Have you ever played American-made guitars?
Fifteen years ago, when I was first starting, it was cheap Squier Stratocasters. Then in college, I was introduced to Taylor acoustic guitars. I got a job at the factory in my hometown of San Diego building guitars.
It was a life-changing experience. Taylor makes some of the best acoustic guitars in the world, and I saw that up close. Getting an American guitar became a mission. One I’d pursue for quite a while.
The attention to detail in American guitars is unparalleled. Guitars made overseas are churned out to be cheap. They aren’t quality instruments. American guitars, on the other hand, have the best parts, the highest quality finishes, and checks.
These American-made instruments have become so sought after, that some companies have started marketing their instruments as “Made in USA,” even if they’re actually manufactured elsewhere. This recent trend has forced the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to launch investigations (1) into companies looking to take advantage of those “Made in USA” claims.
Don’t worry! All of the guitars we review in this article are 100% made in the United States of America. Look no further than our articles on the best Stratocasters or best Jackson guitars to see some of the best of those made in the USA. How about some more?
Best American Made Guitars: Full Reviews
Most of the iconic guitar brands started in the United States. For economic reasons, they shifted production of their lower-end guitars overseas, but guitars made in USA are still the gold standard for players around the globe. They are high-quality instruments without accessible rivals outside of, perhaps, a custom shop.
American Made Acoustic Guitars
You know immediately when you’re playing one of the American acoustic brands like the Taylor mentioned above, or Martin, which we’ll be discussing in this article. American-made acoustic guitars have a great sound, refined, smooth action, and are the dream guitar for many players. If you’re looking for American-made acoustic guitars, you’re going to find them here.
Taylor Guitars Made in USA
These days, a Taylor made in the USA is anything above the 200 series. Which Taylor Guitars are made in Mexico? All other models at 200 and below are crafted in Tecate, Mexico.
- Innovative v-shaped bracing
- Bright tone from solid sitka spruce body
- ES2 pickup system produces warm tone
- Lack of a built-in tuner at this price point is disappointing
Taylor has been one of the best acoustic brands on the market for decades, and it shows with the 314ce. This handmade guitar is a great entry point for someone’s first American acoustic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t loved by professional musicians or session musicians as well. The V-shaped bracing produces excellent sustain (excellent for fingerstyle playing!), making this high-quality instrument perfect for the studio and the stage.
As with all American Taylors, the action on this acoustic is superb. It is so close to the frets that playing chords is an absolute dream. The manufacturing process of these guitars means that you’ll get a report of buzzing every once in a while, but that’s limited to that particular guitar — not the model itself.
These acoustic guitars have a reasonably basic finish, and while well-appointed, aren’t the flashiest. That’s reflected in the accessible price for a model stamped “made in the USA.” All in all, it’s a great acoustic.
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- One of taylor’s most affordable USA made guitars
- Blacktop’s imperfections make each guitar unique
- Unique eucalyptus fretboard
- Reports that it can take a while to break these woods in
With the American Dream series, Taylor has shown why they are one of the world’s best acoustic manufacturers. The AD series has a bit of a retro style to honor the Laurel Canyon scene that was happening in the late 60s here in Southern California. If you grew up as a musician here, it’s just one of those things you know about.
And with the AD17e, they knocked it out of the park.
The solid Sitka spruce top and African Ovangkol body means this guitar produces just the right amount of sparkle. It’s bright without being tinny. It’s a guitar suitable for strumming chords as it is fingerpicking. It’s a versatile electric players love with that distinctive sound Taylor is known for.
It’s a great model, no matter what playing style you have. The unusual wood choices set this guitar apart, and then you need to factor in the price. That makes the AD17e the best budget American-made guitar around, in my opinion.
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Best Martin Guitars Made in USA
American-made Martin Guitars are built in the company’s world-famous factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. That factory has made Martin one of the most iconic American brands. Just which Martins are made in the USA? That would be the Standard and Modern Deluxe Series acoustic guitars, in addition to all custom shop models.
- KOA wood grain laminate finish is gorgeous
- Onboard fishman electronics produce great sound
- Richlite fretboard and bridge are sustainably sourced
- Sounds a bit tinny
As far as American-made acoustic guitars go, this Martin D-X1E is one of the most affordable. In fact, it might be the best American-made guitar for the money you’ll run across.
