Finding the right electric guitar for you is a very personal choice. Your guitar is the tool with which you’ll explore the outer reaches of your musical ability, so it figures you want something you can bond with. Thankfully, the best electric guitar under $/£1,000 market is chock full of awesome guitars that will give you the platform to do just that.
We’ve rounded up a selection of some of the finest examples out there today, with models to suit most genres, budgets and playing styles. From blues to shred, via classic rock and indie, there is a guitar for you out there and we’re happy to help you find it. Let’s take a look at some of the best electric guitars under $/£1,000 right now.
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What is the best electric guitar under $/£1,000?
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Given that there are so many incredible electric guitars under £/$1,000, it’s hard to choose one as being the best. If we had to name one that covers the most bases, we’d opt for the PRS S2 Standard on account of the quite stunning levels of quality on offer. The S2 is equally at home across a range of genres, and the build quality is exceptional.
Special nod also to the ESP LTD EC-1000, on account of its superb metal tones and top-tier electric guitar pickup selections.
Best electric guitars under $/£1,000: buying advice
Having a budget ceiling of £/$1k to play with gives you, the buyer, a lot of choice. For the purposes of this list, we’ll skip over the entry-level market because, while there are some superb models in that bracket (and we have buyer’s guides looking at the best electric guitars for beginners and the best acoustic guitars for beginners), the levels of quality and craftsmanship do jump quite noticeably as you approach the four-figure mark.
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When you’re looking in this sort of region, it’s safe to assume you’re relatively established as a player. You likely have an idea of what you like, and what you don’t, and understand quite clearly what you’re looking for. Perhaps you’ve been playing a few years and are looking to upgrade from your beginner/intermediate axe. You could play it safe, and simply look for a ‘better’ version of what you have already. Or, alternatively, you could look to branch out and expand your musical horizons. Certain ‘premium’ brands like Gibson and Reverend start cropping up just under the $/£1k mark, so it may be you could invest in something with serious guitar kudos.
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Tonally you can reasonably expect guitars in this bracket to be a cut above entry-level models. This extends to build quality too; while most (if not all) modern guitars are built to exceptionally high standards, when you start looking north of $/£500 you can assume the care and attention to detail will be higher than with cheaper models. Here’s a few great examples to point you in the right direction.
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The best electric guitars under $/£1,000 today
The PRS SE range has offered solid, well-built, great-sounding guitars for years now, and the PRS SE Custom 24 is a perfect example. This Korean-built mass of maple, mahogany and rosewood is a classy-looking guitar. It’s a wonderful instrument to play too – PRS's expertise making eye-wateringly expensive guitars is evident from the moment you pick it up. The bridge, for example, has a noticeably low profile. This makes palm-muting a much more pleasant experience, especially if you’re used to chugging away on a Floyd Rose-style bridge.
A lot has been made of the SE Custom’s pickups; 2017 models added Korean-made versions of the 85/15 pups used on the more expensive American Core line, dubbed “the perfect pickup” by Paul Reed Smith himself. Largely, they live up to that promise; the bridge pickup is capable of some serious chunky metal tones, which retain definition and clarity even at absurd levels of gain.
Spend some time with the SE Custom 24 and you’ll come to realise that there is no stereotype that fits. And therein lies its beauty. It’s not a guitar or a brand that concerns itself with cultivating a popular image; PRS has always favoured more obvious metrics like quality manufacturing, great sounds and classic looks.
Read the full PRS SE Custom 24 review
Fender has shown the spec sheets of its popular Mexican-built Deluxe Series Roadhouse Stratocaster model some love to create a reboot that comes seriously well appointed. The upgraded model features an alder body and bolt-on maple neck, with the option of maple and rosewood fingerboard, finished with satin polyurethane.
Keep sniffing around and you'll find other features like the 'Modern C' neck profile, 22 narrow/tall frets, a contoured neck heel, synthetic bone top nut and a set of locking tuners with vintage-look buttons. While the previous editions of the Roadhouse came with a 241mm (9.5-inch) fingerboard radius, the latest model packs a flatter 305mm (12-inch) camber. Yes, the same radius as a Gibson Les Paul, making for easier string bends and lower action.
The Roadhouse also features three Vintage Noiseless (1st generation) single coil-sized humbuckers wired to a five-way pickup selector blade switch, and master volume and tone controls. Lurking between the volume and tone knobs is the V6 preamp control, a six-position rotary switch that gives you access to a series of tweaked single-coil tones.
