You might not recognize the name Stephen Paul. You could know the artist by his stage name, which is Esteban.
The issue that people have with the guitars from Esteban involves how you can access them. They’re often sold through HSN, QVC, and other TV-based shopping networks.
Is it safe to purchase an instrument without trying it first? If you do that with an off-brand guitar, are there any protections available?
More importantly, are the guitars any good since they get hyped up on TV so often?
Esteban Guitars: Good or Just Hype?
Esteban guitars are a reasonable investment to consider for beginners. You can get to know the strumming and note patterns, figure out fingerpicking, and other classical playing needs with this affordable instrument. It’s not of the quality a pro would want for concerts or paying gigs.
If you check your local Guitar Center, eBay, or a pawn shop, you might find yourself coming face-to-face with an Esteban guitar.
Depending on the instrument’s condition and the equipment it offers, you’ll find prices ranging from $80 to $350 on the used market.
Esteban guitars are no longer produced, which means you must purchase one second-\hand if this design is what you want.
Although the classical designs look lovely for an entry-level guitar, there isn’t anything special about the shape or design. The brand uses a standard dreadnought style to provide resonance and sound.
The other acoustics or acoustic-electrics come with smaller bodies that use the classic Fender shape – with enough changes to avoid a copyright issue.
It’s not only the instrument you need to consider. When you purchased an Esteban guitar new, you’d get DVD instructional videos to help you learn how to play.
It also came with a small amp, a few picks, and some other little things that make it fun to learn a new instrument.
Since you miss out on those bonuses on the secondhand market, it is up to you to determine if there’s any value in this investment.
Structure of an Esteban Guitar: How Good Is the Build?
Esteban guitars came in various models, but it is the AL-100 that was the one that was sold on TV in most markets.
It is a classical guitar that features an Opus III pickup system.
The design includes a compensated saddle, rosewood bridge, ebony fretboard, and chrome sealed tuners. Its body uses a spruce top, maple sides, and a mahogany neck.
All of that sounds fantastic at first glance. Once you start seeing how the guitar is built, the craftsmanship begins to show why the reviews for this instrument are so bad across so many websites.
If you don’t want to spend much money and only want to learn guitar fundamentals, this instrument could be worth the cost of admission.
When you prefer something that can grow with you, this entry-level dreadnought struggles to keep up.
To be fair, an instrument’s quality from any brand can be hit or miss. You’ll discover that with Esteban guitars, there tend to be more misses.
What You Could Get With an Esteban Guitar
If you were lucky enough to spot the As Seen on TV ads for an Esteban guitar, you might remember all of the extra goodies that came with your instrument.
That’s the classic pitch for products like that. It’s the “But wait! There’s more!” line you can find with everything from OxyClean to Flex Seal.
In other words, you need to hear about how all of these additional items have value instead of what you’re actually thinking about purchasing.
Would you rather buy something from an experienced luthier, or a product from a random stranger who makes big promises?
That’s why it was a “reasonable” deal at the time, even with the hype. There were enough extras for your three payments of $66 to make everything feel like you got a solid price.
Here is what the original Esteban Guitar Package included.
- A full-size “electric steel string” guitar.
- All wood instrument with “on Board” equalizer – emphasized as “on board electronics.”
- Esteban’s “powerful amplifier with master controls,” plus an overdrive button.
- A ten-foot guitar amp cable.
- “Deluxe” hard-sided nylon case with an interior storage compartment.
- Two instructional lesson DVDs that offer three hours of lessons.
- Two lesson books.
- One “Esteban Polishing Cloth.”
- Extra strings, straps, picks, and an “alien key.”
What was your bonus? Esteban’s poster-sized chord chart, of course.
How Much Should I Pay for an Esteban Guitar?
Although you’ll find several strong opinions about the quality of Esteban guitars online, the general consensus is that a good instrument should be around $50. If it has been well-played, you might get it for $25 or less.
Its quality is similar to what you’ll find on student or toy guitars that are found at stores like Walmart and Target.
HSN called Esteban a “guitar virtuoso.” Although he wrote some songs, taught some lessons, and earned a favorable reputation from playing in nightclubs, it’s essential to remember these products were an As Seen on TV item.
