10 Most Popular Electric Guitars – Iconic / Best of All Time!

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Electric guitars came to the forefront of the stage in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s and have never left the spotlight. That being said, some of them became iconic in the hands of some of the most revered players and others faded out into oblivion.

Today, I’m going through a list of 10 famous electric guitars that, in my opinion, are an inseparable part of music history. But that’s not all, because I based my choice on the most famous and iconic but also the currently best-selling electric guitars in the market today.

Yes, I’m not going to talk to you about unobtainable museum pieces that will cost you the price of a house. Instead, this is a piece about the top electric guitars in the world today. Indeed, every guitar you see listed here is an instrument you can try and buy in most music stores in the world.

So, in a nutshell, this is my take on the most famous and best-selling guitars of current times. Pay close attention to the history and the specs that make each of them not only unique but also a core part of the soundtrack of your life.

You’ve heard them a million times before, it’s about time you meet them.

Without further ado… curtains up, please!

It’s time to meet the candidates!

10 Famous Axes - Best Electric Guitars Ever Made!

1. Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘60s

Although not many people know this, the Les Paul, introduced in 1952, is a signature guitar made under the specifications of the late and great Les Paul.

Among Gibson’s famous electric guitars, the Les Paul is the brand’s flagship model we all saw in the hands of legends like Slash, Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, Gary Moore, and so many others.

It’s safe to say that the Gibson Les Paul Standard is back. Yes, after years of weight relief experiments, robot tuners, and push-pull potentiometers, the quintessential Gibson Les Paul that made the company so famous is back in business.

But what separates this version from the past incarnations?

Well, very simply this is a no-frills approach to a bulletproof design. Yes, it’s made of a solid slab of mahogany (it can also be a two-piece body) with an AA flame maple top in three classic colors.

On top, you’ll find era-correct silver reflecting-top knobs with original audio taper potentiometers and Orange Drop capacitors. These knobs help you maneuver the '60s Burstbucker pickups delivering more gain than the fifties model with the roundness and low-end response you’d expect from a Les Paul Standard.

These era-correct pickups have the power to drive any tube amp into distortion but clean up perfectly with the factory-loaded 500k pots.

Finally, the kidney-shaped Grover Rotomatic tuners are not only era-correct but also super-efficient and the slim taper neck is flat, fast, and feels just like a Les Paul should.

The Les Paul Standard is back and this guitar is great proof of it. I tried a bunch, and let me tell you, even the Epiphone version sounds killer.

2. Fender American Professional II Stratocaster

Introduced in 1954, the Fender Stratocaster is probably the best-selling guitar shape of all time. Moreover, it has become the benchmark for the music world.

The Fender Stratocaster American Professional II is the meats-and-potato of professional musicians. Yes, the do-it-all, modern, reliable, touring guitar we all know the Stratocaster to be, found a new incarnation in the Fender line and it sounds, plays, and looks as it should; like a strat.

To begin with, the first difference you might find upon picking one up is the sculpted neck heel. This is a feature that comes directly from Fender’s more expensive Ultra series.

It’s a welcome addition to this modern guitar that makes it more comfortable to reach the highest frets. Likewise, the push-pull second tone knob activates the neck pickup giving you two configurations that used to be impossible on a strat.

Also, the deep “C” neck is the quintessential modern Fender neck. The particularity is that this model features hand-rolled fingerboard edges and a super smooth satin finish.

The final piece of hardware we need to talk about is the modern 2-point tremolo with vintage saddles and a revolutionary, brand-new cold-rolled steel block to increase sustain, high-end sparkle and enhance clarity.

Finally, the alder or roasted pine body along with the brand new V-Mod II Single-coil pickups deliver the Fender tone you would expect from the company’s flagship model.

Fender is always innovating to make the great outstanding; this is a clear example of that philosophy.

You can also go for the Squier version of the same guitar to start falling in love with the Stratocaster sounds.

3. Fender American Professional II Telecaster

Introduced in 1952 as the company’s first electric guitar, the Fender Telecaster changed the world forever with its revolutionary design.

The spanking tones of a telecaster and the unforgettable, one-of-a-kind twang are both present in this new, modern incarnation of a timeless classic. Yes, the American Professional II Telecaster is an evolution of the original design that sounds classic but keeps a couple of aces up the sleeve.

