We all want to recreate the sounds of our guitar heroes, but often the financial cost can help us get carried away. With this guide to the best budget signature guitars, you can use the same gear - or at least a convincing version of it - to try and recreate those iconic tones, all while keeping the bank manager happy.
Of course, 'budget' or 'cheap' are pretty loose terms. Suffice to say in our list of budget signature guitars we’re looking at instruments that top out around the £/$700 mark. And, needless to say, all the guitars here are available to buy online. We’ve scoured the web to find the best prices for you.
While all of the following guitars are signature models one way or another, they are also versatile and capable enough to enable your own playing style and personality to shine through. It goes without saying that you'll never quite match the style and tone of your guitar idols - so do it your own way, with the help of their signature gear.
We've included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more about the best budget signature guitars, then click the link. If you'd rather get straight to the products, keep scrolling.
Best budget signature guitars: Our top picks
There’s a mixture of budget signature guitars on our list to suit all kinds of players, but if we had to pick a favourite we’d choose the PRS SE Mark Tremonti Standard. Combining the company’s renowned build quality and only minor compromises over the higher priced Tremonti Custom model, this really is a guitar we’d be happy to own.
The tremolo arm adds versatility and it’s quite a rare configuration in the PRS lineup too. Most of the brand’s singlecuts feature hardtail bridges, so there’s a bit of kudos to this model. And if Tremonti isn’t your favourite player, his name appears only on the truss rod cover - simply replace it with a plain one. Job done!
For those who want something a little more flash, we'd point you in the direction of the Ibanez JEMJRSP Steve Vai signature. It's bright pink, for one, so you know you'll stand out - but the playability of the Jem Jr is one of its ultimate selling points. We'd also argue that if it's enough for Steve Vai, you should have no trouble mastering the art of legato playing or divebomb tremolo work.
Best budget signature guitars: Product guide
PRS’s budget version of Mark Tremonti’s SE Custom, the Standard represents a significant saving over its pricier sibling with remarkably few compromises. Add PRS’s renowned build quality into the deal and this guitar represents a bona fide bargain.
There are no options, however. You get an opaque black finish on a solid slab of mahogany, compared with the maple-topped maple/mahogany body of the Custom. None of that pretty flamed maple then.
Still, it’s a high performance guitar. Regularly burn up the fretboard from top to bottom? That’s where you’ll notice the quality – the intonation is amongst the best available. At this price, the Standard represents one of the best budget signature guitars you can buy.
Read the full PRS SE Mark Tremonti Standard review
Take a cursory glance at the JEMJR and you’ll be left wondering how Ibanez are able to sell this budget Steve Vai model at such a reasonable price. Indeed, to see that intricate ‘Tree of Life’ fretboard inlay in a sub-£450/$555 instrument really is impressive.
Well, naturally, costs have been cut – you don’t get the DiMarzio pickups or full Edge tremolo system of the more expensive JEMs. But, seriously, these are small compromises and are to be expected. You still get an HSH pickup configuration and a Wizard III neck with a shreddy 400mm radius.
Finishes are limited to two: bright pink or even brighter yellow. But then JEMs were always flamboyant so it’s all good fun. A great shredder worth checking out.
Admittedly, the Wolfgang Standard isn’t a signature model like others in our best budget signature guitars list, but hey, it’s Eddie Van Halen's company and spec, so that’s good enough for us.
The Standard’s compound radius fretboard provides a forgiving feel for open position chords, with a gradually flatter profile towards the dusty end for speedy shred licks and fluent bends. And of course there’s the requisite Floyd Rose tremolo (in EVH Special form here) for Eddie style divebombs.
Expect crisp high-end sparkle from the Wolfgang pickups – which are body-mounted. Coupled with an oil finish neck this should, at least in theory, improve tone and sustain, though with a poly-finished body you may not notice. Still, if glossy necks feel sticky, the oil finish may be right up your street.
Epiphone creates some impressive signature models. In its time, signature models for the likes of Slash, Bjorn Gelotte, Joan Jett and Billie Joe Armstrong have proven to be firm favourites, so this particular offering - the second signature model from the blues master Jared James Nichols - should be a good one.
Long story short, it is. The Gold Glory is, as you'd expect, finished in a stunning all-over gold finish. The level of finish on this guitar really is next level when you consider the price bracket in which it sits, in both the paint and hardware departments. For a guitar which is still considered 'budget', getting a super solid set of tuners, a trusty wraparound tailpiece and a Seymour Duncan P90 as standard is something we were honestly not expecting - but we'd love to see this level of quality on other guitars of the same price bracket.
The single pickup in a Les Paul Custom body gives off a big 'grown-up Les Paul Jnr' vibe, but it's a fantastic opportunity for those who want that simplistic, straightforward playing experience with a bit more visually going on. It's not the most versatile guitar on the planet, but it was never designed to be - so we're not too upset by that revelation.
