There are so many appealing things about electric guitars. And one of the most sought-after features these days is having stable performance with those lower tunings. This is usually the case with metal musicians, although some other genres also work well with such settings. But if you want to use lower tunings without your strings feeling like rubber, then it’s time to check out some best baritone guitars.
- 1 What Are Baritone Guitars?
- 2 Top 6 Best Baritone Guitars Reviews
- 2.1 Best for Classic Rock: Gretsch G5260T Electromatic Jet Baritone
- 2.2 Most Versatile Baritone Guitar: ESP LTD BB-600 Ben Burley Signature
- 2.3 Best for the Money: PRS SE 277 Baritone
- 2.4 Best Baritone Guitar for Modern Metal: ESP LTD SCT-607B Stephen Carpenter Signature
- 2.5 Best Budget Baritone Guitar: ESP LTD Viper-201B
- 2.6 Best Vintage-Oriented Option: Danelectro 66BT
- 3 Conclusion
What Are Baritone Guitars?
But before we start, let’s first see what actually baritone guitars are. The term itself is a bit loose as extended-range guitars are taking over and could also be defined as “baritone” instruments.
In simple terms, baritone guitars are instruments with noticeably longer scale lengths, which is the distance from the nut and to the bridge. Standard scale lengths are usually up to 25.5 inches, which we see with most of Fender guitar models. With baritone guitars, we have 27 or more inches for this particular parameter. The maximum goes slightly over 30 inches, although we’d not be surprised to see even longer necks.
Of course, this also comes with a different setup. It’s usually recommended to use thicker string gauges, although things may work well even with standard ones. There are also cases of 7-string guitar models marketed as baritone guitars. Technically, they fall into this category due to their scale length and the ability to keep things stable with lower tunings.
Pickups for baritone guitars are often voiced in such a way to work better with lower frequencies. It depends on the particular model and some of the cheaper ones may come with regular pickups that are designed for E standard or tunings that are close to it.
When we’re talking about baritone guitars and tuning, they’re mostly designed to work with C or B standard tunings, which is 4 or 5 semitones (respectively) below the E standard. It’s only obvious that your guitar is going to act differently in these settings, and it’s important for pickups to be better at working with lower frequencies, especially if you’re using distortion.
You might also like: Top 7 Best Pickups for Metal
Other than these things, all features are pretty much the same as with regular guitars. You’ll see the same exact tonewoods and even hardware used for baritone guitars. Designs might change a little since the necks are bigger, although this is not that common.
Top 6 Best Baritone Guitars Reviews
Best for Classic Rock: Gretsch G5260T Electromatic Jet Baritone
Gretsch might not be the first brand that comes to mind when there’s a talk about baritone guitars. However, it’s not always about metal music as lower tunings find great use in some other genres as well, including old school rock ‘n’ roll or surf rock. The Gretsch model that we’re looking into here is G5260T which comes with the company’s Jet body design and their Electromatic series.
Of course, the so-called “Jet” is basically a different variant of the classic single-cutaway Les Paul shape that we’re all used to. The shape has its unique traits, bringing a somewhat deeper cutaway and an overall “softer” vibe. The body here is made entirely out of mahogany. This is accompanied by a maple neck that has a laurel fretboard on it. The body and neck form a classic bolt-on join without any specially designed ergonomic features. The guitar also comes with 22 nickel medium-jumbo frets. Meanwhile, the neck bears a “Thin U” profile, which is also followed by a fretboard radius of 12 inches.
As far as the scale length goes, the G5260T model has a total of 29 and 3/4 inches. This is a pretty long one, allowing you to go to the standard B tuning and using regular gauge strings without them feeling like rubber. The guitar comes with pretty awesome hardware, especially for this price level. It has a tune-o-matic bridge with a classic licensed Bigsby tremolo tailpiece. Both aesthetically and sonically, this guitar gives out some really vintage-oriented vibes because of this tailpiece. On the other hand, a few other aesthetic additions are a bit more “modern,” including its binding on the body edges and the fretboard.
Lastly, the guitar comes with two Gretsch Mini Humbucker pickups, a standard 3-way switch, as well as tone and volume knobs. They have a voicing of their own, giving a slightly “crunchy” tone compared to average humbuckers and what we’d expect from them. The G5206T is a fairly great guitar for lovers of old school kind of tone.
