the first pick for any blues and rock players out there. Even for more specific genres, Gibson has you covered with many quality models to choose from. However, as with major brands, the price can get very high for the most iconic vintage models.
The first Japanese guitar builder on the list and one of the major players in the guitar world is Ibanez.
Named after the Spanish Legendary luthier Salvador Ibáñez, the company started as early as 1908 as the musical instrument sales division in a bookstore chain. Later on, Ibanez evolved from a classical guitar builder in the 40’s to one of the most renowned electric guitar builders in the world.
After decades of experimenting with models and trying to build unique models that stood out from Fender and Ibanez, Ibanez finally got its breakthrough in the 80s with the help of the Steve Vai signature Ibanez JEM.
From there, Ibanez became and still is one of the leading brands in the rock and metal electric guitar world. The company offers a wide range of guitars, and the price range also varies a lot depending on the model and where the model was built, as there are also Korean, Indonesian, and Chinese-made guitars.
As far as endorsed artists are concerned, there are some major shredders such as Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert. On the softer side of things, Jazz-influenced artists such John Scofield and Pat Metheny both have their signature models.
The best example of an Ibanez guitar is the RG series. The tone range varies from bright clean to sharp aggressive, straight neck and high output pickup. The design of this series, along with other models such as the JEM and S series all became and are still iconic rock guitars.
Ibanez continues to bring innovation by being the first guitar manufacturer to mass-produce 7 and 8 string guitars.
If you are after a high-quality build and would like to choose between mid to high-range guitars with a rock and metal attitude, an Ibanez guitar is perfect for you.
Check out my roundup review of the Best Ibanez Guitars
ESP, another Japanese builder, has become a household name in the hard rock and metal guitar market.
The company started in 1975 as a guitar replacement part manufacturer and later expanded in the US offering custom made guitars. During the 80’s ESP focused on its signature models and started providing guitars for some big names like George Lynch.
The rise of glam rock and heavy metal in the following years, same as the other major Japanese builder Ibanez, had ESP rise and grow to become a high-quality builder of heavy genres electric guitars.
ESP guitars offer a wide range of tonal characteristics, from aggressive to warm and heavy. There are several high-end models you can choose from and the option of lower-price LTD models.
What makes ESP very interesting is its 6 different guitar branches, all offering different quality and type guitars.
All models typically are made for shredder guitarists, so you will find the neck very playable and strong high output pickups.
2 topical Ibanez models are the Metallica guitar duo “Iron Cross” Les Paul shaped guitar of James Hetfield and the KH Kirk Hammett Signature series.
Some other big names that use ESP guitar are Alex Skolnick, Alexi Laiho, Tom Araya, and many others from the metal world.
Nowadays ESP continues to make high-quality build electric guitars for gravy genres with the option of going from mid to high range models. If you want many options to choose from for your next heavy guitar, an ESP is perfect for you!
Gretsch is an American musical Instrument brand with a long history in the blues and rock n’ roll music scene.
Founded in 1883 in Brooklyn from Friedrich Gretsch, the company started right away as an instrument builder first of banjos, tambourines, and drums then, later on, moving to electric guitar.
The collaboration with Chet Atkins in 1954 resulted in Gretsch building their first-ever electric guitar – the 6120 hollow body guitar which turned out to be a massive success for the company and built its reputation as a great blues and rock n’ roll guitar brand.
Gretsch guitars have an immediately distinguishable design known for their hollow body and elegant finish that has kept the classical look and feel over the years. Today they also offer great quality solid body models adaptable to many genres.
Being a bit more of a niche guitar brand, it features premium quality parts, finishes, and detailing, but also premium prices for most models. Some models you may be familiar with apart from the Chet Atkins signature are the newer solid body vintage series guitar.
Generally, the tone of a Gretsch guitar is all you would expect to hear from a crunchy rock n’ roll that can sweeten up to become a warm blues lead to brightening in a clean jazz rhythm.
The Beatles and Bo Diddley are some of the major names that play Gretsch guitars along with modern artists like Bono and Rich Robinson.
If you are looking for the ultimate classic looking, high-end rock and blues guitar – a Gretsch is a great choice!
Check out my roundup review of the Best Gretsch Guitars
Ernie Ball Music Man
This American guitar manufacturer started out in the 70s from Tom Walker and Forrest White in close collaboration with Leo Fender.
After a long history of changing names and mainly specializing as an amplifier and guitar accessories branch of Fender, the company was officially bought by Earnie Ball in 1984. Since then, the brand has been crafting instruments in San Luis Obispo, California, and shipping worldwide.
Music man guitars are the definition of a high-end modern guitar, with advanced parts, excellent finish, and attention to detail. Music man guitars are also known to be highly playable.
