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7 Best Lap Steel Guitars of 2021 – Reviews & Buyer Guides

If you’re looking for a new lap steel guitar, it can be a confusing business. With a range of very different styles – and prices – available, how do you pick the one that’s right for you?

Fortunately, we’re here to help you do just that! Check out our reviews of seven of the best lap steel guitars out there right now. And if you need some extra help, our buying guide will help you focus on the features that matter most.

So if you’re ready, let’s see what we can find!

 

The Best Lap Steel Guitar on the Market 2021

1. Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar (Our Top Pick)

Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar with Stand and Gig Bag Metallic Black

The Rogue RLS-1 is an attractive lap steel guitar with plenty of great features. And it’s also one of the most affordable options out there. So what do you get for the very modest price tag?

Well, it looks pretty stylish. It’s made from hardwood and has a slender triangular form. The wooden body is black, the hardware chrome, and there’s a smart stainless steel pickguard. The position markers along the neck are picked out in white. The look is clean, modern and – despite the price – expensive.

The scale is 21 inches long. The single-coil pickup produces a bright, clear sound that’s well suited to blues, Hawaiian and classic country. And there are well-sized controls to adjust the volume and tone. They do so smoothly, with no sudden jumps or crackling.

It comes complete with three legs which you can screw into the guitar so you can play it anywhere. And the height can be adjusted, so it will be comfortable no matter how tall or short you are.

We have, though, heard of some cases where the socket to screw in the legs has been stripped. If you’re handy, a simple solution is to remove the socket and put a nut on the other side.

The lower price is evident to some extent in the tuning gears and strings, neither of which are top quality. You can, however, replace these fairly easily if you want to. Even with the extra expense, you’ll be getting good value for money.

And you’ll even get a carrying case included with your guitar. The black and white colorway looks good, and it’s pretty robust. There’s plenty of room inside, and a convenient separate compartment to hold the legs.

All in all, this is a great little lap steel guitar. At this price, you really can’t go wrong.

Pros:

  • Attractive hardwood construction with stainless steel pickup and chrome hardware
  • Smooth controls for volume and tone
  • Comes with a good quality carrying case

Cons:

  • The sockets don’t always hold the legs securely – you may need to replace them with a nut
  • The strings and tuning gears aren’t the highest quality.

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2. Gretsch G5700 Electromatic Lap Steel Guitar

Gretsch G5700 Electromatic Lap Steel with White Plastic Fretboard - Tobacco

The Gretsch G5700 Electromatic is almost four times the price of the Rogue. Yes, you read that right – four times. So what do you get if you’re prepared to make this kind of investment?

It’s certainly an instrument that stands out from the crowd. It has a similar shape to the Rogue, but the subtle shaping gives it more of a traditional guitar vibe.

It comes in a choice of two striking finishes. The black sparkle has a distinctly disco feel, with glittering silver dots on a black background. Alternatively, go for the tobacco sunburst for a classic look.

Both versions have a mahogany back for optimal resonance. The fixed bridge is made of chrome-plated cast zinc. The control plate has a distinctive Art Deco style shape, with controls for tone and volume.

The single coil pickup gives a bright, clear tone, and there’s no excessive humming.

This is 34.5 inches long in total. It’s lightweight at just over 5 pounds, and it’s easy to play. It’s simple to string and retune too – and it stays in tune well.

There are just a couple of things to watch out for with this one.

The first is the fretboard. We’ve heard of a handful of cases where it hasn’t lain completely flat against the neck. If the problem is impairing your playing experience, you can remove the fretboard and glue it back into position. It’s a bit of a pain and takes a little time, but will sort it out.

The other is that there are no legs included in the package. We’ve heard of one case where a Gretsch owner repurposed some old table legs to good effect! If you want to do that, it needn’t be an expensive project, but will again require a bit of extra work.

Whether you choose to make these upgrades or not, you’ll be getting a very good guitar. If you don’t mind spending the money, this is a good choice.

