What's the best electric Guitar for a Clean tone?
The Gibson ES-335 Semi-hollow
I need to be clear - there are a ton of electric guitars out there that are great for a clean tone, and I've added several more as honorable mentions in the price tracker below. Moreover, the pickups/humbuckers and amplifier will also have a lot to say about your clean tone quality. But I especially love the Gibson ES-335 for clean rhythm playing styles because of the semi-hollow design and the T-type humbuckers. It's just naturally very "clean sounding", and can give you something smooth and full, or brisk and snappy.
BEST FOR: Clean tones, blues, classic rock, low gain levels (overdrive), lead/rhythm hybrids, and tube amps.
- Warm and smooth or brisk and "snappy" depending on what you're looking for.
- One of the best tube-amp-pairing electrics we know to recommend.
- The Calibrated T-type humbuckers sound beautiful at lower gain levels.
- Semi-hollow design gives you that deepened clean resonance.
- 500k pots/Orange Drop capacitors
- Body shape can take some getting used to if you typically play smaller guitars.
- I don't love the instrument cable jack on the top of the body.
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Why I like the Gibson ES-335 Electric
For clean tones, I'd have a hard time getting away from a semi-hollow design, which is one of the reasons I'm not recommending Strats or Teles here. The best electric guitars for clean tones are capable of producing a very deep, warm, and full tones in addition to the snap and bluesy lead we get from single coil guitars. Semi-hollows are particularly good at that.
So I was aiming for dual humbuckers and a semi-hollow design. I also like the Maple/Poplar/Mahogany tonewoods that are all involved in the ES-335.
But, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, there are a ton of electric guitars that could take this spot.
If you go elsewhere, I'd look at electrics with Fishman Fluence pickups, the PRS Piezo models, and Gretsch electrics.
Our Selection and Recommendation Methodology
When deciding what to recommend, I stick to brands I trust and models that I've actually played or at least have direct contact with someone who has. This means we typically recommend fewer guitars, but with more confidence and consistency. For clean tones, I've already mentioned that I'm looking for semi-hollows and dual humbuckers.
And while there's always subjectivity, I can guarantee that these recommendations are made by real guitar players with actual experience.
If you have questions about our methodology, please feel free to ask.
Read more: Guitar Chalk's Editorial Standards
Compare More Electric Guitars
You can compare other electric guitars to the ES-335 by searching for them here and adding them to the comparison bar at the bottom of this page. There are plenty of other brands and models as well. We don't have everything, but we have a lot, and are adding to it regularly.
Gibson ES-335 Price Tracker and Additional Recommendations
We've included the mainline and SE versions of the PRS Hollowbody Piezo and one of the more affordable Gretsch electrics. These are all excellent guitars for just about anything, but particularly good if you're prioritizing clean tones.
Prices updated Thu, February 29th, 2024.
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