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What makes a $1000 guitar better than a $500 one?
Is it overkill for a beginner to buy an expensive guitar?
Are guitars in this price range good enough for recording with?
All good questions! That’s why we provide you with a lineup of the top electric guitars in this price range. We also point you in the right direction with our feature guide, so you know exactly why the extra cash is worth spending.
Tune in and watch the risk for buyer’s remorse melt away.
Quick Answer: 7 Best Electric Guitars Under $1000 in 2020
- Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster Review
- Charvel PRO-MOD San Dimas Floyd Rose Review
- Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Review
- PRS SE Mark Tremonti Review
- Yamaha RevStar RS820CR Review
- ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB Review
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO Review
Our 7 Top Electric Guitars Under $1000
|Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Charvel PRO-MOD San Dimas Floyd Rose||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Shecter Hellraiser C-1||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|PRS SE Mark Tremonti||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Yamaha RevStar RS820CR||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO||VIEW ON AMAZON|
$500-$1000 Electric Guitar Reviews
With ten hundred-dollar bills to spend, you probably feel like you have the market at your feet – and, you do. You’ve been saving for quite some time, researching the best electric guitars, but you’re finding it hard to pull the string on one. With a budget like this, you want to avoid buyer’s remorse at all costs. You’re not alone.
This price range is teeming with guitars from a great deal of manufacturers. But, a word of warning: it may not be as high-end as you think. Guitars in this price range will give you an entry ticket into testing out what quality really means in the industry, but they’re still incomparable to the ones that cost three times as more. But, there’s no need to look at guitars in the next price range if you’re equipped with the knowledge to spot a true performer with the budget you currently have.
We’ve handpicked the golden shiners that are worth twice their price and can easily stand their own against guitars in the next budget. With a grand, you can start modeling and recording to ignite the spark of music curiosity.
Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster Review
- The reverse headstock and reverse-slanted ’65 American Vintage bridge pickup, accurately reproduces Jimi’s legendary signature tone.
If there’s an artist to be inspired by, it’s Hendrix. He took the world by storm his own way, and he proved you can create your own music signature by playing outside of the box and to your own beat. If there’s a guitar worth buying for inspiration alone, it’ll come from Fender.
- Reverse features
- Headstock signature
- C-shape neck
- Pure Vintage ’65 pickups
- Gig bag included
- No left-hand model
Ironic, right? Jimi played left-handed, and this guitar is designed after his flipped-over style of playing, and unfortunately, a Jimi Hendrix Strat is just not available for lefties. As for the guitar itself – flawless.
A lot of people want to know if it’s as good as it is cracked up to be. If you know exactly what you’re going for, you’ll be happy. No, it’s not an exact replica of Jimi’s guitar as the limited edition of that will cost you about seven grand. But, the affordable Strat is as good as it gets for what it does have.
It has the reverse headstock and mounted pickups to replicate the unique features of Jimi’s axe The headstock has Jimi’s signature on the back and Vintage Style tuners finished in chrome. The neck is made from maple with a C-shape profile and the fretboard is also made from maple. It has 21 medium jumbo frets with black dot inlays and a synthetic bone nut. There is also an engraved neck plate that has Jimi’s shoulder-up silhouette with an “Authentic Hendrix” inscription.
The solid body is made from alder with an Olympic White gloss polyester finish. The three American Vintage ’65 single coil pickups are reverse mounted, and the bridge pickup is mounted with a reverse slant. Are pickups out of phase in this position? Jimi certainly didn’t think so. But, what you do get is “bright treble and deep bass sounds.”
Additional features include, not necessarily iconic to the original, is the 9.5 fingerboard radius, 5-way switch blade, Vintage-Style tremolo bridge, 1x volume knob, and 2x tone controls. Oh yeah, a Deluxe Gig Bag is also thrown into the buy – nice!
Charvel PRO-MOD San Dimas Floyd Rose Review
- Body Body shape: Double cutaway Body type: Solid body Body material: Solid wood Top wood: Not applicable Body wood: Alder (Quilt Veneer on Trans Colors) Body finish: Gloss Orientation: Right handed...
- Southern California is a hotbed of guitar innovation, from new musical styles and sounds to hot-rodded high-performance guitar designs
- The Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1 2H FR, the ideal instrument for dazzling high speed playing, was born and raised in this sunny environment
Charvel, now owned by Fender, has a rich history in the guitar industry, and Pro-Mod models are now made in Mexico. With excellent craftsmanship, Seymour Duncan pickups, Charvel neck plate, and a Floyd Rose bridge, you can stand proud to spend your money here.
