Battle of the Gear Brands

We've already shared our rankings for the best-selling products of the year, including guitars, electronic gear, recording gear, and effects. Below, we're zooming out from individual items to take a look at the dominant brands in each gear category.

For each category below, we start by looking at the top 10 companies—combining new and used sales—and show their share of the top of the market. This view, of course, leaves out many, many interesting and worthwhile brands, but it is an interesting way to see just how popular the most popular brands really are.

From there, we note how 2021's top 10 lists compare to 2020's and, finally, how the rankings change if we look at sales of new gear only.

Note: All rankings are determined by the actual number of items sold, not the total price of sold items. The main charts include all sales, whether new or used, except where noted in the "Rankings for New Sales Only" tables.

Share of Orders for Top 10 Acoustic Guitar Brands

The individual best-selling guitars this year were the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy, the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany, and the Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster. But taken on the whole, a few popular items from other brands couldn't dethrone the king of acoustics: Martin.

How This Compares to 2020

Brand 2021 Rank 2020 Rank Change
Martin 1 1 --
Taylor 2 2 --
Gibson 3 4 +1
Yamaha 4 3 -1
Fender 5 5 --
Epiphone 6 6 --
Takamine 7 8 -1
Guild 8 9 +1
Ibanez 9 7 +2
Ovation 10 11 +1

There aren't many changes to note between this year and last year, with Martin and Taylor staying in first and second. Gibson and Yamaha did swap for third and fourth place, while Guild, Ibanez, and Ovation all moved up a few spots.

Rankings for New Acoustic Sales Only

Brand New Sales Only Rank Overall Rank Change
Martin 1 1 --
Yamaha 2 4 +2
Taylor 3 2 -1
Fender 4 5 +1
Ibanez 5 9 +4
Epiphone 6 6 --
Eastman 7 14 +7
Recording King 8 17 +9
Alvarez 9 15 +6
Gibson 10 3 -7

While Martin, Yamaha, and Taylor remain in the top spots, there's quite a bit of movement in the rankings when looking at sales of new acoustics only. A trio of brands known for making high-quality, budget-friendly guitars—Eastman, Recording King, and Alvarez—jump up to claim spots on the top 10 list, and Gibson drops from third place to tenth.

Share of Orders for Top 10 Electric Guitar Brands

It's no surprise that the two biggest names in electric guitars are Fender and Gibson. What's interesting is that, when including each of their budget brands, Squier and Epiphone, they take up well over half of the entire top 10 real estate.

These 2021 rankings are remarkably consistent with 2020's—which are not shown here, because the only difference was that Gretsch and ESP LTD swapped their seventh and eight positions.

Rankings for New Electric Sales Only

Brand New Sales Only Rank Overall Rank Change
Fender 1 1 --
Epiphone 2 3 +1
Squier 3 6 +3
PRS 4 5 +1
Ibanez 5 4 -1
Gibson 6 2 -4
Jackson 7 9 +2
Schecter 8 10 +2
ESP LTD 9 7 -2
Gretsch 10 8 -2

When we published our rankings for the best-selling guitars, it kicked off a discussion about the PRS Silver Sky, because it outsold any single model of American-made Fender Stratocaster. But since we combined new and used sales in those rankings, there was speculation around the gear internet that perhaps it's because used PRS models were simply changing hands more often.

While used sales were certainly part of the Silver Sky's success this year, you can see here that new sales for PRS guitars are very strong. And in fact the company moves up in the rankings when only looking at new sales. Other winners through this lens include Epiphone and Squier, while the more expensive Gibson falls a few spots.

Share of Orders for Top 10 Amp Brands

Fender's dominance continues in the amp category, with other mainstays like Marshall and Orange rounding out the top three spots. (If you've ever wanted to hear side-by-side comparisons for Fender vs. Marshall vs. Vox or Orange vs. Mesa vs. Hiwatt, click those links.)

Again, we're not going through the trouble of showing the 2020 rankings for this particular category because it is so similar. Between last year and 2021, Vox and Mesa-Boogie swapped third and fourth, while Boss and Peavey swapped sixth and seventh. Every other ranking is unchanged.

Rankings for New Amp Sales Only

Brand New Sales Only Rank Overall Rank Change
Fender 1 1 --
Orange 2 3 +1
Marshall 3 2 -1
Mesa-Boogie 4 4 --
Vox 5 5 --
Boss 6 7 +1
Blackstar 7 8 +1
Yamaha 8 11 +3
Roland 9 10 +1
Ampeg 10 9 -1

When viewing sales of new amps only, the rankings are fairly consistent too. However, there is a good bit of movement in the bottom half of the list, with Boss, Blackstar, Yamaha, and Roland all moving up in the ranks.

One interesting omission in the new and overall charts is Positive Grid, whose Spark 40 was, by far, one of the most popular single amps of the year. To move the needle at the brand level, it seems that companies need to have at least a few popular releases.

Share of Orders for Top 10 Synth & Keys Brands

Whether we're talking desktop synths, keyboards, or Eurorack modules, the synth market was one of the most exciting corners of the gear world in 2021. The biggest winners this year were Korg, Roland, and Yamaha—all legacy companies who continue to put out exciting new gear. But relative upstarts like Make Noise, Intellijel, Mutable Instruments, and Erica Synths are also well represented.

