There were about 1,200 symphony orchestras in the United States as of 1998, and a similar number as of 2014. Some U.S. orchestras maintain a full 52-week performing season, but most are small and have shorter seasons. As of 2007, there were 117 U.S. orchestras with annual budgets of $2.5 million or more.
Critics in the 1950s identified five American orchestras as the Big Five, those considered leaders in "musical excellence, calibre of musicianship, total contract weeks, weekly basic wages, recording guarantees, and paid vacations." The five were the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Cleveland Orchestra. But the concept and the list are now outmoded. Music critics today include more orchestras on their lists of "top" American orchestras.
Notable U.S. orchestras are listed here by state. Youth orchestras are listed in a separate list of youth orchestras in the United States. For orchestras in other countries, see list of symphony orchestras.