- Charvel neck profile
- Distortion pickups
- No-load tone controls
- San Dimas body style
- Charvel tuners
- Floyd Rose tremolo
Okay, there’s nothing wrong with the FR tremolo bridge system. What’s not to like? It has a double-locking system at the nut and the bridge to keep you in tune when you decide to go nuts. But, because this guitar is flawless, and we emphasize “flawless,” we had to play the devil’s advocate for a second. You sit on either side of the fence: gotta have a FR tremolo or you’re one that shies away from it. Why? Although they actually work and are awesome, they can be a lot of work to setup, replace strings, and you better watch sustain.
What else can we tell you about the Charvel? We could be here for ages, so here it is in a nutshell. The San Dimas body style is like that of a super Strat. It has an alder body with a Snow White gloss finish. The maple neck is bolted on with graphite reinforcement and features a Charvel neck plate. The neck also has Charvel’s unique neck shape that is essentially designed for speed with rolled fingerboard edges. Speaking of the fingerboard, it’s made from maple.
Now, the electronics. The guitar has Seymour Duncan pickups with a JB TB-4 for the bridge, ’59 SH-1N for the neck, and a 3-way selector blade. There is a volume control that also allows for push/pull coil splitting, and this San Dimas model now features an actual tone knob. It’s a no-load tone control at position 10 to hit those crisp, bright tones without sounding shrill – no treble bleed up in here!
With a licensed Fender Stratocaster headstock, FR tremolo bridge system, Duncan Seymour pickups, and a Charvel speed neck and tuners, this guitar was designed and constructed with a lot of careful thought. No need to modify this guitar – it’s a shredder’s dream guitar for under 1000 bucks!
Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Review
- Set-Neck w/ Ultra Access
- Quilted Maple Top
- EMG Active 81TW/89 pickups
If you’re a metalhead with a budget, the Hellraiser C-1 is a must-have. It’s been jam-packed with multiple features that will provide the versatility, tonal range, and dirty playing that metal rhythm players need.
- EMG pickups
- Abalone binding
- Tusq nut
- Locking tuners
- Thin C neck
- Will require setup
There are more than a few reports about the guitar needing setup before you start playing. Too high action is likely the most-needed adjustment. Moving on. . .
The first thing we noticed about the Hellraiser were the active EMG humbucker pickups. The bridge pickup is the 81TW that allows for dual mode which means it has a single coil pickup inside to add another classic tonal range to mess around with. The 89R is arranged with a single coil pickup closest to the neck, so you can maximize signature Strat sounds that chime with brightness.
Obviously, the ability to coil tap is there and is accessed with the two push/pull volume controls. They have active preamps that also has Schecter’s noise-cancelling technology and require a 9V battery to operate.
There is one tone control and a 3-way selector blade. There is also a TonePros T3BT TOM (Tune-O-Matic) bridge where the strings travel through and are housed inside the body of the guitar. There’s no fancy V-shape or anything, but that’s okay.
The Hellraiser has a mahogany body with a modified Super Strat shape. The neck is made in three pieces from mahogany, is set-in, and has an Ultra-Access feature. This is the Gloss White finish that stands out bright and clean, and the multi-ply body binding is made from Abalone in layers of black/white/black. It really pairs well with the Abalone gothic crosses as the inlays.
Other specs include a 25.5″ scale length, thin C neck, Graph Tech XL Tusq nut, Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings, 24 X Jumbo frets on a rosewood fingerboard, and Schecter locking tuners. Talk about getting more bang for your buck!
PRS SE Mark Tremonti Review
- Top wood: beveled Maple with Flame Maple Veneer; back wood: mahogany
- Neck wood: Maple
- Fretboard wood: rosewood
For the price, the SE Mark Tremonti is worth the buy over the SE Mark Tremonti Standard electric guitar. What are the differences? You’re about to find out.
- Flame maple top
- PRS tremolo
- Tremonti “S” pickups
- 25″ scale length
- Bird inlays
- Veneer top
The Mark Tremonti guitar is made from three sources: the back from mahogany, the beveled top from maple, and the flame maple top is a veneer. The veneer has a Gray Black finish, and it gives it dimension, edge, and rock-star appeal. It’s not a drawback, but the veneer keeps the cost down and is a fact worth knowing from the get-go.
To really achieve the strong melodies in heavy rock that made Tremonti famous, the single cutaway electric is outfitted with Tremonti “S” humbucker pickups. They’re well-suited for aggressive playing styles for distortion and sustain while still being able to cut through with clarity for those trebles when played clean.
