Which Country Makes the Best Guitars?

Published on 23 February 2024


Which country makes the best guitars? Please forgive the clickbait title, but it’s actually a relatively valid question: does one country in particular make better guitars than others? If so, why is that? Are some countries good at making certain types of guitar but bad at others? Most importantly, does the country of manufacture even matter any more?

These are all questions that I’ll try to shine a light on during this blog. I also think it makes sense to divide this question between the worlds of electric and acoustic guitars, since relatively different practices are at play for each.


Does the USA Make the Best Guitars?

Although the term ‘best’ is subjective - because what’s great for one person could be entirely inappropriate for the next - there is plenty to be said for noticing how many popular brands come from one place. Overwhelmingly, the USA makes the biggest impact on the guitar world in terms of what I might call ‘high-end guitars’. If we’re talking about the ‘best’ guitars, then we are not bothering with things like value; we’re talking about the objects themselves being exceptional. 

In the world of electric guitars, there are more top quality instruments coming from America than anywhere else. Check out this brief list as proof enough:

The list could go on, but this illustrates just how many of the best-regarded guitars are made in the USA. 

Although the guitar as an instrument was not invented in America, the USA is where most of the world’s most innovative and iconic instruments have originated. It could actually be fair to say that the electric guitar is an American invention, and certainly the Strats, Teles and Les Pauls we all love have been defiantly American creations.

The US is equally famous for their acoustic guitars. I think it’s fair to say that with Gibson, Martin, Santa Cruz and Taylor all hailing from the United States, they’ve got the lion’s share of the world’s best acoustics. Heritage plays a big part in the appeal of most guitar brands, if they’ve been around long enough to have some! America is good at selling itself in that regard, whether it’s those sunkissed beaches that Fender associates with, or the rural Pennsylvanian woodlands of Martin. It’s evocative stuff, and a (literal) world away from the opposite connotation of mass-produced assembly-line guitars being rattled off in some anonymous foreign country. There is an implied level of quality for one over the other here, and even if there’s no direct link to that quality, I wouldn’t underestimate the power of ‘story’ and desirability when it comes to assessing what is ‘best’!

America - well, California actually - is also where the practise of modding and custom-making guitars arguably originated. This influential scene has continued into what we now think of as the ‘boutique’ market for guitars. Brands like Tyler and Suhr - though not directly related to that late 70s moment (Charvel and Jackson would be far more appropriate choices from a historical perspective) - exist thanks to an ongoing trend for high-end customisation.


Does all of this mean that only American guitars are worth having? No! That’s a crazy notion! There are more great guitars being made across the world now than ever before, in both obvious and less than obvious places. Let me take a moment to shine a light over some of those places too…



  • Ibanez J-Custom
  • ESP E-II
  • Takamine
  • K Yairi

Japan is where many of the world’s greatest luthiers and guitar builders reside. For decades, we’ve seen incredible things appearing from the Ibanez J-Craft/J-Custom team who are based in Tokyo.

The Fuji-Gen facility has built top-end instruments for many companies, and ESPs’ Japanese output is legendary. We actually don’t see some of the more ‘out-there’ designs over here in the West (though that could be changing…) but everyone who is into playing rock and metal understands how great Japanese guitars can be.

Also, in the late 70s and early 80s, Japan was famously making better Fenders than Fender! You can read more about this in my dedicated blog on Fender Japan, but in short, ‘Made In Japan’ has for many decades been a mark of pride on any guitar.



Some of our favourite acoustic guitar brands are currently coming from Down Under. Maton guitars have been made famous by Tommy Emmanuel, who has a signature model. Australian brands often made use of timbers that are quite exotic to us: Tasmanian Blackwood and Bunya are all tonewoods used efficiently and responsibly by these makers.



Poland is perhaps not the first place you’d think of for custom guitar builds, but Mayones, based in Gdansk, are one of today’s most impressive guitar brands. 