When they were offered for sale on TV, you could pick one up for “three easy payments of $66 each.” It was meant to be an incredible deal because the “20-piece deluxe package could easily retail for over $800.”
They were sold under the American Legacy brand.
Although the manufacturing site for those guitars is unknown, it is likely from Southeast Asia or China. That’s the only way to keep the costs down from a materials and labor standpoint.
If Esteban Guitars Are of Poor Quality, Why Are They Popular?
HSN knew that guitarists wouldn’t buy the hype of this guitar. Esteban might have had some regional fame in some circles, but his presence wasn’t strong enough to pull in the elite.
Let’s face it – Esteban is no Pete Townshend.
That means their target market for the guitars had to be first-time players who wanted to learn. Since they didn’t know any better, any instrument at a cheap price with some extras seemed like a great deal.
There are certainly people who learned how to play this instrument on an Esteban guitar successfully and have fond memories of the experience.
It is essential to note that those outcomes are the exceptions to the documented incidents that people have had with this instrument.
You don’t need to have a fantastic reputation to be famous. That’s why the legend of Esteban guitars persists, even though most people would tell you to run away from the instrument as fast as you could.
What If I Want an Esteban Guitar Today?
If you want to purchase an Esteban guitar today, the first step is to buy the item from a reputable dealer or website. That means visiting Guitar Center, a local music store, or working with a reputable eBay vendor.
Since some of these guitars are more than ten years old, the entry-level craftsmanship might show excessive wear and tear.
You’ll want to carefully inspect the instrument before buying it to ensure the product meets your expectations.
Because Esteban guitars have a reputation for having the tuning pegs fall apart, you’ll want to inspect the seams and joints with a luthier you trust.
By the time you’ve done all of that, you could have purchased an entry-level Fender dreadnaught guitar with a similar style and some extras!
The Fender Dreadnaught Package: Lessons, Gear, and More
Whether Fender took a lesson from Esteban is anyone’s guess, but you’ll find an entry-level guitar from this world-famous brand is an affordable proposition today.
The Fender FA-115 acoustic guitar comes in a bundle that includes the following items for a price similar to what Esteban used to sell his instruments at on HSN.
- You receive a clip-on tuner that lets you know each string is ready to play.
- Three additional picks come in the bundle to help you practice.
- A Fender-branded guitar strap works with most body shapes and sizes.
- You get strings, a gig bag, and an instructional DVD.
Since it is a full-size guitar, you get to play something that delivers the trademark Fender sound at an entry-level price.
You always get what you pay for in this industry, which means the Fender FA-115 won’t hold up to a lifetime of playing.
What it can offer is the learning essentials on an affordable platform to see if you or someone you know wants to play.
There’s no way to describe the Fender FA-115 as fancy. It is a nice guitar that lets you get started on your journey through music. Any beginner will appreciate it as a gift or as a personal investment.
My Impression of Esteban Guitars: 16 Years Later
A long time ago, I found myself up late playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater on the original PlayStation. It had been a long day at work, the weekend was coming, and I had the urge to pick up a new hobby.
That’s when I saw the Esteban guitar on a TV infomercial. We had some extra cash at the time, so I said, “Why not?”
It took seven weeks for the order to arrive. In all honesty, I remember the guitar sounding pretty good.
I picked up enough knowledge to play four chords in the first couple of weeks. That’s when I composed a song that our family still sings when we get together on the holidays.
When I look back at it now, I know the sound quality wasn’t there. What I remember are the good times I had with the people I love the most.
That’s what the Fender FA-115 acoustic guitar delivers today, but with the extra bonus of having reasonable action and sound.
I will say that the Fender does feel a bit hollow in tone and color with a full strum. When you want something a little better for learning as a beginner, I’d recommend the Antonio Giuliani Acoustic Mahogany guitar bundle.
You’ll get a dreadnought shape, case, tuner, strap, strings, and several accessories for a reasonable price.
Would I take an Esteban guitar out to play? For me, any instrument is better than nothing at all.
My first preference would be to use an upgraded product, but it would be a useful learning tool if you’re on a limited budget and don’t care about the tone it delivers.