Best Electric Guitar Under 1000 Bucks - Reviews and Buying Guide
So you've got a little cash to blow on a shiny new guitar.
You could be an intermediate player looking to step up, an experienced player looking to add to their collection, or a beginner who has the dough and wants to start on a guitar they'll never advance out of. Whatever your situation, we're going to take a look at what goes into the anatomy of these more expensive guitars and discuss why these upgrades make a difference.
So, what's the best electric guitar to buy? Stay with me. I'm going to help you find the best electric guitar under $1000 for you.
Oh, and for the purposes of this page, we're talking about solid body electric guitars. I'll be covering hollow and semi-hollow body electrics elsewhere on the site.
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.
Fast View: Best Electric Guitars Under 1000 - Top 3
Best Electric Guitar Under $1000 - Reviews
The Brian May Signature Electric Guitar isn't just another electric guitar. It's designed after the Red Special Brian played in Queen's heyday, but this master guitarist has been tinkering and improving it constantly ever since.
What you have, is a beauty of a guitar that sounds different from anything you’ve ever played before and with dozens of settings to choose from. It's definitely reflective of Brian May's sound and playing style.
The fretboard layout and scale take a little getting used to, but it's great for fast fingers and the medium jumbo frets make fingering the toughest chords a breeze. The guitar overall is on the smallish side and you might need to find the right position to play it in.
It features one master volume and one tone pot, and six switches that let you dial in the exact sound you're looking for. Overall it favors the treble and a smoother tone, even with pedals, so if you like to grind in the basement, this may not be the guitar for you. If you like your guitar to sing sweet and high, then this is the one.
It doesn't take too long to get accustomed to the feel of the guitar, or the variety of switches. Once you get it, this could easily end up being your favorite guitar. The unique variety of tones it's able to create gives you a lot of room to show off your skills and stretch your creativity.
This guitar will challenge you to become a better player, just so you can play it to its full potential.
Pros: An intelligently designed guitar by a master guitarist. Love the huge variety of options in controlling the sound.
Cons: It definitely feels different to play and some people won't adjust easily.
Do you know how Jimi's 'lefty flip' affected his sound? It lengthened the bass strings, making them tighter, but it also made string bending up top way easier and more effective. Not only were the strings flipped, but that flipped the pickup calibration and changed the string-to-string volume relationship, which became an integral part of Jimi's sound.
Well, on this tribute guitar, Fender has recreated all of the special feature of the Hendrix lefty flip, but in a right-handed guitar!
They've reversed everything in the same way, matching the layout and the vintage hardware, so you can get the same sound as Jimi Hendrix. They are not messing around here. Everything is as authentic as it can be. From the trio of reverse-mounted American Vintage ‘65 single-coil Stratocaster pickups to the reverse ’70s-style headstock this Stratocaster is all classic.
The Fender Stratocaster sets the industry standard for a reason, it's a great guitar. Some of the greatest guitarists ever have loved this guitar and each has had their own sound. That's one of its advantages. If you want to sound like Jimi, great. If not, then sound like you, or another of your favorite guitarists.
This Strat can handle a wide range of creative voices and you can get almost anything you want out of it. But if you've ever wanted to sound like Jimi, this model will get you there easily.
Pros: Love the classic Strat, but hands down this is in my wheelhouse. Being able to get Jimi's signature sound, I only hope I can do it some justice.
Cons: While it has a wide range in tones, it does fall firmly in the classic field so if that's not your thing, this might not be the guitar for you.
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Paul Reed Smith has been partnered with Carlos Santana for decades and they've offered various incarnations of his guitars in that time. This Retro SE references the pre-factory, meaning custom made, guitars Paul built for Carlos in the early 1980's. This is reflected in the original heel and headstock, as well as a deeper body carve.
Besides the nostalgia, this is a wonderfully playable guitar. Well-balanced with a comfortable 24.5" scale, 24 fret neck, custom PRS hardware, volume and tone control with 3-Way toggle pickup selector at your fingertips make this a sweet guitar to play. No reaching, no fumbling, everything is right there.
