The Telecaster is unarguably one of the most popular yet mythical guitars in history. Initially known as the Fender Broadcaster, it had to change to Telecaster in 1951 for legal reasons.
Its design stands out as one of the simplest in electric guitar history, but it’s still very popular to this day. At first, the Tele only employed single-coils, but in 1968 started to produce some models with humbuckers.
Humbuckers were a godsend for guitarists who wanted a Tele with fatter and warmer tones while still retaining many of the original properties. Humbuckers also helped with noise reduction and became popular choices in many Telecaster-type guitars, from SH configurations to HH.
There are endless Tele-style guitars that employ humbuckers, from major brands as well as more boutique companies. With so many options, how do you make sense of it all? We’re here to help. Keep on reading.
Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum
Features: Doubletap neck humbucker, Yosemite single coil bridge pickup, Modern C neck
Benefits: Exceptional playability, Super versatile tones, High end reliability
Charvel Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2
Features: Dual Duncan Designed humbuckers, Tune-O-Matic bridge, Thumbwheel truss rod adjustment
Benefits: Easy to set up, Punishing tones, Great feel
Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe
Features: Ceramic humbuckers, C Shape neck, Individual volume/tone controls
Benefits: Excellent beginner guitar, Tons of tonal control, Lightweight and comfortable
- Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum
- Charvel Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2
- Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe
- Our Top 3
- Individual Reviews
- How to Choose The Right Guitar For You
- Final Thoughts
Our Top 3
The Charvel Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2 HH is our Top Pick for this article. Featuring a higher output thanks to its two humbuckers, it was designed in conjunction with Gojira’s frontman and guitarist Joe Duplantier.
The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe is our Budget Choice. This guitar is a great option for students and beginners, offering a combination of genuine Tele feel with a powerful humbucker tone in a truly affordable instrument.
Last but not least, we’ve got the Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum as our Editor’s Choice. This guitar is for true professionals and offers the traditional tone and feel of a Tele’s single-coil bridge pickup, with the warmth and punch of a humbucker at the neck position. Made in California, this guitar is for discerning musicians willing to pay for quality.
Charvel Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2 HH
Tone and playability with a simple design.
Tone and playability with a simple designA straightforward Tele-style guitar with higher output and unmistakable humbucker tone. With modern appointments and nice playability, this guitar is a great buy.
The Charvel Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2 HH guitar was designed in conjunction with the frontman and guitarist of the groundbreaking metal band Gojira, in order to provide a wide palette of tones.
The first thing we noticed and liked about this guitar was the ebony fretboard, which not only felt familiar, but was quite responsive to our playing. We loved the fact that Charvel designed this guitar with a compound radius, a trait that’s common with higher-end instruments. This gave us a nice feel and grip, especially when going up the frets, as the ratio goes from 12″ to 16″.
During our tests, the neck felt stable thanks to the graphite reinforcement inlaid into it. And in case you want to carry out any neck adjustments, this guitar comes with a truss rod for easy adjustments.
This Charvel comes outfitted with a pair of Duncan Designed HB-103s and we did our tests plugged into our Twin Reverb. We started by going into our EHX Big Muff Fuzz and got tons of output at high-gain settings while retaining focus and a clear sound.
A single volume knob and 3-way pickup selector make this Charvel quite straightforward and it was easy to get the tones we wanted. For aggressive distortion, we preferred the bridge pickup. On the other hand, the neck pickup gave a rounder tone that can be aggressive or a bit more mellow with the gain on the pedal or amp dialed back.
In short, a simple and well-built instrument that delivers great tones on a nice-looking tele-style guitar.
Verdict: The Charvel Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2 HH gives you a wide array of tonal possibilities. This guitar was designed with Gojira’s guitarist Joe Duplantier and offers an ideal combination of quality, price, and versatility.
Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe
A great choice for students and beginners.
Squier instruments are under the umbrella of Fender, the original maker of the Telecaster. This guitar is made especially for the beginner that wants a well-made Tele with humbuckers but at an affordable price.
The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe gives you a combination of genuine Tele feel with a powerful humbucker tone in a truly affordable instrument.
As soon as we picked up this guitar, we enjoyed the lightweight poplar body. Poplar has become a nice alternative for Alder, as it offers balanced tonal characteristics that are similar to the latter, but with a lighter feel, and it’s cheaper.