Pros:

  • The excellent finish and Art Deco control panel give this a stylish and distinctive look
  • Good quality single coil pickup with a bright, clear tone
  • Simple to restring and stays in tune well

Cons:

  • We’ve heard of a couple of cases where the fretboard hasn’t been completely flat
  • There are no legs included with this one.

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3. SX Lap 2 Steel Guitar (Best for the Money)

SX Lap 2 Ash 3TS Electric Lap Steel Guitar w/Bag

The SX Lap 2 has a more traditionally guitar-shaped body than the triangular forms of the Rogue and Gretsch. It sits between the price points of those two instruments – and you get excellent value for money.

It comes in just one finish, a sunburst. The neck is made of rosewood and the body of American swamp ash. The tuners are made of die-cast chrome, and the controls for volume and tone are finished in chrome too.

One of the stand-out features of this lap steel is the adjustable bridge. This allows every string to be adjusted individually.

It’s a rare advantage amongst these kinds of instruments, and means you can tune it to suit your preferred musical style. If you play blues or rock, you may favor an Open G and A. If you’re playing country or bluegrass, you may prefer a High G or A.

Note though, that if you’re planning on using a C6 tuning, you may need to replace the strings first. The ones that come with the Lap 2 look like regular guitar strings. If you tune a fat E string up that high on the sixth string, it may snap.

One thing to note is that while the adjustable bridge makes this very versatile, it does have a downside. Restringing is a considerably more finicky business than it is with a fixed bridge. You won’t want to have to change a string in the middle of your set!

The guitar holds its tuning well. The tone control here is also more responsive than in many instruments. You can really hear the difference as you adjust it.

The guitar comes with a removable lap steel stand, and the legs are nice and sturdy. Just make sure you’re not too vigorous as you screw them in. If you are, you may end up cross-threading them.

Line them up carefully, and go back to the beginning and start again if you feel any resistance. If you do that, you shouldn’t have any problems. And note that, while the legs are adjustable, they’re less steady when fully extended. That’s something to watch out for if you like to play standing up.

The guitar comes with a smart cream carry bag, complete with padding to keep it safe in transit.

Pros:

  • The adjustable bridge offers great versatility
  • Responsive tone control
  • Comes with good quality removable stand and carry bag

Cons:

  • That adjustable bridge makes it trickier to change the strings
  • Take care when you screw in the legs to avoid cross-threading – and watch out for a wobble if you extend them as far as they’ll go.

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4. SX Lap 3 Steel Guitar

SX LAP 3 Black Lap Steel Guitar w/Free Carry Bag

The Lap 3, also from SX, is significantly less expensive than the Lap 2. It comes in at roughly the same price as the Rogue, making it a good budget pick.

The body has the same shape as the Lap 2, but the finish here is more basic. Instead of the sunburst, you’ll get a flat glossy black. But set against the chrome volume and tone controls, and the chrome pickguard, it still looks very smart.

The guitar is full-size, and it has 36 frets. It’s 33 1/8 inches long, and the scale is 22 7/8 inches. The body is made of basswood.

The single coil pickup is clear and bright, and versatile enough to work for country, blues, rock, Hawaiian and bluegrass. The sound quality for such an inexpensive instrument is very impressive. It’s lightweight and comfortable to play too.

You’ll also get a couple of extras included in the package. There’s a carrying case and a glass slide.

The case is black with a white SX logo. It looks smart, and it will keep moisture and dust away from your instrument. But it’s not the same quality as the case you’ll get with the SX 2. There’s no padding here, so it won’t offer much protection if you’re taking your guitar on the road.

And unlike the SX 2, there’s no stand included. If you want one, you’ll need to buy or make your own separately.

But none of this is surprising, or indeed disappointing, for a lap steel guitar at such a modest price. What you’re getting here is a good-looking instrument, with impressive sound quality. That feels like a good deal to us.

