Bolt On vs. Neck Through vs. Set Neck Construction

If you’re in the market for a new guitar, then you’ve probably heard the terms bolt-on, set-neck and neck-through, thrown about. But what do they mean? 

These are the three main types of guitar neck constructions. This simply refers to the way that the guitar body and guitar necks are joined together. So why is it important?

There are several things to consider when it comes to choosing the best neck construction. The price, sound and how easy the neck is to fix if broken, are all things to think about. 

Quick Answer

If you’re after a super quick answer as to which is the best guitar neck construction, then here you go.

Neck-through constructions typical offer better tonal quality as they have better sustain compared to bolt-on and set-neck guitars. However, neck-through constructions are the most expensive and very difficult to fix if broken. 

Bolt-on constructions are the cheapest and easiest to fix if broken, compared to set-neck and neck-through constructions. However bolt-on necks are usually not as resonant and found mainly on cheaper guitars. 

Set-necks are the happy medium. They are used on some mid-range guitars under $1000 and on premium custom shop models. They have great resonance and are easier to fix then neck-through constructions, but not as easy to fix as bolt-on designs. 

which neck construction is best

So that’s the quick answer. But if you want something more in-depth to help you make your decision, then keep reading!

Bolt-On Guitar Neck

First, we will start with the bolt-on neck construction. This is when the guitar neck and body are bolted together using screws.

Which Guitars Use It?

It’s a super common neck construction with both electric and acoustic guitars and is mainly found on entry-level or more affordable models. However, some premium brands also use them, for example, the Fender Player series uses this bolt-on construction. 

How Can you Identify It?

Bolt-on neck constructions are usually very obvious. Normally, when you flip the guitar over, you’ll see a metal plate at the top of the body. This is used to cover the screws. Sometimes the plate won’t be present though, and you’ll just see usually 4 screws indicating where the neck and body were bolted together.


The best thing about bolt-on neck constructions are that they are super easy to fix. So if you ever drop your guitar and damage the neck, or have issues with bowing, then you can simply unscrew the body and neck, swap it for a new one, and then screw it back together. 

It’s also great if you just want to change the neck and customise your guitar to have a different fret board, or wood type. 

Bolt-on necks are the cheapest neck construction too as they are much easier to mass produce than set-necks and neck-through constructions in particular. 


Now onto the disadvantages. Firstly, bolt-on constructions typically don’t offer as much resonance and sustain as the other types. However, the difference isn’t all that huge. 

Some people also aren’t a fan of how the bolt-on construction looks, and prefer the cleaner design of a set-neck that doesn’t have any screws or plates on the back of the guitar. 

Finally, bolt-on constructions typically add a heel to the back of the guitar, which can be a bit bulky in some instances. This can affect playability as the higher frets are sometimes more difficult to hold. 

Set-Neck Construction

Next up, is the set-neck construction. This is when the neck and body of the guitar are glued together. The back of the body is carved to create a gap for the neck to be slotted into and the two are then glued together. 

Which Guitars Use It?

The set-neck construction is usually found on mid-range and high-range guitars. Usually the bolt-on constructions are used on entry-level guitars, whilst the set-necks are used on the next level up, or in some cases, only on more premium instruments. Usually you’ll be expecting to pay at least $500 for a set-neck construction guitar, sometimes even more depending on the manufacturer. It is again used on both acoustics and electrics. 

How Can you Identify It?

When you flip the guitar over, you’ll spot the set-neck from the bolt-on because there won’t be any plates or screws in place, you’ll simply see a clean design. Unlike the neck-through design, the neck and body are still joined together though, so it won’t look like one continuous piece of wood. 


As I said earlier, the set-neck design offers a happy medium between the bolt-on and neck-through constructions. Firstly, it’s not super expensive. Yes, it’s more than the bolt-on, but it can still be found on mid-range guitars, and even on some entry level models like the PRS SE line. 

It’s also great because it typically offers better sustain than the bolt-on construction as the joining between the neck and body is more solid. Although, the difference in tonal quality is not super significant. 

One of the best things about the set-neck construction is that it looks really clean and aesthetic. You won’t see any bolts or screws that make the back of the guitar look cheaper. 


The set-neck construction is great, but it does come with a few drawbacks. The main disadvantage of this neck construction is that it’s much harder to fix than the bolt-on neck. The glue will need to be loosened to be able to separate the body and neck, and this involves removing frets and drilling some holes. This can only be performed by an experienced luthier, and it’s definitely not something that can be attempted by someone with little to no experience. 

Neck-Through Construction

Finally, there is the neck-through design. This is also sometimes referred to as the through-neck, or neck-thru construction. This is when the body and neck are made from one continuous piece of wood. 

Which Guitars Use It?

The neck-through design is pretty rare and only ever used on premium guitars. Usually the most high end manufacturers like Gibson and Fender use set-neck constructions instead of through-necks as they are typically a lot more complicated to make and much more expensive. Hence, they are usually found on older guitar models. It can be used on both acoustic and electric guitars. 

How Can you Identify It?

Unlike the bolt-on and set-neck constructions, you won’t see any separation between the neck and body of the guitar as it is all made from one continuous piece of wood. 


Neck-through constructions are championed for their tonal quality. They are recognised for having better sustain and resonance as there is no separation between the neck and body. Some players also really like the look of through-necks as they look super slick and clean. 


The main disadvantage of the neck-through design, is that it’s impossible to replace the neck if it gets damaged. You would need to purchase an entire new guitar if you’re unfortunate enough for this to occur to you. 

Secondly, they mean you have to use the same wood for the neck and body. It limits your opportunity for customisation and means you can’t use a different neck and body wood, which can be an issue for some players. 

The final drawback, is the price. This is the most expensive neck construction as it takes a huge amount of skill to manufacture it. So expect a pretty big price tag if you’re after a neck-thru guitar. You can also have some trouble finding one, as they are pretty rare to buy nowadays. 


So to round things off, here are a few points to consider when deciding which neck construction to go for.

  • If you want the cheapest price, then bolt-on neck constructions are your best bet as they are usually found on entry level and affordable models.
  • If you’re after the best resonance and sustain, then consider the neck-through and set-neck constructions.
  • Bolt-on necks are easiest to replace if broken, followed by set-necks. Through-necks are impossible to replace if damaged.
  • Set-necks are cleaner looking than bolt-ons, and through-necks look super unique and sleek. 

So there you go! That’s how to decide if locking tuners are actually worth it for you! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful:


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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