Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
The genius of Leo Fender will live on for a very long time. He designed many guitars and lots of hardware for said guitars, but his Telecaster and Stratocaster designs may last a thousand years or more. Think about it: The guitar is unlikely to ever fade into obscurity, and the solid-body electric guitar was perfected on the day Leo Fender realized his Esquire needed to have a reinforced neck and a pickup in the neck position.
So from Broadcaster to Nocaster, and finally the thing that became and stayed—the Telecaster—the design is as valid and desired today as it ever was. The name Fender became a huge brand name, with monster brand recognition and brand loyalty. When a manufacturer of any product gets such name recognition and loyal acolytes, the prices for the products will invariably rise.
We're now in the age of the global market. It is not a bad thing. American-made Fender and G&L Teles are still the cream of the crop, but now we have Teles made in other places, and those are sold here and elsewhere for prices a poor boy can afford. And then there are the Telecaster style instruments not made by a company Leo Fender founded. Those are what we'll discuss here.
Non-Fender Telecaster Guitars With Humbucking Pickups
People had been modifying Telecaster guitars from the start. Some persons just loved the looks, feel, and utility of the Tele, but wanted a thicker Gibson-like sound from the instrument. By 1972, Fender had caught on to the trend, and started offering Telecaster guitars with humbucker pickups from the factory. Single coil twang is wonderful stuff, but it simply isn't for everyone.
In this day and age, there are more guitar manufacturers making T-style guitars than anyone could hope to catalogue. The nature of the market is that consumer demand drives the production of things, and the best products survive the competition. With globalization, you often get guitars manufactured in Asia using some US-made parts, then sold via US distributors. This is all wonderful stuff, as cooperation in production strengthens bonds, and then the music made with the products furthers this.
The market for pickups is another thing altogether. While companies like Fender and Gibson make their own pickups, many smaller companies use an independent manufacturer's pickups, and on some models both Fender and Gibson will use the pickups of American manufacturers such as Seymour Duncan, or EMG. The point here is you can be putting plenty of money into American business when you buy guitars made in Asia.
For our purposes here, we will discuss Tele-style guitars with humbucking pickups which are not built by Fender. In no way should this page be thought exhaustive on the subject. Only guitars in production at this time will be discussed. I hope that persons who're interested in purchasing a Telecaster such as described will find the information here useful.
1. Schecter PT Fastback II B
Schecter Guitar Research is the full and proper name of the company. We're talking here about some of the very best deals in electric guitars when we're talking Schecter. These are made in South Korea, but every Schecter is set up by set up kings in the US of A. So you get the best of Asian and US workmanship, working together, in the true spirit of global trade.
In the late 1970s, Pete Townshend had Roger Griffin build him 6 Tele-style instruments with two humbucking pickups. Roger used Schecter guitar parts for these. Pete used the guitars for several years, and so now all Schecter Tele-style guitars are denoted with the 'PT' in the model name. At the time Pete Townshend first started playing Schecter guitars, Schecter only sold parts and guitar kits. Probably it was Pete and The Who who nudged the Schecter people into manufacturing entire and ready-to-go guitars.
The Schecter PT Fastback guitars are priced so well they've got to be among the best deals on solid body electric guitars I know of. Schecter's fit and finish are things universally praised. And their own pickups are quite nice, the ones Pete Townshend played used Schecter's own pickups. There is a Schecter Diamond SuperRock Custom Alnico here in the neck position, and also at the bridge position. What makes this guitar so versatile in terms of tone is that either pickup can be split from humbucker mode down to a single coil.
You simply can not overlook the Bigsby vibrato here which serves as super old-school retro-cool. The Bigsby gets a vibrato tone that no other sort of tremolo or vibrato can get, and with a Bigsby, one can with great ease bend not just single notes, but also entire chords. When not in use the arm folds away to the rear so as to allow you to shred or go about Pete Townshend style windmill rhythm.