Of course, part of buying a guitar designed with/by one of your favorite players is the quest to capture their special sound. That isn't forgotten here. Both the bass and treble pickups are SE Santana "S" humbuckers, so you know you're getting the sound you want.
Let's take just a moment to appreciate the finish and design touches on this guitar. First, the gorgeous yellow on the flame maple top is awesome. You'll be the coolest cat in any crowd. And then there's this wonderful detail that's a PRS classic, the fretboard inlays that are shaped like birds, flying birds, each a little different from the last. A really nice touch.
Whether you love Santana, or just want a really great guitar, take a good, close look at this one.
Pros: The tones from this PRS are amazing and not limiting. While the style might harken back to another time, the sound leaves room to come right up to present day.
Cons: Not a significant one I can think of.
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Is a Les Paul your dream guitar, but the Gibson version is just too expensive? Well, this Epiphone Standard Plus-Top Pro is a cut above that you can actually afford.
First off, it's gorgeous, with the heritage cherry sunburst finish. It looks great in the pics, but even better in person. The pearloid trapezoid inlays in the fretboard are a nice touch, as well.
And second, Les Paul is a classic on a scale of epic proportions, and this guitar does its reputation more than justice.
This Les Paul has Epiphone ProBucker 2 and ProBucker 3 pickups AND push/pull coil tapping, which means you can switch from the humbucker sound to single coil with the flip of your finger.
This gives you an exceptionally wide range of sound for a Les Paul and a lot of versatility in your playing. This guitar is well made, is well balanced, and comes setup, ready to play.
This guitar is everything you expect from a Les Paul and it won't leave you moaning about the fact that you didn't spend thousands of dollars on a Gibson. This one will give you everything you need, and more.
Pros: Love that this is a quality, affordable interpretation of such a great Gibson classic.
Cons: Depending on the seller, make sure you're getting the push/pull coil tapping or you might miss out.
This guitar looks like it's ready for hard rock and metal (there's also a solid black version) but it only takes the flick of a switch to get to sounds suitable for blues, rock and jazz.
The Seymour Duncan humbuckers, TB-5 at the bridge and APH-1 at the neck, create a broad range of achievable tones. You will not be limited in style, no matter how how wicked this guitar looks.
In addition, the Tune-o-matic bridge and string through body tailpiece, along with the fact that this is one big guitar, create an incredibly long sustain that you can work to your heart's content.
The smooth ebony fretboard, 24.75" scale and 22 jumbo frets make fingering and string bending easy.
Oh, and while it's big, it's not as heavy as it looks. Still, this guitar might be a challenge for guitarists of a smaller body type.
This Dean is a lot of guitar and it delivers in playability, construction and quality. If you've got the attitude, it'll take you places.
Pros: This guitar delivers a lot more than what the looks promise. You'll be amazed at what it can do.
Cons: The size is difficult for some people.
This American-made, Fender design is Leo Fender's definitive creation of the classic single cutaway, solid-body electric guitar.
Reminiscent of a Telecaster, but with a few more curves, this guitar features 3 versatile MFD pickups and a hard and fast maple neck and fingerboard.
This guitar is so classic that it comes from the historic factory in Fullerton, California, where Leo Fender's epic career began.
The 2 single coil MDF pickups create great flexibility of sound. Whether you want to play some ragged blues, some twangy country, or straight up rock, this guitar is ready.
Individual saddles for the strings still help produce a vintage sound while providing the best fine tuning capabilities of any modern electric guitar.
The Fullerton Standard is an immensely playable guitar.
If you've ever wanted classic American Fender guitar, this version is finely made and surprisingly affordable. Fulfill a dream and treat yourself. You can't go wrong here.
Pros: Love the versatility in this simple, classic re-interpretation of an American legend.
Cons: I don't love the knob/switch hardware choice. They could have gone with something that doesn't look so tacked on.