Pros:

  • Versatile sound and great sound quality from the single coil pickup
  • Attractive black and chrome finish
  • Comes with a glass slide and a carrying case to keep dust and moisture away from your guitar

Cons:

  • There’s no padding in the carrying case, so it won’t offer much protection on the road
  • There’s no stand included.

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5. Harmonia Lap Steel Guitar

Lap Steel Guitar 6 Steel String, Metallic Black Finish

The Harmonia shares with the Rogue the prize for the least expensive instrument on our list. For those looking to try out a lap steel guitar without spending a lot of money, it’s well worth considering.

The shape is a simple elongated triangle with curved corners. The body is made of hardwood and it’s finished in a stylish metallic gloss black. The fingerboard and pickguard here are both plastics. The latter is pearl white, creating a pleasing contrast against the black body.

At 29.5 inches, this is a shorter guitar than some. Smaller guitarists may find this an advantage. And at just 4 pounds, it’s very lightweight too. The scale is 21 inches, and there are 28 brass frets. The width at the nut is 2 inches.

The tuning machines are geared, and there’s a single-coil pickup. That makes it nice and versatile, but you may find you get some buzzing. The electronics here aren’t top notch, but they do the job.

Unlike most guitars on our list, this one also comes with its own cable. But you won’t get any other accessories. If you need a stand or legs, you’ll need to buy them separately. Ditto a carrying case. But at this price, that’s hardly surprising.

This is a good choice if you’re looking to try out a lap steel guitar for the first time. You won’t get the sound quality of more expensive instruments, but it’s perfectly playable – and it’s incredibly keenly priced.

Pros:

  • Attractive black and chrome finish
  • Decent sound quality from the single-coil pickup
  • The shorter scale and body will suit guitarists with a smaller build

Cons:

  • The fingerboard and pickguard are plastic
  • No accessories except the cable are included in the (very low) price.

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6. Recording King RG-32-SN Lap Steel Guitar

Recording King RG-32-SN Lap Steel Guitar, Sunburst

The RG-32-SN from Recording King is a handsome lap steel with some great features. It’s not the cheapest out there – you could buy two Rogues for one of these – but it’s still well priced. And you’ll get some great features for your money.

The body is a classic figure-of-eight shape with an attractive starburst finish. Both the top and back are made of mahogany. The string-through-body design delivers a long sustain.

The pickup is a single-coil Alnico designed by EMG. There are two controls, one for volume and one for tone. That gives you scope to create sounds from mellow country to searing blues. The sound quality is really very good indeed.

The scale is 23 inches and there are 26 frets. The tuning machines are open geared. That makes them easy to use. They hold steady, particularly in open tunings, reducing the frequency with which you’ll need to retune. You may, though, find they’re a little tight if you’re using a C6 tuning.

There are no extras with this one. If you need a stand or carrying case, you’ll have to buy them separately.

There’s little to dislike about the guitar itself. We have, though, heard of a few cases where poor packaging has seen it arrive damaged. The box could usefully offer more support.

The answer, of course, is to give your guitar a once-over as soon as it arrives. If you spot any serious issues, send it back. Most people don’t encounter any problems, but don’t put up with damage if you get unlucky.

All in all, this is a great lap steel guitar at a very reasonable price. And it looks the business too.

Pros:

  • Mahogany body produces great resonance
  • String-through-body design delivers a strong, full sustain
  • Good sound quality from the single-coil Alnico pickup

Cons:

  • The tuning machines may be a little tight if you’re using a C6 tuning
  • You won’t get any accessories with this one.

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7. ADM Hawaiian Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar

ADM Hawaiian Weissenborn Classic Acoustic Lap Steel Guitar for Enthusiasts

The Hawaiian Weissenborn by All Days Music is one of the most distinctive lap steel guitars on our list. It’s very reasonably priced too, coming in at around the same cost as the SX Lap 2 and Recording King.