Plugging in the Roadhouse reveals a slew of classic Strat tones. The pickups exploit the natural tone and woodiness of the guitar, while the Noiseless aspect lives up to their vow of silence, making them indispensable in a recording situation. As a result, bar metal, this is the best Fender electric guitar for just about all scenarios.
Read the full Fender Deluxe Series Roadhouse Stratocaster review
The 502T was the original design that kick-started Yamaha's Revstar range of double-cuts, which recall the Japanese guitar giant's revered SG instruments. It features an all-mahogany construction (with a thin 5mm maple cap), with belly and ribcage contours.
The 502T and its sibling, the 502 (without the tailpiece and with a hand-rubbed satin top and headface), both use Yamaha-designed soapbar P-90 single coils with a medium-hot output, and like all the models, have a simple three-way selector switch, master volume and tone. Pull up the tone control, however, and you voice that Dry Switch – basically a passive high-pass filter that thins out the sound a little. It adds surprising versatility to the biting-hot single-coil sound of the soapbars and easily kicks out a classic, punkier rock tonality or just-as-cool old-school jazzy, bluesy soulful pop tones.
Read the full Yamaha Revstar 502T review
Guitars for playing metal tend to have certain characteristics. From thin neck profiles to beefy humbuckers, these guitars are built to deliver high-gain tone and encourage speedy licks. The ESP LTD EC-1000 is a veteran of the scene, and for good reason. Combining the best bits of a Les Paul – dense mahogany body – with slightly more refined ergonomics, they offer the player a brilliant hybrid that is loved by players everywhere.
The EC-1000 is the flagship model of ESP’s sub-brand LTD, and comes in a huge variety of finishes, and with lots of options for pickups including Seymour Duncans and the active EMGs for which they are perhaps best associated.
Read the full ESP LTD EC-1000 review
This Les Paul has a AAA flame maple veneer glued to its maple top to give it the eyeball-pleasuring looks of a ’59 Les Paul. The rest of the guitar is crafted from mahogany with a slice of pau ferro standing in for the more endangered rosewood on the fingerboard.
You get the two volume/two-tone layout associated with iconic Gibson designs, but the difference here is the coil-tap function. Pull up the notched volume controls to switch from humbucking to single-coil modes.
The PlusTop Pro has the slimmest neck of any Les Paul we’ve ever had the pleasure of wrapping a fist around. It’s what's called a ‘D’ shape and this one almost flattens out on the back. If you’re making the transition from widdly rock guitars to something more classic, this guitar’s setup could feel like home.
Read the full: Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro review
Part of Gretsch's mid-range Electromatic line, the single-cut G5420T is based on the classic 6120 Chet Atkins Hollow Body – the 'generic' Gretsch we all drew in our school books. It features a new-to-Gretsch colour, Fairlane Blue, which is a deep metallic blue, as well as a Bigsby vibrato and Blacktop Filter'Tron pickups.
There are plenty of shades to be drawn from the slightly damped, muted response with the pickup volumes and tone pulled back, to the thinner, brighter and twangier voices with the master volume rolled back and the pickup volumes full on.
It's true that this would not be our first choice as the only guitar we took to a jam or function-band gig – but for a whole host of older-genre styles, from the obvious rock 'n' roll and rockabilly through to much rootsier swampier voices that love a little 'hair' or outright grunt and grunge, it's one of the best sub $/£1,000 electric guitars out there.
Read the full Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body review
Introduced in 1987 and discontinued in 1994, the Ibanez RG550 remains the childhood sweetheart of many players. Designed as a mass-appeal version of Steve Vai’s famous JEM777 model, it had character in abundance. For this reboot, Ibanez has skilfully managed to extract the very essence of what was so popular about the original RG550 and piece it back together in a way that enhances its legacy.
The Japanese-made 2018 vintage is, essentially, a masterclass in everything that is good about shred and metal guitars. The neck feels lithe – your hand glides, rather than simply moves – while the Edge vibrato is rock-solid and the overall craftsmanship is exemplary.