Each humbucker has its own volume and tone controls, and there is a 3-way selector switch on the upper bout that’s conveniently out of the way.
PRS installs one of their very own tremolo bridges, molded with trem-up route to expand tremolo bar direction. What does the molded mean? It means the bridge is constructed with a cast steel block with brass plate and saddles.
The aesthetic appeal of the guitar is very well done with the PRS Tremonti headstock, the iconic bird inlays, nickel tuners, and gold pickups. The gold binding on the guitar body certainly polishes off the look.
But, how is it different to the standard model? The standard model is a solid piece made from mahogany in Black with a polyester basecoat and acrylic topcoat. This model has the beveled flame maple top with a Gray Black color veneer. When you see it, you’ll know it’s worth the price jump for the added flair.
Yamaha RevStar RS820CR Review
- Alnico V magnet, German silver baseplate and heavy formvar wire for punchy, dynamic, articulate tone and the perfect balance between gain and clarity.
- VH5+ Vintage output humbucker with satin nickel cover
- Mahogany Body with Maple Top
The concept behind the RevStar is like that of the Café Racer bikes that were stripped down for a no-frills design, and yet the focus is solely on performance. We get it. But, the RS820CR is far from stripped down as you’re about to see.
- Set-in neck
- YGD pickups
- Hand-brushed satin finish
- AVT-II bridge
- Comfort fit
- No locking tuners
Need help interpreting all the acronyms? We’ve got your back throughout this review. RS820CR stands for Rev Star 820 Café Racer. It really has value at its core, and a very pleasing body shape and color finish that sets it apart from the many classic guitars out there like the Fenders and Gibsons.
It does have a 24.75″ scale length like that of a Les Paul, but it has a nicely done, melted, double-cutaway body. The body also has a Comfort Fit design that features a forearm contour and deep belly cut, so you can have maximum comfort standing or sitting while still having access to all the frets.
YGD stands for Yamaha Guitar Design, so now you know the pickups on the RevStar belong to Yamaha. The 820 features humbuckers: VH5n+ at the neck and VH5b+ at the bridge. Both have Alnico V magnets and are designed for powerful output. The neck pickup produces exactly what you’d expect, warm and fat tones with solid lows, and the bridge pickup cuts high with sustain and balance.
There is a Master Volume and Master Tone control, but the tone control also has a Dry Switch feature. What is a Dry Switch? The Dry Switch is unique to the RevStar series as it cuts out the lows so you can reminisce and imitate single-coil tones without the hum. The bridge is TonePros AVT-II locking, wraparound bridge so there’s no string-through-body or tailpiece needed. There are no locking tuners. Not a big deal, but it was left out on this model.
The body has a maple/mahogany construction with a 3-piece mahogany neck that is surprisingly lighter in weight than you’d think for the tonewood combo. But, it’s the finish that really does it for this model. Rusty Rat is the color and it’s been finished with a hand-brushed satin (steel wool) finish for a chic, and yet modern appeal, and it pairs perfectly with the aluminum pickguard.
After all that, Yamaha certainly hit the nail on the head with this RevStar. Do we think it’s stripped down? Far from it.
ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB Review
- Designed to offer the tone, feel, looks, and quality that professional musicians need, while still being affordable
- Consistently one of ESP's most popular guitars due to its combination of incredible looks and great performance
Tall, dark, and handsome – no, we’re not talking about a guy, but a rock star called the LTD Deluxe EC-1000 guitar.
- EMG pickups
- Gold hardware
- Locking tuners
- Thin U neck
- Gold binding
- Faulty selector switch
The LTD series of guitars are designed to provide ultimate quality at a price that’s still affordable. Straight off the bat, the Les Paul guitar has a vintage motif with its Vintage Black finish, headstock, body, neck, and gold hardware.
Both the body and 3-piece neck are made from mahogany and fingerboard from Macassar Ebony known for its deep color and visible grain. The neck is set-in and has a thin U profile. The fingerboard has 24 X Jumbo frets with blocky flag inlays that are a hit with some and not so much with others.
Of course, the first thing you see is the bling-bling hardware and binding. The gold seems to be quite distinctive versus other gold hardware we’ve seen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re into shiny things.
On the top, there’s a TonePros TOM bridge and a tailpiece that work to keep your stings in place and in tune alongside the LTD locking tuners – also finished in gold. You’ll notice there are two volume controls, one tone control, and a 3-way pickup selector switch. The selector switch has had some engaging issues with the pickups which isn’t a costly fix if you do it yourself, but it’s something to be aware about in case you need ESP to address it in the future.
