8 Best Electric and Acoustic Baritone Guitars
Are you interested in exploring the world of baritone guitars but don’t know where to start? Are you feeling a little bored with electric guitars and want to break out into the world of the electric baritone? Then look no further than this list to find the best baritone guitar on the market today!
Top Picks: The Best Baritone Guitars
Originally inspired by Danelectro’s six string bass model, the Fender VI built on the success of Fender’s Precision Bass guitar. Unfortunately, the original Bass VI model was discontinued in 1975. However, starting in 2013, Fender began a reissue line of the Bass VI model and Squier followed suit in 2019 with the release of the Classic Vibe Bass VI, the best overall choice for a baritone guitar.
The Squier Bass VI features a poplar body. Poplar is becoming a more common choice for Squier and Fender guitars because of its accessibility, sustainability, and price. The Bass VI also features a laurel fretboard. Like poplar, laurel is becoming a more common choice for fretboards because of its relative abundance and environmental sustainability.
The Bass VI also comes with three Fender designed Alnico single coil pickups. The three pickups are controlled by individual on/off switches and master volume and tone knobs. The Bass VI is tuned as a standard electric guitar (E-A-D-G-B-E) but sounds one octave below a regular guitar.
Overall, the Squier Classic Vibe Bass VI is a great choice for a guitarist interesting in exploring the world of baritone guitars. The tuning system, classic Fender pickup design, and longer scale length make for an easy transition for the guitarist accustomed to traditional 6-string electrics. The original Fender Bass VI sells for thousands of dollars currently, so this Squier reissue is a great deal!
The ESP LTD Viper-201B is the budget pick baritone guitar. Renowned for their longstanding relationships with metal guitarists in particular, ESP has developed a reputation for powerful and affordable instruments. Well-chosen woods combined with high-output pickups and quality craftsmanship make for fast and smooth guitars with plenty of style to spare.
The Viper-201B features an all mahogany body, double cutaway body that bears an uncanny resemblance to a Gibson SG. The heavier mahogany body is offset with a lighter, three-piece maple neck topped with a 24 fret roasted jatoba fingerboard. Jatoba is emerging as a popular substitute for rosewood and accentuates a warmer mid-range with enhanced clarity in higher frequency ranges (1).
The Viper 201-B also comes equipped with two specially designed ESP LH-150 humbuckers controlled by a three way toggle switch and master volume and tone knobs. These high output, active pickups are designed to dish out all the low-end brash and snarl you could possibly hope for. Just make sure you unplug your guitar when you are finished shredding so the battery in the active pickup doesn’t drain overnight!
Overall, the ESP LTD Viper 201-B is an awesome choice for a guitarist interested in breaking into the world of baritone guitars without breaking their bank account. The Viper 201-B comes loaded with solid components and ESP’s decades of experience crafting quality instruments. For these reasons, the Viper 201-B is the best budget choice for baritone guitar.
3. Alvarez ABT60 Artist Series Baritone Acoustic Guitar – Best Acoustic
Body Wood: Sitka Spruce Top, Mahogany Back and Sides
- Fretboard Wood: Laurel
- Pickups: None
- Scale length: 27.75″
A baritone acoustic guitar is a rare beast and the Alvarez ABT60 is a true hidden gem in the realm. Originally forged from a partnership between master luthier Kazuo Yairi and St. Louis Instrument’s, Alvarez guitars have been favored by players of many styles for around 50 years (2). Even though both companies have traded hands more than once, Alvarez guitars are still made today in the original Yairi factory in Japan.
Like you would expect from a high-quality acoustic guitar, the ABT60 features a solid Sitka spruce top rounded out by mahogany back and sides. This combination of tonewoods has become standard due to its warmth, balance, and resonance. The ABT60 also features a mahogany neck with a laurel fretboard. Laurel is another popular substitute for rosewood and shares many of the same tonal properties.
The ABT-60 does not feature any sort of electronics or a built-in pickup. There are plenty of after-market options if you want to pursue amplified performance. Like most baritones, the ABT-60 is tuned from B-B, a perfect fourth below the standard tuning of a guitar.