- Schecter PT Fastback
- Bolt on neck construction
- Manufactured in South Korea
- Body made from Alder
- 1-ply creme binding
- Maple neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
- Dot fingerboard positioning markers
- 25.5" length of scale
- 22 X-jumbo frets
- 14" fingerboard radius
- Thin C neck profile
- 1.653" width at nut
- Graph Tech XL ivory tusq nut
- 2-way adjustable truss rod with Allen nut
- Schecter Diamond SuperRock Custom Alnico neck pickup
- Schecter Diamond SuperRock Custom Alnico bridge pickup
- 2 volume, 2 tone control knobs with 3-way pickup selector switch
- Push-pull tone pots for coil splits
- Chrome hardware
- Bigsby Flat Top B50 with roller TOM bridge
- Grover tuning machines
- Metal knurled knobs with set screw
- Case not included
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2. Schecter PT standard
The standard version of the Schecter PT, meaning the one which is not a fastback, is very similar. You can see it has simpler controls, and two full-sized humbuckers instead of one and then a minibucker. The Schecter PT guitar is typically about a hundred bucks more in price than the fastback.
As for myself, when I'm looking at a maple fingerboard, I don't want anything but a simple dot inlay for positioning markers. This guitar appeals to me visually, as the black body and the maple fingerboards always have a striking contrast I think well of. The body binding also looks very nice. The black to blonde contrast is completed with the black Grover tuning machines.
The Schecter PT standard offers more than just visual contrast, however, as the coil-splitting of its humbuckers provide all the crunch and all the twang one could ever desire. A pair of Schecter SuperRock II humbuckers used here will boast a powerful and punchy output. Alnico-V pole pieces in each humbucker will push the mid-range tonality, perfect for the lead player. Utilize your push/pull tone control to engage single-coil mode for a hot vintage tone and greater sonic variety. Again, you don't get a hard-shell case. What's become standard with guitars these days is if you spend under a thousand dollars, you have to buy a case separately.
Schecter PT Standard Features:
- Construction: Bolt-on
- Body Material: Alder
- Top Contour: Flat Top
- Binding: Creme 1-ply
- Neck Material: Maple
- Fretboard Material: Maple
- Inlays: MOP Dots
- Scale: 25.5" (648mm)
- Frets: 22 X-Jumbo
- Fretboard Radius: 14" (355mm)
- Neck Shape: Thin ˜C'
- Thickness @ 1st Fret- .787" (20mm)/ @ 12th Fret- .866" (22mm)
- Nut Width: 1.653" (42mm)
- Nut: Graph Tech XL Ivory Tusq
- Truss Rod: 2-Way Adjustable Rod w/ 5/32" (4mm) Allen Nut
- Bridge Pickup: Schecter Diamond SuperRock-II
- Neck Pickup: Schecter Diamond SuperRock-II
- Controls: Volume/Tone(Push-Pull)/3-Way Switch
- Hardware Color: Chrome
- Bridge: PT-H with String Thru Body
- Tuners: Grover
- Knobs: Metal Knurled with Set Screw
- Strings: Ernie Ball Regular Slinky #2221 (.010-.046)
- Case sold separately
3. Schecter Hellraiser Hybrid PT
How far can you stray from the original in still call a guitar something like a Telecaster? Well, Fender still calls some of theirs the legendary T, even when they have two humbuckers, Les Paul style controls, and Stratocaster necks. So we can't say this Schecter is too far, in light of how things are done, and have been done.
Obviously, you don't call a guitar a Hellraiser unless you expect it to be used towards some very aggressive and loud metal music. Such is the case here, but the Schecter Hellraiser Hybrid PT guitar doesn't care what sort of music you choose to make with it. The Hellraiser just wants to be played. This guitar is much more expensive than the Fastback PT. You could likely buy two Fastbacks for the price of one Hellraiser. The Hellraiser is also available in a 7 string version.
There is a quilt maple arched top on this guitar. The maple top is not a veneer. A lot of the additional cost is tied up in the quilt maple, and its being arched either by hand carving or CNC machining. That's the nature of maple tops which are not veneers, and you can expect the maple top to add some crunch to the tonal delivery.
Then the fret-board here is made of ebony. Friends, ebony fretboards are the finest there are. This is my opinion, but my opinion here is not uncommon for persons who've owned or own guitars with ebony fretboards. Ebony is heads and shoulders above rosewood for the purpose. When you pay a thousand dollars for a Schecter guitar, you get something as good or better than a Gibson which costs three or more times as much.
The Hellraiser is also a two-octave guitar. It has 24 accessible frets. Were you to get the 7 string version you've got something with a significantly expanded tonal range with which to make music. The Fender standard scale length also means you can down tune a guitar like this without having the strings go so slack they become unplayable.
This guitar comes with Schecter tuning machines. Less expensive Schecter guitars usually rock with Grover tuners, and Grover is among the best of the best. So when Schecter puts their own tuning machines on a more expensive model, that tells you what they think of theirs.