With a decent spec and Sterling’s usual reliable build quality, there’s little to dislike on this low budget version of country great Albert Lee’s Ernie Ball Music Man signature. If there’s one gripe to level at the AL40, it’s the company’s decision to employ twin-humbuckers instead of the three single coils found on Albert’s flagship Ernie Ball guitar.
However, it’s only really a problem if you’re dead set on a pure authentic Albert vibe, because, in fact, this is potentially a versatile workhorse. The five-way selector splits the pickups for single-coil-esque tones, allowing you to play bright, snappy lines with the bridge humbucker and Strat-like sounds with the ‘in between’ positions.
If you're familiar with the musical antics of Joe Duplantier, you'll be fully aware of the monolithic tones that his sound is built upon. As the singer and rhythm guitarist of metal behemoths Gojira, Duplantier needs a guitar which guarantees high-performance and great tones with none of the faff - and this signature model delivers exactly that.
There are few configurations as popular as a tune-o-matic bridge, two humbuckers and a mahogany body, and this Charvel shows why. The tones you're able to get out of this guitar are nothing short of impressive - and even though the pickups are not technically Seymour Duncans, we'd happily pitch these against any expensive, full-fat models.
Charvels are known for their lightning fast playability, and this model is no different. A compound 12"-16" radius makes things like string-bending and chord work both feel like childs play, and the rolled fingerboard edges help to provide an ultimately comfortable and stress-free playing experience. This guitar is a workhorse model which helps you focus on playing, instead of fiddling with your guitar's controls - and we love that.
Jackson’s wallet-friendly version of Gus G’s signature axe is clearly designed to shred, with an impressive feature set at this price range.
A graphite reinforced neck with compound radius fretboard offers serious bang for your buck in terms of stability and playability, and top fret access is superb. Of course, if you desire a whammy bar you’ll have to look elsewhere – Gus doesn’t like them. Still, the benefit of a fixed bridge is steadier tuning and more accurately pitched string bends.
There are no surprises with the dual-humbucker arrangement. A three-way selector switches between bridge, bridge/neck, and neck pickups. With no coil splitting option it’s ’buckers all the way. Exactly what we’d expect for a guitar designed to riff hard!
As a longtime ESP/LTD endorsee, Kirk Hammett has a raft of signature models with the company and the KH-202 represents the most affordable entry point. By and large you’ll be getting a similar spec to LTD’s next-model-up KH-602 – the 202 features the same neck profile, frets, fretboard radius, those cool skull and crossbones inlays and general styling.
Compromises are made on materials and hardware though. Along with a Floyd Rose Special trem, you’ll have to be content with passive pickups instead of the 602’s active system. That said, it is possible to upgrade to actives without the need for expert routing skills – a battery can, in theory, fit in the electronics cavity.
As perhaps the ultimate Les Paul player, Slash is rarely seen playing anything other than Gibson’s classic singlecut. And, though it’d be unfair to compare this affordable Epiphone to more expensive models branded with the G n’ R man’s name, it’s fair to say you get a fair bit of guitar for your money.
A gigbag, strap, cable and picks are all included in a sub-£200 package. There’s a bundle available including Epiphone’s Snakepit-15 amp too – for a little more of your hard-earned, of course. Simple volume/tone controls and a built-in tuner make this a decent guitar for beginners looking for weighty humbucker tones. And with that flame maple top it’s quite the looker too!
Read the full Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special-II review
Best budget signature guitars: Buying advice
Why should I buy a signature guitar?
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Buying a signature guitar, cheap or otherwise, is exactly the same as buying any other guitar – simply choose an instrument with features that suit your playing, right? Well yes, but it’s worth bearing in mind that signature models rarely come with many configurable options – so what you see is what you get.
While many guitars are built with as many players as possible in mind, a signature guitar can give you an interesting platform to explore other sounds or playing styles. Take the Jared James Nichols Les Paul, for instance. It's got a big mahogany body and neck - very standard for a LP - but only one P90 pickup in the bridge pickup. That guitar, while still sounding like a Les Paul, enables you to focus on any number of things. They could be crafting a bridge pickup tone which is still warm and smooth, or one which reacts well to single-coil pickups.
The lack of extra controls also means you'll need to familiarise yourself with cleaning up your tone with the volume control. All of these skills are useful things to learn - and while it's possible to learn them on other guitars, it may not be your first thought.
The downside is that, like we said before, your amount of options are limited. If you like what you see though, that shouldn't matter too much.
What to consider when buying a signature guitar
Still, the benefit to buying a signature model is that you know the sound you’re going to get. And that’s a great starting point. Think about your playing style too. Is a tremolo important to you or do you prefer the stability of a fixed bridge?
Shredders may prefer a guitar with a higher fretboard radius – a flatter piece of wood and thus easier to burn up with blazing licks. It's a similar process to buying any other electric guitar, to be honest. It's worth noting that if you like a signature guitar but you want some different hardware or a different finish, you can almost definitely wave goodbye to that option.
If a signature guitar suits your style though, it shouldn't matter whether it's got someone else's name on it or not. Make it your own - and play it like you mean it.
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