The VOX Starstream Type 1 is innovative as heck. Because of this, it's also a bit of an odd-duck of a guitar, but it's one that's looking hard into the future.
They're asking the question, why shouldn't our guitar do that?
The electronics on the Starstream not only create electric guitar sounds, they can sound like an acoustic guitar and 9banks of other instruments, including: banjo, electric sitar, 12-string, Strat and Tele, among others. Then, each of those instruments has 3 settings, and there are 2 customizable user settings.
With all these effect built in, some are certainly better than others, but any of them could add interesting sound textures to your recordings. Their use is pretty instinctual so don't be worried about it getting too complicated.
In addition to the built in effects, the body of the Vox Starstream is ergonomically designed to be as comfortable as possible for the widest range of people. They've really put a lot of thought into the design of this guitar, this music machine.
If you're looking for something different and innovative to really stretch your playing style and creativity, take a good look at the VOX Starstream Type 1.
Pros: This guitar is innovative, and you know I love that. I like when people take chances and this is an ambitious venture.
Cons: Sometimes it feels like it's more of a music machine than a guitar.
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This is not your mama's Telecaster.
Classic in style, yet decidedly modern in function, this Tele with a mahogany body and set neck as well as dual Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups delivers a bigger sound than most traditional Telecasters.
Fender does keep the mostly traditional controls, though, with three-way pickup switching, a push/pull coil tap switch built into the master tone control knob.
That coil tap is the kicker though, giving you power over which coils do what. So even here there's a modern touch.
As I said, the sound is big. This is a truly evolved version of the classic Fender Telecaster and it's a good direction to take it. The construction quality is top notch and it plays and sound great.
The carved flame maple top is beautiful, by the way, and the cream binding a nice design choice where bright white wouldn't have served as well.
If you like the Tele, but don't want your sound to be stuck in the past, this Special Edition is well worth a look.
Pros: This super-charged Tele is a nice step to bring a classic into the future.
Cons: Some people say it's like plaing a Gibson and that might mean it's lost some of its unique identity.
This Washburn Parallaxe is a fast guitar. A slick, smooth ebony fingerboard on a narrow neck for easy handling make this guitar a shredder's dream.
However, it's not just a metal guitar. It has real Seymour Duncan humbucker pickups, 2 coil tap parallel pots and a Floyd Rose tremolo that give the Parallaxe incredible versatility.
The Parallelaxe has a lot of settings that are unique to its own sound, but that you can also set-up to sound like other guitars, too. Need a Strat tonight? You got it.
With all this versatility, it doesn't matter if you play blues, country, jazz, rock or metal, this guitar is there for you. This is especially good if you find yourself switching between genres regularly, you won't have to pull out a different guitar with every switch.
And if you're performing cross-genre? This guitar is a dream. No need to lug every guitar in your collection, the Parallaxe will handle all your needs.
Washburn has really outdone themselves on this one. It does a great job of covering multiple genres and playing styles all in one instrument with no regrets and few shortcomings. No matter what you want to play, this guitar has got you covered.
Pros: The incredible versatility is the best thing about the Washburn Parallaxe
Cons: The Floyd Rose bridge can be difficult if you break a string during a performance.
Best Metal Guitars Under 1000 - Reviews
You wanna shred? 'cause this is the guitar for it. Not that it can't handle other genres, but shredding is what the Schecter Hellraiser was built to do.
With its roots deep in the metal world, the Hellraiser has some great features, most notably, the EMG active, dual-mode pickups. These things can handle volume and run ragged all day long.
Not to mention, you can get both humbucker and single coil tones from them. Admittedly, they excel as humbuckers, but it gives you a huge range above and beyond single-mode pickups.
The build on this guitar is sweet. Everything is solid and slick, and the finish is everything you'd hope for from a black cherry finish on a quilted maple top – which also gives the sound some pop.
Schecter's locking tuners add a nice touch so you're not spending your time tuning instead of playing.