The company entered the market being well prepared and experienced in both the industry and the craft of building guitar. That made it possible for the guitar brand to expand in multiple genres and offer a wide range of instruments for different styles and tonal ranges.
The large variety is also testified from the artists that are endorsed by Music Man. John Petrucci, Steve Lukather, and Steve Morse are some of the shredders of the brand, while on the bluesy side we have legends like Albert Lee and modern guitarists like St Vincent and James Valentine.
Some well-known Music Man models are the John Petrucci signature Majesty and Axis collection models – both short-scaled, highly playable, and the dream of all shredders.
To recap, a great quality premium guitar brand with excellent modern features, high playability, and a leaning towards shredders, yet adaptable to almost every genre.
Schecter is an American guitar builder with an excellent history of building high-quality rock and metal guitars, at an affordable price.
Starting out as a repair shop in California in the 70s, Schecter evolved through the years to become a high-quality guitar parts manufacturer and later on one of the leading minds to high-end guitar brands in the rock and metal world.
After starting out as the only custom guitar manufacturer, Schecter now offers a wide range of instruments spanning from affordable to expensive models.
What is great about Schecter guitars is the parts used and the build quality, which can only be found at the same level on more expensive brands.
Some great players have joined the Schecter artist list. Names such as Pete Towsend, Richie Blackmore, Mark Knopfler, Chris Poland, Synyster Gates have played and still play Schecter guitars.
A model that incorporates the best qualities of a Schecter guitar and yet at an affordable price is the Solo II custom – highly playable Les Paul style guitar with all the best parts and qualities a rock and metal guitar needs.
If you are after quality guitars to play rock and metal but want to keep in it a mid-range budget – Schecter guitars are your go. Also, they are quite versatile for other genres.
Check out my roundup review of the Best Schecter Guitars
The motto of the company “ A guitar for every stage!” says it all.
This American company has a long history of building instruments way back since 1987.
The story of Epiphone guitar started out in Greece, from where the immigrant Kostantinos Stathopoulo left his country and continued his instrument building craft in Manhattan.
In 1957 the company was purchased by Gibson. Today, Epiphone is still used as a brand for the Gibson company, both for budget models of other Gibson-branded products and for several Epiphone-exclusive models.
Epiphone manufactures very versatile guitars adaptable to both the pro players and to bedroom guitarists. The guitars are very well built and the Gibson-inspired models offer the deep warm sound you would expect from any good Les Paul style guitar.
Some great names have used and keep using Epiphone Guitar. Some guitar greats such as Slash, Joe Pass, the Beatles and modern bluesmen like Gary Clark Jr. have played their Epiphone models.
Apart from the Gibson inspired very successful Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Epiphone has its own models such as the Designer series and Arch Top guitars.
If you love Gibson guitars but are looking for a more budget alternative that still has a great quality build, Epiphone is a great choice for you.
Many people consider Squier guitars as a cheap Fender alternative. While that is somehow true, there are some very nicely built and great-sounding guitars in their catalog.
The V. C. Squier Company was established by Victor Carroll Squier in Michigan in 1890 as a string manufacturer. Years after being purchased by Fender, in 1982, Squier released its first guitars.
After the success of many of the cheaper Fender-inspired models and some Squier originals, production has moved from Japan to various other Asian countries such as Korea, China, and Indonesia.
Squier guitars are one of the main players in the low-mid range guitar market and the perfect fit for beginner guitar players. Although the build quality is not comparable to an original Fender, the guitars generally play great and you can get a huge variety of tones out of them.
Even though the not high-end, Squier is still a major brand. That promises generally better quality and reliability than smaller brands of the same price range.
The most well known Squier guitars are the Squier Stratocater and Telecaster model. If Fender made it, then Squier has a cheaper yet good version of it.
Even though it’s not a high-end brand, some very famous names such as Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, Frank Bello of Anthrax, and Mike Dirnt of Green Day play custom Squier basses. Freddy Stardust and Jack White.
If you are on a budget and are looking for a Fender-inspired model, or if you are choosing a guitar for smaller gigs and practicing, Squiers are great for you!
Adventurous shapes, aggressive tones, and heavy metal is usually the style that is associated with B.C Rich Guitar.
The American guitar brand started out as a guitar and bass builder founded by Bernardo Chavez Rico in 1969. B.C Rich found itself producing custom-made high-end guitars while also offering Mid-range instruments produced in eastern countries.
B.C Rich is still doing almost the same, offering some expensive high-end custom models and on the other side more affordable models that still have the grind and aggressiveness that characterizes its design and tone.
