While trying to find the best Telecaster copy on the market I tested seven different guitars and found the Fender Player Series to be king of the valley. I know what you’re thinking, that isn’t technically a copy is it? I know, but please read on as we take a closer look at this legendary guitar model.
I’ve been playing guitar for over 16 years and observed that the iconic design of the Fender Telecaster cuts across a host of genres, from country to pop music. This popularity means that the Telecaster (Tele) has caught the attention of other manufacturers to produce similar-looking guitars. These Tele copies look the same but are at an affordable price point compared to the standard American Fender Telecasters.
With so many choices on the market, finding the perfect copy can be tricky, especially for the new player. I’ve done the research and leaned on my years of guitar experience to present you with this list of the best Telecaster copy.
The Player Series Telecaster isn’t really a Telecaster alternative, as it comes from Fender. It is a Mexican mid-budget Telecaster based on the American version, so we kinda snuck this one on to the list anyway. But we had to since it’s so awesome! And much cheaper than the American made original.
This Telecaster is as traditional as you’d expect from these types of guitars, but the manufacturer brings in a few modern components that make it the best overall copy. If your heart’s set on a Telecaster but money is an issue, save up for Player Series instead of spending thousands of dollars.
Read on to find out more about this Tele copy from Fender and other manufacturers.
Fender Player Series Telecaster — Best Overall
Fender Player is the modern twist on a classic guitar. It’s available in several colors, but the sunburst finish version oozes vintage style. The Alder body of the guitar provides use with excellent resonance and a gloss finish.
The Player Series neck has Fender’s modern C-shape design and a 9.5-inch radius fingerboard to ensure chording is a little easier for you. Upgraded Fender sealed tuners on this model do an excellent job of keeping the strings in tune.
This guitar is lighter than the classic Telecaster, making it a great acquisition for anyone who loves the Tele sound without the extra weight. Tuning hardware is good and holds well while it requires minimal setup.
- Simple controls and layout
- Very playable
- Outstanding quality for the price
- Suitable for country, blues, pop, and genres close to acoustic
- Few pickup configurations
- First-time and inexperienced guitarists may find the string-through-body and 5-way pickup complicated
- Poor bridge pickup sound
Schecter PT Pro — Best Value Telecaster Copy
If you’re looking for a flashy Tele copy guitar, this Schecter PT Pro is the way to turn. The mid-range price model delivers on looks, electronics, and a host of impressive features.
The Alder body and maple neck on this guitar give it a solid feel that helps with resonation and in a fun package. Schecter proprietary humbucking pickups are excellent tools for the rockers in the house. The pickups boast 12 fully adjustable high-carbon pole pieces so you can adjust 24 pole pieces for the optimal tone.
We think this Schecter Telecaster copy guitar is the best one for multiple genres. Plus, the thin body is lightweight and easy to handle on stage.
- String-thru body and tuner locking support offers great intonation and tuning stability
- Pickups let you customize the sound
- Coil splitting offers the classic Telecaster twang when you need it
- A 3-way pickup switch offers tone versatility
- A modern metal purist may not like the vintage tone
- Alder is not a typical metal tonewood
Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2 — Runner up
This model, from Charvel, might be one of the most versatile Telecaster copy-type electric guitars we’ve seen. There’s a carved traditional club neck for a speed profile that stays true to Charvel’s identity with shredders.
Luminlay glow-in-the-dark side markers on the Charvel Pro-Mod help fingerboard navigation in low-light conditions. A jack socket pointing upwards allows running the guitar cable tidily through a strap.
The neck is smooth and comfortable, which makes it easier to play fast. Classic playability and innovative design additions make this Charvel model a future classic. We absolutely love this axe, but the fact that it comes with a slightly higher price tag than the Player Series model puts it in the number two spot.
- A stable neck that’s easy to shred
- Excellent detail and build
- Cool finish
- Speedy playability
- More tone options to keep you inspired
- The 12- to 16-inch compound radius fingerboard may alienate traditionalists
- The reverse headstock looks weird
Squier Affinity Telecaster — Best Cheap Tele Copy
The reason behind the low price and quality of the Squire Affinity is that Squire uses all the guitar-making technologies and experience of its parent company, Fender. Further, cheap manufacturing methods ensure the costs are low, making this model one of the best guitars in the price range.