The mahogany body brings out some nice, crisp tone amid the crunch and helps create a crazy great sustain while still rockin' the overdrive as if that's just the state of the universe.
The Hellraiser may need some set-up when it arrives, but it's a work horse of a guitar that delivers on every shredding level. You wanna shred? Schecter nails it!
Pros: Built to shred.
Cons: Not as versatile for non-shredding applications.
Another awesome metal guitar, the Iron Label S series from Ibanez is definitely for rockers, designed that way from the ground up. It's also a very comfortable guitar to play, moderate size, light/mid-weight, great neck shape and a smooth ebony fingerboard make playing easy.
Oh, and the blue space burst finish is fantastic.
DiMarzio Fusion Edge pickups provide a crisp top end, and a grinding bottom without making mud in the middle. The tone is sharp when it needs to be and hot all the time.
The mahogany body, when combined with the Ibanez Gibraltar Standard II bridge, gives this guitar excellent sustain and tone.
This may be the best Ibanez guitar for metal, ever.
This is right in the class with the Schecter Hellraiser and it's hard to say which might turn out to be your favorite. They're both excellent in their class. Both look and play great.
If you're a shredder, you've got a tough call to make. The good news is, there isn't a bad choice in this mix.
Pros: Excellent playability all around.
Cons: Even with the DiMarzio pickups, the sound could be a little cleaner for my preference.
Designed by John Petrucci, the Majesty is a slick, well-balanced that is easy to play. The deep cutouts give incredible access to the high end of the fretboard and the whole instrument is just smooth.
You can play all night on this guitar and it's just gonna ask for more.
Take, for example, the 12db volume boost button. Press once to activate, press again to deactivate. Easy. You don't have to worry about position, or where the dial is set. You can do it all by feel.
With a comfortable set neck and buttery smooth fingerboard, this guitar is built for speed. It also excels when put to the test with pedals and effects. Push it, pull it, the Majesty is ready for them all.
This is another good shredding guitar, but you can get a good variety of sound with its 3-way pickup switch.
Another great benefit is that you get fully professional setup and inspection done in the USA, right before it gets shipped out to you. That means it arrives ready to play.
This guitar is a real looker and a great performer. You can't go wrong.
Pros: Love the color and styling of this guitar.
Cons: The shape is a little love/hate, depending on who you ask.
This ESP FRX-401 metal guitar is supremely designed for aggressive players. The sturdy mahogany body can not only stand up to the punishment physically, but it gives nice clear tone, even through the grind.
No matter how hard you dig, your tone will not turn to mud.
Of course, for a guitar like this it only makes sense to have a strong fixed bridge and string-through body for maximum stability to retain tuning so you don't get caught out during a performance.
The FRX-401 has a 24-extra-jumbo-fret rosewood fingerboard, a 25.5" scale and a pair of EMG active humbucker pickups for your ultimate shredding pleasure.
It comes in gloss black, or gloss white and looks hot in any room, on any stage.
If you're looking for a shredding, grinding riff machine, you've found it.
Pros: This guitar is a shredder's dream, in look, playability and quality.
Cons: The tone is entirely straightforward and not terribly complex.
Best Electric Guitar Under 1000 Bucks - Buying Guide
6 Things to Look for BEFORE Buying
Why Wood Choice Still Matters on a Solid Body Guitar
Let's start by talking about the body of the guitar. I know some people think the type of wood used on a solid body electric guitar doesn't make a difference. The theory is that the vibration goes from the strings to the pickups and that's it. The resonance, sustain and other properties of the wood are irrelevant to the string-pickup transaction.
I don't agree with this.
I'll fully admit that the wood used makes less difference than on hollow body, or semi-hollow body guitars that rely on resonance chambers to contribute to their sound. But if it really didn't matter on a solid wood body, if it's only the interaction between pickup and strings, then why even use wood at all? Why not just use plastic?
Because it does matter.