We started playing a few riffs on this Squier and immediately liked the C-shape maple neck with a bolt-on design. Not only was it comfortable to play on this neck, but it also made us feel at home since maple is one of the most common neck wood choices for Telecasters.
Speaking of Telecasters, this guitar features your typical Fender 25.5″ scale length, which added to that sense of familiarity and comfort we had while playing it. We also liked the simple pairs of volume and tone knobs to control the tone in a straightforward manner.
We played for a while on both pickups, a pair of ceramic humbuckers. At first, we tried the bridge humbucker along with our Ibanez Tube Screamer going into our Fender Twin. We got a nice growl with attitude, perfect for rock and beyond. With the gain dialed a bit back, we got a penetrating tone with nice sustain that can work nicely for blues solos or similar contexts.
Moving on to the neck pickup, we got a warmer tone that can take distortion well and also sound nice while clean. This makes the Squier Affinity Tele Deluxe a great instrument for beginners looking for an affordable choice that delivers great tone and playability – you can see why it made our list of the best guitars on the market today.
Verdict: The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe offers a genuine Tele feel and playability with a punchy humbucker tone. This instrument is perfect for students and beginners who like a Tele with higher output and need an affordable instrument.
Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum
A top-notch Tele for true professionals.
This guitar gives you the traditional tone and feel of a Tele's single coil bridge pickup but adds the warmth and punch of a humbucker at the neck position. Made in California, this guitar is a true American original that feels and sounds fantastic.
The Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum gives you great tone and flexibility by featuring superior characteristics with a single-coil pickup on the bridge position and a humbucker for the neck. Made at Fender’s California factory, this guitar is a solid choice for dedicated professionals who like Telecasters.
We liked how this Telecaster delivers an authentic vintage feel and tone by providing a Yosemite Tele single-coil twang that sounded great through our Fender Twin Reverb. Here we got an unmistakable clean Tele tone, perfect for country and blues.
With a bit of overdrive added via our Tube Screamer, we got a penetrating single-coil tone that was great for a variety of styles, especially blues, country and rock.
Moving on to the neck pickup, this Fender Tele is outfitted with an American Performer DoubleTap Humbucker. On clean, we got a warm and fat tone that was perfect for chord comping in many styles. With the tone knob at low settings, this neck pickup gave us a tone that reminded us a bit of jazz master Bill Frisell.
Once we added distortion and rolled the tone way up, the DoubleTap neck humbucker gave us an aggressive tone that was great for power chords. This humbucker features Alnico V magnets for a stronger output that came through our Twin Reverb amp.
We also liked the addition of a Greasebucket tone control, which allowed us to roll off some highs without adding bass or altering our volume.
Regarding playability, we loved the feel of the maple modern “C” neck, especially as it came with a 9.5″ radius maple fingerboard that was comfortable with an authentic Tele feel. In short, a fantastic guitar for folks who value the bitey yet modern tone and feel of a Tele.
Verdict: The Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum gives you the original Tele feel and tone on a superior instrument. This USA-made Telecaster also excels in playability and versatility, and is a fantastic choice for discerning players who want the best tone and feel a Tele can offer.
Fender Player Telecaster HH
Tele feel and vibe with aggressive tone.
This guitar is ideal for folks that love authentic Tele feel but with a more aggressive output. Fender delivers this with two humbucker pickups that can tackle anything from rock and blues all the way to jazz.
The Fender Player Telecaster HH comes with a dual humbucker design to deliver powerful and throaty sounds, as well as mellower tones. All of this comes with Tele playability and feel with modern appointments for greater comfort.
We plugged this guitar into our Blues Jr Fender amp with our Ibanez Tube Screamer as the only effect on the chain. We dialed some heavy distortion and got a forward and bold tone on the Player Series Alnico 2 bridge humbuckers. This pickup gave us nice sustain for solos, as well as good string definition for aggressive riff playing.
We then moved to the neck pickup, also a Player Series Alnico 2 humbucker. On clean, we got a nice warmth and a full sound that can work in various contexts, even jazz. We played a few chord solos à la Ted Greene and got a nice response to our nuances.
With a bit of overdrive, we got a mid-forward humbucker tone that had a nice attack to it. This was perfect for note sustain on blues or even more modern jazz solos. We then hit the push-pull tone pot to get a coil-split single-coil sound that worked nicely with a bit more saturation.
