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If you’re seeking an electric guitar for less than £200, you’re either a) a beginner, b) the confused parent of an aspiring Hendrix, or c) a struggling semi-pro who just sold the band’s entire rig to pay for a demo at Abbey Road and now has nothing left to record with.
Whatever the reason, the following 13 models have been hand-picked from the pages of Total Guitar, and while they don't stand up to close scrutiny when compared to high-end Fender and Gibson types, each model offers something different. However, all definitely provide bags of fun on a surprisingly low budget. We’ll kick-off with the cheapest…
British brand Encore already rules the entry-level, but it raised its game with the Blaster Series, commissioning designer Trev Wilkinson to upgrade the spec, but not charging you for his time.
It might be the new boy, but Encore has armed the E99 to make sure it doesn’t get bullied. Following the format of the model it kinda resembles but with cheaper materials, you’ve got a thick basswood body and a wuton top, plus a pair of Trev’s highly respected Guitar Tech humbuckers at the neck and at the bridge.
Somebody buy Trevor Wilkinson a pint. Working to a modest budget, he’s come up with a hard-rock guitar that looks the business, weighs a ton, has been built with decent attention to detail, and will have Jimmy Page sniffing around when he sees it.
OK, maybe not… not everyone will like the mighty body mass and palm-filling neck profile. But then again they’d be crazy not to appreciate how these translate into smooth, singing sustain when you plug in, and certifiable not to agree that the overdriven growl of the Guitar Tech humbuckers is indicative of a far more expensive guitar.
If we have one niggle with Encore’s Blaster Series guitar, it’s that - despite generally solid hardware - there was a bit of difficulty keeping the E99 in tune when you’re bending the strings a la Gary Moore. But that didn’t stop us having a blast.
Pros: Satisfying playability, fat sounds.
Cons: Weight, tuning slippage.