In this review, we’ll be looking at one of the most American of all instruments, the Lap Steel guitar. This is not to be confused with a pedal steel, which is larger, has a stand and legs, and can have a single or two separate necks side by side. It also features levers and pedals that change the tuning and alter the sound.
Pedal Steels are commonly played in country music, but they are also used in other genres, check out pedal steel maestro and super producer Daniel Lanois playing one, it will make you run out and get one straight away.
The two names are often confused and used interchangeably, but they are, in fact, completely different instruments. The Lap steel being far more similar to the Blues bottleneck guitar than to the Pedal steel.
However, the sounds they both produce are very similar, which is why there is so much confusion.
So, today’s review will only cover the Best Lap Steel Guitars, and there are three types. First, we have the common instrument that we all recognize and sits on your lap. Then there is the Dobro; this has a larger square neck and a cone to increase volume. And finally, we have the Electric lap steel, which has pickups and creates the more ‘Hawaiian’ sound that we are all familiar with.
Most think that it originated in Nashville, but it didn’t. The earliest story goes back to a young man who was walking by a railroad track. He then found a discarded bolt from the tracks and decided to slide it on the strings of his guitar, the sound was good, so he then tried it with a knife. This was allegedly in 1889 and might be a little romanticized, but, who cares, isn’t that what makes life interesting?
Anyway, since young Joseph decided to use his bolt on his guitar, the instrument has continued to develop and is now firmly part of American Country music culture. But, not only country, Hawaiian music, as well as Bluegrass also use it in the setup. And to a lesser extent, it is also used in Rock music, Jazz, and Blues. Even Pink Floyd’s David Gilmore uses one in the studio and also live very regularly.
Even though it looks very similar to a normal guitar, it is not tuned like one. Usually, it is tuned to an open chord and even more likely to an extended open chord. The most common tuning being C6, with C-E-G-A-C-E from the low to high strings. But, many players adjust the tunings to suit their own styles, and there are many variations.
So, let’s move on to take a closer look at the best Lap Steel guitars currently available and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 7 Best Lap Steel Guitar To Buy In 2020 Reviews
- 1 2019 Asher Guitars Electro Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar
- 2 SX Lap 2 Ash NA Electric Lap Steel Guitar
- 3 Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar with Stand
- 4 SX LAP 3 Black Lap Steel Guitar
- 5 Vorson LT-230-8 TB 8-String Lap Steel Guitar
- 6 Vorson FLSL-201 Professional Lap Steel Guitar Pack
- 7 Joe Morrell Pro Series Poplar Body 8-String Lap Steel Guitar
- Best Lap Steel Guitar Buyers Guide
- What About Accessories?
- So, What Is The Best Lap Steel Guitar?
Top 7 Best Lap Steel Guitar To Buy In 2020 Reviews
1 2019 Asher Guitars Electro Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar
Mention the name Asher and many people will know who you are talking about. Bill Asher is one of the most sought after Luthiers and master guitar crafters around. And over his years of building quality instruments, he has amassed a very impressive client list including Paul Simon, Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac, and Jackson Browne. In 1982 he set up his own company making quality instruments. And his boutique guitar company, which is based in Los Angeles, now has clients worldwide.
This guitar is not only an excellent entry-level instrument but is a little more than that. In fact, it’s so good that it will suit a Pro as well. Featuring a 25-inch scale length and 22 frets, it has a solid Mahogany neck-through-body design. This gives it plenty of resonance.
The neck is also Mahogany, but it has a rosewood fretboard. And the nut is made from Micarta with a width of 1 and ⅞” inches. The bridge width is 2 and 3/16,” and it is a metal wrap-around design. This allows the strings a wider spacing making it easy to play.
It features two high power humbuckers that will give you plenty of volume and tones. And the controls are simply laid out with a three-way toggle for pick up selection. Plus, there are two master controls – one for volume and one for tone.
The finish on the main body and headstock is a very attractive tobacco sunburst. It comes with a sturdy gig bag and is fitted with Asher Lap Steel strings.