Granted, it’s not all wood construction like some of the others on this list, and as such, the tone may not be as rich. As one of the few American-made guitars under $1,000, though, it’s worth a look. It’s in a similar price range to some Guild guitars that aren’t nearly as high in quality.
Making guitars out of laminate that actually sound good isn’t the easiest task in the world, but Martin has done a pretty good job here. The D-X1E sounds bright, which some players might describe as Tinny, but that’s each to their own ear. It’s not going to sound like a big deep Gibson, but it in no way sounds cheap.
Most players are fond of this guitar, and it’s hard to argue with them at that price point.
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- Slim “performing artist” neck is comfortable for hours
- OM body style projects without need for amplification
- Real bone nut and saddle should last a lifetime
- Can be a bit pricey for a first American-made acoustic guitar
Ah… the Standard Series. A line of amazing guitars that have more or less defined Martin as an American company since the late 19th Century. The OM-21 model lives up to that legacy.
Martin made music history with this body style when it was released in 1930 to coincide with the concert halls where sound projection was key. And since that initial 1930 release, they’ve been known for this OM body.
It’s bright, rich, and articulate. The OM is versatile and supports several playing styles. It has always been designed to gig. It can punch through on stage where other acoustic guitars might get swallowed up by the rest of the band.
I mentioned it can be a bit pricey for your first foray into an American-made acoustic, and while true, the price isn’t unwarranted. The Standard Series earns every penny with every strum. The OM-21? Well, it’s an excellent representative of what a great
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- Open vintage deluxe tuners are classic Martin
- Well balanced tone cuts through a band
- Beautiful appointments and aesthetics
- Can play a bit stiff for some
This is a bucket list dreadnaught.
It’s not hard to see why. None other than the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, played a D-28. This thing is so wrapped up in Americana that “Martin Made in USA” ought to just be burned into the Sitka spruce top of every model.
If you are looking for an American-made acoustic, then you’ve looked at and are familiar with the Martin D-28. It’s been a mainstay of acoustic players since World War I. The dreadnought shape was instantly popular among players for its tonal balance and projection. Equal parts tight, punchy, bass, and nimble highs, the D-28 makes playing guitar everything it’s supposed to be.
It’s not cheap, but no definitional piece of music history should be. This is an investment in your aural future. You’re talking about joining the ranks of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Chris Cornell. Among other music industry luminaries.
This is a guitar you’ll pass on for generations. Reverence people. Reverence.
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Gibson Guitars Made in USA
Gibson is a legendary guitar company, but are all Gibsons made in America? Yep. And they happen to make some of the best American-made acoustic guitars available. Let’s take a look.
- Old grove sitka provides extra tone
- 16” radius neck provides additional comfort
- Onboard electronics produce rich tone
- Rosewood is an Acquired Taste for Some
Is this the perfect American acoustic guitar?
That’s hard to say, but it has to be up there. It has the tone and playability that Gibsons are known for without the accompanying price point that scares a lot of new players away. Again, not cheap, but “Gibson” affordable.
After all, it’s in the “Studio” series, and like the Les Paul Studio or Les Paul Junior, it’s attainable.
The electronics on this guitar are especially responsive. Many players are afraid to plug in because doing so gets tinny. But the LR Baggs’ Element Bronze electronics reproduce that legendary warm tone they’re known for.
There’s a reason why players from Woody Guthrie to James Taylor have fallen in love with the J-45 acoustic guitar and consistently play a variation on records and at shows.
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- Very affordable guitar
- Includes the Gibson player port for “monitoring”
- Striped ebony fretboard gives this guitar visual flair
- Very Few Aesthetic Frills Beyond Fretboard
The G Series of acoustic guitar lines from Gibson is designed to be the least expensive acoustics they make. As such, they cut down on some of the visual flourishes that you’ll find in more expensive models. But what it may lack in visuals, it more than makes up for in technology.
Nestled in the shoulder of the body is the Player Port. It’s as innovative as anything ovation guitars is doing. The Player Port is something you won’t find on any other acoustic guitar on the market. This makes the G series one of the most uniquely made acoustic guitars available, no matter the price point.
When a player strums an acoustic guitar, they’re not hearing what’s coming out of the soundhole. They hear the room reflection or the resonance of the body. The Player Port gives the player some real-time monitoring of what is coming out of the soundhole.
The G-Writer is my favorite of the series. The cutaway makes this guitar versatile in a way some other body shapes aren’t.