- Not that expensive at all, great deal for the price
- Comes with vintage-oriented licensed Bigsby tremolo tailpiece
- Pretty decent tone
- Neck feels pretty great
- Access to higher frets might feel a bit uncomfortable
Most Versatile Baritone Guitar: ESP LTD BB-600 Ben Burley Signature
To those who love heavier stuff, ESP and their subsidiary LTD do more than a great job for these genres. When it comes to lower tunings, the Ben Burley signature model ESP LTD BB-600 comes as one of the best choices. In fact, this Breaking Benjamin frontman’s guitar has some of its own special surprises.
Once again, we have a modified Les Paul shape, although this one is a bit closer to classic Gibsons. Nonetheless, the cutaway goes deeper and we have some pretty awesome ergonomic features to access the instrument’s higher frets. The heel where the body meets the neck has a very smooth design. This is also accompanied by an indent on the backside of the body’s cutaway, making things very accessible.
The instrument’s body is made of mahogany and has a pretty nicely done finish. This is due to its awesome quilted maple top, which is a pretty awesome addition to such a guitar and something that we see on premium-level instruments. We also have a 3-piece maple neck, an ebony fretboard, 24 extra-jumbo frets, and a scale length of 27 inches.
But the most exciting thing about this instrument is its pickup configuration and controls. Now, this is not like your average solid-body electric guitar. It comes with two Seymour Duncan humbucker pickups, the ’59 in the neck position and the JB in the bridge position. However, the guitar also comes with a piezo pickup in its bridge, as well as a separate output for it. The guitar has a 3-way switch for its conventional magnetic pickups, although it’s made as a standard knob. Along with it, we have individual master volume controls for magnetic pickups and its piezo. It’s a pretty unique guitar in this sense, making it quite a versatile one. It might be a bit expensive, but it’s worth every penny.
- Ergonomic features make playing in higher fret areas really easy
- Comes with an additional piezo pickup and its separate output
- Really great tone, applicable to many musical styles
- Stable tuning
- Great aesthetic features
- Controls might not be that versatile since it doesn’t have tone knobs
Best for the Money: PRS SE 277 Baritone
Among all of the guitar brands, Paul Reed Smith is well-known for their very consistent instruments and great quality for the price. Although they’re not that big in the whole baritone guitar game, there’s one awesome model worth checking out, the PRS SE 277. And just like the rest of the company’s well-known SE series, the guitar comes with PRS’s classic double-cutaway shape.
As the main body material, we once again have mahogany, which is also accompanied by a maple top. However, this is a flamed maple pattern, which is pretty common among PRS guitars. We also have a set-neck construction and a pretty useful design on the backside of the body where it meets the neck. Of course, the guitar features a maple neck and a rosewood fretboard, packed with 22 frets and featuring a fretboard radius of 10 inches. The guitar’s construction also forms a scale length of 27.7 inches, which makes it pretty useful for lower tunings, even with light or medium gauge strings. SE 277 also comes with a plate-style hardtail bridge, with strings going through the body.
Finally, this guitar comes with two very powerful PRS 85/15 S humbucking pickups. Having a slightly hotter output, these are pretty useful for tube-driven amplifiers with less headroom, forcing them easily into overdrive territories. Other than that, the guitar comes with master volume and master tone controls, as well as a “push and pull” feature with the tone knob that splits the humbuckers into single-coil pickups. This is a pretty flexible instrument that fits an abundance of musical styles.
- Great design
- Great deal for the price
- Comes with PRS 85/15 humbuckers
- Great design
- Very reliable
- Nothing at this price level
Best Baritone Guitar for Modern Metal: ESP LTD SCT-607B Stephen Carpenter Signature
There’s no band out there like Deftones and there’s no guitar player like Stephen Carpenter. But knowing that their music is so unique, it’s only obvious that Carpenter would go with a pretty outlandish signature guitar. Teaming up with ESP LTD, they made a pretty awesome SCT-607B baritone guitar as his special signature model.
Now, this is where things get a bit weird and somewhat blurry as to what a definition of baritone guitar actually is. It’s a 7-string electric guitar with a scale length of 27 inches. What’s really exciting is that it comes with a Telecaster body shape and some classic vintage-oriented design features, like its control plate which is an obvious tribute to classic Fender Telecasters. On the other hand, it comes with some design, ergonomic, and other features that put things into a more modern setting. First off, the body finish is a unique shade of sparkling green. Then we also have the same kind of set-neck construction with all of the same ergonomic design features which allow easier access to higher frets. While we’re at it, the guitar has a pretty comfortable neck design and 24 extra-jumbo frets, making it a great choice for lead players in metal music.