The shape is beautiful and unique – like a large teardrop. From the front, it could be an oversized mandolin.

It’s constructed from top quality Sapele wood. For those who aren’t familiar with Sapele, it’s a hardwood with similar characteristics to mahogany, but much more readily available. It’s nice and durable, and creates plenty of resonance.

The fingerboard and bridge are made of technical wood. That’s tropical hardwood that’s been steamed at high pressure and temperature, making it very strong. The fingerboard is edged with an attractive band of maple.

At 16 inches at its widest point, the body is larger than many other lap steels. That’s characteristic of Hawaiian or Weissenborn guitars, but it means it may not suit smaller players. It’s 2.5 inches deep, and the scale is 25 inches long.

The sound quality is full and round, with a warm tone and a good, long sustain. Note that this is an acoustic guitar, so there are no pickups here. That means you won’t be able to adjust the tone in the way you can with electric lap steels.

This is a very lightweight instrument, so it’s easy to take from place to place. Note, though, that it doesn’t come with a case – and the teardrop shape means standard cases won’t fit.

There are sellers out there that offer the case too, so shop around before you make your choice. Some offer the case alongside the guitar for a minimal additional cost.

Pros:

  • Beautiful and distinctive teardrop shape
  • Full, warm sound quality with long sustain
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • The wider body won’t fit comfortably on the laps of smaller players
  • This is an acoustic, so there’s no way to adjust the tone.

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Buying Guide

lap steel
Image: Noname Music

If you’ve read all the reviews but still aren’t sure which lap steel guitar to pick – read on! We’re going to take you through some things to consider before you make your final choice.

Electric or acoustic?

One question which will hopefully be quite easy to answer is whether you’re looking for an electric or acoustic guitar.

All but one of the lap steels on our list are electric. You’ll need to plug them into an amp to hear much sound. And of course, you’ll need to perform somewhere there’s a power source. They’ll all have controls that allow you to adjust the volume and tone of the instrument.

The Hawaiian or Weissenborn lap steel, on the other hand, is acoustic. It’s beautifully lightweight, and you’ll be able to play it anywhere. But there’s no way to adjust the tone of the guitar as you’re performing. And there’s a limit to how loud you’ll be able to play.

What musical styles will you be playing?

The next thing to consider is what kind of musical styles you’ll be playing. All the electric lap steels on our list come with single-coil pick-ups. These offer more versatility than humbuckers which, generally speaking, work best for rock or metal.

But another thing to consider is the style of the bridge. Most electric lap steels have a fixed bridge. This makes restringing relatively straightforward.

With an adjustable bridge, however, you can more easily tune your instrument in different ways. The SX Lap 2 has this feature, and it gives it lots of versatility. Tune to Open G or Open A for rock or blues, and to High G or High A for country or bluegrass.

The compromise is that restringing is a much fiddlier job than with a fixed bridge.

What about the practicalities of performing?

As their name suggests, lap steels are designed to be played on your lap! But if you want more stability, look for options that can be used with legs or a gig stand. Adjustable legs will give you more flexibility, but note that they may be less stable when they’re fully extended.

It’s also important to be aware that the dimensions of lap steel guitars can vary significantly. Check the length and the scale to make sure you’ll be able to hold it comfortably. And note that smaller players may find wide guitars, like Weissenborns, difficult to balance on their laps.

Ready to Choose Your New Lap Steel Guitar?

We hope our round-up of the best lap steel guitars out there has helped you in your search! Whether you’re on a tight budget or want to splash some serious cash, there are some great options out there.

Our top pick is the brilliant Rogue RLS-1. It looks and sounds great, and offers unbeatable value for money. You’ll even get a very decent carrying case and set of legs included in the price.

But if you want a really versatile instrument, we love the SX Lap 2. The adjustable bridge makes this a hugely flexible lap steel. And it’s very well priced too.

Whichever one is right for you, we hope you’re soon enjoying playing your new lap steel guitar!

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