The Telecaster was introduced in 1950 under the name “Broadcaster” and quickly became popular. In 1951 Leo Fender changed the name to Telecaster, and its popularity kept growing mostly in the genres of country, rock, and blues.
Seventy years later, this is still one of the most duplicated guitar designs in history. Its original design featured just two single coil pickups, one at the bridge position and for the neck position.
Nowadays, you can find it in any pickup combination imaginable, with different tonewoods, neck types, etc. How do you make sense of such a vast Tele-type guitar market? How do you know what to get? If you’re looking for an alternative to the Fender and Squire range of Teles, we’re here to help. Keep reading.
- Top 3 Best Telecaster Copies
- Best Telecaster Copies – Individual Reviews
- How To Choose The Best Telecaster Copy For You!
- Final Thoughts on The Best Telecaster Copies
Top 3 Best Telecaster Copies
The Schecter PT Fastback II is our Top Pick for this list. It features an ideal blend of modern traits with vintage features, including a gorgeous Bigsby, making it a fantastic Tele copy.
The Donner DTC-100 is our Best Budget choice. With a traditional Tele construction and two single coil pickups, this instrument is great for beginners that want to start out with one of the best guitar designs in history.
Finally, the G&L Fullerton Deluxe ASAT Classic is our Editor’s Choice. This guitar comes with enhanced features and upgraded pickups designed by Leo Fender. This instrument is for discerning professionals that demand the best and are willing to pay for it.
Best Telecaster Copies – Individual Reviews
A modern telecaster copy with a vintage flair.
This Tele copy provides the best of the modern and vintage worlds. It manages to walk that thin line and features just the right amount of classic features on a guitar that is built for today's versatile guitarist.
The Schecter PT Fastback II B Electric Guitar features a unique blend of modern appointments with a traditional sound, feel, and playability. The feature that stands out as soon as you look at it is the Bigsby Flat Top B50 bridge.
This choice of tremolo system is an unequivocal vintage feature that gives it a classic character as it is striking to the eye. On the other hand, the choice of alder for the body of this guitar gives it a modern feel. Besides being very resonant, alder is lighter than ash and provides a full-bodied sound, with nice mids and fat lows.
On the electronics, Schecter included two SuperRock Custom Alnico humbuckers. These pickups are responsive and provide warmth and punch while remaining versatile, thanks to the push/pull knobs that allow for coil splitting.
In our tests, we plugged into a Fender Twin amp and got a modern tonal palette from the various options of this Tele copy. We particularly liked the sound at the bridge position when higher gain was added. It gave us a nice growl that works beautifully for blues, rock, or even modern jazz.
For clean and warm sounds, we turned to the neck pickup. This position gave us a very balanced tone that can be great for a variety of clean contexts and situations. This tone was great for more traditional jazz.
Naturally, for some country playing, we switched back to the neck pickup and engaged the push/pull knob for a single coil tone that gave us penetrating cleans and a characteristic overdriven tone when paired with a Boss Overdrive pedal.
We also really liked how this guitar feels. With a thin “C” neck profile made of maple, rosewood fingerboard, 22 extra-jumbo frets, and 14″ radius, we got nice playability from this Sheckter PT.
Verdict: The Schecter PT Fastback II B is a versatile Tele copy that offers you single coil and humbucker tones thanks to its coil-splitting mechanism. This is a great guitar for Tele lovers that want a versatile instrument that even features a Bigsby.
An elegant Tele option that is truly affordable.
A tele copy that offers you traditional design and construction, with an authentic tone and feel. This Donner will suit beginners well and is a good guitar for the price.
The Donner DTC-100 features a solid poplar body with a traditional tele configuration of two single coil pickups and 3-ways pickup switching.
We put this guitar to the test by trying it on our Fender Twin amp with a Tube Screamer and Boss overdrive on our chain. We first started with the bridge Donner single coil pickup, trying it clean. Here we got an unmistakable Tele twang with that typical bite that works great for country, blues, and rock.
When we added a bit of distortion, we got a powerful and penetrating tone that goes well with power chords and some riffs, making it great for classic rock.
Switching to the Donner neck pickup, we dialed in some overdrive for a nice tone that can work well in rock and blues contexts. The overdriven sound of the neck pickup was round and warm but still had enough pep to cut through a mix. Overall, a nice sounding tele-type guitar for the price.