The LTD Deluxe has EMG humbuckers: 60 for the neck and the 81 for the bridge. Both pickups have ceramic magnets and the EMG 60 is versatile from the lows to the highs. The EMG 81 is popular for its screaming high-end tones that cut and slice through, so it’s always heard. As active pickups, you’ll need a 9V battery to get screaming without screeching.
Even though the EC-1000 has a pickup pairing that’s well-suited to metal, buyers have said it plays very well for multiple genres including blues and rock.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO Review
- Triple AAA Flame Veneer Top
- Epiphone ProBucker Humbuckers with Push/Pull Coil-Tapping
- Grover Machine Heads with 18:1 tuning ratio
This Les Paul Standard brings a punch of vintage from its clipped-ear headstock and Les Paul signature to the vintage sounds of the ProBucker pickups.
- ProBucker pickups
- Mahogany body
- ’60s SlimTaper D neck
- Model confusion
- Plastic pickguard
This is the Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO guitar in Iced Tea. It comes with nickel hardware including the bridge, tailpiece, and tuners. There is some confusion that this model comes with black hardware, but that is only on the Limited Edition model which this is not.
Additionally, there is a PVC 1-ply white pickguard included in the buy, however, it does not come installed, nor does the guitar body come with pre-drilled holes for quick and easy installation – just FYI.
What is the PlusTop PRO? The PlusTop refers to the flame maple veneer top and the PRO refers to the ProBucker humbuckers installed on the Les Paul Standard guitars. The veneer tops a mahogany body and is bound with a 1-ply white binding which is also seen on the fingerboard.
The idea behind this model is to provide a Les Paul guitar at a fraction of the cost. You can see the clipped-ear headstock with the Les Paul signature in gold, single cutaway, 24.75″ scale length, and Pau Ferro fretboard with trapezoid inlays.
To achieve vintage sound without the hum, this Epiphone sports vacuum wax potted ProBucker humbuckers which are Epiphone’s creation. They produce the vintage and traditional Les Paul sound with Alnico II magnets and 18% nickel silver bases and covers. With a ProBucker 2 at the neck and a ProBucker 3 at the bridge, both with 4-wire, unevenly wound construction, and with coil-tapping for both pickups, you can cover a lot of tonal ground.
Each humbucker has their own volume and tone controls with push/pull for splitting coils. You can achieve traditional sound from the single coils, or you have the liberty to explore grungy, fat, warm, creamy, and more tones to really play the type of music you want.
With a 1960s era Slim Taper D neck profile, LockTone TOM bridge and stop bar, and Grover tuners, it’s obvious there is attention to all the small details that makes playing a Les Paul a pleasurable experience that can take you back in time.
What to Look for in an Electric Guitar Under $1000
A thousand dollars is an exorbitant amount of money to spend on a guitar, even for aficionados. But, when you find the “one,” it becomes a priceless possession to you.
Seeing a hunk of cash being wiped out on one item is a hard thing to witness, so it’s wise to get a clue about what you’re investing in. These are the guitar features you want to scrutinize when you’re buying an electric in this price range.
You have up to a grand to spend, but you’re not sure how you want to spend it. The decision is even harder when you discover there are $1000 guitars that may look like $2000 ones, but they don’t make the cut when it comes to performance. Then, there’s the purportedly high-end guitar that comes with crappy pickups and pots that essentially adds to buyer’s remorse.
The lesson? There’s more to quality than what the price tag may imply. Just because it’s expensive, it doesn’t mean it’s the right guitar for you. This is why you must know about the guitar features that separates the superior ones from the just okay ones.
You’ll also have to consider if you want to spend more on extra equipment such as amps, pedals, and audio interface equipment, or if these costs must be included in your budget which means less wiggle room for the guitar. If you already have some gear, you have the luxury of spending your entire budget on a guitar, and the quality difference between 500 bucks and a grand may very well be significant enough to improve your playing for studio recording and modeling.
Who Should Buy a Guitar for $1000?
Should a beginner buy an expensive guitar? Do pro players buy in this price range? How much customization can be done on these guitars? How much is too much for a guitar?
The real questions are: who are you to justify spending this much and what do you plan to do? It’s not to sound demeaning, but it helps to put things in perspective. Everyone can buy a guitar in this price range, even a novice. Yes, rock star players buy $1000 guitars all the time, and often, customization is done to convert it into an epic monster. Guitar collections are often filled with guitars in this price range, and these ones are usually the best of what a beginner would ever own as it becomes their pride and joy guitar.
