If you were looking to buy a new guitar, you might have heard of this name or might have seen the commercials back in the early 2000s.
This is a topic that brings up a lot of confusion, so in this article, we will clear up the mystery surrounding Esteban guitars and figure out whether they are worth paying attention to.
So who exactly is Esteban?
Stephan Paul, who goes by the stage name Esteban, was a classical guitarist that performed locally in Southern California and Phoenix.
While he was a relatively unknown musician, he was tremendously active within the local music scene. He did everything from playing in clubs, and hotels, and releasing albums, to teaching students.
Perhaps one of the only significant musical experiences that he had was when Esteban got to study with the classical guitarist legend Andres Segovia.
Although Esteban is not mentioned in any biography of Andres Segovia, Esteban claims to have studied with Segovia for five years and even claims to have gotten his stage name from Segovia himself.
Esteban got his first commercial success after being picked up by American entrepreneur Joy Mangano (famous inventor of the “Miracle Mop”), who put him on Home Shopping Network where he soon became the face of budget guitars on TV.
He had a natural charisma and was an excellent salesman. People caught onto his persona which ended up working as a kind of promotion for his own music. He would go on to sell over 132,000 CDs, whilst also reaching the top 54 entries in the Billboard 200.
Soon after, Esteban released over a dozen new albums in just a couple of years and was featured in various magazines, infomercials, and instructional DVDs.
What is an Esteban Guitar?
Esteban advertised two mainline guitars on his informercials. which he advertised as being able to work as an acoustic guitar, a classical guitar, and an electric guitar.
He also stated that Esteban guitars are the most comfortable guitars that “everyone from kids to seniors can play and express themselves.”
In his famous tv infomercials, Esteban sold his guitar for “3 easy payments of $33”, and promised buyers that they’d receive a guitar that is worth hundreds of dollars.
It came with a soft case, extra strings, and instructional lesson DVDs with hours of lessons personally taught by Esteban.
All of this sounded too good to be true at the time which led both Esteban and his guitars to receive heavy criticism due to what was perceived as a disingenuous and unrealistic sales pitch.
In fact, Esteban guitars are still being made fun of by guitar players online and are treated as a running joke by the guitar community.
The two main models of Esteban guitars were called Esteban AL-100 and the Esteban AL-200, and they were part of what was called the Esteban American Legacy Collection.
But the two guitars were identical, with just a few minor adjustments like the herringbone design around the sound hole, or some small decoration differences.
There was also a kid’s version available called the Esteban Children’s Classical. It was basically the same guitar just with a smaller scale.
But what did an Esteban guitar look like and play like?
It’s an acoustic-electric guitar with a fairly typical dreadnought body, you can compare it to something like a cheap Yamaha acoustic-electric guitar.
It has steel strings with cheap wood construction and a cheap onboard electronics system for plugging into an amplifier.
Featuring a spruce top and rosewood on the sides, along with a maple neck. For decoration, it also has a brilliant white mother of pearl binding around the edge of the body and neck.
Although they were advertised as being both classical and electric guitars, the reality is Esteban guitars are just a cheap-sounding acoustic. Made with low-quality materials to keep the production cost as low as possible.
The playability and comfort were not the greatest, at a push, it might make an acceptable beginner guitar. Even the frets were known to randomly fall off. It didn’t exactly instill any confidence in the player.
In his infomercials, you can see Esteban playing the guitar like a classical guitar, but the Esteban guitar is technically a steel string and isn’t suitable for classical playing as a real nylon string guitar.
Even his lesson books and instructional CDs do not cover any usable guitar fundamentals or beginner-friendly material, and they are just videos of him playing simple chords and songs.
Perhaps the only good thing about an Esteban guitar might be its long-lasting sturdy build, and there are a lot of reviews talking about its durability and sturdiness.
Even though the body and the neck are bulky and uncomfortable, they will last you a long time providing you’re willing to press the odd fret back in.
But are they worth it?
No, Esteban guitars are not a reasonable investment in any scenario. Unless you want one just to laugh with your friends about how bad they are, the recommendation is to stay clear!
Even if you manage to get one of these guitars for under $100 online, Esteban guitars are not worth the price and you are better off buying another affordable instrument online.
Esteban guitars are poorly made cheap acoustic guitars with some cheap electronics, and there are so many better options for inexpensive acoustic-electric guitars from bigger (and more trustworthy) brands such as Yamaha, Ibanez, Epiphone, Cordoba, Luna, or Washburn.
If you looked into buying one of these, we recommend you reconsider and spend couple more bucks to buy a quality guitar at a similar price.
Another aspect to consider is that Esteban guitars are extremely hard to re-sell, so you should be prepared to own the guitar for a long time should you ever decide to get one.
The hype of Esteban guitars died down pretty quickly after the early 2000s, so there just isn’t the demand for them outside of novelty purchases.
Are Esteban guitars still being made?
No, Esteban guitars have not been in production since the early 2000s, and you can only find used Esteban guitars online.
It is almost impossible to find any information about where Esteban guitars were manufactured, which makes it even more suspicious.
But the good news might be that there are plenty of people trying to re-sell their Esteban guitars online, so it won’t be a problem buying a secondhand Esteban guitar of your own.
In this article, we looked at the mysterious Esteban guitars and uncovered some of the truths behind this elusive brand.
While complete beginners might have gone for these guitars back in the early 2000s, nowadays Esteban guitars are not taken seriously as playable instruments by the guitar community.
We have access to so many high-quality guitars offered at a bargain price, so we highly recommend first-time players take a look at other brands instead of Esteban guitars.