For example, one of those aces is the possibility to activate the series mod in position two by clicking on the push/pull tone knob. This will give you a fatter sound you wouldn’t normally expect from a tele.

Also, the deep “C” neck profile, hand-rolled fingerboard edges, and satin finish make this a friendly guitar to play. Likewise, the sculpted neck heel makes it easier to access the highest frets.

But what about sounds? Well, besides the new V-Mod II pickups, specially voiced for this model, the brass saddles provide the classic, original telecaster sound with every strum. On top of that, the compensated saddles provide accurate intonation possibilities.

If you’re after the classic Telecaster tones in a guitar with modern appointments, checking this model out is a must. If your budget doesn’t allow it, you can also check out the Squier version of it.

4. Gibson SG Standard

The Gibson SG Standard is the company’s best-selling guitar of all time since it was introduced in 1961. “SG” is the acronym for “Solid Guitar”.

What makes this guitar so compelling for guitar players around the world? Well, the thin, solid mahogany body with a 19th fret joint with a mahogany body delivers the low-end rock needs. On the other hand, the thin body focuses the guitar’s sound in the low-mids making riffs like AC-DC’s bigger than a stadium of screaming fans.

By using the 490R and 490T pickups with Alnico II magnets, the company made sure those bigger-than-life tones are still present in this 2023 model.

Speaking of this modern incarnation of this timeless classic, the bound slim-taper mahogany neck sports a rosewood fingerboard with trapezoid inlays and era-correct Grover Rotomatic tuners with kidney buttons.

For those in search of the rocking, hard blues tones only an SG can deliver, this guitar is the perfect fit. Just plug it into an overdriven amp, and the tone will be there. Believe me, Marshall + SG is instant rock n’ roll.

If your budget doesn’t allow for the Gibson logo, you can always get the Epiphone version of it.

5. Gibson ES-335

Most of the blues and rock tones we’ve heard and loved for decades were created on semi-hollow Gibson ES guitars. The Gibson ES-335 is the most famous of them all and it has served as an inspiration for players since being introduced in 1958.

This new incarnation of this guitar features the same rounded “C” mahogany neck that combines the best of the late ‘50s and the ‘60s slim-taper neck. This hand-rolled neck is attached to a semi-hollow laminated 3-ply maple/poplar/maple body. Finally, the nitrocellulose cherry finish allows the tone to breathe naturally.

Speaking of tone, the Aluminum ABR-1 bridge is a lightweight, highly resonant addition that sounds era-precise when paired with the stop bar tailpiece that’s anchored by steel tailpiece studs. That combination of metals ensures you get the high-end and growling low-end you’d expect from this guitar.

Also, in the same vein, the entire circuit, sporting dual T-Type humbuckers is hand-wired featuring 500K potentiometers and orange drop capacitors.

This is a no-frills approach to a timeless classic that sounds and plays just like it should. The Epiphone version is also a great-sounding guitar.

6. PRS Silver Sky

Although it caused massive controversy when it came out in 2018, the PRS Silver Sky (John Mayer signature guitar) has established itself as a well-crafted, great-sounding, modern alternative for strat lovers of the world.

To begin with, PRS breaks its 25” scale length to go for a Fender-approved 25.5” one. This results in the guitar being more percussive than all the other guitars in PRS’s catalog. Also, to handle that tension, you can easily access a dual-action truss rod from the inverted headstock. This inversion is not casual or aesthetic; it is to achieve better intonation.

Hardware-wise, the locking tuners, tremolo system with Gen III knife-edge screws, and the 635JM single-coil pickups make you feel you’re not playing a vintage ‘60s Stratocaster (that’s what this guitar’s design is based on, John Mayer’s original vintage instruments) but a much more modern guitar.

Yes, tone-wise, the PRS Silver Sky is the perfect combination of past and present delivering pop hi-fi-approved tones and gritty overdriven, fatter sounds as well.

If you’re after the evolution of the Stratocaster, trying one of these out is a must. Also, the PRS Silver Sky SE is a great-sounding affordable option.

7. ESP LTD EC-1000

Shredders and metalheads of the world unite! This ESP LTD EC-1000 is a guitar that delivers tone, looks, and performance with a price tag that will surprise more than one player. Moreover, as I list the specs, the price tag will become even more surreal.