The quality in this price range is well above what you’ll find in the under $500 category. Components are a step above stock quality, build quality is significantly better, and it will last a lifetime. This amounts to a guitar that is ideal for upper-level customization and for motivating a beginner to stick to it when the passion for learning guitar has peaked.
But, let us define “beginner.” If you’re literally a greenie to the guitar, there are cheaper guitars to consider that also come with starter packages that will very well get you through the learning phase while you figure out what you like and what your style is.
Then, there are those that have some level of skill, are looking to buy their next guitar, but they still consider themselves beginners. You have a place here but you might also want to check out the best intermediate electric guitars for more options in this price range.
If you’re actually making money with your guitar skills, you could very well justify spending even more on a guitar – how lucky are you to be the envy of everyone else!
Do tonewoods matter on an electric guitar? You bet.
Now is the time to start paying attention to tonewoods. As the industry starts moving away from nato and basswood, you’ll be seeing a lot more mahogany, maple, and ebony fingerboards make their way into the picture.
Each type of tonewood offers their own unique tonal contribution to the guitar. Of course, a high gloss finish doesn’t help to bring it out, but it still matters.
We’re aware of what a lot people say about electric guitars: tonewoods don’t matter because it’s the pickups that shape and amplify sound. Partly true, but just like what the fingerboard is made from, the types of metals used for hardware, and the type of strings used, they all contribute to sound as does the wood the guitar is made from.
If the pickups sense string vibrations, then there is a direct link between what the strings are vibrating against and how long those vibrations last bringing you back to tonewoods. Each tonewood can affect the length of those vibrations and how it contributes to sound through the pickups.
For example: Alder is known to provide a balanced, full-bodied tonal range. Mahogany is embraced for its warm but distinct approach on the lower-mids with smooth trebles. Maple is desired for its bright sounds with sustain.
Tonally, tonewoods have their place, but there’s also more than that. The type of wood used for different parts of the body are also chosen for their durability, the way they mature and change over time, and for their dense or lightweight build.
You may not be this picky about tonewoods just yet, but it’s something to start thinking about, especially if you want to spend more.
In this price range, switching out the pickups still happen, but not as often as you would see with cheaper guitars. They’re usually better in quality, and manufacturers start getting picky about the pairings between neck and bridge pickups and what configurations will work best.
While manufacturer-designed pickups are in this price range, it’s usually their higher-end stuff that they offer. You’ll start seeing some brand name pickups like Seymour Duncan and EMG, and speaking of EMG, you’ll be introduced to active pickups in this price range that are perfect for metal heads and heavy rock players.
The ability to split coils, use no-load tone pots, and other similar features will float between brands and models in this price range. Be on the lookout for these features as a high price tag isn’t always a guarantee for them.
Like the pickups, the hardware is getting better and better. From higher-quality locking bridges to real bone nuts and locking tuners, you can expect to have good hardware in this price range.
There will also be variations in the metal used for some hardware from nickel, brass, and steel. Black and gold finished hardware seems to be popular which is a refreshing change from chrome. However, this is usually a matter of preference as it’s more about hardware quality versus what finish it has.
There still seems to be issues with pickup selector blades and switches in this price range, perhaps due to quality control, so be sure to have a warranty in place or look for guitars without this issue at all. Tuners should be expected to keep strings in tune, and there should be no plastic components in sight. Output jacks should all be tight fitting as loose connections are a plague on cheaper guitars.
Overall, the hardware is decent as they should all be a step above stock and entry-level quality.
All buyers should expect some level of setting up when they get their guitar. In this price range, the level of setting up is significantly less than that expected of cheaper guitars. Some manufacturers tighten up quality control measures and may even have certain playability processes in place before shipping out their $1000 guitars.
Even with, action may still need to be adjusted, minor fret buzz may need to be addressed, and some fretboards may need a little attention, but this is an issue that is occurring less often at this price point. Tuning should be done, and intonation may be needed.
Stay Tuned In
We’ve only picked out a handful of great guitars in this price range, but there are more out there. However, just because it may be touted as a high-ticket item, don’t be so easy to deceive. Some guitars may lack the build or electronics to perform as you would expect, and since you’re considering spending up to a grand, you want to make sure you get it back in value and quality.
Stay tuned in to the specifics. Know what the features mean and how it will affect your playing. Understand the terminology and the acronyms and break it down so you know exactly what you’re buying. If you’re tuned in to what the market has to offer, you can filter out the bad from the good all on your own. Don’t let price be the sole indicator of what makes a good guitar. Keep on strummin’, you’re doing just fine!