As far as the playability, this guitar also delivers. It features a maple neck on a perilla fretboard that will feel comfortable in the hands of beginners. In short, a good guitar with a low price, and that is specially made for folks that are starting out.
Verdict: The Donner DTC-100 has a traditional tele design, construction, and configuration and is a good option for beginners. This guitar takes pedals well and gives you Tele tone that can work well for a variety of styles, all of this for a low price.
An enhanced version of Leo Fender's original design.
G&L is a company founded by Leo Fender, the original maker of the world's best-known guitars. This instrument is a more modern take on the Telecaster, made under the watchful eye of the man that revolutionized electric guitar making.
The G&L Fullerton Deluxe ASAT Classic features a balanced sound thanks to its alder body. Alder is known to provide a nice mix of highs, mids, and lows that makes a guitar sing, and this one is no exception.
This tele copy is fitted with a pair of G&L Fullerton Deluxe ASAT Classic single coil pickups designed by Leo Fender himself. They feature extra-thick bar magnets that provide ultra-tight magnetic fields which creates a tremendous amount of energy around the coil. The result is a very strong output and a quite percussive attack.
The neck pickup was designed to be a bit brighter as well as more powerful, than a traditional alnico T-style neck single-coils. This became evident on our tests, as we got a round yet penetrating tone that can work wonders in a variety of contexts from rock to jazz.
On the other hand, the bridge pickup gave us tons of twang and spank, and provided us with an enhanced version of that unique Tele bridge sound. With a penetrating twang that is never piercing, this position works great for country, rock and blues.
As far as the playability, we loved the hard maple neck on this guitar. It comes with a Modern Classic profile, with a 1-11/16” natural bone nut and 1-5/8” string spacing for great comfort.
The neck felt quite comfortable and the 9.5”-radius fingerboard had us playing for a while. In short, a fantastic and upgraded Tele design made in part by Mr. Fender himself.
Verdict: The G&L Fullerton Deluxe ASAT Classic features an alder body and Leo Fender-designed pickups for enhanced tone. A fantastic instrument, this guitar is an upgraded version of a Tele, made by G&L, the company that Leo Fender created to take his vision further.
A guitar made in collaboration with one of the greatest guitarists ever.
Larry Carlton is one of the most recorded guitarists in history and got together with Sire to design this instrument. It offers you versatility and excels for blues and rock, much like Mr. Carlton in his illustrious career.
The Sire Larry Carlton T7 FM features an alder body with a flamed maple veneer top and gloss body finish. However, its most impressive features are the dual Sire LC Super-M humbuckers.
These pickups offer a nice array of tones, especially for rock and blues. They were specifically designed for canceling interference while ensuring hum-free operation. This feature is quite useful for high-gain applications that are commonplace in many styles.
Both of these humbuckers are high output and come loaded with Alnico V magnets. In our tests, we got everything from traditional-voiced tones with a balanced spectrum as well as a nice top-end sparkle in both positions.
In order to offer more versatility, this guitar’s design ditches the typical Tele 3-way position switch. Instead, this Sire relies on a 5-way pickup switching that offers humbucker and single-coil sounds.
Although this guitar shines for rock and blues, it is also a valid option for other styles like jazz, funk, jazz, and naturally country. Our favorite tones came via position 1 on the bridge with overdrive and position 4 on the neck pickup for clean.
As far as playability, the Sire Larry Carlton T7 FM comes with a roasted hard maple neck and fingerboard that also had its edges rolled. The neck felt great and was responsive to our playing.
We also liked the medium-jumbo frets and 25.5″ scale length. In short, a very good instrument for folks that are not too attached to a pure Tele tone.
Verdict: The Sire Larry Carlton T7 FM is a good Tele copy for players that gravitate towards blues and rock, but also need some versatility. Features like an alder body, flamed maple veneer top, dual Sire LC Super-M humbuckers, and five-way switching for more tonal options make this guitar a good choice for professionals that are not tied to tradition.
An 80's shred machine comes back enhanced.
This guitar is the modern version of the Eclipse '87 that became a hit in the 80s. Made with special features for rock and technical players, it comes with unique traits like a sculpted belly cut and arched top to enhance playability.
The ESP LTD Eclipse ’87 NT Archtop is a modern incarnation of the original Eclipse ’87 made at the ESP Tokyo custom shop. This new version features a mahogany body with a nice pearl white color with a gloss finish.