Overall, if you are searching for an affordable acoustic baritone guitar, the Alvarez ABT-60 is your best bet. Baritone acoustic guitars are few and far between, especially at this level of quality and affordability. Alvarez has been the choice luthier of many great players through the years and with the ABT-60 it is easy to feel the attraction.
4. ESP LTD SC-607 Baritone Stephen Carpenter 7-String Electric Guitar – Best 7 String
Body Wood: Alder
- Fretboard Wood: Ebony
- Pickups: 2 Fishman Fluence SRC Humbuckers
- Scale length: 27″
The ESP LTD SC-607 Baritone Stephen Carpenter 7-string guitar is a true beast. This signature model is hand-designed to cover the deep and dark realms of low-end guitar playing. Capable of maintaining proper string tension at the lowest of tunings, the SC-607 is built to handle the most guttural guitar sounds imaginable.
The SC-607 features an alder body. According to Fender (3):
Not especially dense, it’s a lightweight, closed-pore wood that has a resonant, balanced tone brighter than other hardwoods, with a little more emphasis in the upper midrange. It imparts excellent sustain and sharp attack.
These characteristics make alder a great choice for a guitar designed for punishing low end frequencies. The SC-607 also features a neck-through-body design with a three piece maple neck, which again helps to increase clarity and sustain in an otherwise terribly muddy lower frequency range. The SC-607 also comes equipped with a pair of custom designed Fishman Fluence SRC humbuckers, one in the middle position and one in the bridge position.
Overall, The ESP LTD SC-607 Stephen Carpenter 7 string is an awesome choice for the guitarist looking for a baritone 7 string guitar. A baritone 7 string guitar is a true behemoth of the underworld and you want to make sure you have the proper machine to handle that kind of mayhem. If that is your path, then the SC-607 is a perfect vehicle.
Ibanez makes some of the highest quality yet most underrated acoustic guitars on the market today. While mostly known for their shredder RG series and jazzy Artcore line, Ibanez has been scoring big with the AE and Artwood Series acoustic guitars. The Ibanez AE275BT is a nice addition to this success.
The AE275BT features a solid Sitka spruce top for excellent projection and resonance. The AE275BT is complete with Okoume back and sides. Okoume is similar to mahogany, but with a brighter high-end frequency response (4). The AE275BT also features a Nyatoh neck with a Katalox fretboard. Nyatoh is a less expensive choice that is primarily used for guitar necks and Katalox is a harder wood with enhanced durability, making it a great choice for fretboards.
The AE275BT comes equipped with an Ibanez Custom Electronics preamp and Ibanez AP11 pickup. The AP11 pickup is a unique magnetic pickup design that is positioned on top of the soundhole and flush with the back end of the fretboard. The Ibanez Custom Electronics preamp features master volume and master tone controls on the top side of the guitar.
Overall, the Ibanez AE275BT is a more expensive choice for an acoustic baritone guitar than the Alvarez ABT60, but comes with fancier looking tonewoods. If you are interested in something a little different that the usual tonewoods combinations and with a solid pickup system to match, then the AE275BT might be the best choice for you, if you don’t mind paying a few hundred dollars extra.
Body Wood: Nyatoh
- Fretboard Wood: Jatoba
- Pickups: EMG 60 Neck and EMG 81 Bridge
- Scale length: 28″
If you are looking for a serious guitar for some brutal, heavy riffs, look no further than the Ibanez RG series. The Ibanez RG series has been favored by metal guitarists of many persuasions for decades and the RGIB21 is a massive contribution to the enduring power of this series. Compare this baritone to the ESP LTD Viper 201B for reference.
The RGIB21 features a solid Nyatoh body. Nyatoh is more commonly used as a neck wood, but in this situation as a body wood it delivers a similar tone and weight to mahogany. The RGIB21 also features a 3 piece maple neck topped off with a Jatoba fretboard. This is almost the exact same combination of wood timbres from the ESP LTD Viper 201B and is a suitable match for heavier, low-end pursuits.
