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Guitars made in America carry a certain kind of prestige, with a reputation for the highest-quality craftsmanship possible. As you might expect with instruments of this perceived caliber, their prices tend to be quite high.
If you’re looking for a dependable guitar made in America, you’ll want to make sure your money is well-spent. Take some time to look over the following guitars, all of which are recommendable in their own right.
Fender American Vintage II 1951 Telecaster
The original “Blackguard” Telecasters are some of the most highly sought-after guitars on the market. Unfortunately, these types of guitars just are not a reality for the average person to be able to attain.
That’s all changed with the release of the Fender American Vintage II 1951 Telecaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). This is about as faithful as you could wish for from Fender without actually being an actual vintage Telecaster.
What this means is that Fender has reproduced the original Telecaster designs to the best of their abilities. This means that the Telecaster itself features an Ash body with a nitrocellulose lacquer finish.
Vintage characteristics can be found all over this guitar, especially in regard to its neck. Fender has crafted the neck from 1 solid piece of Maple to have a baseball bat U-shape contour.
The fretboard is also made of Maple (as Rosewood wasn’t an option until almost a decade beyond 1951). This fretboard has the vintage Fender radius of 7.25”, which might be a tad too round for some.
Fender has also been faithful to vintage tradition with the guitar’s selected hardware. This includes items such as:
- Nut made of bone
- Vintage-inspired deluxe tuners
- 21 total frets
- Vintage-style ashtray bridge with 3x brass barrel saddle design
For pickups, Fender has equipped the guitar with a pair of Pure Vintage ’51 Telecaster single-coils. These were designed and manufactured specifically for this guitar model.
Like any standard Telecaster, this American Vintage II model has a 3-way selector switch and knobs for volume and tone. Fender has given the knobs special detailing to appear more true to its inspired time period.
Fender has also included a hardshell case with this guitar. The case itself is quite classy, featuring the rectangular design with a vintage-style crushed velour interior.
What Is Noteworthy About The Fender American Vintage II 1951 Telecaster?
The Telecaster might be the most legendary electric guitar in the history of the electric guitar itself. Finding an actual early 1950s Telecaster is going to cost you a serious stack of coins.
Sure, you could get yourself a Nachocaster, which features period-specific screws and other accurate details down to the wiring. But even something like that will cost you about the equivalent of a used car.
The average working musician really cannot afford to purchase such a luxury item. This is where Fender’s American Vintage II 1951 Telecaster can be such a viable option.
Fender has included all of the hallmark features that the early Blackguard Telecasters are known for. Having a nitrocellulose lacquer finish will allow the butterscotch blonde color to age to perfection.
In all reality, Fender has been reproducing vintage-inspired guitar models since the 1990s. This follows that tradition but is one iteration that seems to hit the mark for those who have tested it.
Despite being designed for mass production, this Telecaster is still nowhere near being affordable for most. But, considering the cost of an actual vintage model, this is a worthy consolation for somebody who loves vintage setups.
This guitar will have that signature doink that played a role in some of the most famous guitar parts ever. It’s also one of the few ways to be able to get a newer Telecaster with an Ash body.
PRS Hollowbody II Piezo – Best Premium
Are you searching for perhaps the most luxurious guitar you could buy? The PRS Hollowbody II Piezo is a guitar that certainly fits the bill in that regard.
Make no mistake about it, this is about as luxurious as a guitar can get without becoming a novelty. This hollowbody guitar features a Mahogany body with an amazingly decorous figured Maple 10-top.
The neck is also crafted from Mahogany and is joined with a glued set-joint fashion. Rosewood is featured for the fretboard, which has the signature PRS bird inlays along its 22 frets.
This guitar will feel relatively similar to a standard electric guitar, with measurements between Gibson and Fender. Measurements include:
- 25” scale length
- 10” fretboard radius
- 1.6875” nut width
The Hollowbody II Piezo is, as the name implies, stocked with some serious options for killer tone. A pair of PRS-designed 58/15 LT humbuckers are featured, as is a saddle piezo designed by LR Baggs.
