Ever since it launched in its original Esquire and Broadcaster incarnations, the Telecaster body style has inspired guitarists of all genres – from country to punk to classic rock to avant-garde-noise-jazz, it’s hard to think of a style of guitar playing that doesn’t feature any T-type players at all.
While the common or garden Telecaster itself is notoriously versatile, its design has inspired many guitar makers to give the formula a twist of their own – each geared to a specific type of player.
What to look for when buying a Telecaster?
The phrase T-type usually denotes two things – a flat-topped single-cut design, and/or an electronics layout mimicking that of the original. Traditional-leaning T-styles will often sport dual-single coil pickups, alongside a three-way blade switch and master volume/tone controls housed in a metal control plate.
More modern-leaning designs might be fitted with humbuckers instead, mimicking the 70’s Telecaster Deluxe’s control layout (which itself takes some cues from a certain other singlecut’s electronics), and some might even do away with the scratchplate-centred construction entirely, leading to a sleek, minimalist look. Compared to their S-type siblings, T-style guitars are also more likely to sport hardtailed bridges rather than vibratos, but there are some exceptions.
Best T-Types at a glance
- Fender American Original ’60s Telecaster
- Novo Serus T
- American Ultra Telecaster
- Charvel USA Select San Dimas Style 2
- Suhr Classic T
- James Trussart Deluxe Steelcaster
- Friedman Vintage-T
- Macmull Heartbreaker Custom
- Fano Standard TC6
- Maybach Teleman T54
- Manson MBM-1
- Fender 70th Anniversary Broadcaster
- Vuorensaku T Family Birke
Fender American Original ’60s Telecaster
+ A solid update to the original
+ Great pickups
– Might not appeal to those who need ‘pure’ vintage specs
The range that superseded Fender’s American Vintage series is all about staying as true as possible to iconic models from a bygone era – but not without some concessions to modernity. And for roots rock, 60s pop and R&B-inspired players who know how to use a low- to medium-powered tweed amp, this Telecaster’s combination of cut and punch is manna from heaven. Dave Davies, early Page, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Petty, the Stones – it’s all here and it doesn’t take much effort to find it. It also doesn’t take quite as much effort to execute big bends, thanks to the vintage-incorrect 9.25-inch radius on the fretboard.
Price: $1,999.99/£1,599 Build: Ash body with U-shaped maple neck, 21-fret 9.5” radius rosewood fretboard Hardware: 3-saddle Vintage Style Tele bridge with barrel steel saddles, Pure Vintage Single Line ‘Fender Deluxe’ machineheads Electronics: 2x Pure Vintage ‘64 Gray-Bottom Single-Coil Tele pickups, 3-way blade pickup selector switch, master volume, master tone Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Novo Serus T
+ Novo’s signature luthiery skill is on full display
+ Has a character of its own
Like with all Novo guitars, there’s an unmistakable offset inspiration for the Serus T’s body shape. Moving past the departure in shape, closer inspection reveals that T-style elements feature abundantly. One of these is an Amalfitano TP single-coil at the bridge that’s primed for raunchy, biting tones with just the right amount of treble frequencies. Another is the guitar’s chunky C-shaped neck that sits between ‘50s Tele and early-’60s Strat neck profiles. A metal control plate and ashtray-style hardtail also give hints towards the guitar’s T-styles forebears.
Price: Custom orders start at $2799/£2,490 Build: Tempered red pine slab body, bolt-on tempered maple neck with compound 9.5-12” radius rosewood fretboard, 21 frets, Jescar 6125 fretwire, bone nut Hardware: Gotoh T-style bridge with 3x compensated brass saddles and vintage-style machineheads Electronics: Amalfitano TP bridge and P-45 neck singlecoil pickups, four-way blade pickup selector switch, master volume, master tone Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Fender American Ultra Telecaster
+ Modern appointments all add to playability
+ Noiseless pickups don’t sacrifice tone
– Might turn off vintage purists
When the American Ultra series arrived in 2019, it promised to keep pushing the envelope of what Fender’s core designs could offer, without throwing the proverbial Telecaster baby out with the Telecaster bathwater. In that respect, the Telecaster incarnation succeeded – its “modern-D” neck profile lends the guitar to being played for hours, and in that case those around you will be grateful for the articulate, classy single-coil sounds outputted by the Ultra Telecaster’s electrics. Its pickups are also noiseless, so feel free to play through an overdrive pedal while also keeping the lights on. In all, a great argument for keeping the innovation rolling forward when it comes to Telecasters.