Schecter Hellraiser Hybrid PT Features:
- Construction: Set-Neck w/Ultra Access
- Body Material: Mahogany
- Top Material: Quilted Maple
- Top Contour: Arched Top
- Binding: Carbon Fiber Multi-ply
- Neck Material: Maple 3-pc w/ Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Rods
- Fretboard Material: Ebony
- Inlays: MOP Offset/Reverse Dots w/Gothic Cross at 12th Fret
- Scale: 25.5" (648mm)
- Frets: 24 X-Jumbo
- Fretboard Radius: 12"-16" Compound Radius
- Neck Shape: Ultra Thin C
- Thickness: @ 1st Fret- .748" (19mm)/ @ 12th Fret- .787" (20mm)
- Nut Width: 1.653" (42mm)
- Nut: Graph Tech XL Black Tusq
- Truss Rod: 2-Way Adjustable Rod w/ 5/32" (4mm) Allen Nut
- Bridge Pickup: EMG 57-7H Brushed Black Chrome Cover
- Neck Pickup: EMG 66-7H Brushed Black Chrome Cover
- Controls: Volume/Tone/3-Way Switch
- Battery Compartment: 9-volt Clip-in Battery Compartment
- Hardware Color: Black Chrome
- Bridge: Hipshot Hardtail (.125) w/ String Thru Body
- Tuners: Schecter Locking
- Knobs: Metal Knurled w/ Set Screw
4. Esp Ltd Te-401
The guitar-playing public seems to agree as a majority, brands like Schecter, ESP, Ibanez, and others are simply the best brands to shop for when you're in need of a great electric guitar, but not in the position to spend the money asked for US-made Fender and Gibson. Gear snobbery is a major thing. A thing to be avoided. These are amazing values offering tremendous bang for your bucks.
The ESP LTD TE-401 is an outstanding guitar and should be compared closely to the Schecter standard PT. It would be most ideal were the prospective buyer able to play both guitars one after the other. These guitars are very comparable to the Fender Jim Root Tele as well.
There are many more models of ESP LTD TE guitar. I'm listing the 401 here because it is fairly well in the middle of the pack insofar as costs go. The shopper may well find their needs met with a less expensive model of ESP LTD TE, or may desire one with fancier appointments.
These are two-octave guitars with active EMG pickups. One thing the shopper needs to figure our for his or herself is whether they prefer active pickups, or passive pickups. These things are a matter of tonal preference. The simple rule of thumb with active pickups, and especially EMG pickups, is if you're into heavy metal guitar, then probably you want the guitar with EMGs.
ESP LTD Te-401 Features:
- Set-Thru Construction
- 25.5” Scale
- Mahogany Body
- 3Pc Maple Neck
- Thin U Neck Shape
- Black Satin Hardware
- 24 XJ Frets
- EMG 81/60 Pickups
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- LTD Fixed Bridge w/ String Thru
- Satin Finish
5. ESP Ron Wood Telecaster
For a much more traditional rock and roll machine that doubles its duty when used for country and blues, take a gander at the ESP LTD Ron Wood guitar. Ron Wood should need no introduction, but for the sake of those not in the know, he's been a legend in rock and roll music since the late 1960s.
Ron played bass guitar in the Jeff Beck group, and then played guitar with the Faces. Regardless of his previous successes and ventures, Ron Wood is always going to be remembered as a member of The Rolling Stones, which he joined in 1975. Amazingly, the Stones are still touring and producing albums. You can still see Ron Wood play guitar live, but the music will last far longer than the members of the Stones.
The ESP LTD Ron Wood guitar is not even a little bit inexpensive. The least expensive versions are a thousand dollars. So these should be comparable guitars to Fender American production. While they are Asian-made, they sport Seymour Duncan pickups in both positions. These guitars are available in red, black, and sunburst finishes.
ESP LTD Ron Wood Features:
- Familiar alder body style and bolt-on maple neck
- Regular U neck profile with 22 extra-jumbo frets
- Nut Type: Bone
- Passive Seymour Duncan pickups with volume, tone and 3-way switch
- Neck Pickup: Seymour Duncan SH-1
- Bridge Pickup: Seymour Duncan STL-2
- LTD fixed bridge and LTD vintage tuners
- Chrome hardware
- Case sold separately
6. Charvel USA Joe Duplantier Signature Guitar
Jackson and Charvel are great brands. They are the same company. And they've been well regarded especially with rock and metal guitarists since the 1980s. Well, they make absolutely terrific guitars overseas sold here and everywhere for great prices. They also make guitars in the USA which are second to none.