This guitar comes with a killer set of Seymour Duncan humbuckers, with a ’59 model on the neck and a JB on the bridge. We put this guitar to the test starting on the neck pickup. The Seymour Duncan ’59 gave us beautiful PAF-type cleans with mildly scooped mids that were perfect for rock, blues, and even jazz.
We then hooked up our Tube Screamer to test out the Seymour Duncan JB bridge pickup. Here we got a gutsy crunch that was perfect for all types of rock riffs, with attitude and great string separation.
We engaged the push-pull tone pot to switch to a single-coil tone, and tweaked our Tube Screamer to a gentle vibrato. Here we got a very nice singing tone that can be used in many contexts, with nice sustain and presence.
This guitar was also a joy to play, with a maple neck-through design that gave us nice sustain, and a 13.8″-radius ebony fingerboard that was quite comfortable to play. Add to that 24 extra-jumbo frets and you have a set of features that will be great with folks with above-average technique.
Other fantastic features on this guitar include the ToM-style TonePros bridge/tailpiece, which is a common upgrade that many single-cut guitars receive from their owners.
For tuning stability, the ESP LTD Eclipse ’87 NT features locking LTD tuners that keep it going for a while without having to retune. In short, a great guitar for folks that have a higher technical level and play rock. If you are more of a traditional Tele player, you may want to look elsewhere.
Verdict: The ESP LTD Eclipse ’87 NT Archtop is a modern version of the popular Eclipse ’87. This new iteration is a great choice for technical guitar players that want versatility within rock and fusion and prefer a modern version of a tele.
A traditional tele with upgraded pickups.
G&L started in 1979 as the company of George Fullerton and Leo Fender. This guitar, like most of their instruments, had the input and oversight of Mr. Fender (the original Tele creator), bringing you a piece of history from the man that put the electric guitar on the map.
The G&L Tribute ASAT features a solid sassafras body with a maple neck and fingerboard. Sassafras is not a tonewood that you hear about often, but it offers a nice blend of all frequencies, creamy mids, big lows, and beautiful highs.
This guitar comes fitted with a couple of single-coil Magnetic Field Design pickups, designed by Leo Fender. These pickups feature extra-thick bar magnets that offer a tight magnetic field that results in a stronger output.
In our tests, the neck pickup sounded brighter than a regular Tele neck pickup. The output was also a bit more powerful, and clearer without losing its neck pickup identity.
On the other hand, the bridge pickup gave us that twangy tone that made the Tele a staple of country, rock, and blues. This pickup gave us sparkly cleans and also performed great when we dialed in some overdrive on our Tube Screamer. The tone had a nice bite to it, and was particularly great for solos in soft rock and blues contexts.
This guitar comes with a very comfortable maple neck that features a medium “C” profile on a 9.5-inch-radius fingerboard. This guitar has great playability and good tuning stability along the fretboard. It comes with 22 medium-jumbo nickel frets, and your typical tele 25.5″ scale length.
In short, this is a very nice guitar for folks that like traditional Teles and want to get as close to the real deal as possible. Despite being a good-sounding guitar with nice playability, folks who value versatility may want to check out other models.
Verdict: The G&L Tribute ASAT is built with solid sassafras and Leo Fender-designed pickups. This guitar is a great option for folks that like traditional Teles for rock, blues, country, and jazz.
Classic Humbucker and single coil tele configuration.
This Tele-style signature guitar was specifically designed for prog rock virtuoso Nick Johnston and features one of the most sought-after Tele pickup combinations. It offers true Tele tone and feel, as well as versatility for the modern player.
The Schecter Nick Johnston Signature PT features an alder body that gives it a full sound and good sustain. The neck is made of roasted hard maple that feels smooth and features a vintage “C” shape for comfort.
This guitar comes loaded with a Schecter Nick Johnston single-coil pickup at the bridge position and a Diamond ’78 for the neck. We started by trying out the bridge pickup with some distortion that came via our Tube Screamer. We got a great sound with a forward tone and powerful crunch that works great for rock, blues, and even some fusion.
With our TS on bypass, we tried the bridge pickup on clean. Here we got a twang full of attitude and in a true tele voice. This tone was great for country, and also worked great when paired with our Boss overdrive, with a nice edge and sustain to it.
We then moved on to try the Diamond ’78 humbucker on the neck. Here we got full-bodied clarity on clean, which works nicely for traditional jazz context with a Tele feel. This pickup also works very well with overdrive, with a balanced tone that can fit in a variety of styles, including blues and jazz.