The RGIB21 also comes equipped with a pair of EMG active humbuckers, an EMG 60 in the neck position and an EMG 81 in the bridge position. This combination of EMG humbuckers has also become something of a staple for heavy metal guitarists. According to EMG (5):
Traditionally used in the bridge position of your guitar, this humbucking pickup will make your leads slice right through even the densest mix.
Overall, the Ibanez RGIB21 Iron Label RG Series guitar is a powerful pick for a high quality baritone electric guitar. Compared to the other “metal” guitar on this list, the ESP LTD Viper 201B, the Ibanez RGIB21 outperforms in style and pickups, but for twice the price, which is why the RGIB21 ranks lower on our list.
One of the first manufacturers to release a baritone guitar, Danelectro guitars have a certain nostalgic cool about them that is difficult to beat. Danelectro guitars maintain their style through the best and worst of times. The Danelectro Vintage baritone electric guitar plays right into the groove of this ever-cool legacy.
The Vintage Baritone features a solid spruce body, which is an unusual choice for an electric guitar. Remember, spruce is a generally chosen for its lighter timbre, enhanced resonance, and increased projection and clarity. The Vintage baritone is complete with a maple neck and 29.75″ Pau Ferro fretboard, further enhancing the light and ethereal nature of the wood combination.
Additionally, the Vintage Baritone comes equipped with a pair of Danelectro’s famous Fat Lipstick pickups. These high-output single coil pickups are ideally suited for rock, country, and surf guitar styles. They are controlled by one master volume control, one master tone control, and a standard three-way toggle switch. A real rocker guitar for sure!
Overall, the Danelectro Vintage Baritone is a sweet deal for a middle of the road price. If you are attracted to the Danelectro body style, then the Vintage Baritone is the perfect choice for you. The combination of a lighter spruce body and a longer than average scale length makes for a particularly clear and comfortable playing guitar.
Body Wood: Mahogany
- Fretboard Wood: Laurel
- Pickups: 2 Gretsch Mini Humbuckers
- Scale length: 29.75″
Like Danelectro, Gretsch is one of the guitar manufacturers that has established its own unique sense of cool, unpretentious quality that is simultaneously affordable and sounds great. The Gretsch Electromatic Jet fits in the same sort of stylistic category as the Danelectro Vintage Baritone. Both instruments harken back to the heyday of early rock and roll.
The G5265 features an all mahogany body. The warmth and depth of mahogany accentuates the lower timbre of the baritone guitar, but could possibly end up a little muddy in the wrong context. The G5265 also features a maple neck with a comfortable laurel fretboard. This is a fitting, lighter combination of woods to match with the mahogany body and could potentially help minimize any muddiness.
The G5265 also comes equipped with a pair of classic mini-humbuckers pickups. These pickups dish out that classic Gretsch growl, without sacrificing any clarity or beauty in cleaner settings and are controlled by a three-way toggle and master volume and tone knobs. Other appointments include the Pearloid Neo-Classical thumbnail fretboard inlays and the anchored Adjusto-Matic Bridge with V-Stoptail.
Overall, the G5265 is a comparable choice to the Danelectro Vintage Baritone and is a great choice for a guitarist interested in a classic body shape and sound with modern craftsmanship and playability. The combination of a longer than average baritone fretboard combined with a heavier mahogany body and classic Gretsch mini-humbuckers makes for a great guitar for rock and roll, blues, jazz, and beyond.
Considerations to Make When Purchasing a Baritone Guitar
It is important to consider the woods used when purchasing a baritone guitar. There are many different choices of woods presented on this list. Some are more common choices, while others are fancier and more rare options. The timbre of a baritone guitar is also an important consideration.
The range of the baritone is traditionally a perfect fourth below an electric guitar and the instrument sits between the electric bass and guitar.
If the correct woods are not used, the instrument can sound muddy. For example, many of the guitars on this list use lighter sounding woods to balance out the lower timbre of the baritone guitar. The two acoustic guitars on the list, the Alvarez ABT60 Artist Series and the Ibanez AE275BT are made from spruce, a standard choice for quality acoustic guitars. The Danelectro Vintage Baritone is also made from spruce, which is also a lighter and more ethereal wood on an electric guitar.