From the way the pickups are seated, to the way the wood gives, or doesn't, in reaction to the string being plucked or strummed – it all contributes to the sound. Wood expands and contracts, it breathes, it gives life to the sound. And different woods contribute to the sound in different ways.
I have a pretty thorough discussion of tonewoods here. There are two missing from that list for this discussion. (I discuss fretboard woods over on that page, too – just below the body woods.)
One, is alder, which is used mostly on electric guitars (the linked article discusses acoustics). Alder has a nice bright tone with good sustain. Its tones are not as warm and round as those you get from mahogany, which may, or may not, be an issue, depending on what kind of sound you're looking for.
The second wood missing from the list is swamp ash, which is harder than mahogany, giving it great resonance and a bright tone. Swamp ash can have a gorgeous grain pattern that shows up real pretty under certain stains.
In higher-end electric guitars like the ones we're talking about, you should expect higher quality woods to be used in their construction.
By itself, I wouldn't let the type of wood dictate my purchasing choice on a solid body guitar, but if it's a close call, I'll take a mahogany body over basswood any day. (No offense to people who like basswood, I know there's some that's good quality, it's just not my preference.)
Don't ignore the type of wood you're getting because it's a solid body. Pay attention – be informed. It matters.
Guitar Shape Options
This is entirely up to you. You can get some really cool electric guitars in this price range. Solid bodies have so many different models and possibilities for shape - it really comes down to personal style and preference.
Are you wanting something that looks awesome on-stage for solos, or is it strictly comfort and fit that's important to you? Maybe a beautiful candy-apple finish is your thing, or a body type with a lot of angles.
Maybe you're looking for an American-made electric guitar, or you need one that's good for small hands – or maybe large ones. If you're looking for a Gibson Les Paul under 1000, you might have to come up with a little more scratch, but there's a sweet Epiphone version available. And Fender Stratocasters have always been able to deliver great quality for a reasonable budget.
That's one of the great things about solid bodies, since the shape doesn't alter the sound, you have tons of choices.
It's completely okay if you're living out a fantasy by emulating your favorite guitarist. That's part of the fun, isn't it? I mean, a Flying V might not be the most versatile guitar under the sun, but life is too short not to enjoy your guitar.
Go crazy – get a style you love. Indulge yourself.
Neck Construction on Electric Guitars Under $1000
In this price range you shouldn't be seeing bolt-on necks. Not that they're entirely bad, but they're not the top quality used in the construction of higher end guitars.
The set necks and through-necks you will see on better guitars, by their nature, go a long way to increasing sustain and resonance.
They'll be less likely to warp. Many have adjustable truss rods or dual truss rods to help keep them aligned properly over the life of the guitar. You'll see maple and Pau Ferro wood frequently. Both are excellent for neck strength, weight and stability.
You'll also find that manufacturers take a little extra care in getting just the right neck angle on their upper end guitars, because they know you are the players that will notice.
Quality of Pickups on Advanced Level Electric Guitars
This is one of the most significant improvements you'll find in higher end guitars. Pickups are so significantly responsible for the way an electric guitar sounds that any improvements here make a big difference.
Budget guitars come with generic pickups that, if it's a decent instrument, will get the job done, but not much more. With higher end guitars, you should expect a lot more in this department. Name brands like, Seymour-Duncan, DiMarzio, EMG, Lace Sensor and, of course, Fender and Gibson, should be standard.
What does this mean in a higher end guitar?
It means that for single coil pickups, like those in strats, you should have less hum and a clearer and brighter sound. Some have gotten the hum of the single coil down to almost nothing. Higher end single coil pickups can also bring more volume, one of the things that the generic type of this pickup rarely excels at.
Some upper end single coil pickups can fatten the sound without losing their crispness and clarity. Again, making up for one of the standard trade-offs of single coil. Some will be able to pull off more grit than the generics. And some will be able to do a number of these things.
High-end humbuckers can be expected to handle, or create, larger distortion loads while also increasing the crispness of the top end. They can handle greater volume and should definitely not get muddy in the middle range. A lot of these will excel in metal and rock, but not be limited to these genres. You can even get a vintage sound patterned after an old Gibson.