Price: $1,899.99/ £1,859 Build: Alder body with cream binding, bolt-on maple neck with satin urethane finish (gloss on headstock face) and Modern D profile, 10-14” compound radius fingerboard with black pearloid dots and 22 medium-jumbo frets. Bone nut Hardware: 6-saddle American Tele bridge with chromed brass saddles, short-post locking tuners Electronics: 2x Ultra Noiseless Vintage Tele pickups, master volume (S-1 switch), master tone, 3-way blade pickup selector switch Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Fender 70th Anniversary Broadcaster
+ Authentic recreation that proves the original’s value
+ Fantastic pickups
– Installing vintage-correct wiring takes an extra step
With that said, there are (as always, in the world of guitars) also a great many arguments for simply sticking to what works. To that end, Fender recently revived the Broadcast in celebration of seven decades of the guitar. The reissue is a very faithful recreation, complete with a bridge cover, a one-piece maple neck, a vintage-correct 7.25-inch radius fretboard and Custom Shop-designed 50-’51 Blackguard single-coil pickups. While it ships with standard telecaster wiring, a wiring kit is included if you want the original’s blend control.
Price: $1,999.99 / £1,849 Build: Ash body, one-piece maple neck with 7.25” radius, 21 vintage tall frets, bone nut Hardware: Chrome-plated steel bridge with three brass saddles, vintage-style tuners Electronics: 2x Custom Shop Designed ’50-’51 Blackguard single-coil pickups, master volume and master tone, 3-way blade pickup selector Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Suhr Classic T
+ Clear, but not biting, voice
+ Noiseless pickup circuitry
– Very traditional, perhaps too much for some
Suhr’s Classic T has all the hallmarks you’d expect from a T-style. It features a 60s C Vintage Standard neck profile and is available in four retrolicious finishes: Two-Tone Tobacco Burst, Trans Butterscotch, Trans White and Vintage Natural.
The axe derives its tone from two Suhr Classic T single-coils which boast alnico V ‘Special’ magnets. The Neck ‘T’ is designed to dial in clarity and warmth, while the bridge ‘T’ serves up recognisable Tele twang and bite without piercing highs.
Price: $2,799/£2,449 Build: Swamp Ash body with 60’s C Vintage Standard maple neck, 9″-12″ compound-radius maple fretboard Hardware: Suhr locking tuners, Wilkinson 3-saddle bridge Electronics: 2x Classic T single coils, master volume, master tone, 3-way switch, Suhr Silent Single Coil System II Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Charvel USA Select San Dimas Style 2
+ No-nonsense rock machine
+ Comfortable neck
– A Floyd Rose is an all-or-nothing vibrato experience
If there was a metal version of the classic Tele, this would be it. This instrument is built for high-octane shredding with two DiMarzio humbuckers – a DP100F Super Distortion (bridge) and DP-151 PAF Pro (neck) – and a slick compound radius fingerboard with rolled edges. There’s also a non-recessed Floyd Rose Original bridge for you to throw in some crazy whammy dives.
Price: $1,999.99/£1,999.00 Build: Alder body with bolt-on quartersawn maple neck, 12″-16″ compound radius rosewood fretboard Hardware: Floyd Rose Original Double-Locking 2-Point Tremolo, Charvel die-cast machineheads Electronics: DiMarzio DP100F Super Distortion (bridge), DiMarzio DP-151 PAF Pro (neck), 5-Position blade switch, master volume Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
James Trussart Deluxe Steelcaster
+ Innovative design
+ Incredibly responsive and articulate voice
If you’ve encountered thinline T-style guitars before and think you know what to expect here, think again. This guitar will make your bank account break out in a cold sweat.
