The 10 best electric guitars for all styles and budgets

No matter your budget or playing style, there are some excellent guitars out there.

PRS SE Silver Sky

Image: Adam Gasson

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Buying an electric guitar can be a somewhat daunting task – there are countless options out there, and rarely a “bad” instrument to be had, even at the budget end of things. So we’ve helpfully split this list of the best electric guitars into 10 discrete categories, including our best overall pick.

Why? Well, the best guitar for you might be an affordable workhorse, ready to be thrown around on stage or into the back of a van without a care in the world. Or it could be a beautiful, premium instrument – a guitar to be looked after for life. The best guitar for you might offer up a palette of subtle, dynamic sounds. Or, it might pummel an amp’s front end to raise sonic hellfire. So, as well as our best overall pick, all of the guitars in this list excel in a given category – with everything from traditional classics to modern masterpieces, and premium instruments to beginner-friendly budget models represented. Let’s dive in.

The 10 best electric guitars, at a glance:

Our pick: PRS SE Silver Sky

PRS SE Silver Sky
Image: Adam Gasson

The PRS SE Silver Sky may be an affordable alternative to the USA-made model, but it’s by no means a compromise, providing excellent build quality for the price. A refined neck profile provides an inviting playing experience, while the fretboard’s 8.5-inch radius strikes a balance between vintage accuracy and modern comfort. Bends, vibrato and speedy sliding are all an absolute joy, and tuning remains stable even with judicious use of the vibrato arm. The three pickups provide a balanced tonal palette, with beautiful bell-like cleans and roaring, articulate overdrive sounds all accessible. Its myriad sonic options, reasonable price and excellent build-quality make it one of the best electric guitars out there for countless players!

Need more? Read our PRS SE Silver Sky review.

Best Stratocaster: Fender Vintera II ’50s Stratocaster

Fender Vintera II ’50s Stratocaster by Adam Gasson
Fender Vintera II ’50s Stratocaster. Image: Adam Gasson

Fender’s Mexican-made Vintera II line is an excellent place to turn if you want maximum bang for your buck in terms of sound, playability and looks. That remains true here with the Vintera II 50s Stratocaster: while it’s not a slavishly accurate recreation like the American Vintage II line is, there’s still a lot to love if you love a good traditional Strat, including the narrow-tall frets and the 7.25-inch radius.

The neck finds itself on the accessible side of vintage, with a softer V that takes the edge off its thickness, meaning a more characterful feel than that of the Vintera I necks. The concessions to modernity, where they have been made, are welcome ones too: a the bridge-wired tone control and five-way switch might not be totally accurate, but they sure are useful. In all, it’s a great Strat experience for a great piece.

Need more? Read our Fender Vintera II ’50s Stratocaster review.

Best Les Paul: Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard

If you want an awesome Les Paul that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, then this collaboration between Epiphone and the Gibson Custom Shop could be it. Thanks to premium electronics and Gibson-spec pickups, there’s a wide range of responsive tone-shaping options on tap. Construction is solid and mostly sticks to vintage specifications, too – perfect if you want to see why the 1959 Les Paul Standard has remained one of the most legendary guitars of all time. It’s also a smart purchase when you compare it to what’s available at the most accessible end of the Gibson USA catalogue.

Need more? Read our Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard review.

Best Telecaster: Fender American Performer Telecaster

Fender American Perofrmer Stratocaster and Telecaster

The clue is in the name when it comes to the Fender American Performer Telecaster – this is a guitar made to be gigged, and gigged hard. Electronics are deliberately stage-ready rather than vintage-correct, with the Yosemite alnico-magnet pickups (designed by Fender’s resident pickup guru Tim Shaw) providing a good amount of balance across the Tele tonal spectrum – not too biting and aggressive at the bridge, and not too boomy at the neck, and no volume jumps or dip as you leap between them. The Greasebucket tone circuit keeps things clear and smooth as you roll down the tone, too.

The neck is unapologetically contemporary, too, with a satin finish, a slim modern c profile, 9.5-inch fingerboard radius and 22 jumbo frets – perfect for not tiring you out show after show.

