With so many suppliers of musical instruments popping up all over the internet, it can be hard for a musician to decide which store offers the best deals and service.
Online guitar stores vary in terms of the gear they stock, the efficiency of their shipping, and the advice that their staff can provide you with.
If you’re like me, you probably want a quick and straightforward buying experience and to have confidence in the quality of the instruments you receive. You’ll learn everything you need to know in this definitive guide to the best online guitar stores.
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The Best Online Stores for Guitars
Sweetwater is undoubtedly my go-to choice when I need some new music gear. In my opinion, their commitment to their customers is unrivaled. This is reflected in the generous amounts of information they provide about every item that they sell.
It’s crazy to think that Sweetwater was formed back in 1979 and originally started as a remote recording studio. It’s fitting that as the company grew into the retailer that so many musicians love today, they retained the music-first ethos that sparked their origin.
So what’s special about Sweetwater and why do I rate them more highly than their competitors? Well firstly, as a confessed music-gear nerd, I love the sheer amount of musical instruments, guitars, and gear that they stock.
If you can think of an instrument model or piece of recording gear, chances are Sweetwater stocks that item. Even when searching for very specific and obscure equipment, I always seem to find what I’m looking for on the Sweetwater website.
What sets them apart from the rest is the amount of useful information they provide on each product. Some online guitar stores can feel fake and sale-driven, praising all of the instruments just to instigate a quick purchase.
However, Sweetwater often has its review videos made for the instruments and gear, so you can get genuine representations of the item’s quality rather than relying on a few biased paragraphs.
This educational aspect of Sweetwater instantly drew me to them. It feels like they care about the development and knowledge expansion of the musician. This is further reinforced by the fact they have numerous publications including the ProGear Directory and the Music Educators Technology Resource.
In terms of pricing, you’ll struggle to find better deals on guitars and other musical instruments than what’s offered by Sweetwater. Whether you’re looking to build a recording studio on a budget or want to splash out on an extravagant guitar rig, you’ll find all of the needed equipment there at a very fair price.
There’s a ton of information available over at the Sweetwater website which I’ve found helpful when considering what new gear to buy. Their shipping service is renowned for being quick and efficient, and the staff is always happy to help with any queries you might have.
Another leading online guitar store is zZounds, owned by American Musical Supply. They offer a range of unique perks to customers that I’ll discuss a little later. The first thing that strikes me about zZounds is the intuitive layout of their website, which makes it very easy to find the exact instrument or gear that you’re looking for.
zZounds stock a huge range of guitars and other instruments. Whether you need a Fender Stratocaster, Onyx mixer, or a Roland electronic drum kit, you can find multiple variations of these in the extensive zZounds online store.
As I touched upon earlier, the real standout quality of zZounds is their exceptional special services the offer to customers. Firstly, with their Pay as You Play installment plan, you can spread the cost of your instruments with no credit checks, paperwork, or interest!
There’s also the 45-day price protection promise which ensures that zZounds delivers the lowest price on every item they stock. If you see an item at a lower price on another online store, you can notify zZounds and they will match the price.
On top of that, zZounds also offer extremely quick shipping that’s free of cost for most of their orders. If you’ve got any requests or questions there’s a team of experienced musicians that are ready to help with the issue via email or phone call.
Overall zZounds is dedicated to helping musicians get the gear they need in a friendly and efficient manner.
First founded in 1924, Sam Ash Music has steadily grown into one of the largest suppliers of musical instruments in the US. Their online guitar and instrument store is packed with a diverse range of music gear at competitive prices.
In the dedicated guitar section of their website, you’ll find all of the classic top-end manufacturers like Gibson, Fender, Taylor, and Yamaha. They offer a good range of budget guitars too.
If you spend over $299 on a selected range of items, your purchase qualifies for the 0% interest 24-month finance deal. To clarify, this isn’t available on all guitars and instruments, so double-check the eligibility of your chosen gear to be sure.
Most reviews from musicians seem to indicate that Sam Ash offers a solid and reliable service, with quick shipping and good communication from the customer service team.
You can also trade your old gear to Sam Ash and get some of the cost knocked off a new purchase. This is a great service to use if you want to replace an old guitar but don’t quite have the funds for that brand new Les Paul you’ve always dreamed of!
It seems that nowadays Amazon is one of the top manufacturers for basically every industry, and their online guitar store has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
One of the great things about Amazon is that they publish a list of their top picks in each category of music gear. For example, if you are looking for a new reverb pedal to add to your rig, Amazon provides a top 20 breakdown based on customer reviews.