Basing their output towards the more cutting edge/progressive market, Mayones make original design instruments that are as eye-catching as they are playable. Spectacular woods are married to top hardware and bold finishes, to create instruments that are using an entirely different vocabulary from the heritage brands.



It’s an interesting thing to note that Spain, the country to which the invention of the guitar is attributed, is relatively unknown in terms of electric guitars. There doesn’t seem to be a single major producer of electric guitars that have an international appeal. 

That said, the Iberian peninsula is more than famous for their classical and flamenco guitars. Brands like Jose Ramirez and Cordoba are still doing things in the traditional manner, with locally-sourced timber and lots of hand-work involved in their builds. For authenticity, you cannot beat a Spanish classical guitar!



  • Atkin
  • Lowden
  • Crimson
  • Patrick Eggle
  • Burns

The UK doesn’t have too much in the way of huge, iconic brands (Burns are a well-regarded heritage brand but are not currently making British-built guitars) but have a rich vein of quality boutique makers up and down the country.

The most prominent would be Northern Ireland’s Lowden, makers of some of the most fantastic acoustic guitars in the world. Over in the South East, Atkin guitars are becoming more renowned by the day, mainly for acoustics too, but their electric guitars are proving to be very popular.


What about China, South Korea and Indonesia?

You’ll have noticed a conspicuous absence of certain big guitar-making countries so far: I haven’t yet mentioned China, South Korea or Indonesia, despite the plain fact that most of us will own guitars made in those countries. Why have I ignored them?

Well, I haven’t! They are just kind of difficult to categorise in this context. Those countries are filled with highly skilled luthiers and builders, and together, they make more of the world’s guitars than probably anywhere else. China, South Korea and Indonesia are huge places for guitar building, and large numbers of very good guitars emerge from those countries every month.

So, I’d say that they make a higher number of great guitars than any other country, but are not known over here for their own brands. They make guitars for other people. There isn’t an exclusively Chinese brand of guitar that does well in the West making amazing high-end guitars. The same is true of Indonesia and South Korea. They make great guitars for western brands like Schecter and Epiphone, but those brands are not ‘from’ China or Indonesia, they are American companies who are having some of their instruments built overseas.

Does that make them any less valid to my blog? Well, no, since we are talking about which country makes the best guitars. The problem is, most of the factories in the Far East are making instruments to dictated/agreed market price points, usually in order to offer cheaper alternatives within more expensive brands. 

Let’s take PRS for example. They are a luxury American guitar brand, and their guitars are expensive. They are also amongst the world’s best made instruments. So, PRS also have a cheaper ‘SE’ range made by Cor-Tek in Indonesia and South Korea. These are also very good and significantly cheaper than the American-made guitars. I’m not discounting them at all, but when we ask the question ‘which country makes the best guitars?’, then ‘best’ in this instance would be the US-made PRS guitars, which are built without the price limitations imposed upon the Indonesian SE guitars. The American ones are the top-end, spare-no-expense guitars, which inevitably will be objectively better. You’d hope so, given the price difference! Thus, the American PRS guitars are known as ‘better’, and it’s those ones we refer to today. 

It’s a tricky subject to navigate, but this is the reality of many guitar brands: ESP are Japanese, but have headquarters in Los Angeles, and build thousands of guitars via their LTD sub brand in Indonesia. Because they are originally Japanese, and their Japanese-made E-II guitars continue to be revered, they get included as an example of Japanese guitar building. So it continues with many other brands.


Quality Everywhere

So, this blog asked a question: which country makes the best electric guitars? It was an impossible question to answer, but my real intention was to highlight the fact that great guitars are being made across the world. Now, I didn’t go into the worlds of affordable guitars and mid-priced guitars, as stated from the beginning, but the basic fact is that there’s really no such thing as a bad or even ‘okay’ guitar any more. There are several levels of quality, several levels of features & decoration, and there are several levels of exclusivity. None of those things dictate whether a guitar is good or not, so whatever price point you are at, and whichever country the guitar was manufactured in, there is a very good chance that you’ll be looking at an excellent guitar. That’s wonderful news for us all!

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I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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