On the other hand, the ESP LTD Viper-201B and Gretsch G5265 Electromatic Jet are both made from mahogany, which is generally a heavier, darker sounding wood and could potentially lead to some issues with clarity and muddiness in the lower registers of the baritone range.
It is important to consider the type of pickups used when purchasing a baritone guitar. What style of music are you interested in playing? Do you play rock or metal? Jazz, funk, or blues? These interests will influence your choice of pickups.
Guitars like the ESP LTD Viper 201B, ESP LTD SCT-607B Stephen Carpenter Signature, and Ibanez RGIB21 Iron Label are mainly used in metal music and therefore feature higher output pickups for searing distorted sustains. The ESP SCT-607B features custom designed Fishman pickups built for maximum sonic output and clarity in the harsh lower frequencies.
The ESP Viper and Ibanez RGIB21 both feature EMG pickups, a standard issue item for many metal guitars.
On the other hand, guitars like the Squier Classic Vibe Bass IV, Danelectro Vintage Baritone, and Gretsch Electromatic Jet are more frequently used in rock, blues, surf, or country music and therefore feature less intense pickups than the two ESPs and the Ibanez. The Squier features three Alnico Fender single coils for that classic Fender spanky sound and the Danelectro features Danelectro’s renowned Fat Lipstick pickups which can be heard on many famous surf guitar recordings. Finally, somewhere in-between the two, the Gretsch Electromatic Jet features mini-humbuckers which are neither humbuckers or single coils.
Finally, it is important to consider the scale length when purchasing a baritone guitar. The scale length will determine how well the guitar plays and stays in tune. For example, a standard electric guitar has a scale length generally between 24.5″ – 25.5″. Baritone guitars on this list range from 27″ – 30″.
At the lower end of the range, the ESP LTD Viper-201B, the ESP LTD SC-607, and the Ibanez AE275BT all have 27″ scale lengths. The other acoustic choices, the Alvarez ABT60 features a slightly larger 27.75″ scale length. Chords on this acoustic might feel a little more comfortable than on the Ibanez. You would be surprised what that extra 0.75″ can do!
The Ibanez RGIB21 Iron Label features a 28″ scale length. This is an average scale length for baritone guitars on this list. The spacing of the frets will feel comfortable on this guitar and there should be no issues with clarity as you move up the neck. The Gretsch Electromatic and Danelectro Vintage baritone both feature 29.75″ scale length fretboards. This 1.75″ increase further enhances the clarity and comfort of the baritone range. Finally, the Squier Classic Vibe Bass VI features a massive 30″ scale length, which is comparable to many electric basses.
Yes, baritone guitars can replace the bass in some circumstances. The standard range for a baritone guitar is a perfect fifth above the bass, so while it can’t reach as low as a standard electric bass, it can come close to providing the same foundation.
Yes, you can play a baritone guitar through a standard guitar amplifier. However, be careful as the increase in lower frequencies may damage your amplifier’s speaker. You would be perfectly safe with a bass amplifier, or you could get a speaker specially voiced for your guitar amplifier.
The traditional baritone guitar tuning is a perfect fourth below the standard electric guitar tuning. This means that a baritone guitar is generally tuned B – E – A – D – F♯ – B. However, some of the guitars on this list, including the Squier Classic Vibe Bass VI and ESP LTD SCT-607B Stephen Carpenter are tuned differently.
- Tonewood Spotlight: Jatoba. Retrieved from: https://www.andrewwhiteguitars.com/tonewood-spotlight-jatoba/
- About Alvarez Guitar. Retrieved from: https://www.alvarezguitars.com/about/
- Ash Vs. Alder: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from: https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/ash-vs-alder-whats-the-diff
- Okoume. Retrieved from: https://www.stewmac.com/tonewoods/electric-guitar-bodies-and-necks-and-wood/electric-guitar-body-blanks/okoume-paint-grade-body-blank.html
- EMG 81. Retrieved from: https://www.emgpickups.com/guitar/81.html