10 Best Electric Guitars Under $1000 in 2020 (Review)
Spending around $1,000 on an electric guitar is a big decision that should be made with care. You’re not just buying an incredible piece of equipment; you’re buying something that’s going to push you to become a better musician. It only makes sense that you’d want to do your research and make an educated, intelligent decision.
We have created a review of the 10 best electric guitars under $1,000 because we want to educate you on the best styles, features, and the best brands with superior tonal qualities. Our goal is not only to help you along in your buying journey – it is to help you find the guitar of your dreams.
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The Best Electric Guitars Under $1000
1. ESP LTD EC-1000 Electric Guitar
The ESP LTD EC-1000 Electric Guitars is a premier model of its kind. Equipped with electro-magnetic generator (EMG) humbuckers, this guitar is primed for optimum sound and sustain. This makes it great for heavier sounds like metal or rock, but it will excel in any genre. The internal preamp is going to make the pickups louder and cut out any unwanted distortion. They will also make the guitar more responsive to every pluck, strum, and riff.
This is important as a professional musician. If you’re spending most of your time perfecting your craft, you want every detail of your work to sound out. This model is also equipped with a TOM (tune-o-matic) bridge, making it exceptional for precise intonation. The bridge itself has screws on both sides, so you can adjust it to the angle that suits your exact needs. It is also connected to a stop tailpiece, and each saddle is adjustable. While most electrics have TOM bridges, this bridge is exceptionally adjustable, and it is sturdy once adjusted.
The EC-1000 also comes in four stunning colors, three of which are not common (including a vintage black and a koa natural gloss). If you’re the type of musician that requires precise intonation, this is a fantastic choice.
2. Fender American Special Stratocaster Olympic Electric Guitar
Fender has gone out of their way to make this model great for blues players. With a tight bass and a perfect-pitch treble/high, the Fender American Special Stratocaster Olympic series has five pickup positions. This gives the guitar an authentic vintage tone, which is not common when it comes to electrics. They achieved this with a term they coined for their innovative style of pickups: “Texas Special”. These pickups are unique because they’re overwound and single-coiled. Having that tight bass is essential when playing any kind of smooth genre.
The set neck on this model has a 9.5” radius and the frets are jumbo-sized. The neck is also covered in a satin finish. The jumbo frets mean this guitar is not ideal for metal enthusiasts, but it’s a terrific choice for the blues or jazz genre.
3. Fender American Special Telecaster Electric Guitar
This Fender is similar to the last in our review with those Texas Style pickups for a warm, vintage sound. The pickups on this guitar are slightly different, however, in that they’re called Texas Style tele. With the tele type, you’re looking at an increased output due to the use of 5 alnico magnets and enamel-coated magnet wore.
With the Fender Olympic in this class, the focus is more on the tighter bass. With this Fender American Special Telecaster model, the focus is on a warm and clear tone + increased midrange.
One of the things we love most about this model is the vintage blonde color. While the maple fingerboard is not uncommon with Telecasters, it looks the best when paired with the vintage colors. Not only are you getting a guitar with excellent sound and action, you’re also getting an aesthetically stunning piece of art as well.
4. Schecter Hellraiser C-1
This Schecter Hellraiser C-1 lives up to its name with a bright metal sound for any hard rock enthusiast. Equipped with abalone gothic crosses, a massive cutaway, and EMG 81TW bridge pickups, it is a dream guitar for any shredder.
The frets on the Hellraiser are 24 X-Jumbo, and the fretboard has a hefty 14” radius. While the action is smooth and the truss rod is easily adjustable with a two-way rod, this is not a guitar for beginners. Thick fretboards require strong fingers with years of practice behind them. This is not recommended as a starter guitar (no matter what the age of the student is). This is an intermediate/advanced instrument.
With Schecter locking tuners, this guitar isn’t likely to easily pop out of tune. That being said, it’s important to treat this guitar with care. No matter how great the tuning pegs are, if the guitar is left in extremely hot/humid or cold climates, the tuners are going to lose their grip.
One of the things we love about this guitar is its quilted maple body. Not only does it make for a beautiful instrument, it also makes for a durable and long-lasting one. Taking it to and from gigs won’t be a problem, and taking it on the road with you if you’re a professional musician is more than acceptable.
5. Fender Classic Series ’50s Stratocaster
This is a great Fender Stratocaster for intermediate to advanced players who like the sound of 50’s rock. The 50’s the era when rock music came to be, when the electronic instrument industry exploded, and when riffs and solos became so popular.