PRS has given plenty of controls for utilizing and incorporating the different tone options on the fly. This includes features such as:
- Master volume knob
- Master tone knob
- Piezo blend knob
- Dedicated output jacks for solo Piezo or mixture
- 3-way switch for humbucker pickup control
- 3-way switch for piezo pickup mode
Even the hardware on this guitar is given special treatment, featuring luxuries such as:
- Nut made of a blend of synthetics and bronze for increased sustain and durability
- Locking tuners
- Adjustable stop tail bridge and saddle
As one would hope for a guitar of this price, the Hollowbody II Piezo comes with a hardshell case.
What Is Noteworthy About The PRS Hollowbody II Piezo?
No matter how long you’ve played guitar, you’ve probably heard praises being given for PRS guitars. Have you ever wondered where that sort of reputation came from?
You might have tried out the SE models to see if you could glean what the fuss was about. Well, while those budget models are impressive, the Hollowbody II Piezo is in a league of its own.
In fact, it’s guitars like this that have given PRS the reputation it has for producing “elite” guitars. You would certainly hope that you’d be getting your money’s worth on a new guitar that costs this much.
The Hollowbody II Piezo is a guitar for the wizards out there who need a potent tool for their craft. Only the best components are used here, with some aesthetics that will make anyone drool.
Seriously, the figured Maple 10-top on this guitar is absolutely breathtaking. It highlights the amount of time and attention to detail that went into making this guitar.
Plus, you’ll have just about any kind of option you could hope for when it comes to the guitar’s tone. Maybe the only thing that’s missing is a coil tap to split the humbuckers into single-coils.
Martin GPC-11E Road Series – Best Budget
You don’t have to be well-versed in the landscape of the guitar industry to be familiar with Martin guitars. This company is one of the oldest American companies still producing guitars today.
The majority of the Martin lineup is going to be priced appropriately for working musicians and professionals. A great (and affordable) entry into the American lineup is the Martin GPC-11E Road Series (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon).
This guitar features Martin’s Grand Performance design, which is somewhat of a hybrid between a dreadnought and concert acoustic. The body is crafted from Sapele, with a Sitka Spruce top, and X-bracing internal architecture.
One thing you might find odd is that the neck is crafted of unlabeled hardwood. This is something Martin does, primarily because they opt to use what can be sourced while being ecologically responsible.
Nevertheless, the neck itself has a comfortable C-shape contour, featuring playability along a Richlite fretboard. All 20 frets are readily accessible thanks to the GPC-11E’s cutaway design.
For the most part, the GPC-11E’s measurements are fairly average in terms of scale length and fretboard radius. If you’re curious how the guitar might feel in this regard, refer to the following measurements:
- 25.4” scale length
- 16” fretboard radius
- 1.75” nut width
The hardware on this guitar is pretty par for the course on the majority of the Martin acoustic lineup. This includes things such as:
- Corian nut
- Tusq saddle
- Richlite bridge
- Chrome closed-gear tuners
Performers will be able to take advantage of the guitar’s Fishman MX-T pickup system. Another handy aspect performers will appreciate is Martin’s inclusion of a soft-shell case.
What Is Noteworthy About The Martin GPC-11E Road Series?
Martin might be one of the most highly-reputed brands in the entire guitar industry. With over a century of production, it’s a little astonishing that they could maintain such a strong reputation.
During that time, Martin has innovated the flat-top acoustic guitar into the instrument we know today. Some of the most iconic shapes are actually originally derived from Martin guitar models.
With that being said, it’s safe to say that Martin knows a thing or two about building an acoustic guitar. The GPC-11E is an affordable option that is meant to be played by gigging professionals.
Really, this guitar has just about everything you could really ever want out of an acoustic guitar. The cutaway and electric capabilities make this a bit of a rare bird in the Martin lineup as it is.
Plain and simple, Martin’s biggest breadwinners tend to be traditional designs without cutaways or electronics. The GPC-11E gives you modernity combined with Martin’s expertise at an affordable price (for Martin guitars).
Everything else on this guitar (aside from maybe the wood) is almost identical to any other Martin guitar build. You’ll see many of the same components across the company’s entire product line.