Need more? Read our Fender American Performer Telecaster review.

Best Jazzmaster: Fender Vintera II 50s Jazzmaster

Fender Vintera II ’50s Jazzmaster, photo by Adam Gasson
Fender Vintera II ’50s Jazzmaster. Image: Adam Gasson

Blending vintage-correct features with a more affordable price tag than the American Vintage range and that all-important rosewood board, the Vintera II 50s Jazzmaster offers offset charm by the spadeful.

The neck profile is slim and comfortable, and the 7.25-inch radius fretboard (did we mention that it’s rosewood?) is loaded with narrow tall frets, and the pickups are pleasingly bright and articulate – perfect for both surf and Kevin Shields impressions!

Need more? Read our Fender Vintera II 50s Jazzmaster review.

Best affordable guitar: Epiphone Les Paul Special

Epiphone Les Paul Special

Compared to the pricey Custom Shop collaborations Epiphone likes to shout about, the standard Les Paul special – first launched as part of the Inspired By Gibson range in 2020 – is an affordable workhorse that, unless you really, really hate the Epiphone headstock, has no discernible compromises. Although its neck profile is on the chunkier side, it’s very playable – and not quite as fat as some baseball-bat examples out there. Importantly, its pickups aren’t messing around, either, with all of the vocal midrange P90s are famous for.

Need more? Read our Epiphone Les Paul Special review.

Best high-end guitar: Gibson Murphy Lab 1959 Les Paul Standard

Gibson Murphy Lab Cherry Tea Burst Les Paul Light Aged

From an affordable student-model Les Paul to, well, quite the opposite. The Gibson Murphy Lab 1959 Les Paul standard is the absolute pinnacle of Gibson’s modern production guitars, recreating the absolute pinnacle of its vintage instruments. While you may baulk at any level of ageing, the Murphy Lab’s various wearing-in processes – from light to heavy – serve to make the guitar feel like a truly authentic 1950s example, rather than a new guitar built to the same specs. For those of us without six figures to drop on a vintage example, it’ll be the closest we get to owning the real deal.

Need more? Read our Gibson Murphy Lab 1959 Les Paul Standard review.

Best metal guitar: Jackson American Series Virtuoso

Jackson American Series Virtuoso, photo by Adam Gasson
Jackson American Series Virtuoso. Image: Adam Gasson

Is there anything more classically metal than a hot-rodded S-type with a Floyd Rose and two fire-breathing humbuckers? The Jackson American Series Virtuoso is built for speed as much as it is aggression, with a mightily slim neck, a compound 12-16 inch radius fretboard and Jumbo frets. All these will happily absorb any fretboard acrobatics you can throw at the guitar, while Luminlay side dots let you keep your place on even the darkest stages. And that locking vibrato means you can dive-bomb to your heart’s content.

Need more? Read our Jackson American Series Virtuoso review.

Best baritone: Rivolta Mondata Baritone VII

Rivolta Mondata Baritone VII

The Rivolta Mondata Baritone VII is, as you can tell immediately, an absolute stunner. But it’s as sonically beautiful as it is aesthetically, with a versatile combination of a humbucker and a P90 for exploring all corners of the downtuned sound. Need to get even more old-school? A strangle switch lets you starve some low-end for some bright tic-tac basslines, but whack things back up to full and let the 28-inch scale length add clarity to your ultra-low riffage.

Need more? Read our Rivolta Mondata Baritone VII review.

Best beginner guitar: Squier Sonic Stratocaster HSS

Squier Sonic Stratocaster HSS
Image: Adam Gasson

A good beginner guitar doesn’t just have to be cheap – although the Squier Sonic Stratocaster HSS is – it’s also got to be approachable. Who’s going to want to continue learning through sharp fret-ends, terrible sounds or miles-high string action? Luckily the Sonic Strat is a very approachable instrument indeed, with a pleasantly playable satin-finished neck, and far better-sounding pickups than a guitar at this price point has any right to be loaded with. HSS strats are famously versatile, too, so no matter if it’s Mayer or Slayer, you’ll be good to get learning.

Need more? Read our Squier Sonic Stratocaster HSS review.

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