Although the service they provide isn’t centered around guitars or music equipment, the listings still have a good amount of useful information on most products. With easy access to genuine customer reviews, it’s a great place to learn about instruments from other musicians.
I’m sure you have experienced ordering from Amazon so you’ll know that they provide an efficient shipping service that can be tailored to your preferences. Their customer service is also renowned for being helpful and quick to respond to any issues you may have.
Another fairly popular online guitar and instrument store is Guitar Center. With a decent stock of instruments and recording gear, you might find some good deals on this site from time to time.
It’s worth noting that Guitar Centre doesn’t offer a guitar set-up as Sweetwater does. This means that when you order a guitar, it may come with a poor action, incorrect intonation, or bad sounding pickups due to no adjustment.
Although some guitarists enjoy setting up a new guitar themselves, I find this to be unnecessary and time-consuming. When you get a new guitar you just want to start playing rather than spending hours making sure it’s playable.
When looking through some genuine customer reviews of Guitar Centre, it became clear that many musicians have had issues with the shipping times and customer service they provide. There’s no doubt they stock quality instruments, but I would err on the side of caution.
With three decades of experience in selling used music gear, Reverb is a great online store if you don’t mind purchasing second hand. They offer fast and free shipping with no minimum order too.
The only criticism I have of Reverb is that their website seems quite primitive and basic. There’s some basic information available about the second-hand gear they stock but don’t expect to be educated in the same fashion as Sweetwater or zZounds.
It’s worth browsing through the items on the Reverb store from time to time, as you might stumble across a vintage compressor or well-priced second-hand guitar. The prices can be inflated sometimes but you might get lucky and find a bargain now and then.
As a UK native, I’ve used Andertons on many occasions when purchasing music equipment online. I’ve always found them to be very helpful and efficient, and their product descriptions are some of the best and most detailed in the business.
Andertons offer several finance options for UK customers, over varying periods and with different interest rates depending on the amount you’re spending.
It would be fair to say that Andertons is the UK’s version of Sweetwater. The quality of their customer service, shipping efficiency, and wide range of equipment is very similar in quality to the renowned US suppliers
There are several great Youtube videos by Andertons demonstrating different guitars and other instruments which I’d recommend checking out. The guides on their website are filled with expert tips and useful info written by musicians too.
The final addition to our list of the best online guitar stores is Thomann, the biggest retailer in the whole of Europe. Established in Germany in 1954, they have a wealth of experience when it comes to providing European musicians with premium quality music gear.
Thomann also ships to the UK, although this takes slightly longer than online stores based in the UK of course. I’ve never personally ordered from them to the UK, but some of my musician friends have been pretty happy with their service.
The great thing about Thomann is that even though they’ve had success in abundance over the past five decades, they are still a family-owned business. This comes through in the personal style of their website and the friendly staff who are always ready to answer your questions.
Buying Guitars Online vs. Buying In-Store
Many music purists argue that it’s risky to purchase a guitar when you haven’t played it in person, but I disagree with that statement. Although playing the guitar in the store is the best way to decide whether it’s the right model for you, sometimes that’s just not a possibility due to busy schedule or other circumstances.
With manufacturers like Sweetwater offering all of the information you could need on the guitars, there’s no need to be there physically. They describe all of the characteristics like weight, neck type, shape, materials used, and pickup types. They also set up the guitar so that it’s ready to be played instantly when it arrives at your door.
Sure, there’s a certain charm about going to a music store and playing a variety of different guitars or other instruments to get a feel for what your preferences are. I have some fond memories of doing this as a young musician, and it was the only way for me to play some of my dream guitars back in those days. I’d certainly recommend that experience.
But if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to venture out unnecessarily in the current climate, buying online has become a worthy alternative. With video reviews for most products, guides on what to look for, and easy return policies, buying online is the perfect solution.
It’s important to be vigilant when using online guitar stores and stick to the reputable suppliers that are trusted by millions of musicians. Sweetwater and zZounds fall into this category in the US, with Andertons and Thomann providing good alternatives in the UK and mainland Europe respectively.
I hope this guide to the best online stores for guitars and musical instruments has given you some useful information and helped you to choose the supplier that’s best suited to your needs. It’s always worth shopping around to compare prices and customer reviews before making your choice. Enjoy looking for your new instruments!