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Best Electric Guitars Made in USA
After looking at some of the best acoustic guitars on the market, let’s take a look at the best American-made electric guitar models. This section is going to feature some well-known as well as some lesser-known brands, but each of these guitars are exemplary.
American Made Fender Guitars
- Tim Shaw designed V Mod single coil pickups
- Dark night finish is striking
- Push-pull tone adds neck pickup to any of the 5 way positions
- Quality control can be hit or miss
I don’t know about you, but I feel this would have been an American-made Stratocaster that Prince would have had sitting in the studio at Paisley Park. The Pro features a 25.5” scale length, making this royal badness worthy.
There are many opportunities to buy a Fender Stratocaster made in the USA, but none are of this quality. It costs a third as much as its American standard cousins, but the electronics, bone nut, and satin finishes set it head and shoulders above those other Strats.
The only gripe seems to be that you can be playing a bit of “guitar lottery” when you buy this model. The quality control seems to be lacking attention to detail at times that just shouldn’t happen at this price point.
But since that seems to be far and in between, these are high-quality electric guitars for anyone who can’t afford a custom axe but wants top of the line.
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- Honeyburst, Arctic White, and Lake Placid Blue finishes are Fender gorgeous
- Tone machine with yosemite single coil pickups
- Again, quality control out of Fender can be inconsistent
As electric six strings go, this American-made Fender Stratocaster is something to behold. It’s an absolute tone machine and made for players who need versatility in their electric guitar.
We reviewed this model in our round-up of best Fender Strats. You can find our full American Performer review here.
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- Narrow tall frets are right out of the custom shop
- Tim Shaw is a tone alchemist
- Classic butterscotch finish is classic Tele
- Players don’t have much negative stuff to say about these electric guitars
The second in the Pro series of American-made Telecasters saw Fender’s engineers tweak an already wildly popular design. It’s not as if they had to go back to the drawing board, so the improvements they did make are welcome indeed.
Like the Stratocasters, Tim Shaw went back and redesigned the pickup system and electronics to make them sound better and perform with more versatility. The telecaster also features the volume mod circuit that lets players take some of the top end out without sacrificing gain. You can have your clean and keep your crunch.
The saddle on this American-made Telecaster has also been redesigned to give it the vintage 50s telecaster look with the modern ability to adjust each individual string. This provides the setup with the absolute best intonation possible.
As Fender engineers iterate on a proven design, they continue to make this guitar line better and better. It may not be the perfect guitar, but it is, without question, the pinnacle of classic Telecaster design.
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American Made Gibson Guitars
Gibson guitars made in USA include every electric guitar bearing the Gibson logo. They are one of the most famous guitar manufacturers on the planet, and for a good reason.
- Updated pickups reminiscent of original PAF humbucker pickups
- Satin tobacco burst finish is flawless
- Features the original Les Paul shaped neck
- Tuners can give some players trouble
The Gibson Les Paul Tribute is a slightly updated reissue of one of the best American-made electric guitars of all time. Quite literally, millions of players have been rocking one version of this model’s lineage for the past several decades.
The lightweight mahogany body on this American-made Gibson Les Paul is a nice update for what has always been known as a brutal guitar to play standing for an extended period of time. Your chiropractor mileage may vary. Gibson has accomplished this lightweight magic by carving out strategic sections of the body that don’t affect the guitar’s tone but significantly reduce the strain on the player’s back.
The 490R and 490T humbuckers produce the original tone Les Paul’s are famous for, but have some updated tonal characteristics that most players love. Pair those with the speedy neck that is coveted by players the world over, and you’ve got one of the most beloved guitars in the history of rock and roll.
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- Dual burstbucker humbucker pickups are legendary in rock
- Nitro finish lets this baby breathe
- Some of the best fretwork you’ll find on a Gibson
- Has been labeled more flash than substance by some players
This one is really pretty. There’s no doubt about that. This Sweetwater exclusive heritage cherry sunburst finish is one of the nicest-looking guitars I’ve ever seen. But does the rest of the guitar hold up?
The burstbucker pickups are phenomenal.
Gibson Les Pauls from the 60s are when they really came into their own for rock and roll, blues, and heavier music. They quickly became known as the best guitars for over-driving amplifiers and soaking vacuum tubes beyond what they were designed to do. And that’s largely due to the pickups.
They feature a nitro finish which is significantly thinner than modern polyurethane finishes. That finish lets the tonewoods of the mahogany body and flamed maple top breathe in a way modern finishes don’t. Not only does this enhance the visuals, but it also enhances the sound.