Squire Affinity boasts an Indian Laurel fingerboard, maple neck, and poplar body, giving it a classic vintage look and feel of the Telecaster. A 25.5-inch C-shaped neck with a fine matt poly finish looks nice and feels comfortable.
A longer 9.5-inch radius fingerboard allows vibratos and bends to be smooth and makes playing the instrument easy. While not the best quality, the two vintage-style single-coil telecaster pickups still do their work reasonably well.
- An excellent option if you’re on a tight budget
- A convincing Telecaster tone
- The well-finished body is available in many color options
- A beautiful satin-finished smooth-play neck
- Low-quality, cheap parts such as the jack input and controls
- Minor blemishes on the neck and body
G&L Tribute ASAT Classic — Best Vintage Telecaster Copy Guitar
G&L does a fantastic job of replicating the iconic designs of Fender. The quality level carries over to this G&L Tribute ASAT Classic, but at an attainable price tag.
The guitar is a must-have for anyone who loves the cleaner tones of jazz, pop, or even the blues. You can also crank out twangy country music tunes whenever you desire, thanks to a rich array of specs.
A butterscotch blonde color is a must-include for some Telecaster fans, and this guitar comes in this iconic color. The pickups are versatile and designed by Leo Fender, so you know you’re getting high quality. A swamp ash body helps produce distinguishable midrange sounds and warm tones.
- A fantastic build quality
- Super comfortable while playing
- High-quality volume and tone pots
- Produces a beautiful and resonant tone
- The fret edges may require sanding
- Generic tuners
ESP LTD TE-1000 EverTune — Best Telecaster Copy Guitar for Metal
ESP has a reputation for producing excellent metal guitars, and this continues with this Telecaster-inspired LTD 1000. The guitar features a solid maple top wood and mahogany body.
Few Telecaster copies have 24 frets, but this LTD TE-1000 does, making it the perfect machine for strumming modern heavy metal and hard rock sounds. The EMG 66TW neck pickup and EMG 57TW bridge ensure high output. Included in the guitar are a master volume, 3-way selector switch, and tone control.
LTD locking tuners help keep the guitar in tune longer. This ESP LTD TE-1000 EverTune guitar is a clear winner for hard rock players looking for a Tele-feel without the jangle and single coils.
- An exceptional design
- A reasonable price for quality
- High output pickups
- Doesn’t feature real authentic Telecaster tones
Suhr Classic T — Best Premium Telecaster Copy
If you have a large budget, this Suhr Classic T should be on your list. The guitar has all the hallmarks we’d expect from a Telecaster-style guitar. A 60s-inspired C neck profile is available in multiple retro-inspired finishes, including Trans Butterscotch and Vintage Natural.
Suhr spares no expense with this guitar. They make the 22 frets from stainless steel for easy soloing and chording. While the traditional single-coil pickups are included, they don’t produce the hum you’d hear from a 1960s Telecaster.
Suhr includes proprietary tuners in the Classic T line, which ensures everything stays tuned. The guitar isn’t cheap because Suhr produces only a few each year.
- Recognizable Tele twang and bite without piercing highs
- Noiseless pickup circuitry
- Multiple color options
- Comes with a soft gig bag instead of a hardshell case
What to Look for When Buying a Telecaster Copy
Before purchasing a non-Fender Telecaster, you need to consider a few things. This section will help you pick the best guitar for your current needs.
Consider Your Music Genre
The Fender Telecaster is traditionally a country music staple because of its twangy tunes. As pop, rock, and other genres have risen, guitarists found other uses for Telecasters.
However, Telecaster copy manufacturers change certain aspects such as neck styles and electronics, so their instruments cover a wider range of genres. These liberties mean that Telecaster copies are versatile instruments.
So, if you are looking to do country music, the Fender Telecaster is an excellent choice. Check out the Telecaster copycats if you’re looking to expand your musical capabilities. Most models on the market can deliver on a wide range of music genres.