This really isn’t a starter or entry-level Lap Steel. It is a high-quality instrument in every way right down to the beautiful tobacco finish. It is made in China but is shipped to the US and then set up in Los Angeles. Have we started with the Best Lap Steel guitar? Not quite sure yet? But, it’s going to take some beating.
- Excellent design by a world-renown guitar builder.
- High Quality build.
- The twin humbuckers produce great sounds.
- Not exactly cheap!
2 SX Lap 2 Ash NA Electric Lap Steel Guitar
Next up, we have a budget range starter Lap Steel guitar, the SX Lap 2. It has been specially designed to be very easy to play and is therefore ideal for the new player. It is full-size design and is 33 inches in length with 36 frets.
The body is a neck-through design and is made from American Swamp Ash. And to add to its appeal, it features a maple fretboard. It has been constructed to be very light, weighing only ten pounds. And at the headstock, it has Diecast chrome tuners and features a volume and a tone control.
It delivers a crisp, clean driven sound from its single-coil P90. And is supplied with a glass bar for playing and has a detachable stand and a carry bag. The Lap Steel and stand fold down to fit into the bag.
Designed to work in a variety of styles. Hawaiian and Country is, however, where it will be most at home, but it also works well for Bluegrass, Rock, and Blues. And the option of using the stand or placing it on your lap or a table allows plenty of playing options to suit your style. The neck-through design ensures an easy playing position, which will help the newer player.
A big plus point of this instrument is its sound. The single-coil gives it the ‘twang’ many many players want from a Lap Steel. And to fair play, the notorious ‘single-coil hum’ that is present in a lot of pickups, especially at the lower end of the market, is hardly audible. Another big plus is the affordable price, which puts this instrument within the reach of most people.
Well-made, good materials, nice styling, a quality P90, and at a great price. What else could you want? This could well be a contender for best Lap Steel guitar, especially for those on a budget.
- Quality construction from good materials.
- Nice crisp sounds, thanks to the P90.
- Easy to play and great for beginners.
- At this price, nothing.
3 Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar with Stand
Rogue is known for its sturdily designed guitars, and this is another good example. They are also well known for producing a quality range of budget-priced instruments aimed especially at the beginner. And this guitar is most definitely a starter instrument, even though it has the quality an experienced player will appreciate.
It is a full-size instrument and measures 31.5 inches in length, weighing just over ten pounds. It features a hardwood body and neck and a fingerboard with position markers. The body finish is in a metallic red, which adds to the style of the instrument. And Rogue has given you the option of how you play it, by including screw-in legs.
Featuring a single-coil pickup, you can expect a sharp, crisp, and bright tone with the twang that is needed. And controlling the sound is the usual volume and tone control knobs. However, Rogue has tried to add a little tuning stability to the guitar, and have added chrome, geared tuners making it easy to tune and keeping it there. A stainless steel pickguard completes the look. And a gig bag is included making it easy to carry, and this will also hold the legs.
It is a very nice looking instrument and is great for a learner. And as with most of the Lap Steels we are reviewing, it will cross the genres easily. Its single-coil excels at classic Hawaiian and Country tones, but Blues, Bluegrass, and even rock are also well within its performance level.
It’s a great starter guitar, it looks the part and plays well and easily. And fitted with its single-coil, you can expect some authentic sounds. At the price, it is a very good buy and another worthy contender for Best laptop steel guitar currently available.
- Nice construction.
- Twangy single-coil pickup sound.
- Better tuners than on most of its competitors, allowing greater tuning stability.
- Metallic red may not be to everyone’s taste.
4 SX LAP 3 Black Lap Steel Guitar
Next up, we have another entry-level SX Lap steel guitar. And this is not only cost-effective, but it has also designed to be easy to play. Made by Team International, based in Taiwan, but SX has its manufacturing facilities in China.
However, they have suffered a lot of criticism in the past. Mainly from people who really didn’t know what they were talking about. SX make a reasonable guitar that is very competitively priced. They sound good and play well. That will do for us, regardless of where it is made.
