Beginner electric guitars: a Christmas buyers' guide
Buying an electric guitar for yourself or a lucky loved one this Christmas isn’t easy. There are myriad body shapes and styles to consider, not to mention pickup options and finishes. We can’t tell you exactly what you or your mini Jimi-in-the-making needs - the only surefire way to know is to get out there and try them out - but we can point you in the right direction…
This is a gallery of electric guitars, hand-picked from the round-ups and buyers’ guides we’ve compiled over the last year or so. Many have been recommended by MusicRadar users, and nearly all are backed-up by in-depth reviews from the experts at Guitarist and Total Guitar.
Prices range from £119-£1000, which we’re loosely calling a ‘beginner’ or entry level category. Mind you, if you’re lucky enough to be able to invest a grand in your first axe, it’ll likely see you well past your first gig and end up being a guitar for life.
First up: a solid choice under £200
Under 200: Yamaha Pacifica 112V 119
Yamaha’s best-selling guitar, the Pacifica 112V, was voted as the second best electric under £300 by MusicRadar users – not bad considering that it comes in well under the ceiling price. It’s versatile and reliable and remains a first-stop for countless fledgling guitarists the world over.
FULL REVIEW: Yamaha Pacifica 112V
Next: under £300
Under 300: Epiphone ES-335 Dot 279
The undisputed winner of the best electric under £300 poll with a staggering 34 percent of the vote. Epiphone’s ES-335 Dot is a semi-acoustic guitar with all the versatility of a solidbody but with bags of additional resonance. The classic look of the ES-335 is timeless too.
FULL REVIEW: Epiphone ES-335 Dot
Next: under £400
Under 500: Fender Classic Player Series from 499
The idea behind the Classic Player Series was to try to bring some of the Fender Custom Shop's Masterbuilt magic to the mid-price market. In fact, the tone, vibe and feel of these Mexican-made guitars are so good for the money we’d recommend auditioning a Classic Player (as would scores of MusicRadar users who voted the series among the best electrics under £1000) even if you can afford to spend much more.
FULL REVIEW: Fender Classic Player '50s Stratocaster
FULL REVIEW: Fender Classic Player '60s Stratocaster
FULL REVIEW: Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster
FULL REVIEW: Fender Classic Player Telecaster Thinline Deluxe
Fender Classic Player '50s Stratocaster is currently available from Andertons Music Co. and Thomann.
Fender Classic Player '60s Stratocaster is currently available from Andertons Music Co. and Thomann.
Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster is currently available from Andertons Music Co., Thomann and PMT Online.
Fender Classic Player Telecaster Thinline Deluxe is available from Andertons Music Co., Thomann and PMT Online.
Next: under £700
Under 700: PRS SE Singlecut Korina 549
One of the more affordable PRS models and another entry in our poll of the best electrics under £1000, the Korina recalls the resonance and dynamics of guitars of yesteryear at a snip of the price of a US model. Plug it in and you’ll forget you're playing a guitar that is, by PRS’s standards at least, a mere entry-level instrument.
FULL REVIEW: PRS SE Singlecut Korina
BUY: PRS SE Singlecut Korina is currently available from Thomann
Next: under £1000
Under 1000: Fender American Standard Series 879
A second entry from Fender in the best electrics under £1000 category is the American Standard Series. Introduced in 1986, the no-nonsense American Standard quickly became an industry standard and it can still be seen and heard on stages across the globe.
The latest models, revised and updated in 2008, are no different. The Tele is a great performer, especially for modern rhythm styles while the Strat is the contemporary iteration of the most popular electric guitar design of all time.
Next: more metal
More metal: Dean Razorback Cemetery Gates 999
You’ll have noticed a few metal-friendly axes scattered across this round-up already, like BC Rich’s Mockingbird ST, but it’s a big enough market to warrant its own gallery slide at least! Among the best electrics under £1000, Dean’s Razorback Cemetery Gates model doesn’t just say metal, it screams it from the rooftops. The Dimebag-tastic guitar has a massive yet strident tone and is surprisingly versatile.
BUY: Dean Razorback Cemetery Gates is currently available from Thomann
Next: more semis
Hollowbody choice: Gretsch G5120 Electromatic
We’ve already sung the praises of Epiphone’s ES-335 Dot (on more than one occasion), but you might be tempted to go the whole hog and opt for a big hollowbody for twang-tastic retro rockabilly and indie jangle.
Gretsch’s G5120 Electromatic is a '50s-inspired semi with licensed Bigsby B60 vibrato that is surprisingly versatile. Okay, it's certainly not going to do the business for metalheads, but for fans of early rock 'n' roll, The Beatles or '80s janglers like The Stone Roses and The Smiths, there's much to love here.
FULL REVIEW: Gretsch G5120 Electromatic
More inspiration: 12-stringers, Soapbars and starter kits
Affordable 12-string electrics
Back in the sixties the Burns Double Six was one of the most popular 12-string electrics and this reissue combines retro character with improved components for increased stability. The wide neck might initially prove a little daunting, but it’s actually more finger-friendly than most. It's sizeable body could deter some, but this classy guitar sounds as big as it looks and demonstrates the performance benefits of a purpose-built design.
Affordable Soapbar-loaded electrics with P-90-style pickups
The Tele Custom II is the epitome of value with a great Fender feel, beefed-up Tele tones and that classic Keef look. The chunky neck feels great in the palm and really adds to the overall tone and resonance of the instrument.
Cheap and cheerful starter kits
Squier’s 1982 launch sparked the entry-level revolution, and the original budget range still leads the pack with the ‘Stop Dreaming, Start Playing’ bundle. The combination of an Affinity Strat HSS and a feature-rich Fender G-DEC Junior makes it clear this pack isn’t just about scraping by, it’s about twiddling knobs and having fun.
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