The Charvel Joe Duplantier is one of those made in the USA Charvel's, and it's something that if you are able to own it, you'll be the envy of many. Joseph or Joe is the rhythm guitarist in the metal band Gojira. He's also been a part of a Max Cavalera band. If you know who Max is, then you know Joe's a mean metal motor-scooter.
His signature guitar is a high-performance instrument finished in satin black and with aesthetical touches such as open-coil black and grey Charvel MFB humbucker pickups, black hardware, and a gorgeous ebony fretboard. What I personally like about the guitar is its Tele body with tune-o-matic bridge and stop-bar tailpiece, which are Gibson style hardware. This guitar sells for around twenty three hundred bucks. USA-made guitars of this quality are never inexpensive.
Charvel USA Joe Duplantier Signature Guitar Features:
- 9 lbs.
- Satin Black Finish
- San Dimas Style 2 Alder Body
- Mahogany Neck with Bound Ebony Fretboard
- Compound 12-16" Radius
- 22 Medium Jumbo Frets
- .810" Neck Profile at Nut
- .860" Neck Profile at 12th Fret
- Tune-O-Matic/Stopbar Bridge and Tailpiece
- Charvel MFB Humbucker Pickups
- Charvel Locking Tuners
- Black Hardware
- Single Volume Control
- Contoured Neck Heel
- Single Volume Control
7. Michael Kelly 1955 Telecasters
Michael Kelly guitars are an American business venture, but the guitars are imported from South Korea, where they are built to specifications. You see the prices for these, and you know there is no way they are built in the good old USA. There is no problem at all with this, it allows for persons without much money to get a guitar of great value for lots less.
The Michael Kelly guitars labeled as 1950s series guitars are all telecasters. The specific and unique models start at the 1952 model and go through to the 1957 model. These are all what the folks at Michael Kelly refer to as boutique within reach guitars. Here I chose to focus specifically on the 1955 model. Why? It's got some specifications you've never before seen on a guitar selling at under a thousand bucks.
Besides being one of the first guitars under $1000 to have real flamed maple body binding, the guitar offers the unique pickup configuration with a Rockfield humbucker in the bridge and mini humbucker in the neck position. The swamp ash body with quilted maple top includes a white pickguard and chrome hardware. The maple neck features a six inline headstock and a compound 10.5” to 16.5” radius. Black wash and amber translucent finishes come with a maple fretboard and the caramel burst finish comes with a rosewood fretboard.
Micheal Kelly 1955 Telecaster features:
- Construction Bolt On
- Body Swamp Ash
- Top Quilt Maple
- Freeboard Radius Compound 10.5" to 16"
8. Kiesel TL60
Carvin guitars are now known as Kiesel guitars. They are the same business entity. These are all made in the USA, and so, they aren't cheap or inexpensive. What you get with Kiesel is exactly what you ordered.
To buy a new Kiesel you have to buy it directly from Kiesel. What I'm saying here is they don't send guitars to Guitar Center or Musician's Friend, or Amazon, or any of those places. With their business model, you can get more guitar for less money because the middle man, meaning the big retail guitar stores, is not in the monetary equation. Now, used Carvin or Kiesel guitars may very well be found on Reverb, or Amazon, or at a Guitar Center. I hope I've explained that well enough.
So the Kiesel TL60 is their most Telecaster-like guitar. But the guitar is very very different from the Fender style of guitar building. This guitar has a neck through the body. So there is absolutely no possibility of taking this neck off of the guitar and replacing it. You should never have to do, or think of such a thing anyway, as the neck has a double-action truss rod. The neck runs all the way through to the backside of the guitar's body. What's the purpose of this construction technique? Sustain is the purpose. The neck through allows for superior sustain to bolt-on necks, and set necks.
These are also two octave necks. So you have an additional two frets with which to work musical magic. Extended range guitars are not new at all, they are, however, increasingly popular.
There are hundreds of options available with the Kiesel TL60. You can get one with any pickup configuration you want, you can get one with or without a maple top, and in any number of finishes. You've got all manner of hardware options as well. So the long and short of it is I can't list any specifications here, because those would be relative only to a specific guitar an individual ordered to those specifications. For the same reason exactly, I can't give a price. Keep Kiesel forever on your mind when shopping for high-end guitars.