Tonally, the RG550 covers a lot of bases. It always did, despite its pointy appearance, meaning you could comfortably stray into all kinds of genres without too much fuss. The US-designed V7 bridge humbucker delivers the razor-sharp riff platform you’d hope it would, while the V8 neck ’pup offers a hint of compression at higher gain settings, which levels lead lines nicely. It is, in the best way possible, everything you remembered from the original, and that makes it one of the best shred guitars available today.
Read the full Ibanez RG550 review
We’ve always been quite partial to the sound of an overdriven hollowbody electric. There’s something about that extra resonance provided by the larger body which excites us. The Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe delivers exceptionally well on that front, with the two humbuckers and weighty maple body combining to provide incredible depth of tone.
There’s always a worry that semi-acoustics can turn to mush in the low-end when they’re amplified, but we found the Viking to retain clarity across the board even when fed into a higher gain amp. All told, this is a superb guitar for anybody looking to step away from the usual ‘big names’, and one which has character and tone in spades.
The Newark St Collection recalls some of Guild's classic '50s and '60s guitars, but builds them in Korea. The Starfire range – introduced in 1960 – was hugely successful, attracting players such as Duane Eddy and George Benson, not to mention Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and Robert Lockwood Jr.
The Starfire II is a 419mm (16.5-inch) wide hollow body with a thinline depth (48mm at the rim) and single 'Florentine' cutaway. While it doesn't have a full centre block, there is a large-ish block that connects top to back and is used to mount the tune-o-matic-style bridge and stud tailpiece – it's not vintage-specific, but should add a little more solidity and sustain to the sound. The control setup is pure Gibson with no master volume, but while the knobs may look the part, it's the LH-1 'Little Bucker' pickups that not only recall the original Guild units in appearance but capture the 'halfway between a single coil and a full-sized humbucker' tonality that give this its major calling card.
They sound superb, adding clarity to the hollowbody frame that's just as applicable for old-style jazz as it is rootsy, alt-rock crunch and gain. Okay, it is mostly hollow, so feedback can be an issue, but get it right, hit a clean boost into the front-end of a Fender-style amp and the thing damn near takes off. Glorious.
Read the full Guild Starfire II review
The So-Cal defines the 'SuperStrat' concept as originally nailed by Eddie Van Halen in the late '70s. That classic body shape, the Floyd Rose double-locking vibrato, the slim maple bolt-on neck with its compound radius and fat frets... It all adds up to one of the finest electric guitars for shred.
The Charvel's thick single-ply scratchplate comes loaded with a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers, a TB-6 Distortion in the bridge position and a SH-6N Distortion at the neck. These are wired through a volume control with push/pull action to split the pickups' coils, the aforementioned No-Load tone pot and a three-way pickup selector blade switch. In the full-on, non-coil-split setting, the switch gives you three options: bridge 'bucker, the inner coils of both pickups and the neck unit solo. Lift the volume knob and you engage the coil-split mode. Now you get an additional tonal trifecta: the bridge humbucker's outer coil, both pickups' outer coils, and the neck's outer coil.
Granted, the So-Cal doesn't clean up quite as sweetly as the other models in this line-up, but who cares? If you're looking for a brutal-sounding guitar with flawless playability and unshakable tuning then you won't be able to wipe the grin off your face.
Read the full Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR review
The Duo-Sonic is a short-scale student model that has become highly prized for its excellent playability and tone, making it a great beginner axe for guitarists with cash to spare. This updated model – with its slab alder body, flawless in sparkly Surf Green – features the classic offset Fender waist that gives the series its name.
The three-ply white/black/white scratchplate also plays host to a chrome-tipped three-position pickup selector switch and knurled (aka easy-grip) volume and tone knobs servicing two pickups, a neck single coil plus a bridge humbucker. The latter is also coil-splittable via the push/pull tone knob.
We've encountered guitars at more than twice the price that don't play anywhere near as well as this thing does. Oh, and it doesn't matter what size your hands are. If we had to use a song to describe the tonal range of the bridge pickup, we'll have Smells Like Teen Spirit, please. A clean setting here echoes the clattering rhythm voice of the song's intro while a fuzz box unleashes a racket not unlike the heavy sound Kurt craved.
If it sounds like we're typecasting this guitar then rest assured the Duo-Sonic is versatile enough to handle country picking, surf, indie, classic rock, whatever. Plus, the neck pickup warms things up perfectly for clean or dirty blues lead or jazz chords.
Read the full Fender Offset Series Duo-Sonic HS review
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