It is a full-size instrument with 36 frets, with a basswood body and a neck through body design. This ensures that the guitar remains stable and compact. Plus, it also enhances the ease of playing, and since it only weighs seven pounds, it is light and easy to carry around.
Fitted with a single-coil pick, gives it a crisp and clear sound that we most associate with the instrument. And, as usual, it is fitted with a volume and tone control. And SX even includes a glass slide bar to get you going. It also has geared diecast chrome-plated tuners to maintain tuning stability and a chrome style tailpiece.
And as an instrument, it is versatile, with the Hawaiian and Country music feel that it is famous for. But, that’s not all; it can also easily turn its hand to some good old Blues and Bluegrass. For portability, it comes with a good carrying bag.
As long as you’re not expecting a top-grade instrument, you will be pleasantly surprised at this guitar. With an attractive look, a good build, and a nice sound, we think it is an excellent cost-effective starter instrument.
- Good sound considering the price.
- Cost-effective starter instrument.
- Quite thin, and some may prefer a heavier guitar.
5 Vorson LT-230-8 TB 8-String Lap Steel Guitar
Vorson is a name that may be new to some people, but, in fact, they have been making guitars in China for a little over 20 years. And during that time they have managed to build quite a reputation. This is an eight-string Lap Steel that is more suited to the experienced player, as opposed to a starter. This is because it is more substantial than the beginner versions and weighs over ten pounds and is 37 inches long.
It features a solid Mahogany body and a Maple top. And it’s 30 fret neck is made from Rosewood. The headstock has been made to match the body style and again is made from Mahogany. The finish is an attractive blue color. Both the electronics and the tone circuit are active, and it features speed control knobs for the EQ. It comes fitted with a Master 100 pickup, especially for eight-string guitars. And as with most of the rest, it has the usual volume and tone controls.
We do need to stress that this guitar is not a converted 6 string instrument. It has been designed to be an 8 string model. And the nut and the bridge are, therefore, wider to accommodate the extra strings.
Created for the experienced player, it works just as well on stage as it does in the studio. Many more experienced lap steel players actually prefer 8 string instruments. This is not only because of the wider note range potential, but they also deliver full, rich chords that are beyond what you’ll get out of a six-string version. The additional strings also extend scale runs and arpeggios, giving you a greater range of playing ideas and options.
However, this is not a budget instrument, but it is made for the experienced player who demands good performance and a great sound.
- Quality materials.
- 8 strings deliver more sound and playing options.
- Quite expensive.
6 Vorson FLSL-201 Professional Lap Steel Guitar Pack
Let’s return to Vorson and have a look at one more Lap steel from the Chinese manufacturer. This is sturdy, full-size guitar features a scale length of 22.5 inches, measures 39 inches, and weighs around eleven pounds.
It is a Basswood through the body design with a maple top. And has a Mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard. Everything about this Lap Steel is built for sound quality, and the use of these woods help to generate that sound. The Maple top features a sunburst finish that gives it a vintage feel, and it does look a very impressive instrument.
It features a pair of FP90 pickups and VST-01 active electronics, which run off a standard 9v battery. It produces a crisp, clean sound, but if more crunch is needed, it can also handle being driven a little harder.
Chrome geared die-cast tuners are included, and it has a custom made bridge. Plus, there is a toggle switch for pickup selection and the usual rotating control knobs for Volume, but no Tone this time, you are treated to separate Bass and Treble controls. This allows a lot more sound options than a single Tone control.
This is not really meant as a starter instrument and is more suited to an experienced player. And is well-constructed from quality materials and produces a variety of sounds. It’s suitable for Hawaiian and Country styles; it will also easily handle Bluegrass and Blues.
It’s supplied with a gig bag and a guitar cable and is well worth considering as one of the best Laptop steel guitars available.
- Great looking guitar.
- Quality build.
- Two pickups and separate Bass and Treble controls offer a wide selection of sounds.
- Might be expensive for some.