Fender Stories Collection Eric Johnson 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster
Eric Johnson's signature Stratocasters have a reputation as one of the best Stratocasters money can buy. As someone who previously owned his Thinline Stratocaster model, I’d have to agree with that sentiment.
Johnson has a reputation as someone who has a massive depth of knowledge when it comes to guitar specifics. For instance, it’s a common legend that he can differentiate and identify the sound of different battery brands in pedals.
You would be making a correct assumption in thinking that Fender takes Eric’s meticulousness seriously. The Fender Stories Collection Eric Johnson 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a stunning collaboration between them.
At its core, the “Virginia” Stratocaster is a faithful vintage reproduction of the Stratocaster’s initial run. It’s the small differences that help to make this guitar come alive for modern players.
The body is crafted from Sassafras (which is fairly unusual), with a 1-piece Maple neck. As was standard for its inspired time period, the fretboard is also Maple and features 21 frets.
Believe it or not, Fender has even given this Stratocaster a gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish. This will age in a similar manner to the eye-candy vintage models of the early golden days.
A 25.5” scale length, 12” fretboard radius, and 1.625” nut width give this guitar a comfortable feel. This is elevated by the soft-V contour given to the neck.
For pickups, Fender has provided a pair of Original ‘57/’62 Strat single-coils, with a DiMarzio HS-2 single-coil (bridge). Like most Strats, this comes with a volume knob, a pair of tone knobs, and a 5-way switch.
Perhaps the only drawback to this guitar is that it has a plastic nut (seriously). Other than that, you'll get a traditional 6-saddle synchronized tremolo and vintage-style tuners.
A hardshell case does come included. But…a plastic nut at this price is a little questionable.
Still, this guitar does play like the best of dreams.
Taylor 214ce Deluxe
Chances are quite high that, if you want an American acoustic, you might be looking for a Taylor. These guitars can be very expensive, but the Taylor 214ce Deluxe (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is reasonably affordable.
This model features Taylor’s Grand Auditorium body design, which is slightly smaller than a traditional dreadnought. The body is made of layered Rosewood, with Sitka Spruce used for the top and forward-shifted X-bracing architecture inside.
Sapele is used for the 214ce Deluxe’s neck, which has a C-shape contour with a hint of a V. An Ebony fretboard provides 20 frets, all of which can be taken advantage of with the guitar’s cutaway body style.
Despite being a little smaller than a dreadnought, the 214ce Deluxe’s measurements are fairly typical. This includes:
- 25.5” scale length
- 15” fretboard radius
- 1.6875” nut width
For hardware, the 214ce Deluxe has materials such as:
- NuBone nut
- Micarta saddle
- Ebony bridge
- Die-cast chrome closed-gear tuners
While everything already mentioned makes for a great guitar, the 214ce Deluxe has another amazing feature. This feature in question is the ES-2 pickup and preamp system, allowing for acoustic-electric performances in a flash.
As you can see, the 214ce Deluxe consists of all of the essentials that make a Taylor guitar. This particular model skimps on the aesthetic frills (despite being beautiful) in order to keep costs down.
Any working musician would find a viable tool in the 214ce Deluxe’s capabilities. Taylor even includes a hardshell case with the purchase of this guitar.
What To Look For When Buying An American Made Guitar
The decision to purchase an American made guitar is not one to be made lightly. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, you need to make sure you know what you’re looking for (and at).
All too often, guitarists will strut into a shop and purchase something without really doing their research. This could lead to remorse, especially when the actual ideal guitar was sitting right next to the one they purchased.
The following information is fairly basic, but it will get you thinking in the right direction toward the necessary considerations. It never hurts to brush up on the basics, especially if you think you have your mind already made up.
You first need to decide what kind of guitar you’re actually looking to purchase. By now, you should know that guitars come in both electric and acoustic varieties.
It’s okay if you want to thank Captain Obvious right now, I would understand. However, this blatantly obvious statement actually serves a purpose beyond what it initially implies.
Take a moment to think about what you (as a guitarist, musician, artist, songwriter, etc.) are lacking in your rig. Do you really need a new electric guitar when you could stand to upgrade your acoustic guitar?