Regarding playability, we really liked how the ebony fingerboard felt. It gave us great response and intonation and worked nicely with the 22 jumbo frets. With a 25.5″ scale length and 14″ radius, we felt right at home with this tele style guitar.
Verdict: The Schecter Nick Johnston Signature PT is a good option for rock players that also play jazz and blues. This guitar sounds and feels great and offers true Tele twang and playability. Additionally, it comes at an affordable price tag that will fit multiple budgets.
How To Choose The Best Telecaster Copy For You!
There are several factors to consider when buying a Tele copy. There is a vast array of pickup combinations available, different types of necks with different features, bridge options, and much more.
Of course if your goal is a different tele experience, bare in mind that you can also get thinline models as well as the Acoustasonic – and changing out strings can also rejuvenate a tele you’ve fallen out of love with.
Below we give you some of the most common aspects to look for so you can make an informed decision.
Fender Telecasters traditionally come with a body made of ash. Although ash produces a nice tone and is quite solid, it is also very heavy which can lead to discomfort or even back problems.
Another common tonewood for Telecasters is alder. This choice of wood for the body offers warmth and tends to be a bit lighter than ash, and many players swear by it.
Nowadays you can find Tele-style guitars that use all kinds of different tonewoods for the body. For instance, a popular wood for the body is mahogany, particularly among rock players.
Folks that want an inexpensive Tele copy might want to look into cheaper tonewoods like agathis. Cheaper woods are typically solid enough to learn how to play the guitar, and are recommended for beginners.
A traditional Fender Telecaster comes with two single coil pickups. The neck pickup delivers warmer tones that can be used for a variety of styles, while the bridge pickup displays the twang that Teles are known for and are particularly apt for country music.
In case you want fatter tones for playing rock, then look into Teles with humbuckers. There are several pickup configurations that feature humbuckers, including H-H, S-H, and H-S.
In case you want the best of both worlds, a five-way switching system along with coil splitting may be the way to go. Here you can get humbucker tone as well as a single coil for ultimate versatility.
For folks that play metal or modern rock, there are several Tele type guitars that feature active humbucker pickups. Here you can get a higher output that traditional teles can’t offer.
Neck and fretboard
Vintage Telecasters’ necks tend to be a bit wide, but many players absolutely love how they feel. Having your own criteria on what you like is crucial here.
Many modern Teles, including some of Fender’s, come with a more modern and thinner neck. This normally allows the player to be more comfortable. However, traditional folks tend to like vintage Tele necks.
Tradition aside, you can now get Tele necks with a reduced radius, and with different fretboards other than the typical maple option. It is key to try different necks and fretboards for yourself to truly know what you like.
Telecaster-style guitars have a wide price range that can go from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. On the higher end, you can get collectors items like the Tokai Breezysound Telecaster, which has been out of production for decades.
You can also get boutique-type Teles from the likes of Tyler guitar or even Surh, which will cost somewhere between two to seven thousand dollars. These are very fine guitars that are beloved by their owners.
Naturally, this does not fit the reality of most musicians. Luckily for the rest of us, many quality Tele copies come at a relatively affordable price, and the same is true for Fender Teles.
You also have the option of buying an inexpensive Tele and customizing it with different pickups, hardware, etc.
Final Thoughts on The Best Telecaster Copies
The Telecaster is one of the most beloved electric guitars in history and for good reason. It provides a unique design with a particular twangy feel that is embedded in the history of western music.
Styles like country, rock, and blues would be quite different without the Telecaster. From Keith Richards to fusion maestro Mike Stern, the Tele has had a pivotal role in music and continues to do so today.
It now comes in a variety of configurations and appeals to players from all styles and levels. After it’s sibling the Strat (understand the differences here), the Tele is arguably the most popular guitar model ever.
To recap our top choices, the Schecter PT Fastback II is our Top Pick as it offers a fantastic blend of modern characteristics with vintage elements like a Bigsby, making it a wonderful Tele copy.
The Donner DTC-100 is our Best Budget choice. It features a traditional Tele design complete with two single coil pickups and is great for beginners that like the sound of a Tele.
Finally, the G&L Fullerton Deluxe ASAT Classic is our Editor’s Choice. This guitar features upgraded pickups designed by Leo Fender, as well as characteristics that suit discerning professionals that require the best Tele on the market and are willing to pay for it.