7 Joe Morrell Pro Series Poplar Body 8-String Lap Steel Guitar
From more traditional designs, we now move to a Lap Steel that has nothing subtle it. If there ever was a Lap Steel for an 80s Hair Metal band, this would be the one!
Designed and produced in Tennessee, it’s a neck-through-body design featuring a three-octave fretboard. It’s 31 inches in length and made from Poplar, which is a change from the usual woods used to make these instruments. Also, being an 8 string Lap Steel, it is wider than most of the others we have reviewed.
They have gone with a single-coil Kent Armstrong Stinger for the pick-up. This has been wound slightly differently, giving it a more powerful sound, and it uses an Alnico V magnet. The sound is then controlled by using a volume and tone knobs, which are situated next to its stainless steel bridge. While the headstock is fitted with chrome enclosed geared tuners.
Being an 8 string steel, the sound options are, as you would expect, varied. It produces a rich, full sound and has, as previously explained, a lot more playing options due to the additional strings.
It’s meant for the more experienced player and is very versatile in its sound options. Country, Hawaiian, Rock, Blues all work comfortably with the sound, not sure about 80s Hair Metal, but it’s probably worth a go?
The rather vivid red and white lacquered finish is in no way modest or understated in the slightest, but we like it. If you want to make a statement with your Lap Steel, this could well be the one for you? It would actually be a perfect fit for the White Stripes, with no re-painting necessary.
People are either going to love it or hate it? Jack White is definitely in the Love it crowd, what about you? It’s quite an expensive guitar, but being made in Tennessee, it has to be, and the cost will, therefore, put some people off.
- Vivid looks.
- Great sounding powerful pickup.
- Well made construction.
- Get’s you noticed.
- Get’s you noticed.
Best Lap Steel Guitar Buyers Guide
Let’s be honest a Lap Steel guitar is quite a basic design with not much to really get hung up on; if it plays well, sounds good, and you like the look, you’re basically there. Therefore, buying one shouldn’t really be that complicated or difficult. They are all fundamentally made to do a very similar job in a similar way. And most of the time, with a very similar sound.
But that isn’t 100% true. It is certainly not the easiest instrument to play, and even the tuning can get complex because of the number of ways that it can be tuned. Add on the differences between the 6 and 8 string versions, and it can all get a bit confusing. So, let’s start with…
Who’s It For?
If it’s for starter, then stick to a 6 string instrument. We have reviewed a lot of good examples, along with some extras special Lap Steels that cost quite a bit more. But, for a beginner, it’s best to keep it simple and cost-effective.
However, if it is for a more experienced player, then they will probably want quite a bit more from the instrument – a better sound, very playable, and a look that will impress an audience and other musicians. They may well also want 8 strings for more playing and tonal variety.
What About Accessories?
Most manufacturers do not provide much in the way of extras. You may get a carrying bag or case, and some provide legs and others a glass slide. However, everything else, on the whole, is easily found and not expensive. For example, you will need to experiment with different sizes and materials for your slide, in order to get something that matches your playing style and the tone that you are after. So basically, the need for accessories really shouldn’t cause any concerns.
However, there is one item that will need some serious thought, and that is an amplifier. There are very few dedicated Lap Steel amplifiers, and most players run them through guitar amps or directly through the PA system. May we recommend taking a look at our reviews of the Best Guitar Amplifiers under 250 dollars, the Best Portable Amplifiers, the Best Tube Amps, the Best Solid State Amps and the Best Keyboard Amplifiers currently available for some ideas about what amplifiers are most suitable.
So, What Is The Best Lap Steel Guitar?
Well, from the point of view of someone who is new to playing the Lap Steel, you will want one that is basic and easy to play. And you will probably want a single-coil pickup in order to generate the trade-mark sound. Also, you probably don’t want to spend a lot of money, until you’re sure that you enjoy playing it. If this sounds like you, then our choice of the best laptop steel guitar would be the…
It has a nice Ash body style and ticks all the boxes, making it a great value starter instrument for anyone who is considering playing one.