All-in-all, when you're looking for the best electric guitar in the under $1000 category, you should expect excellence from the pickups. They'll be designed to make up for the deficiencies of the pickups' original design, as well as offer some new features that improve and expand the sound profile of the guitar.
Every pickup might not do everything I've listed above, but they'll definitely deliver far more range than the generics on beginner guitars. You'll be able to find more complex blends and fine tune your tone by dialing in different combinations to get your perfect sound.
Great pickups are one of the best features on higher quality guitar.
What to Look for in a Bridge on High-End Electric Guitars
Electric guitars in this price range will generally have the best bridges and locking string systems. You'll see a lot more Tune-o-matic bridges as well as Floyd Rose tremolos. These models are excellent for keeping the guitar in tune even under heavy playing and intensive whammy use (in the case of Floyd Rose). It's not that the guitar will never go out of tune, but once set up, these and other high-end bridges minimize the number of adjustments needed.
Imagine being able to play however long and hard you want and not having to stop to re-tune. This is a wonderful advantage you find in these guitars.
Of course, the standard warning about Floyd Rose bridge must be stated. They're excellent, but they're also complex. It might take a little time to learn how to really dial it in properly. Even changing a string has a lot of fine tuning adjustments to get things just right. So be ready to learn something new if you haven’t used one of these before. And if you're a beginner, it might be good to have an experienced player around that can help you learn the Floyd Rose system. Or you might want to consult your local guitar shop for some instruction. You can check out some YouTube videos as well.
Another feature that's becoming popular that couples with bridges, is the 'string through' body, where the strings actually run all the way through the body of the guitar. It's quite a nice system that produces a cleaner look and greater sustain. I wouldn't hesitate to get another string through guitar. It's not a make-or-break feature for me. Both systems work perfectly well.
Quality Tuning Keys and the Difference They Make
You'll have upgraded tuners on the finer guitars as well.
It might not seem like much, but great tuning keys are one of those luxuries that once you've had them, you never want to go back.
One of the best features, of course, are locking tuners that really help lock the guitar in tune. They clamp onto the string and hold it tight. You're not messing around with lots of string wrapped around the peg that can loosen and slip. These tuners do a great job and really reduce the need to re-tune.
The other thing to consider about finer tuners is a higher gear ratio. The higher the ratio, the more turns of the gear it takes to make a single turn of the key.
What this does is it gives you greater control over the fine tuning of the string.
With a high ratio you're never stuck with the string being a little flat, or a little sharp, you can hit the note spot on every time. This sort of precision is rarely available in budget models.
Taken individually, it might not seem like any one of these improvements is a big deal. A little bit here, a little bit there. But bring them together in a single electric guitar and you've got one sweet instrument. It's a guitar that will have great action and resonance. It'll look awesome and feel good in your hands. And it will stay in tune and be a joy to play. You can't ask much more of an electric guitar. If you can afford one of these wonderful six-strings, you'll be the envy of everyone on the block.
Love it. Play it. Show it off. You've got a new guitar!
FAQ - Best Electric Guitar Under $1000
What is the best electric guitar under $1000?
If you've Quick Navigated to this FAQ, here's the cheat sheet for the guitars above.
Of the 13 electric guitars under $1000 we reviewed, our Top 3 Choices are:
If you've got a little extra to spend on a guitar like these, you're going to enjoy our full list that includes a section for Best Metal Guitars Under $1000Best Metal Guitars Under $1000. We review some sweet electric guitars, like the Epiphone Les PaulEpiphone Les Paul, a Special Edition Fender TelecasterSpecial Edition Fender Telecaster, the Washburn ParallaxeWashburn Parallaxe. and the Schecter HellraiserSchecter Hellraiser.
All 13 we review are dream electric guitars that any player would be proud to show off and have in their collection. Beautiful to look at and a riot to play. A perfectly wicked combination.
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