10 best Tele-style electric guitars
Beloved by country artists, used and abused by classic rockers, and later embraced by emo punk bands, the Telecaster has passed through generations of musicians since it launched in the early 50s as the Esquire. Today, there are hundreds of Tele-style electrics for every genre imaginable – even extreme metal.
Here are our picks of the best T-style electric guitars that are available today, from Fender’s own range to top-of-the-line boutique models.
Fender American Original ’60s Telecaster
The range that succeeded Fender’s American Vintage series is all about staying as true as possible to the iconic models from a bygone era. And for roots rock, 60s pop and R&B-inspired players who know how to use a low- to medium-powered tweed amp, the Telecaster’s combination of cut and punch is manna from heaven. Dave Davies, early Page, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Petty, the Stones – it’s all here and it doesn’t take much effort to find it.
Retails at $1,999.99/£1,659. Check out our full review here.
Novo Serus T
At first glance, this offset guitar might seem distant from the Tele blueprint. However, closer inspection reveals that T-style elements feature abundantly. One of these is a Tele-style Amalfitano TP single-coil at the bridge that’s primed for raunchy, biting tones with just the right amount of treble frequencies. Another is the guitar’s chunky C-shaped neck that sits between 50s Tele and early-60s Strat neck profiles.
Retails at £2,099. Custom orders start at $2,599. Check out our full review here.
Fender American Professional Telecaster
Launched in 2017, the American Professional range is the successor to the American Standard series. Though the new guitars still retain the ‘workhorse’ tag, they’ve been upgraded with Tim Shaw-designed V-Mod pickups, treble-bleed circuits and a new Modern Deep C neck profile.
This Tele’s V-Mod pups are a standout feature. They’re designed with a blend of alnico magnets to achieve that signature Tele sound: namely focused and punchy lows as well as thick trebles. The neck pickup is modelled after the taller coil structure of a vintage Twisted Tele, and can thus produce the springy, Strat-flavoured tone that is associated with this vintage unit. The middle pickup, on the other hand, has alnico II (bass strings) and alnico V (trebles), while the bridge unit is all alnico V.
Retails at £1,399/$1,549.99. Check out our full review here.
Suhr Classic T
Suhr’s Classic T has all the hallmarks of a classic Tele. It features a 60s C Vintage Standard neck profile and is available in four retrolicious finishes: Two-Tone Tobacco Burst, Trans Butterscotch, Trans White and Vintage Natural.
The axe derives its tone from two Suhr Classic T single-coils which boast alnico V “Special” magnets. The Neck ‘T’ is designed to dial in clarity and warmth, while the bridge ‘T’ serves up recognisable Tele twang and bite without piercing highs.
Retails at $2,799. More info here.
Charvel USA Select San Dimas Style 2
If there was a metal version of the classic Tele, this would be it. This instrument is built for high-octane shredding with two DiMarzio humbuckers – a DP100F Super Distortion (bridge) and DP-151 PAF Pro (neck) – and a slick compound radius fingerboard with rolled edges. There’s also a non-recessed Floyd Rose Original bridge for you to throw in some squelching whammy dives.
Retails at $2,758.61. More info here.
James Trussart Deluxe Steelcaster
If you’ve encountered Thinline T-style guitars before and think you know what to expect here, think again. This guitar will make your bank account break out in a cold sweat.
Through a blackface-style clean amp, you’ll get a gorgeous mixture of Tele-like clarity and old hollowbody depth, but plug into an overdriving Vox or tweed and you’ll immediately appreciate how gloriously alive this guitar feels – at stage volume, it’s almost like grasping with a giant pickup as every physical noise is amplified. There’s a lot of sustain, too, and no shortage of range from the Arcane Inc pickups.
Retails at £4,550. Check out our full review here.
Friedman’s relic’d T-style electric is a professional workhorse with thoroughbred DNA. If you play alt-country, alternative rock, punk rock or power pop then it’s tough to think of a better (or more bullet-proof) blue-collar guitar than the Vintage-T with which to take care of business as the years of sweat and toil on the road roll by.
What you don’t get are the overly nasal results that can sometimes occur when you pair P-90s with an ash or alder T-style body. The guitar has inherited fatness from the genetic influence of Kalamazoo, but the 50s-style Gibson wiring delivers a broad range of tones thanks to varying degrees of pickup blend, and volume controls that roll-off without too much treble loss.
Retails at £2,299. Check out our full review here.
Macmull Heartbreaker Custom
From Jerusalem comes this exceedingly well-crafted guitar with style and substance in spades. Combined with bespoke pickups and premium components, theƒ Heartbreaker’s simple array of controls can deliver an extraordinary range of inspiring tones.
Try rolling the tone control off with a rasp of tweedy overdrive dialled in on the amp and flip to the neck position – single notes are rich and complex, with a prominent ‘woo’ vowel sound that’s evocative of Cream-era Clapton available all over the fretboard.
Tune to open G and it’s deliciously swampy, and as you roll a little treble back into the mix, the sounds get throatier and rawer. It’s dynamite for slide playing and we’re also reminded of the Junior Kimbrough-influenced section of Dan Auerbach’s back catalogue. We’re a long way from the pawnshop, but the Heartbreaker nails garage blues tones with aplomb.
Retails at £4,495. Check out our full review here.
Fano Standard TC6
It may be one of Fano’s most affordable guitars, but the TC6 retains plenty of its maker’s marks. It’s hand-built in the USA, slick with retro good looks and has a feature set to rival other similarly priced models from bigger brands.
All the usual appointments you’d expect are there: string-through alder body, rosewood/maple fretboard, and bolt-on 60s C neck, for instance. But one look at the funky pickguard on the TC6 and you’ll realise this isn’t your everyday Tele. It has rolled fretboard edges, a 7.25-to-9.5-inch compound radius fretboard, and, instead of single-coils, the brand’s own FanoTron pickups. These, as you can probably guess, provide vintage sparkle with plenty of warm harmonics.
Retails at $1,999. More info here.
Maybach Teleman T54
“Twang” is the calling card of this boutique Tele-style guitar from Maybach. Decidedly vintage in spec, the T54 has a string-through sugar pine body, maple neck, a 7.25-inch-radius maple fretboard, and a single-ply pickguard. The single-coil pickups, though, bear some modern influence: they’re Amber Twangtones designed to prevent the assertive tone typical of traditional Teles from being too harsh on the ears. Gotoh SDS-510 tuners – non-locking, of course – are the only piece of modern hardware on this otherwise proudly old-school take on the Tele.
Retails at about $1,579. More info here.
For our pick of the best Strat-style guitars, click here.
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