We loved the playability and feel of this guitar, which was purely Fender. The Modern C maple neck felt great and it came with a 9.5″ radius and Pau Ferro fingerboard that was responsive to our playing. With 22 Medium Jumbo frets and a scale length of 25.5″, we felt right at home with this Telecaster. Naturally, some traditional folks may wish for more of an authentic Tele tone.
Verdict: The Fender Player Telecaster HH gives you familiar Fender Tele playability and feel on a dual humbucker design for powerful tones that can also be mellow at times. With features like push-pull coil splitting and a Pau Ferro fingerboard, this Tele plays and feels great.
Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 70's Telecaster Deluxe
Affordable and aggressive sound with a vintage flair.
This guitar is an affordable option for students and beginners that want a dual humbucker configuration on a vintage-looking instrument. With a traditional Tele feel, you get a more aggressive sound thanks to the humbucker pickups featured on both the neck and bridge positions.
The Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ‘70s Telecaster Deluxe is an authentic tribute to the Telecaster of the 1970s. With a unique vintage look that includes a 1970s-inspired headstock, this guitar features two Fender-Designed Wide Range humbucking pickups.
The body is made of Poplar, which helps keep the cost down. We plugged into our Fender Blues Jr. amp and dialed in some distortion via our Tube Screamer. We got a bitey and forward tone on the neck pickup that did well with basic power chords and riffs. Although we liked the sound, we wished it had a bit more sustain, particularly for held-out notes on solos.
Moving on to the neck humbucker, the distorted tone was a bit darker, which can be useful in several contexts. We actually liked this pickup a bit more for solos, as the tone was a bit rounder and more musical. We also tried both pickups in clean and liked the neck humbucker better.
On the subject of playability, we liked how this instrument felt. Although it looks like a vintage Tele, it feels like a traditional Tele. Our hands were at home with this Squier’s comfortable C-shaped neck that features a standard 9.5” radius. With a typical Tele maple neck and fingerboard, it was as easy to play as any other standard Fender.
In short, a nice Tele Squier that gives you a classic vibe with aggressive humbucker sounds.
Verdict: The Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ‘70s Telecaster Deluxe gives you a traditional Fender feel and playability on a Telecaster inspired by the 1970s. It comes with a striking vintage look, 1970s-inspired headstock, and two Fender-Designed Wide Range humbucking pickups.
G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy
A Leo Fender 70's vision for the Tele.
G&L was founded by Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Dale Hyatt in the late 1970s, and has become one of the most respected brands for Fender-typed instruments. This is a modern take on the Telecaster by Leo Fender himself, the man that revolutionized the electric guitar.
The G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy guitar is a factory-modded version of Leo Fender’s updated vision of a Tele-type instrument. It gives you great versatility by offering a classic Alnico humbucker pickup in the neck position and a G&L Magnetic Field Design single-coil for the bridge.
We plugged this guitar into our Fender Twin Reverb to test it out. We started playing some bluesy licks on the G&L Magnetic Field Design single-coil pickup. Here we got a crisp attack with classic Tele bridge twang and bite. This position in clean was great for some chicken picking and would fit nicely in a country or blues context.
With a bit of significant distortion added via our Tube Screamer, we got a nice growl with complex harmonics, perfect for penetrating licks, aggressive riffing, and power chords.
Moving on to the G&L AS4255C Alnico neck humbucker on clean, the tone provided us with a nice warmth that worked well with some jazz chord solos. We added a bit of overdrive and the tone knob dialed back a bit, we got a tone that could be used for blues or even a jazz context in the vein of John Scofield.
When more aggressively distorted, the neck pickup gave us a nice and round punch that went well with a bit of delay and reverb for solos. We also liked how it sounded for power chords with the tone knob all the way up.
The Tribute Series ASAT Classic Bluesboy’s body is made of poplar, making it a bit lighter than your typical Telecaster. Besides the comfort we got from a lighter instrument, the maple neck was also comfortable. It comes with a rosewood fingerboard in a medium C shape that will be familiar to many players.
In short, a nice instrument that delivers at an affordable price. That said, the choice of poplar for the body does limit its sustain a bit.
Verdict: The G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy is Leo Fender’s revised vision of what a Telecaster should be. With great versatility on an S-H configuration, this guitar gives you a bit of a darker tone, with Tele flavor and feel.
Sire Larry Carlton T7 FM
A guitar made in collaboration with an A list player.
As one of the most recorded guitarists in history, Larry Carlton is a legend. Sire teamed up with the studio great to design a guitar that offers versatility and quality, at a good price point.