How This Compares to 2020

Brand 2021 Rank 2020 Rank Change
Korg 1 1 --
Roland 2 2 --
Yamaha 3 3 --
Make Noise 4 5 +1
Moog 5 6 +1
Arturia 6 4 -2
Intellijel 7 11 +4
Novation 8 7 -1
Mutable Instruments 9 9 --
Erica Synths 10 14 +4

What's especially cool to see is how these younger companies are moving up the ranks as compared to 2020. Intellijel moved a full four positions up, while Erica Synths breached the top 10 from last year's 14th place. With a whole host of recent announcements—like the Black K-Phaser and Pērkons drum machine—there's good reason to think Erica Synths will climb even higher in 2022.

Rankings for New Synth Sales Only

Brand New Sales Only Rank Overall Rank Change
Korg 1 1 --
Yamaha 2 3 +1
Make Noise 3 4 +1
Roland 4 2 -2
Arturia 5 6 +1
Mutable Instruments 6 9 +3
Erica Synths 7 10 +3
Intellijel 8 7 -1
Behringer 9 11 +2
Doepfer 10 12 +2

When looking at new sales only, there's quite a bit of volatility in the rankings. Make Noise sneaks ahead of Roland, Mutable Instruments and Erica Synths each move up three spots, and Behringer and Doepfer crack the top 10.

Share of Orders for Top 10 Effects & Pedal Brands

The big success story of this year's best-selling pedals list was EarthQuaker Devices—whose Astral Destiny and Hizumitas topped the list of most-popular new pedals. Walrus Audio and JHS also claimed top spots with Walrus' Mako R1 and Mako ACS1 and JHS' PackRat. But when it comes to overall rankings Boss is still aptly named, and EHX remains a titan.

How This Compares to 2020

Brand 2021 Rank 2020 Rank Change
Boss 1 1 --
Electro-Harmonix 2 2 --
MXR 3 4 +1
TC Electronic 4 3 -1
JHS 5 5 --
EarthQuaker Devices 6 6 --
Keeley 7 8 +1
Strymon 8 9 +1
DigiTech 9 7 -2
Walrus Audio 10 10 --

JHS and EQD are almost equally matched for overall sales volume—both in 2021 and 2020—and in each year their head-to-head ranks are unchanged. But if either one or both companies have a big 2022, they could pretty easily overtake TC Electronic and MXR. (Between 2020 and 2021, TC Electronic and MXR swapped their third and fourth positions, so while MXR may have a long history to draw from, its position is not unmovable.)

Rankings for New Pedal Sales Only

Brand New Sales Only Rank Overall Rank Change
Boss 1 1 --
Electro-Harmonix 2 2 --
JHS 3 5 +2
MXR 4 3 -1
EarthQuaker Devices 5 6 +1
TC Electronic 6 4 -2
Strymon 7 8 +1
Dunlop 8 11 +3
Mooer 9 15 +6
Walrus Audio 10 10 --

In support of the theory above, JHS and EQD both jump ahead in rankings when looking at sales of new pedals alone. By this view Dunlop and Mooer crack the top 10, with Mooer moving up a full six spots.

Share of Orders for Top 10 Recording Gear Brands

Finally, let's take a look at the top pro audio brands this year. Out of the top five microphone models sold on Reverb this year, Shure had the top four: the SM57, SM7B, SM58, and Beta 52A. And similarly, Focusrite's various Scarlet interface models accounted for four of the top five best-selling interfaces. So it's no surprise that those two companies dominate the top of the recording gear market.

How This Compares to 2020

Brand 2021 Rank 2020 Rank Change
Shure 1 2 +1
Focusrite 2 1 -1
Behringer 3 3 --
Universal Audio 4 5 +1
Sennheiser 5 6 +1
PreSonus 6 4 -2
Tascam 7 8 +1
Yamaha 8 7 -1
Mackie 9 11 +2
AKG 10 9 -1

While there are no big swings, there are several changes for pro audio's top 10 between 2020 and 2021. Shure and Focusrite swapped the top spot. Universal Audio and Sennheiser both jumped ahead of PreSonus, and Mackie jumped to number nine from last year's 11th position.

Rankings for New Recording Gear Sales Only

Brand New Sales Only Rank Overall Rank Change
Shure 1 1 --
Focusrite 2 2 --
Behringer 3 3 --
Mackie 4 9 +5
PreSonus 5 6 +1
Yamaha 6 8 +2
Universal Audio 7 4 -3
Sennheiser 8 5 -3
RODE 9 20 +11
ART 10 17 +7

As you can see here, when looking at new recording gear sales only, Mackie jumps five spots up, so its overall gains in 2021 got a nice bump from new sales. Other big winners here include RODE and ART, who only appear in the top 10 list for new sales, while Shure and Focusrite remain the undisputed leaders, no matter how you slice the data.

If you've enjoyed these breakdowns and haven't yet checked out our best-selling lists for individual pieces of gear, dive in now:

You can also checkout some expert opinions—including from our hosts Andy Martin and Fess Grandiose—on "The Best New Gear of 2021."

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