Through a blackface-style clean amp, you’ll get a gorgeous mixture of Tele-like clarity and old hollowbody depth, but plug into an overdriving Vox or tweed and you’ll immediately appreciate how gloriously alive this guitar feels – at stage volume, it’s almost like grasping with a giant pickup as every physical noise is amplified. There’s a lot of sustain, too, and no shortage of range from the Arcane pickups.
Price: $6,046/ £4,550 Build: Hollow steel body with f-hole and perforated back, bolt-on ’62 profile maple neck with 9-inch radius rosewood fingerboard, 21 narrow-tall 6105 frets Hardware: Kluson vintage-style tuners, 3-saddle vintage ‘ashtray’ bridge with treble side shaved down for player comfort Electronics: Arcane Inc bridge single coil and neck humbucker, three-way blade pickup selector switch, master volume, master tone, pull tone control for coil-split Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
+ Warm, fat pickup voicing
– Relic’d look not for everyone
Friedman’s relic’d T-style electric is a professional workhorse with thoroughbred DNA. If you play alt-country, alternative rock, punk rock or power pop, it’s tough to think of a better (or more bullet-proof) blue-collar guitar than the Vintage-T with which to take care of business as the years of sweat and toil on the road roll by.
What you don’t get are the overly nasal results that can sometimes occur when you pair P-90s with an ash or alder T-style body. The guitar has inherited fatness from the genetic influence of Kalamazoo, but the 50s-style Gibson wiring delivers a broad range of tones thanks to varying degrees of pickup blend, and volume controls that roll-off without too much treble loss.
Price: $2,849/£2,299 Build: Mahogany body, bolt-on maple neck with ‘Classic Vintage Taper’ profile, 10-14” compound radius pau ferro fingerboard with 22 Jescar 47095 frets. Bone nut Hardware: Hardtail bridge and vintage-style machineheads Electronics: x Friedman Classic 90 pickups, 2x volume, 2x tone (CTS pots, Orange Drop capacitors), three-way toggle pickup selector switch Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Macmull Heartbreaker Custom
+ Extremely high attention to detail
+ Bespoke pickups
From Jerusalem comes this exceedingly well-crafted guitar with style and substance in spades. Combined with bespoke pickups – wound for each piece of hand-selected wood – and premium components, the Heartbreaker’s simple array of controls can deliver an extraordinary range of inspiring tones.
Try rolling the tone control off with a rasp of tweedy overdrive dialled in on the amp and flip to the neck position – single notes are rich and complex, with a prominent ‘woo’ vowel sound that’s evocative of Cream-era Clapton available all over the fretboard. Macmull’s attention-to-detail when it comes to guitar building is on full display here, to dazzling effect.
Price: £4,495 Build: Bound one-piece alder body, bolt-on hard maple neck, Madagascar rosewood 9.5” radius fingerboard with clay dot inlays, 21 Dunlop 6105 frets, bone nut, single-action truss rod Hardware: T-Classic hardtail bridge with top-loading or string-through stringing and 3x threaded steel saddles, Gotoh vintage-style tuners Electronics: 2x Macmull matched RVT P-90 pickups, 3-way blade selector switch, Luxe Bumblebee .22uF tone cap, CTS volume and tone pots Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Fano Standard TC6
+ Funky, characterful design
+ Numerous custom options
– Perhaps too much of a departure from tradition for some
The TC6 Alt de Facto is hand-built in the USA, sporting some seriously retro good looks – alongside a feature set to rival other similarly priced models from bigger brands.
All the usual appointments you’d expect are there: string-through alder body, rosewood/maple fretboard, and bolt-on 60s C neck. But one look at the funky pickguard on the TC6 and you’ll realise this isn’t your everyday T-style. It has rolled fretboard edges, a 7.25-to-9.5-inch compound radius fretboard, and, instead of single-coils,TV Jones “SuperTrons” Filter’Trons. These, as you can probably guess, provide vintage sparkle with plenty of warm harmonics.
