Best S-Style Guitars Guide

If someone says ‘guitar’, an S-style will usually be the first thing that comes to mind. As one of the world’s first established electric guitar designs, the S-style is considered the blueprint for all.

Its tried-and-tested formula has stood for decades; used by a countless amount of high-profile guitarists. However, rather than going for something from the most iconic brand, it can be nice to own something that possesses a slightly more unique vibe. In this guide, we’ve identified some of the best S-style alternatives that you can buy today!

Written by

James Hurman

The original S-type is recognised as one of the most versatile guitars out there and is adored particularly for its bright and crisp tones. The unmistakable S-style sound can be attributed to two key factors in its design; a bolt-on construction and vibrant-sounding single-coil pickups. The S-type is a versatile instrument that is perfect for funk and blues with a clean, dynamic rhythm sound that can stretch into smooth, sustaining overdrive. There are many variants on the S-type – often replacing the bridge single-coil for a meatier sounding humbucker, which is perfect for handling crunchy rock and metal sounds.

There are a few aesthetic elements that make the classic S-type instantly discernible too. With its double-cut shape, unmistakable headstock design and tremolo bridge, many players admire the S-style as much for its vintage looks as they do for its tones.

Many other guitar companies have taken inspiration from the aspects of the initial '50s-designed S-type: producing their own instruments that are similar in terms of features and looks. We’ve compiled a list that includes some of the best S-type alternatives that we could find. Let’s take a look!

If you’re looking for a well-constructed entry level S-Type guitar, look no further than the ST1 from EastCoast. It is not only affordable, but able to pump out plenty of characterful tones thanks to its trio of single-coil pickups. The classic body shape inspires memories of a bygone era, and its lightweight body makes it an excellent gigging workhorse. With options for Maple or Rosewood fingerboards, the ST punches well above it's weight in wood selections, providing the feel and tone of a far more expensive guitar! The traditional bolt-on design and SSS pickup configuration gives these guitars the signature S-Type snap. Combined with the tonal versatility of the 5-way pickup switch, the ST1 will handle all manner of genres from funk to blues. But if you're a fan of heavier Rock and Metal sounds, the ST2 is the perfect option for you, opting for a meatier sounding humbucker pickup in the bridge position, perfect for higher gain to give you all of the classic rock tones from AC/DC to Metallica.

EastCoast ST1 on Andertons T.V.

G&L's Legacy models are also worthy of note. Designed by Leo Fender after his tenure at his eponymous company, these guitars feature MFD (Magnetic Field Design) pickups that are known to deliver a more balanced sound; featuring adjustable iron pole pieces and responsive ceramic magnets. Also fitted with the acclaimed G&L Dual-Fulcrum tremolo system, this bridge’s low-friction design gives you a smoother feel and offers better tuning stability too. G&L cater to every budget, from high-end American-made guitars, to the Tribute range, boasting American electronics and hardware for under £500!

G&L Legacy on Andertons T.V.

Sire have partnered with jazz fusion legend Larry Carlton to bring you their take on the iconic S-style. It’s C-Shaped neck and 9.5” radius will feel very familiar to players used to a traditional S-Style guitar. The S7 offers premium features and specs in the £500 range. Available in both SSS and HSS, you can choose the style for you. With a roasted maple neck and an optional flamed maple neck, the S7 punches well above its weight for the price point! Tonally, the guitars meet Carlton’s high standards, providing in-house designed Alnico pickups, voiced for outstanding clarity and treble-heavy sparkle.

Sire Larry Carlton S7 on Andertons T.V.

The ML-1 line from Chapman has a range of guitars for all players and price points. Complete with colourful flamed and burled finishes, and premium pickups, the ML-1 is a modern take on the S-Style. The ML-1 Hybrid has a versatile HSS configuration to cover a variety of styles, and the ML-1 Modern has a dual Humbucker configuration, making it a pure rock machine. The combination of striking design, premium selected tonewoods and powerful punchy pickups make the ML-1 an excellent option for any modern player.

Chapman ML-1 on Andertons T.V.

The Pacifica range from Yamaha is great option for players who prefer a blend of the traditional S-Type with more modern features. The body shape is a more contemporary take on the classic S-Type design, and its thin neck and flatter fingerboard radius gives it a modern feel. The versatile HSS pickup configuration can take it from spanky country clean to driving rock, making this an excellent gigging instrument!

In 1974, after selling his previous company, Leo Fender founded Music Man, and immediately got to work on modifying the S-type design that he had invented 20 years prior. Although similar in many ways to his classic design, the Cutlass features several changes. Notably, the headstock design splits the tuners 4 and 2 side with no tilt back, allowing for the strings to glide seamlessly through the nut with no break angle causing friction. This in combination with locking tuners and a redesigned 2-point tremolo ensures that the Cutlass has close to perfect tuning stability. It also retains many of the classic S-style features such as 60’s style single coil pickups, and 25.5” scale length. If you’re in the market for a budget option, Music man offer the Sterling Cutlass range with the same excellent design and a lightweight poplar body in the £500 price bracket. Within the range, they offer the classic SSS or HSS configurations, and a choice of Maple, Roasted Maple, or Rosewood fingerboards.

Music Man Cutlass on Andertons T.V.

The signature instrument of one of the most famous S-Style guitar players of all – John Mayer, the PRS Silver Sky combines vintage and modern features. With a 7.25” radius fretboard and Mayer’s signature vintage voiced pickups for a classic sound and feel, but with modern design elements including Tesla inspired colourways. The Silver Sky is perfect for articulate clean tones and warm, round, low gain overdrive sounds.

PRS Silver Sky on Andertons T.V.

If you’re looking for an alternative S-Style guitar to handle rock and high-gain tones, the Charvel Style 1 guitars match that description. Fitted with powerful Seymour Duncan pickups, it can dish out lots of gnarly tones! With HH, HSH and HSS options, there’s a configuration for any playing style. Compound radius fretboards, optional Floyd Rose bridges and coil-splits make them versatile performance instruments that can still attain those classic, jangly single-coil tones that are perfect for clean sounds.

Charvel Pro-Mod Style 1 on Andertons T.V.

Last, but not least – the one that started it all – the Fender Stratocaster. Invented in 1954, the Strat is the most famous electric guitar of all time. It’s classic design has inspired countless players including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer. With ranges from Player Series to Custom Shop, there’s a Strat for all price ranges. If you’re in the market for a vintage accurate Strat as they made them back in the 50s and 60s, check out the Vintera or American Original series. Or if you’re looking for more modern specs, try the Player Plus or American Ultra series.

Fender Stratocaster on Andertons T.V.

Owned by Fender, Squier offer great value Stratocasters on a more modest budget, with their Bullet and Affinity ranges coming in at under £200! They also have the Classic Vibe series, giving you a feel of a vintage Fender at a fraction of the price, or the Contemporary series, offering all of the latest styles and specs.

Read here for our comprehensive Stratocaster Buyers Guide.

Squier Stratocaster on Andertons T.V.