There’s also a 50s model electric guitar that isn’t quite as famous in rock, but is a legendary guitar in its own right. Make sure to also check out the P90s version of that 50s model, which we previously reviewed.
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Other Top American Made Electric Guitar Models
The electrics we’ve looked at aren’t the only top electric guitars available. Collings Guitars comes to mind as worth a look. There are many more popular models that have a lot going for them.
Haven’t picked your favorite? Strap these on for size.
- Updated electronics for hum canceling & output
- Headstock allows for even string length for better intonation
- Open back is a scratch magnet
This Paul Reed Smith collaboration with John Mayer is meant to build upon the classic 60s Strats he’s fond of playing. This body style stands out among PRS guitars and looks nothing like their other offerings.
Paul Reed Smith is known for their superb action and glassy tones. As PRS guitars go, this Mayer model fits the bill. It is a stunner with vibrant finishes, and the custom bird inlays in the rosewood fretboard on top of a maple neck.
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- Lightweight mahogany body is comfortable for hours of playing
- Gibson SG action is almost non existent
- Natural finish can be an acquired taste
The SG Standard is an electric guitar that’s a piece of music history. Carlos Santana himself played one at Woodstock before he eventually moving to PRS axes. This is a lightweight electric guitar, plays fast and easy, and is one of the best I’ve ever owned.
It comes in at a price point that is a much lower entry than a Les Paul, so it’s absolutely worth a look.
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- Body shape sheds a full pound off Les Paul Standard
- Available in a left handed model
- Some Players Report Weight Relief Changes the Tone of an LP
The Studio series from Gibson represents some of the best instruments available. The coil tapping humbucker pickups provide tonal opportunities not many Les Pauls offer. The 24.75” scale length is great for leads, and the weight-relieving body is comfortable.
The fretwork on this Les Paul Studio is a quality often reserved for a USA custom guitar. But here it is at a reasonable entry point. The slim taper neck is a 60s delight.
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American Made Bass Guitars
Some of the most popular basses are also made right here on American soil.
The P-Bass is a legend. As such, the Professional II Precision Bass is built on a heritage that dates back to 1951, when Leo Fender first released it. It’s perfect.
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This is the best Jazz bass you’ll play before you end up in the custom shops. State-of-the-art noiseless single-coil jazz pickups, a 34” scale length, and stunning visuals. Geddy Lee would play this bass. I guarantee it.
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With ridiculous sustain and enough punch to break through heavy rock, this bass defined early 60s rock.
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Made in America Guitars FAQ
What U.S. guitar brand is best?
The best U.S. guitar brand is obviously something of a subjective question. But as of 2020, Fender was the highest-selling brand. Again, it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison since Gibson, who sells a ton of guitars, is priced quite a bit higher than Fender.
Are all Gibson guitars made in America?
Yes, all Gibsons are made in America. Gibson’s electric guitars are manufactured in Nashville, Tennessee. The brand’s American-made acoustic guitars are made in Bozeman, MT.
Are Gretsch Guitars made in the USA?
As of 2021, most Gretschs were made in Japan, China, Korea, or Indonesia. It depends on the make and model. That said, the Gretsch custom shop is still churning out USA-made models.
Why go with an American made acoustic?
American-made acoustic guitars are some of the most consistently high-quality models available. Not only are the luthiers some of the best trained, but the materials that go into these guitars are unrivaled. Acoustic guitars are a work of art and science.
Why are the best guitars made in America?
The labor costs, material costs, and manufacturing location, require a higher degree of attention to detail and employed manufacturing prowess. This results in a high-quality guitar that can justify the margin these guitar manufacturers require.
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Ready to Rock in the Free World?
American guitars are hard to beat. Consistency, materials, and quality control mean you rarely get a lemon. It’s the reason why the world’s best guitarists typically only play these models.
I’m a sucker for a nice Telecaster, and that Fender American Professional II Telecaster has found its way onto my shopping list.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t yet afford an American model. You can get by for a good long time with a nice Squier electric guitar.
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- Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz, “FTC Looks at ‘Made in USA’ Claims for Guitars, Hangers, and Doors,” retrieved from https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=f13d6a70-0f0e-4538-82d3-585c76fae7ee
- Mike Duffy & Rich Siegle, “Infographic: Fender Through the Years,” retrieved from https://www.fender.com/articles/gear/fender-through-the-years-a-timeline-of-music-and-instruments