Different guitar models come in various fingerboard radiuses. These may be 7.5 inches in vintage guitars and 9.5 inches in modern guitars.
Choose a smaller radius guitar if you’re in the smaller build range for play comfort. If the size isn’t an issue, a larger radius is fine.
The standard Fender Telecaster has a single-coil pickup near the neck and another on the bridge. The neck pickup helps deliver powerful, loud tones, while the bridge pickup emphasizes the twang of a Telecaster. Single-coil pickups are also excellent for styles such as country, blues, and light rock.
Choose a Telecaster-style guitar with humbucker pickups if you want to play heavy metal or hard rock. However, there’s no right or wrong choice when looking at pickups.
Cheap guitars have cheaper pickups, but they can produce decent tones. Expensive models may have pickups that won’t deliver the tone you want.
Telecaster copy guitars have volume and tone controls as standard. However, some models come with a 3-way selector switch.
If purchasing a guitar to learn about playing the instrument, consider buying a model that feels good in your hand, and don’t worry about the intricacies of the electronics.
Telecaster copies come in various tonewoods, depending on the particular manufacturer and model. Expensive guitars will most likely have Ash or Alder wood bodies, just like the original, to ensure long and bright sustaining notes.
Other models come with rosewood fretboard, ebony, or maple. The latter wood is an excellent choice when you want a bright tone. Rosewood gives off extra warmth and resonances. Choose an ebony wood guitar for an ultra-smooth sound for seamless chord changes and arpeggios.
Cheaper tonewood guitars have basswood or pine bodies which are easy to manipulate during manufacture but they don’t produce highs or lows as well.
Keep an eye out for guitars that come with alternative designs. These include models that have a nitrocellulose lacquer body for a retro look. Modern alternatives have a more protective and thicker polyester or polyurethane finish.
These fast tests will help you determine a guitar’s build quality:
- While shopping for a guitar, spin the hardware knobs all the way to ensure they stay.
- Also, inspect the amplifier jack to make sure it doesn’t jiggle.
- Explore the guitar’s tuners by tightening and de-tightening the strings.
Most Tele copy guitars are fine out of the box and require little setup. However, make a few minor adjustments to your personal preferences.
Some adjustments include the action of the guitar. High action is better for string bending and the blues, while a low action allows for faster playing, but bending is harder. Many players prefer medium action.
The guitar’s truss rod might need some adjustment, especially if the neck appears warped. However, don’t fiddle with the rod and instead take it to a technician to perform the adjustment.
You’ll want a good amplifier to work with your Telecaster copy guitar. Tube amps are excellent accompaniments for Telecaster guitars, but so are solid-state.
You can try new amp models as they have come a long way in the past few years. Also, consider adding a few effects pedals to go with the new guitar.
Telecaster models made in the USA are deemed the best because of the high-quality craftsmanship involved and materials. However, Asia also offers some excellent guitars.
Asian versions are often slightly cheaper, making them a good choice for the beginner. Get an Asian version if you’re on the fence on whether you need a Telecaster copy before you spend a load on a Mexican or American model.
Tele copy guitars range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Some rare pieces are collector items with big price tags.
No matter the guitar you’re purchasing, our advice is to buy one you can afford. It’s even better if you can wait to save up and pay for a more expensive model. However, Telecaster copies are affordable but may get expensive when you look into limited releases models.
Which is the Best Telecaster Copy?
So now that we’ve looked at all the features of each Telecaster copy guitar, which one is best?
The choice depends very much on preference. Fender offers extremely high-quality musical instruments, and we chose their Player Series model as the best Telecaster copy. Other imitation models offer more bang for your buck and a more versatile array of tones.
While the American made Fender Telecaster is an iconic guitar, don’t be afraid to go after a copy Telecaster. You’ll not be disappointed.
Use sites such as Guitar Center, Thomann, and Amazon to buy and test out a guitar you feel is best for your playing style. These websites feature excellent return policies in case you aren’t satisfied.
Now that you’ve added a cool Telecaster copy to your music toolbox, strum a few songs to test its quality. Check out our guide on super easy guitar songs for beginners.