To begin with, the modern U 3-piece mahogany neck and Macassar ebony fingerboard provide the low-end and snap you would expect from a Gibson Les Paul Custom. This is the perfect combination for leads to pop out and cut through the mix.

Speaking of which, the mahogany body features a pair of active EMG pickups (81/60) making this guitar a serious menace when paired with heavy distortion. Also, the 24 stainless steel XJ frets make this guitar a great pick for heavy chugging but also for shredders. Yes, the EMG 81 is the same pickup that made Kirk Hammett’s tone so crisp and clear but heavy at the same time.

Finally, the golden hardware including locking tuners and Tonepros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece make this a reliable, stage-ready guitar for the touring musician.

If your budget doesn’t allow for this dual-EMG menacing ax, you can always get the LTD Eclipse for a similar tone.

8. Fender American Professional II Jazzmaster

When it was first introduced in 1959, the Fender Jazzmaster was the most ambitious and luxurious to ever come out of the Fender factory. This version takes that same concept and modernizes it to make the Fender American Professional II Jazzmaster a tool for the working musician.

Although it looks similar from afar, this Jazzmaster iteration hides some aces up its sleeve. To begin with, the rhythm circuit (located on the top horn) is revamped to work with both pickups in series giving you a fatter, rounder tone. In the same vein, a push/pull tone knob allows you to access a super-bright voicing on the bridge pickup.

On the hardware side, the new Panorama tremolo system and brass Mustang saddles make the tremolo system stable, reliable, and usable, solving the historic Jazzmaster problem: the popping sixth string. Also, the neck has been shaped to a modern C with hand-rolled edges and an ultra-comfortable satin finish.

If you’re a fan of offset guitars, you can’t miss the most playable Jazzmaster incarnation to date. For more power, check out the Cobain Jaguar guitar, and for budget constraints, check out the Squier version of it.

9. Ibanez JEM

The original JEM was released in 1987 and it has remained in production ever since.

Steve Vai was already playing impossible guitar with Frank Zappa when he was 18 years old. He hasn’t stopped for a minute ever since. As you would expect, one of the top virtuoso players in the world wouldn’t settle for anything but one of the top electric guitars in the world.

Yes, the JEM is, by all means, a masterpiece of guitar engineering. To begin with, the 5-piece maple/walnut Wizard neck with KTS titanium rods is as thin and fast as it gets while remaining utterly stable and strong.

On top, you can find an ebony fingerboard providing the snap the DiMarzio Evolution (ceramic) pickups amplify. These were designed by Larry DiMarzio and Steve Vai and went through countless iterations to reach the current production model.

Other remarkable aspects of this instrument, perfect for shredders of all kinds, are the Edge tremolo (with the lion claw behind) and the Premium Fret Edge Treatment, a custom-made fret finish by Ibanez for smooth and easy performance.

The Ibanez JEM7V is a masterpiece of engineering, for a more affordable version, you can check out the JEMJR. For those with a bigger budget, his new signature, the Ibanez PIA is also an option.

10. Epiphone Casino

The Epiphone Casino is one of the most famous electric guitars ever made. Yes, ever since John Lennon and Paul McCartney played their ’61 models in front of crowds around the world, this fully-hollow guitar became an icon for an entire generation of musicians.

But, what makes the Casino so special? Well, to begin with, the combination of a fully-hollow body and biting, original Dogear P-90T and P-90R Classic pickups makes it perfect for songwriters who want to play chords and riffs that sound huge. That being said, this guitar also retains a mid-frequency push that can overdrive an amp.

Also, the traditional slim-taper neck makes it a very comfortable instrument to play. Moreover, this playable mahogany neck gives the Casino the low-end it needs to match the sound of the hollow body. Speaking of which, it’s made of 5-ply laminated maple which also adds some high-end brightness to the overall sound.

The Epiphone Casino is the perfect choice for the working musician who needs a reliable instrument that can make chords sound huge, bite when distorted, and has an affordable price tag attached.

The Bottom End

The guitars on this list have inspired countless musicians and led generations to create iconic pieces of music that have shaped the soundtracks of our lives. They’re listed here because of their uncanny sound and stellar playability. Each of them is a unique classic capable of a very distinguishable sonic palette.

Get the one that appeals to you the most and play it until you can make it sound like you. All these guitars hide inside a plethora of sounds and songs the world needs to hear.

Go play them and get them out; let the world hear what you have to say with a timeless classic in your hands.

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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