The Electric Guitar Digest seeks to bring you comprehensive, accurate, and unbiased reviews of the best, and a few of the worst, electric guitars on the planet. Most of the reviews you will find here are YouTube reviews. We’ve made a real effort to sift through the thousands of guitar reviews to find the ones that will really help you in making a buying decision. The best reviews seem to be a good balance of an in depth discussion of the features and build quality of the guitar combined with some playing, so you get a good sense of the tone of the guitar. In truth, there are a lot of really amateurish, horrible guitar reviews on YouTube. We’ve tried to find the gems that are both informative and entertaining. In addition, while our primary focus will be on newer models, we will occasionally publish reviews of popular older models as well.
The Rise of the Electric Guitar
The history of the electric guitar dates back to the to the 1930s. While Les Paul has been credited with many technological advances to the electrified guitar, he did not invent the first electric guitars. Two other gentlemen were responsible for both inventing the original technology and manufacturing the first electric guitars. One of these gentlemen was Adolf Rickenbacker. The name Rickenbacker gained mainstream recognition when his company’s instruments were used to produce the trademark sound of the greatest Rock N Roll band in history, The Beatles. Working with Mr. Rickenbacker was Mr. George Beauchamp. It was Mr. Beauchamp who was largely responsible for the development of the first electromagnetic pickup. It is his name that appears on the patent. Mr. Rickenbacker’s lap steel “Frying Pan” was the first electric guitar ever manufactured commercially. Together, they started what many believe to be considered the greatest revolution in popular music.
In the history of the electric guitar, there are two individuals whose influence stand head and shoulders above all others. The two individuals are of course, Leo Fender and Jimi Hendrix. Leo Fender designed and built what most folks would agree are two of the most influential guitars of all time, the Fender Telecaster and the Fender Stratocaster. For many decades now, the Telecaster has been the workhorse instrument for darn near every country band in the country. That said, you’ll find a Tele in bands doing everything from hard rock to jazz. In terms of worldwide recognition, it is the image of the Fender Stratocaster that most people think of when talking about the electric guitar. It’s been the best selling and most revered guitar in the world for more than sixty years. It continues to be the instrument of choice for rock, surf, and popular music of almost every genre. While the popularity of the Stratocaster was cemented by music legends such as Buddy Holly, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hank Marvin, and Jeff Beck, it was Jimi Hendrix that showed the world what was possible with this incredible guitar. His talent was so great that all of his peers acknowledged the fact that Jimi was in a league of his own. More than one famous guitar player of his era came to doubt their own abilities after watching him play.
Electric Guitar Manufacturers
It is estimated that there are well in excess of 5,000 companies and individuals making electric guitars as a full time business. Some of these companies, like Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Rickenbacker are very well known to guitar enthusiasts and the general public alike. The instruments from these companies have been seen by millions of people on TV and on the internet. However, there are many brands like PRS, Washburn, Ibanez, and G&L that are not household names, but are high quality instruments that are favored by professional guitarists. Likewise, there are many small manufacturers that build utterly fantastic guitars, but just not in quantities that make them readily available or well known to the general guitar buying public. One of the long term missions of this website is to provide greater exposure to these smaller builders.
Your Electric Guitar was Built Where?
Naturally, not all guitars are made here in the United States. For a very long time now, guitars have been manufactured and imported from Asia and Mexico in particular. While the quality of these instruments was once incredibly bad, there are many import guitars that now rival the quality of domestically manufactured guitars. For many companies like Gretsch, Squire, and Fender, imported guitars make up a very substantial part of annual sales. In fact, because they can offer high quality imported guitars at retail prices that are less than half of what their domestically manufactured guitars cost, their import models far outsell their domestic guitars. Fender, in particular, has shown that it is possible to sell both while maintaining a great brand reputation. Likewise, the Fender Squire lineup has enjoyed a tremendous resurgence because the quality of their guitars has improved dramatically. There was a time not long ago that no self respecting guitar player would be caught dead with a Squire.
So, you might be wondering why anyone would buy a domestically manufactured guitar that costs two, three, or four times more than a comparable guitar that’s been built offshore. Well, there’s a couple of reasons that people are willing to spend the big bucks. First, there are a lot of so called “Guitar snobs” that don’t, in any way, want to be associated with a guitar that doesn’t have a big name brand or logo on the headstock. These folks are more than willing to spend whatever they need to own brand name products.
Cheap Guitars Versus Expensive Guitars
The other issue is of course, quality. Some import guitars are better than others. Of course, the same can be said of domestically manufactured instruments as well. The higher end, brand name imports that cost in the range of $350 to $600 are generally very good guitars that are equivalent to domestic guitars costing many times more. The proof is in the pudding. There are many touring musicians that play import Epiphones, Fenders, Squires, and Gretschs. I have a sub $500 Gretsch that is simply wonderful to play and listen to. But the real surprises come in the form of some very, very inexpensive models. There are several companies like Monoprice and Rondo Music that import and market some really decent guitars that are dirt cheap. Are they on par with a $1,500 Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul? Of course not. But are these brand name guitars $1,300 better? A lot of these cheap guitars have a very good fit and finish and with a few minor upgrades, they are easily transformed into very fine guitars. They will never have the resale value of high end, custom shop guitars, but in a blind test, they can fool even a seasoned veteran. Likewise, if you go to either of the Monoprice or Rondo Music websites and start reading customer reviews, it will make you start to wonder if it’s worth taking a flyer on one of these cheap electric guitars. I did and I’m a believer. When the price difference is hundreds or even thousands of dollars, just how important to you is the name on the headstock?
The electric guitar symbolizes youth, freedom, and rebellion. It can be argued that no other instrument has shaped popular music, our society, and our history in the way the electric guitar has. In the hands of an accomplished musician, the guitar can draw out of us our strongest emotions; sorrow, joy, elation, love, despair, hope. This website is dedicated to those of us who love these remarkable instruments. We hope that the information we bring to you here will both educate and entertain you. We are also looking for information on electric guitars, both new and old. If you would like to make a contribution to this website, just let us know. Likewise, we welcome your comments and constructive criticism. It’s always appreciated.