But taking a look at its pickups and electronics, we have something that no other guitar on the market has (at least to our knowledge). The two special Fishman Fluence SRC signature humbucker pickups are positioned in a rather unusual way. Sure, one of them is in the standard bridge position. Meanwhile, the other one is in the middle instead of the neck position, giving a pretty unusual sonic combo. What’s more, there’s also a push/pull feature on the master volume knob which delivers two different voicing modes. These make an impact on both pickups, toggling between active and passive modes. With this said, these are practically active pickups. The overall sonic output is pretty heavy with a slight “crunchy” twist to it.
- Very versatile and unique tone-shaping options
- It comes with a one-of-a-kind design and premium design features
- Great ergonomic features, easy access to higher frets
- 24 extra-jumbo frets make it great for lead players
- It’s a bit expensive
Best Budget Baritone Guitar: ESP LTD Viper-201B
While we’re at it, there’s yet another ESP LTD model worth mentioning here. After all, they’ve specialized in making some great metal-oriented guitars for those who like lower tunings. Up next, we have their Viper-201B. This time around, it’s a double-cutaway guitar, featuring a body shape that brings a more modern and stylish twist to the classic Gibson SG design. And it’s also important to note that the instrument is relatively cheaper, which is a surprise when we take a look at some of its features.
Just like you’d expect from a classic SG-shaped guitar, it has a mahogany body and a set-in body and neck joint, which is a pretty great thing for an affordable baritone guitar. The neck is made of maple and comes with a roasted jatoba fretboard and 24 extra-jumbo frets. The scale length s 27 inches, which is a standard one for baritone guitars. We also have some pretty nicely done inlays and binding on the neck.
As for its pickups, we have ESP-designed LH-150N and LH150B. These are pretty much a standard deal for most of the cheaper LTD guitars. And while nothing special, they can do a pretty decent job for an abundance of genres.
- Affordable, great deal for its price
- Comes with set-neck construction
- Great neck and ergonomic features
- Comes with 24 frets
- Pickups could be better
Best Vintage-Oriented Option: Danelectro 66BT
Baritone guitars are also popular among some vintage-oriented players. And what a better deal for this setting than to go with a Danelectro guitar. After all, this company is quite popular for bringing back some of the 1960s tones and aesthetic features. For this list, we’re bringing Danelectro’s 66BT baritone guitar.
This instrument is pretty weird in so many ways. And we can notice that right from the very first glance. Although it has a double-cutaway design, the bass-side has a slightly deeper cutaway. In fact, the whole instrument has that vibe of a melted and reversed Strat. Nonetheless, the instrument comes with its awesome qualities, including a semi-hollow body made out of alder.
Looking further into it, we have a maple neck with a pau ferro fretboard. It forms a bolt-on joint with the body and the instrument has a total scale length of 29.75 inches. But although the instrument is vintage-oriented, the fretboard is somewhat flat, featuring a radius of 14 inches. This is all accompanied by an impeccable Wilkinson Vibrato bridge and die-cast nickel tuning machines, both of which can keep the tuning pretty stable.
And yet another special thing about this guitar is the pickup combination. In the bridge position, it has a pretty unique dual “lipstick” humbucker pickup. Although a dual-coil, its particular design still manages to bring out some brightness in there. In the neck position, we have a single-coil in the style of P90 pickups. Aside from a regular 3-way pickup selector switch, we have a push/pull volume potentiometer that splits the bridge humbucker.
The guitar might be for those with a specific taste. However, this is a pretty great instrument that’s well-worth its price.
- Unique vintage-oriented design
- Pretty unconventional pickup combination
- Great options for tone shaping
- Longer scale length makes it great for really low tunings
- Its design might be too unconventional for some players
Although baritone guitars are not that common, we still have a pretty vast collection to choose from on the market these days. At the same time, it’s really important not to go with any baritone guitar model just because it’s marketed as one.
The models that we mentioned above are pretty much a safe bet. Of course, you’ll first need to think of a genre that you want to play and then choose from there. But nonetheless, these instruments bring enough quality features, reliability, and flexibility to get you covered for your needs.
And since this is somewhat of a specific territory, we’d advise you to first try out baritone guitars and see how they feel in your hands before actually buying one. After all, having longer scale lengths and using different tuning might feel like a world of difference to some players.