9. Tom Anderson Tele-Style Guitars
Tom Anderson is one of America's foremost boutique electric guitar builders. These are guitars that most consider superior to mass-manufactured wares, and in this case, we're talking about Fender. Tom Anderson is not alone in this type of venture, there are lots of competitors for his boutique guitar products too.
Tom Anderson offers a couple of basic templates you can order from. You select a template and then he'll build it the way you want it built. The two images above show you he does a Tele-style guitar with body contours, a maple top, and body chambers; and then you see the classic and original slab style Tele.
You can have any pickup configuration you desire. You can have no top, maple top, koa top, or other tops. Pick-guards, yes or no. Tremolo bridge, or string through. He'll build you a super-Tele should you desire it.
Tom Anderson makes his own pickups. He's got his mind and hands inside of all aspects of the craft of guitar building. His pickups are quite popular and can be purchased aftermarket so as to upgrade a less expensive guitar you have with. Even on the Seymour Duncan forum, people rave about Tom Anderson's pickups. That says a lot.
10. Classic T Custom Guitars by Suhr
John Suhr is much the same as Tom Anderson. They both have booming boutique guitar manufacturing businesses, and they both have people everywhere who wish they owned one of their guitars. It would be perfectly impossible for me to say which of the two would be most preferable. You ever find the person who says one way or the other, and you are probably talking to a person who owns the one, and not the other.
Well, there is room enough for the both of them. They both cater to people who want something consistently better than the best of Fender. Better, of course, really being more opinion than anything, but one can easily see how boutique guitar makers have much more time to spend managing quality control. Attention to detail with Suhr and Anderson is going to be second to absolutely none.
Suhr, like Tom Anderson, designs, winds, and produces his own pickups. The pickup industry is another industry altogether, and so you really get an idea of what kind of amazing skills people like Tom Anderson and John Suhr must have. I can sure appreciate it all, I just can't relate to such precise and skillful work.
Friends, thanks for reading. This presentation has gone long for a webpage. Everything discussed on this page is an absolute winner, and so one only needs to know their budget and tastes. There are, of course, a lot of other brands of Telecaster with humbucking pups out there. I hope anyone reading this finds and gets exactly what they are after.
Questions & Answers
Question: What about Godin Stadium 59? Seems like a nice T-style made in Canada, but there are no detailed reviews online.
Answer: First of all, Godin is an outstanding brand. And especially when you figure in what you're getting for what you are spending, Godin is a no-lose buy. I like how they've changed the shape of the body up a little bit on the guitar, and that is really one of the calling cards of Godin. They do that a lot. Some people would hate that, others would love it, it's an aesthetic thing which you have to decide about yourself.
It's got the old school bridge and saddles thing going, and that is again something where a body has to decide. Some people think of the modern Tele bridge and saddle configuration as superior, especially intonation wise, others want the traditional hardware.
Me personally, I've always liked the humbucker in the rhythm position, as it allows for a Tele to have a more hard rock or heavy blues capability. That's a Seymour Duncan pickup at the rhythm position, and I just can't criticize Seymour Duncan products, ever.
Over a thousand dollars for a Godin lets you know the guitar is one where they're going further than typical for appointments and construction.
Music Radar has a pretty substantial page about that exact guitar. I'm betting it is comparable to a Fender USA model of similar specs. The only drawback is you don't get a hard case to put it in.
Question: Does Suhr Vs Anderson have good prices?
Answer: Suhr and Tom Anderson guitars are about as expensive as can be. Those two brands are boutique quality. They are absolutely flawless when you get them new. You can't really get a better guitar than Suhr or Anderson. If a Fender or a Gibson is like a Ford or a Chevrolet, then a Suhr or Anderson is like a Lincoln or a Cadillac. They are not inexpensive at all.
Question: Does Schecter make a Slim line semi hollow Telecaster ?
Answer: If they do, then I haven't seen it. This doesn't mean they do not. Thanks for the question. I should definitely know the answer to it, and so I shall find out. Schecter, along with ESP's LTD line, is one of the best things going for poor boys and girls like myself.
Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on November 30, 2016:
Hey thanks, GRIMM. So far as doing a webpage article - you pretty much have to leave stuff out. Were I to try to make a page displaying too much more than what I did here, then the page would take too long to load up. And people in the internet age have short patience with slow loading pages, you know.
GRIMM on November 27, 2016:
Along with the JD Charvel mentioned above - the USA Select San Dimas Style 2 should be included in this article. Some good values for Charvel Style 2's available in the used market as well.