Best "Fender" Telecaster Alternatives 2020
A while back I was looking for a “Fender Telecaster Style Guitar” or a “Telecaster Copy” if you will. Some people like to say “T Style Guitars” or “T-Type Guitars” to describe a Telecaster thats not made by Fender. No matter what you call it, plenty of builders offer a solution, but I didn’t know that when I started searching.
I was interested in non-Fender Telecasters. Nothing against Fender, I happen to love the brand. But there are hundreds if not thousands of guitar builders out there, and I wanted to see what was available.
A quick google search didn’t yield too many helpful results. I found a few brands but not as much as I had hoped for. Most of them were custom tele builders that go all out, and command a high price for their custom work.
It took months of keeping my eye out for tele builders, but I now know where to look. So, I decided to put together this quick post on Non Fender Telecaster Style Guitars that don’t suck.
- Telecaster Alternatives #1
- Telecaster Alternatives #2 (T Type Guitars)
- My Rating of the ASAT
- Alder Body
- Maple Neck with Rosewood Fingerboard
- Graph Tech XL Ivory Tusq Nut
- Grover Tuners
- Schecter Diamond SuperRock Custom Alnico Pickups
- Bigsby Flat Top B50 with Roller TOM Bridge
- Roller TOM Bridge
- Bigsby B-50 Vibrato
- Mirror Pick Guard
- Schecter SuperRock Custom Alnico/Duncan Designed FG-101 0;
- 22 Jumbo Frets
- Schecter Locking Tuners
- Chrome Hardware
Schecter also makes an artist model Telecaster clone. It’s basically a more customized, and flashy version of the PT Fastback iiB, and isn’t much more in price. I just recently came across this unique take on the tele. It has 22 frets and the pickups are a bit different than the other PTs.
For the longest time, I had put off buying a Telecaster style guitar. Non-Fender Telecasters weren’t even on my radar at the time.
I had never really understood why everybody loved these single coil guitars. As I grew as a guitarist and my ear for tone developed, it became apparent that I NEEDED a single coil guitar in order to be versatile and prepared for any gig.
G&L is likely the first “Brand” that comes to mind when you mention Non-Fender Telecasters or Telecaster Style Guitars. G&L was actually founded by Leo Fender himself and the company is still cranking out telecaster type guitars today. Many guitarists that I look up to swear by G&L and rarely play anything else.
Thats what convinced me to by a G&L ASAT, and it was a great decision. G&L offers multiple Telecaster Type Alternatives. The have everything from single coil Teles to carved top humbucking Teles, and at an affordable price.
The important thing for me is that a guitar be built incredibly well. This G&L ASAT Classic Tribute does that for certain. Whats cool is that this guitar is built with all the same parts and hardware as their expensive models. I think this is the best tele guitar you can get for the money. There were no corners cut when G&L built this guitar. It has surpassed my expectations for sure.
The brass saddles alone add great value to this guitar. Typical Fender Telecasters don’t usually come with six individual brass saddles, especially not for this price. Believe me, the flexibility of the individual saddles is a must. Not to mention they warm up the tone and increase the resonance of the strings. I will insist on this feature on all my future tele style guitars.
The ashtray style bridge plate on this is one of the thickest, best quality plates I have seen on any tele. It is tastefully engraved with “ASAT Classic“ between the pickup and the saddles, adding a unique look to the guitar.
The neck on this guitar is wonderful. Its without a doubt the most comfortable guitar neck I’ve ever owned. I’ve owned over twenty guitars. The satin feel of the unfinished neck is now a must for any guitar I purchase from now on. The truss rod is easy to adjust and very smooth turning. I like a bit of relief in the neck, it also works very well with a capo all the way up to the 6th fret.
We have to talk about the tone. Up until I started playing this guitar, I had not fully experienced the depths of guitar tone. Tone is sooooo crucial to guitar players. Its something we chase after endlessly.