This is a one-of-a-kind model with its exclusive vintage color choices, maple v-shaped neck, aged control knobs, and vintage-style synchronized bridge. Even the frets are vintage-inspired on this model. With staggered pole pieces and single-coil Stratocaster pickups, it sure to turn heads and ears. All of these vintage features are authentic and intentional, meant to take the player back to the 50’s. Fender has made sure that these guitars look just like the ones they produced back in the 50’s, but they made sure to incorporate a modern five-way pickup switch for incredible sound.
The Fender Classic Series ‘50’s Stratocaster is ideal for people who appreciate the way guitars were made in that decade, and for people who like that signature 50’s rock ‘n’ roll tone.
6. EVH Striped Series Stratocaster
This EVH Striped Series Stratocaster is exclusive in that it mimics Van Halen’s signature striped graphics. With a basswood Stratocaster-style body, it’s equipped with a graphite maple neck and a hand-rubbed oil finish.
Adjusting the truss rod is easy with a thumbwheel, and the maple fingerboard has 22 jumbo frets. Again, with this model, we have a humbucker pickup (this one is a direct-mount Wolfgang brand). The rest of the features are the EVH brand, including the locking tremolo, die-cast tuners, chrome hardware, and the neck plate. EVH has also added a bit of a vintage style with this one, especially with the strap buttons and neck plate.
The aesthetics of the guitar are sure to impress, but like most instruments, it’s the construction that really matters. Keep in mind that if you’re the type of musician who likes to adjust the sound to your precise needs, this may not be the guitar for you. The only button offered is a volume button, so all of your sound modifications need to be done using the amp. The problem with this is that the amp won’t necessarily produce that perfect sound from the pickups. Not like it would if there was a wider selection of modification features on the body. The basswood construction is sturdy.
7. Yamaha Revstar RS720B
The Yamaha Revstar RS720B is yet another vintage model in our review. Unlike the others, the vintage feel and sound is not replicated from other models. It is meant to depict London and Tokyo’s vintage street-racing motorbikes. Not only is it aesthetically unique, but it offers a true vintage sound because it is made in a similar fashion to the older Yamahas.
Because of its mahogany body and flamed maple top, the sound is going to be slightly warmer, but it works best for lead guitarists because each note rings out individually. This model is equipped with a tune-o-matic bridge and a 3-way lever.
8. Ibanez S Series Iron Label SIX6FDFM
The Ibanez S Series Iron Label SIX6FDFM is different when it comes to the humbuckers (there are two). One of them is located at the base of the neck, and the other is located just above the bridge. This creates a fantastic sound experience. The body is made from mahogany, and the neck is made from maple/bubinga.
A convenient feature is the bolt-on neck. While some prefer the body and neck to be connected (glued), others like the bolt-on because of its ability to be modified or replaced. If the guitar is dropped and the neck breaks, it’s easy to replace. You can purchase another and screw it right back on. It’s also equipped with a rosewood fretboard and a SAT Pro II tremolo bridge. This is another feature that some like and some don’t. The tremolo bridge uses a pivot point and it makes the strings anchored the guitar. A whammy bar (or tremolo arm) can make the tension tighter or looser, which changes the pitch.
While the tremolo is a good choice for many (like lead guitarists), it does have a tendency to pop the strings out of tune on a regular basis. It’s best to keep a tuner handy.
9. Guild S-200 T-Bird Solid Body
The Guild S-200 T-Bird Solid Body is an exact replication of the original version, which was created somewhere between 1964-1968. This is another great option for those that love the retro look, feel, and sound of instruments.
Out of all of the Guild models, this one has the most options as far as sound modification is concerned. It’s a perfect choice for someone who wants to play around with and experiment with their solos. It has dual Guild LB-1 Little Bucker pickups, and with this model you can play virtually any style of music you’d like. That is our favorite thing about this instrument – its ability to go from a sharp, bright tone to a warm, wide sound with a simple switch of the mode. There are standard volume controls, but there are also lead or rhythm modes to choose from.
This model is also equipped with a Hagstrom Vintage Tremar, which is also a replica of the original model. It is one of the signature features of the old Guilds, and it creates a warm, inviting vibrato (when utilized).
10. Yamaha RevStar RS820CR
The Yamaha RevStar RS820CR is yet another vintage model in our review. Unlike the others, the vintage feel and sound is not replicated from other models. It is meant to depict London and Tokyo’s vintage street-racing motorbikes. The fretboard is sensational in design, and the body of the guitar is comfortable to play with.