Believe me, I understand the appeal of wanting to purchase a Jazzmaster regardless of cost. But I also understand that it also means I’m stuck playing the same acoustic I’ve had since I was 14.
So, take a moment and ask yourself what you need, realistically, to help further your ambitions toward your goals. As you’re probably well aware by now, wants do not always equal needs.
If you’re planning on buying an American guitar model, be prepared to spend at least $1000. That price is actually the absolute minimum that you’ll be paying, with the majority costing more with each passing year.
Wondering why these guitars cost so much money? Part of it has to do with the high costs of labor in the United States.
Cheaper labor can often achieve the same things using the same materials. The difference is usually a small amount of quality difference and almost always a lower price.
For this reason, many guitarists feel that guitars made in Mexico are often just as good as the US varieties. Some claim that the only real difference is just a few miles across a border.
Depending on what you can settle for, it doesn’t hurt to look around on the used market. You might be able to find a cheaper alternative of the same model and origin of manufacture.
Unfortunately, the used prices for American made guitars tend to remain fairly high in relation to the retail price. Still, it doesn’t hurt to look around, even if it only saves a few hundred dollars.
American companies might have a certain reputation for quality, but that doesn't mean you should blindly trust their work. Like anything else you would spend considerable money on, take the time to inspect the guitar.
Yes, this means that you will need to go to a physical guitar store and ask to play different models. Doing this will give you firsthand experience of how each guitar feels and sounds.
Guitars do vary slightly from individual instruments within the same model line. So, for instance, if one Stratocaster doesn’t feel right, another one might actually be more comfortable.
Take great care to inspect the neck of the guitar. The neck essentially dictates how well (and easy) a guitar is to play.
Many American models will feature a bit more craftsmanship on the neck, giving them a comfortable worn-in feeling. Figure out what your preferences are and look for something that checks those boxes.
However, if something is a little questionable, ask yourself whether a professional setup would remedy the situation. At this price, a guitar shouldn’t need much work at all to get into playing condition.
No matter the type of guitar (acoustic or electric), you need to keep in mind the guitar’s components. Each type of guitar consists of things that will either make or break the agreeableness to your needs and preferences.
For acoustic guitars, consider whether or not you have a need for an internal pickup and preamp system. This is usually a must-have for the frequent stage performer but American acoustics can be found without pickups.
You might also want to consider the hardware that the manufacturer has opted to use on the guitar. This same sentiment can be applied to the electric guitar, as well.
Some hardware choices might not be up to snuff with your personal preferences. If you have to swap something, this could add to the overall cost of the guitar.
For electric guitars, give special attention to the pickups and the adjustability wired into the guitar. Single-coil and humbucker pickups have their own distinct sounds and proper controls can make the most of each type.
Be sure that the sound of the guitar is appropriate and fitting for the style of music you play. If you have a pedalboard, you might consider trying the guitar in tandem with your normal signal chain.
Best USA Brands For American Made Guitars
In order to purchase a guitar made in the US, you need to be aware of American guitar companies. This is because there aren’t too many companies that outsource guitar manufacturing to the US for sale elsewhere worldwide.
The following brands are some of the most respected and well-established companies in the US. Each has a long tradition of producing quality guitars in their respective niches.
The US has a number of electric guitar companies, but none is as legendary and iconic as Fender. This company revolutionized the production of guitars, cutting production time significantly by using modular guitar designs.
Fender has produced some of the most legendary electric guitar models that continue to be copied and replicated. Guitars aren’t the only thing Fender is known for as their line of amplifiers is also highly-reputed.
The Taylor guitar company officially got its start in the 1970s. Since then, the company has earned a reputation as a producer of some of the finest and most-luxurious acoustic guitars.
Taylor has impressively continued to uphold and capitalize on their hard-won reputation. While they could easily rest on their laurels, Taylor continues to innovate the acoustic guitar design for the modern era.
Top American Made Guitars, Final Thoughts
Are American made guitars worth the hype that they are given? General consensus does lean towards ‘yes,’ but that doesn’t mean other countries are unable to achieve the same quality.
The only way to really find out is to compare the American guitars with their foreign and less-expensive counterparts. You might be surprised to discover many similarities with some small but (very noticeable) differences in the details.