Price: Custom orders start at $2810 / £2,112 Build: Alder body with bolt-on ‘60s-C maple neck with body color matching upper headcap, Compound 7.25″-9.5″ radius maple fretboard Hardware: Fano 1/2 Comp Bridge with Brass Saddles, Fano-branded Gotoh Vintage machineheads Electronics: 2x TV Jones SuperTrons Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Maybach Teleman T54
+ Warmly voiced pickups
+ Locking tuners
– 7.25”-radius fretboard not for everyone
“Twang” is the calling card of this T-style from Maybach. Decidedly vintage in spec, the T54 has a string-through sugar pine body, maple neck, a 7.25-inch-radius maple fretboard, and a single-ply pickguard. The single-coil pickups, though, bear some modern influence: they’re Amber Twangtones designed to prevent the assertive tone typical of traditional Teles from being too harsh on the ears. Non-locking Gotoh SDS-510 tuners are the only piece of modern hardware on this otherwise proudly old-school take on the T-style electric.
Price: $1,579/£1,469 Build: Sugar pine body with maple neck & 7.25”-radius maple fretboard. Hardware: Aged nickel Maybach three-saddle bridge, Gotoh SDS-510 machineheads Electronics: 2x Amber Twangtone single coils, 3-way blade switch, master volume, master tone Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Manson Meta series MBM-1
+ Heavy, powerful tones on tap
+ Killswitch is interesting if you like it, discrete if you don’t
– Not for those looking for classic T-type tones
The Manson x Cort collaboration that is the MBM-1 sports a very stripped-down design, with a minimalist, pickguard-less front, loaded with two fairly aggressive humbuckers. A Tune-o-matic-style bridge isn’t very common in T-types, but it’ll provide familiar ground for those used to palm-muted chugging on Gibson-styled instruments
There’s also the interesting addition of a kill-button on the top horn for some interesting spluttery, glitchy effects, which, combined with the aggressive humbuckers, make this an easy road to distorted chaos. It’s also affordably-priced, costing a reasonable £569.
Price: $756/£569 Build: Basswood body, bolt-on maple neck, 12-16” compound radius Indian laurel fingerboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets and synthetic nut Hardware: Staggered locking tuners, tune-o-matic bridge and stoptail Electronics: 2x Manson humbuckers, master volume and tone, 3-way pickup selector switch, kill button Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
Vuorensaku T Family Birke
+ Picks out a selection of great specs from all schools
+ Custom options available
The T-Family Birke is a dream guitar. Not only because of its pleasing tones and endless playability, but also because it looks like a hallucinatory amalgamation of disparate ideas – something that would appear in your mind whilst you drift off following a day of binging guitar demo videos.
There’s an element of Jazzmaster in the body shape, not to mention the Mastery bridge and vibrato tailpiece; but that’s combined with a Tele-style control plate and, most distinctively, an elegant German carve around the front edge of the body. The custom wound pickups are a humbucker in the bridge and a P90 in the neck – both vintage-voiced. These, alongside the comfortably chunky neck with a profile described as ‘59 LP,’ introduce some Gibson into the guitar’s smorgasbord of influences. But the neck is maple, with a Fender-style 25.5-inch scale length. If every other T-type is just too ‘T-type’ for your liking, this might be the mashup you need. If you like the sound of that, but have a few suggestions, Vuorensaku offers a number of custom options.
Price: Custom orders start at $4,400/€4,000 Build: Pine body, maple neck, 9.5-10” compound radius pau ferro fingerboard with 21 medium frets Hardware: Gotoh vintage-style tuners, Mastery bridge and tailpiece Electronics: Vuorensaku Custom bridge humbucker and neck P-90, three-way switch, master volume and tone controls Scale Length: 25.5”/648mm
For our pick of the best Strat-style guitars, click here.