Yamaha has installed a Dry Switch in this series. It uses a passive filter circuit to create a sensitive frequency response, and it is designed to eliminate the humming sound that typically comes with split humbucking pickups. Yamaha might be better known for their acoustic pianos and guitars, but this electric is superior to many others in its class of different brands. The reason for this is the advanced and unique sound quality this particular model has to offer. It can play that sharp rock you’re looking for, but it’s best for solos. That is where it really shines – as a lead guitar.
Buying Guide for High-End Electric Guitars – Five Things to Consider
Be aware of your bridge expectations
There are a multitude of bridges for a reason. Each bridge serves a specific purpose. If you buy a fantastic guitar and it comes with a bridge you don’t like, you won’t be happy with your purchase.Many bridges are adjustable (like TOM bridges) and many are set. For some musicians, an adjustable bridge with adjustable saddles is an absolute must. They need to be able to change the intonation to whatever suits their precise needs. But for some, maybe intermediate guitarists or rhythm guitarists, a set bridge is better. It gives you the option of having a set intonation from the moment you take the guitar out of the bag. Some bridges also make tuning stability rather difficult, and for novices, this may not be a desirable trait.
How it looks really does matter
You will notice with most of the guitars in our review, the aesthetics are a main topic of conversation. This is because when you buy an expensive guitar that you plan on having for life, you’re going to be looking at it every single day. You don’t want to invest in something you don’t like to look at. Think of it like a piece of furniture, in a sense. If you don’t like black leather, you’re not going to buy a black leather couch (no matter how comfortable it is).
Think about your future in music
Are you a collector? A lead guitarist? A rhythm guitarist? A hobbyist? Whatever the case, it’s crucial to purchase a guitar with the tonal quality you will desire long-term. As you’ll notice with our reviews, each guitar is great for a particular genre. Some are perfect for solos, some are perfect for shredding, others have an overall great sound and can be used for pretty much anything. You may want jumbo-sized frets. You may want a skinny neck or a thick neck. You may want a specific type of pickup. Do your research and know what you’re buying.
Get a guitar that is built to last
Mahogany, maple, ebony, rosewood, and walnut are all great choices. It’s important to remember that the thicker the wood is, the longer it will last, and the more sustain it will have. All of the instruments in our reviews are built with these materials.
Pickups are crucial
We’ve discussed double EMG pickups, single pickups, five-way pickup switches, and single EMG pickups. The pickup/s you choose will most certainly determine the sound that comes out of your guitar. It’s important to buy a guitar with high-quality pickups from a reputable brand (like each of the ones in our review).
What Can I Expect When Paying Just under $1,000 for an Electric Guitar?
When buying any guitar at the price point of about $1,000, you’re going to see better quality – on the inside as well as the outside. This may seem like a “given”: you pay more, you get more. But electrics can go upwards of $5,000 and downwards of $75. $1,000 is a wonderful price range for a professional musician or a budding intermediate player.
With this price range, you’re going to see high-quality pickups, unique features, denser wood, gold finishing, and most importantly you’ll find a wide range of modification techniques. Different knobs create different sounds, and each sound creates a signature tonal quality.
Unlike the cheaper beginner guitars, electrics that are upwards of $1,000 are typically going to be hand-crafted and durable. The bridges and pickups will be stable, the intonation will more than likely be superb, and your options will quadrupole when it comes to buying. When buying a new guitar, remember: you’re not just buying an instrument, you’re buying a work of art. It should last you a lifetime.
Can I Lower My Budget and Still Purchase a High-Quality Guitar?
If you’re in a bind and you need a great electric guitar, it is possible to purchase one an adequate one. In fact, most of the guitar brands in our review have lower-end guitars available that work wonderfully. It is possible to get some of the best electric guitars under $500, or even some of the best electric guitars under $300, that can be considered if you’re not a professional.
If you can save up for just a little bit longer, it’s best to purchase in the $1k range. The lower-end guitars are great electric guitars for beginners, but they won’t come with nearly as many features. The sound quality will also be sub-par. This is because in order for guitars to have that excellent projection, they need heavier woods and expertly-wound pickups. Heavier woods come with a heavier cost. A lot of times, you’ll find cheaper guitars that have those strong woods incorporated, but the entire body won’t be made from them. You’ll see a mixture of hard plastics and cheaper metals in there, as well.