Editor’s Note: Guitar Junky is an affiliate for Sweetwater.com. However, this does not, in any way or form, affect this detailed comparison review.
As the two largest online music instrument retailers in the world, Sweetwater and Guitar Center are often compared.
But how do they compare to one another?
This article will break down their key differences so you can see which store is better for your needs!
Sweetwater is a family-owned business that sells high end instruments and music gear.
They have been around since 1979 (founded by Chuck Surack), so they’ve had plenty of time to make their niche in the industry!
Sweetwater also offers expert advice from an actual music professional who can answer any question you may have about your purchase.
The company takes pride on being able to offer personalized service with every customer no matter how small the request might be!
Guitar Center Overview
Guitar Center is the largest music instrument retailer in North America.
It’s a publicly traded company with over 700 stores and employs more than 18,000 people nationwide.
The Guitar Center mission statement includes providing “the best possible customer experience by delivering innovative products that inspire passion for musical instruments.”
Sweetwater Vs Guitar Center: What’s the Difference?
Website User Experience
When you go to Sweetwater’s website, shopping is efficient.
You can search for items by category and then narrow your results down by brand or the type of instrument.
While Guitar Center does have a few features that Sweetwater doesn’t, it lacks in comparison when it comes to filters.
The only way to narrow your search is by the instrument or brand, which in Sweetwater you can do both.
Guitar Center and Sweetwater generally have the same price on all music gear.
Sweetwater will also price match if you find an item at less than the retail cost listed on their website.
So while both stores tend to offer the same pricing, from time to time either one may run limited-time deals which can make an item you are looking for more affordable.
Sweetwater also provides free shipping on all orders nationwide, no matter how small.
Sweetwater offers excellent customer service.
Sweetwater employees are well-informed and will answer your questions with detail, if you’re interested in their product.
Sweetwater also provides free shipping on all orders over $50 for customers nationwide!
Guitar Center is a more accessible location since it has retail stores across the U.S., but they don’t have the same customer service Sweetwater offers.
Both retailers offer the same brands (including guitars, keyboards, drums, etc.).
As for used gear, Guitar Center might be a better option as they have large selections listed on their website.
Nevertheless, Sweetwater has long been the more trusted place to buy all of your gear in one place.
Not only that they have more items in their warehouse than any other music instruments retailer, they specialize in helping people build studios, event spaces, and can even design them for you and build them.
They have way more to offer for a one-stop shopping visit than any other musical instrument retailer.
- Sweetwater offers free shipping on everything, regardless of the total. Only very large oversize items have a freight shipping charge (like a giant desk, for example.) They are considerably better than Guitar Center in this regard.
- Sweetwater AND Guitar Center are only allowed to ship within the USA.
Unfortunately, Guitar Center does not have dedicated Sales Engineers, unlike at Sweetwater.
Yes, Guitar Center has people you can call.
But at Sweetwater, you are assigned a Sales Engineer that is yours forever.
They will call you to make sure you got your order.
They will call you and find out what your goals are for your music and if they find a new cool piece of gear they will call you and let you know that it would fit in nicely with your studio goals.
So, in overall support, I’d say Sweetwater wins this round.
Sweetwater’s return policy is quite lenient, with a 30 day money back guarantee period and 2 year warranty.
Guitar Center’s policies are less clear cut; they offer exchanges on most items for up to 90 days after purchase but their warranties last just one year from the date of purchase.
Sweetwater offers customers a money refund if the customer is not completely satisfied with their purchase.
Any goods purchased can be returned for any reason, so long as it has been within 30 days of the sale date and all original packaging materials are included.
Sweetwater will also pay to ship back the item at their expense. Read more about their policy here.
On the other hand, Guitar Center also offers a 100% money back guarantee if an item has been purchased within 30 days of the date it was delivered or shipped, if it is in new and resalable condition, and if the original packaging materials are included.
Guitar Center does not pay for shipping of returned items unless they need to be repaired or replaced.
Both of these companies have great return policies, but Sweetwater puts the burden on their end, to make sure customers are satisfied enough to want to return their item. Read more about their return policy here.
Is Sweetwater owned by Guitar Center?
No, Sweetwater is not owned by Guitar Center.
Guitar Center is a subsidiary of retail chain Best Buy and Sweetwater is privately-owned company that has been in business for over 30 years.
Guitar Center is owned by Bain Capital and a group of private equity firms.
Is Sweetwater a good company?
Sweetwater is a well-established company.
Sweetwater prides itself on excellent customer service, and they offer low prices with no hidden fees.
Sweetwater has been in business for over 40 years, which means you would expect their reputation to be outstanding!
Does Guitar Center Price Match Sweetwater?
No, Guitar Center does not have a price match policy.
Guitar Center’s prices are competitive with Sweetwater’s and they often run promotions that offer discounts on certain items or bundles.
So if you find the same item at Sweetwater for cheaper than what it is at Guitar Center – buy it!
Sweetwater Vs Guitar Center: Which Store Should You buy?
If you’re still on the fence about which guitar store to choose, let me help break it down for you.
While it may seem like Sweetwater and Guitar Center are neck-and-neck in terms of pricing (which is somewhat true), there are a few other factors that need to be considered before making your final decision.
For example, while both stores offer plenty of guitars with different price ranges and styles – what if I told you that at Sweetwater every purchase comes with free shipping?
What if I also mentioned how they have an unparalleled selection of gear because they sell everything from amps to books?
When we take these two things into account as well as their warranty policies, customer service level, return policy etc., we can see that Sweetwater is the better option.
What do you think of this comparison?
Let me know in the comments below.
Also Read: 10 Best Places to Buy Guitars Online