Next up in “Fender” Telecaster Alternatives Roundup is the Veritas Guitars Portlander. This is by far the most expensive on the list, but Veritas also makes a pro line model that won’t break the bank.
- Fret Size- 47095
- Nut Material- Bone
- Nut Width- 1.6875″ (42.86 mm)
- Position Markers- Dots
- Controls- Master Volume, Master Tone
- Switching- 3 way toggle: 1. Bridge Pickup, 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, 3. Neck Pickup
- Bridge- TonePros Rolling Tunematic, Bigsby B5
- Tuning Machines- Kluson
- Neck Material- Maple
- Neck Shape- .82-.90 ”C”
- Scale Length- 25.5″ (648 mm)
- Fingerboard Material- Rosewood (international Granadillo)
- Number of Frets- 22
I’ve been following @VeritasGuitars for a long while. They are a boutique builder specializing in customized fender style guitars.
Their Portlander has become a staple in the boutique guitar world, and rightly so. Lead Guitar Players from Bethel Music have pretty much made Veritas their exclusive choice. Specific artists include Michael Pope, David Hislop, and Bobby Strand (Bethel Music). Not just Bethel either, there is Patrick Thompson(Rend Collective), and Chason Ford (Jesus Culture).
That has resulted in a plethora of young guitarists in the Worship Guitar realm to want these things. Who said Artist Endorsements don’t work? Not that these guys are officially sponsored by Veritas as far as I know. In all honesty I think its the quality of the guitar and word of mouth that is responsible for Veritas’ recent surge in popularity. I mean, just listen to the guitar tone in Bethel’s or Jesus Culture’s music…it’s pretty much EPIC, and not in the stupid millenial sense of the word, but truly epic, before that word was abused.
I think it has to be my favorite Tele-Alternative. They have positioned themselves as a higher end competitor to Fender, and the craftsmanship is blatenltly obvious from 50 feet away. Their Mini Master (Custom Fender style Jazzmaster/Jaguar) might be the best in the business. Its something special. Check them out.
- A classic shape updated with tons contemporary vibe and modern performance feel
- A mahogany body shred machine that’s great for hard rock, metal, and other aggressive music genres
- Includes set-thru construction, with a thin U-shaped maple neck and a pau ferro fingerboard with 24XJ frets
- Active electronic pickups give the TE-401 a powerful variety of tones, with EMG 60 and EMG 81 pickups
- High-quality components include Grover tuners, and it’s offered in menacing a Black Satin finish.
This is ESP-LTD’s great rendition of the telecaster. I really like the simplistic style and the especially the 24 frets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished my ASAT had 24 frets. This is a solid option for a humbucking tele.
The ESP LTD TE-401 BLKS has a Mahogany Body with a 3 piece Maple Neck
This guitar comes equipped with an LTD Fixed Bridge w/String Through Body
Rosewood Fingerboard with a Set-Thru Neck and a 25.5″ Scale, with 24 Extra Jumbo Frets a Thin-U Neck Shape
The pickups are EMG 81/60
Charvel has turned out a signature series telecaster style guitar of their own. And its not too hard on the eyes either. The stark white of the body against that black fretboard and hardware makes for an appealing fender telecaster alternative.
It seems there are quite a few artists out there in love with that classic telecaster shape, and unmatched playability. If you’ve never picked up a tele, and given it a fair play, then you need to do so the next time you see one. It just feels comfortable, like no other guitar I’ve ever played.
- Nato Body w/Satin White Finish and Black Binding
- Graphite-Reinforced 1pc. Nato Neck w/Oiled Finish
- Neck Compound-Radius (12″-16″)
- Ebony Fingerboard
- 22 Jumbo Frets
- Duncan Designed HB-103B (Bridge)
- HB-103N (Neck) Humbucking Pickups
- Master Vol Control and 3-Position Toggle
- Charvel Branded Die-Cast Locking Tuners
- Charvel-Jackson Compound Radius
- Compensated Bridge with Anchored Tail Piece
I’ve been hearing alot talk about Tokai Guitars lately, and while I’ve not personally owned one, I can tell you they have alot of fans. Its easy to see why. Check out the tremolo system, and its on a classic ashtray style telecaster bridge?!
