Sam Ash vs Guitar Center – Which One’s Better Overall?

Author: Ross McLeod | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

If you’re looking to purchase a new guitar or other musical equipment in person, Sam Ash and Guitar Center are two of the best in-store options. Both of these well-respected retailers stock an impressive range of instruments and music gear.

This post will underline the perks offered by both stores, and compare their services so that you can quickly choose the best option to suit your requirements.

Sam Ash vs Guitar Center

Sam Ash

Originally established in the 1920s, Sam Ash boasts a long history as a trusted supplier of musical equipment. They have stores located all across the United States, and also offer a decent online service.

The range of musical equipment stocked by Sam Ash is highly impressive. They sell everything from entry-level instruments to high-end models, along with a plethora of recording and live sound equipment.

They also offer multiple purchase and payment options. You can order online and collect your item in-store, or simply walk in and try out an instrument to make sure it’s suitable before you commit to purchasing it.

Their finance option is also noteworthy. If you spend over $299 in the store, you’re eligible for 24 months of zero per-cent interest finance. This allows you to split the payments monthly rather than need all of the funds upfront.

Sam Ash’s customer service and in-store staff team are renowned for being helpful too. You can call them to enquire about the availability of an instrument or other musical equipment in a specific store or ask them any other questions you may have.

Another service offered by Sam Ash is their instrument repairs. You can take your instrument into the store and get a diagnosis, and then the staff team will give you a quote and repair it for you if you wish to proceed. They offer this service for guitars, brass, woodwind, and stringed instruments.


  • Stores all across the U.S
  • Extensive range of instruments
  • A wide selection of recording & live sound gear
  • Flexible payment options
  • Instrument repair service

Guitar Center

With just under 300 stores across the United States, Guitar Center is one of the leading music stores in the country. It specializes in selling a vast range of musical equipment, including microphones, guitars, keyboards, drum kits, studio monitors, and much more.

With a history spanning over half-a-decade, they have built a reputation amongst musicians as a highly reliable place to purchase gear. Their service doesn’t just stop at selling equipment, though.

Guitar Center also provides musicians with tailored services, such as the Guitar Center Lessons, where novices and experienced players can further their skills on an instrument during a visit to the store.

Like Sam Ash, Guitar Center also specializes in instrument repair. Each store has a dedicated sector for maintenance and repair of equipment, and the staff who perform these services are trained to an expert level.

Guitar Center also buys and sells used musical gear. You can take your old instrument into one of their stores, and get a quote on how much they would pay for it. Alternatively, you could use it as part-exchange for a new instrument.

Again, similar to Sam Ash, Guitar Center offers a generous financing option on all online and in-store purchases. If you spend over $299, you can get zero percent interest on a 24-month finance deal. The Guitar Center Gear Card also gets you additional discounts and rewards if you choose to use it.

One area in which Guitar Center delivers, in their stocking of vintage equipment. I have a serious obsession with vintage gear, so seeing the vast range that Guitar Center stocks in their stores are refreshing.

The stock will differ from store to store, so if you’re looking for a specific piece of vintage music equipment it’s best to contact customer service beforehand and check that it is available in a location near you.


  • Almost 300 stores nationwide
  • Vast selection of vintage gear
  • Finance options available
  • In-store tutoring
  • Instrument repair and maintenance service

And The Winner Is…

Both Sam Ash and Guitar Center are good choices for purchasing musical gear in store. In terms of customer service and payment options, they are pretty evenly matched. Their wide range of equipment is also pretty similar, but Guitar Center does offer more vintage instruments than their competitor.

The in-store repair and maintenance services that both retailers offer are of a high standard, and their financing options are pretty much identical. Guitar Center does also provides instrument lessons, which perhaps gives them the edge over Sam Ash.

Overall, both of these stores are very similar regarding the service they provide. If I had to choose one winner, I’d say that Guitar Center just edges it, but either one is a good option for in-store purchases.

The Easier Alternative

If you prefer to purchase your musical equipment in-store, then fair enough. I understand that physically seeing and testing gear is a great way to gauge whether it is the right choice for you.

If you don’t mind shopping online, I’d highly recommend using Sweetwater. Of all the online retailers, they offer the most extensive range of instruments and gear. Their website is also very easy to navigate.

Sweetwater also produces tons of material and information about every product that they sell. I’ve learned a lot by reading through their product descriptions and helpful guides that are published on their website.

In the current climate, it might a better choice to use an online retailer like Sweetwater. They set up any of the instruments you buy so that you can use them instantly, and their customer service team is amongst the best in the business.


As you can see from the above comparison, Sam Ash and Guitar Center are pretty evenly matched. Whether you choose to go to one of their stores to buy your equipment or opt for an online option like Sweetwater, I hope you have a positive buying experience!

About Ross McLeod

Ross is a music producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. He is the frontman of The Blue Dawns, where he handles vocal and bass duties. He has extensive experience with bass, drums and guitar. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket.

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