The Sire Larry Carlton T7 FM comes with an alder body and a flamed maple veneer top, with the nice touch of a gloss body finish. This Sire Tele also comes with a dual humbucker configuration for offering punch and warmth.
We plugged this guitar into our EHX Fuzz and then into our Fender Twin Reverb for the tests. We started by trying out both pickups in high gain settings, as they were designed for canceling interference and to ensure hum-free operation. Both the neck and bridge pickup delivered on this promise, as we got no hum when playing with our Fuzz dialed-in aggressive levels.
The bridge pickup gave us high output and a forward tone that’s sure to come through even in a dense mix. We played through several riffs and liked how this Alnico V pickup sounded at high-gain settings. We then tried it clean to find a nice tone that was a bit darker than your typical Tele bridge pickup twang.
Moving on to the neck pickup on clean, we got a warm and round tone that was nice for complex and extended voicings. With distortion, power chords came to life in an aggressive and slightly darker tone.
We loved the fact that this Sire employs a 5-way pickup switching in order to offer single-coil sounds as well. Both the bridge and neck pickup gave us more of a typical Tele-type of sound on these positions, twangy for the bridge and rounder for the neck.
Regarding playability, this comes with a roasted hard maple neck and features a fingerboard with edges rolled for greater comfort. The neck was responsive to our playing and felt like your typical fender instrument, with a 25.5″ scale length.
Verdict: The Sire Larry Carlton T7 FM is a nice humbucker Tele-type guitar for blues, rock, and even some jazz. This is a good choice for folks who prefer a more modern instrument and aren’t tied to tradition.
How to Choose The Right Guitar For You
There are some key factors to consider when buying a Tele outfitted with humbuckers. The first question is whether you want the guitar to have two humbuckers (HH configuration) or a single coil and a humbucker (SH configuration).
Other factors like tonewoods used, neck type and construction, and price also play a role. Below, we list a few of the most common characteristics to consider.
Fender Telecasters are commonly built with a body made of ash or alder. The first one produces a nice tone but is very heavy. The second offers warmth and is a bit lighter than ash.
Other Teles are built with mahogany for the body. This choice gives you enhanced sustain and a richer low-end response but also increases costs. However, the mantra “you get what you pay for” is very much present when it comes to guitars.
Finally, guitarists who want a more affordable Tele may consider cheaper tonewoods like poplar. A poplar body is recommended for beginners, as it’s more affordable. The tradeoff? Poplar reduces the sustain of your instrument.
Teles with humbuckers provide you with fatter tones and are, therefore, popular choices for playing rock. There are different pickup configurations that feature humbuckers, including HH, SH, and HS.
If you want a versatile Tele that features at least one humbucker, consider a five-way switching system with coil-splitting. Guitars that feature these will give you a humbucker tone as well as a single-coil for ultimate versatility. Other options include a humbucker on the bridge position with a single-coil on the neck (H-S configuration) or vice versa (S-H configuration).
Although Teles are often thought of as more traditional guitars, some folks love them for metal or modern rock. These instruments typically feature active humbucker pickups that offer you a higher output with tons of growl and a very aggressive tone. One common path is to buy the tele that feels the best to play, and then upgrade the pickups to a set that matches your sonic goals.
The more traditional Tele necks are usually a bit wide. However, some players swear by them. Modern Teles feature a more modern and thinner neck, which is generally more comfortable.
The neck and fretboard characteristics are largely personal choices, so you’d have to try a few and see what you like.
Naturally, different guitarists have different needs, and picking up a humbucker equipped tele is gradually becoming more of a thing for heavier style guitarists (just as strats with humbuckers continue to bloom in popularity). There are plenty of options out there and we hope this article helped you narrow your choices a bit.
To recap our best picks, the Charvel Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2 HH is our Top Pick for this list and comes with a higher output thanks to its two humbuckers, part of the design choices made by Charvel and Gojira’s frontman and guitarist Joe Duplantier.
The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe is our Budget Choice and a great option for students and beginners. With a combination of genuine Tele feel with an emphatic humbucker tone, this is a nice yet affordable instrument.
Finally, the Fender American Performer Telecaster Hum is our Editor’s Choice. This guitar provides the traditional tone and feel of a Tele’s single-coil bridge pickup, but adds the warmness and force of a humbucker at the neck position. This US-made guitar is for wise musicians ready to pay for a superior instrument.