Two names synonymous with quality and innovation are Tokai and Super-Vee. Together they have united to offer one of the finest T-type guitars available. The new Tokai “Breezy Sound” guitar has been transformed around the Super-Vee Maverick tremolo for a one of a kind design.
No other factory T-type on the market has the reliability and tonal clarity of Super-Vee’s patented “Blade” technology and is now available to musicians worldwide. Built by the renowned craftsman in Japan, the Breezy Sound is a level of quality unsurpassed in a T-type design.
- Body – Ash
- Neck – Maple
- Slim C Profile Fingerboard – Maple
- Bridge – Super-Vee Maverick Tremolo
- Pickups – Vintage Mark III Saddles
- Compensated Brass Switch – 3-Way Tuners
- Vintage K-type Scale – 25 1/2” Fret
- Finish – Polyurethane
"Boutique" Telecaster Builders
I’ve had the pleasure over the last few years, to meet some pretty specatuclar boutique guitar builders. There are quite a few amazing boutique tele builders that are just coming into their own. I’d like to share them with you, because they are awesome.
"Boutique" Tele Builder #1
JL Custom Guitars
I found this crazy cool tele builder that gets into some really high end builds. His latest Telecaster Copy is just a knockout punch, and I’m betting it will sell within hours of its reveal.
Jarrid Lipscomb is a self described Luthier/Musician, and I can confirm the Luthier part with no hesitation. He sends me update pics of his builds as he is building them, and this particular t-style guitar has a custom neck that he built from scratch. INSANE!
His guitars always have the highest quality hardware and pickups. Combine that with all the custom work of crystal clear epoxy resin bodies, and .45 caliber bullet inlays…and you get a totally one off tele clone that guitarists and collectors go crazy for.
So if you are in the market for a high level boutique telecaster clone, this is the Luthier you need to talk to.
hope this has helped you discover some of the amazing alternative models to the Fender Telecaster. Its a famous and adored guitar for a reason. Please check back often for new models. There are some amazing new guitar brands out there, and I happen to know where to find them. If that sounds tempting, you should check out the 9 Best Custom Electric Guitar Brands You’ve Never Heard Of (2020)!
The Axe Dr.
1. What is the best Telecaster for the money?
In my opinion, the best "telecaster" for the money is a G&L ASAT Tribute Series. They can be found brand new for $250 to $300. The guitars are built at the same factories as Cort Guitars. The hardware is usually real G&L (Made In USA). Brass saddles also come standard.
2. What is the best cheap telecaster copy?
In my opinion, the best cheap "telecaster" copy is a G&L ASAT Tribute Series. (G&L was founded by Leo Fender, and its where he said he did his best work.)
They can be found brand new for $250 to $300. The guitars are built at the same factories as Cort Guitars. The hardware is usually real G&L (Made In USA). Brass saddles also come standard.
3. What telecaster style guitars have humbucker pickups?
There are a lot of Telecaster variants with humbucker pickups. The main one that comes to mind is the '72 Deluxe Tele. They can be found in solid or thinline bodies. There is also the Fender Player Series HH telecaster.
4. Which Telecaster is best?
That is a complex question that depends on your own preferences. I can tell you what I consider to be the best, most versatile telecasters.
5. Are there any "Boutique" Telecaster Builders?
I've found quite a few boutique telecaster builders, and they are becoming more and more popular. Some may be considered custom builders, while others like Veritas are able to build at a larger scale. Here are several amazing telecaster builders:
- Veritas Custom Guitars
- JL Custom Guitars
- Maybury Guitars
- Waterslide Guitars
- Mario Guitars
- SLJ Guitars