Depending on the model, B.C rich guitars use relatively high-end materials and electronics. The design is not the only thing that is adapted to heavy metal on these guitars with high output pickups and flat neck
Tone-wise they are all you can expect from a metal guitar. From fast high pitched licks that cut through the mix to low palm-muted power chords, B.C. Rich guitars can deliver that iconic metal sound.
Some big names such as Kerry King, Paul Stanley, Joe Perry, and a pre- Les Paul Slash have played B.C Rich Guitar.
Some very popular modules are the Warlock and Mockingbird. Both heavy oriented guitars, ideal for shredders and heavy chugs players.
If you are a shredder and like experimenting with designs for your guitar, a B.C rich is great for you.
Check out my guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Metal
Jackson guitars started out in the late 1970s as part ownership the founder, Grover Jackson, had with Charvel Guitar Repair Shop.
What launched this metal guitar brand was the collaboration with Randy Rhoads on this iconic flying V model, The Concorde, in 1980. In 2002 the company was bought by Fender guitars.
Throughout the decades, Jackson continues to make high-end American-made guitars with top-notch parts and build. A great choice for rockers and shredders.
What’s great is that you have some more budget alternatives alongside the very expensive and premium custom models.
The tone of a Jackson is the tone of thrash metal and now of modern metal. Aggressive leads and rhythm from the high output pickups. Generally, the guitars have a straight neck and sharp design to match the style of the genre.
Many of the metal greats have used Jackson guitars such as Marty Friedman, Mark Morton, Kirk Hammet, etc. In the new age of metal modern players like Christian Andreu of Gojira and Chris Broderick have their own signature models.
Some renowned Jackson models are part of the Pro series and the X series family. Some signature models of great metal artists are also part of this series.
Jackson guitars are a great choice for shredders that want to get a high-end instrument and also choose between different price ranges without sacrificing quality.
Check out my roundup review of the Best Jackson Guitars
Danelectro is a guitar brand that is known for providing high-quality electric guitars at an affordable price. If you're a beginner or intermediate-level player, then Danelectro is definitely a brand you should consider.
Danelectro was founded by Nathan “Nat” Daniel in 1947 and started applying early on in their history low-cost methods of producing good guitars.
The company had had some iconic guitar models through the years, characterized by the lipstick pickup style and classic design. Today, since shifting its focus to guitar pedals, Danelectro is making a limited number of great low-budget guitars with a unique design.
Danelectro guitars have always found a way to make budget guitar parts work great in their guitar and have a decent tone and a particular vintage tone and feel. Surprisingly, this brand was responsible for inventing some major guitar innovation like the 12 string guitar, which they never patented as theirs.
Even though the quality is not comparable to higher-end models, a Danelectro can do justice to blues and rock playing and stand out with their look and particular pickups.
Danelectro was very common through the 50s and 60s and many of the greats started out playing them before switching to more expensive guitar brands. Jimmy Page used them a lot in recording and the baritone guitars are very common for gigging and studio work.
The 59’ Divine model is probably the guitar that shaped the Danelectro brand and embodies the best characteristics of the brand.
Danelectro is a great electric guitar brand when it comes to budget vintage guitars that help you achieve a specific tone.
Charvel is an American guitar brand offering high-performance, highly versatile instruments.
A choice of many modern pro guitarists, the Charvel guitar’s history is tightly connected to both Fender and Jackson guitar. Being required or by the first in 2002 and being under the same roof and brand with the second for decades.
Charvel guitars offer a perfect middle ground between shredding guitars and more mellow, modern fusion, rock guitars. The company offers signature models of players of different genres and that has also expanded its market.
You can say that being part of both Jackson and Fender created a brand that has the best elements of both worlds.
High-end parts, custom builds, great electronics, and attention to playability characterizes Charvel Instruments. This comes slough with the option of choosing between mid-range instruments and price to higher-end premium Instruments.
Modern-day “jack of all trades” guitarists like Rick Graham and Guthrie Govan, the guitar player of guitar players, play Charvel’s.
Some typical Charvel models that embody the best characters are the PRO-MOD series guitars. Sleek, highly playable, and versatile is the best words to describe.
If you want a great high-quality guitar brand that embodies the best of both worlds, heavy and not heavy guitar playing – Charvel offers many options at different price ranges.
Going through all the possible guitar brands, the thing to keep in mind first is how does it adapt to you!
Even though bigger brands might offer better quality parts and finish, sometimes what might work best for you is a cheaper model that plays and feels great for you. There is no best brand in general, but inside some specific tonal ranges and styles, there are some brands that offer better quality!
Figure out first what you want from your new guitar, then use our list as a starting point to find the brand that better matches you!