It's easy to think you'll be short of options if you have a reduced budget for a new guitar. Thankfully, that's not the case. In reality, there are a mammoth amount of high-quality six-strings out there for not a lot of cash, and we're going to walk you through the finest on offer. We've compiled this list of the best electric guitars under $1,000/£1,000, covering all genres and playing styles to make things a little easier for you to find your dream guitar - without breaking the bank.
We’ve rounded up a selection of some of the finest examples from PRS to Epiphone, Gretsch, Fender, Ibanez and more. So, whether you're looking to play away the blues, melt faces with killer shred licks or rock out with some classic riffs, there is a guitar here for you.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best electric guitars under $/£1,000 right now.
Best electric guitars under £1,000/$1,000: Our top picks
Given that there are so many incredible electric guitars under £/$1,000, it’s hard to choose one as being the best. That said, if we had to name one that covers the most bases, we’d opt for the PRS Custom 24. We strongly believe that this is not only one of the most versatile guitars on this list, but the build quality is exceptional.
Best electric guitars under £1,000/$1,000: Product guide
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
The product of a collaboration between the Gibson Custom Shop and Epiphone, the 1961 Les Paul SG Standard goes to great lengths to replicate this electric guitar icon - and we think it is easily one of the best instruments on the market for under £1,000.
As you'd expect, this devilishly handsome guitar is made up of two pieces of solid mahogany, but unlike other Epiphone SGs, this model features the Custom Shop Historic bevels - meaning it looks and feels even more like the real deal. The neck is a similar affair, continuing the mahogany theme and sporting the beloved SlimTaper neck profile. To us, this neck is fast, comfortable and smooth.
Lastly, we have the feature that seals the deal for us, a set of Gibson BurstBucker pickups. These USA pickups bring the thunderous tone you've come to expect from a Gibson SG and help make this Epiphone guitar a convincing tribute to the original 1961 classic.
Read our full Epiphone 1961 Les Paul SG Standard 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
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
Despite stirring up quite the controversy when it was first announced, the PRS Silver Sky has gone on to be one of Paul Reed Smith's most popular models - hardly surprising considering the name on the headstock.
So, with the John Mayer model garnering critical acclaim and models flying off the shelves, it was only a matter of time until we got a more budget-friendly option, and well it's finally here, PRS SE Silver Sky, but there are a few key differences between the two.
Whereas the original US Silver Sky has a solid alder body, the SE model opts for poplar. The neck profile has also changed, with the SE receiving an 8.5” radius a very slight change from the more vintage 7.25” of the USA model.
For us, the PRS Silver Sky isn't just a must-try for any John Mayer fan, but anyone who likes the look, sound and feel of a vintage-era S-Type guitar.
Read our full PRS SE Silver Sky 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
Best electric guitars under £1,000/$1,000: Buying advice
How to find the best electric guitar under $/£1,000 for you
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Having a budget ceiling of £/$1k to play with gives you, the buyer, a lot of choices. 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.
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.
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.
How we choose the products for our guides
Here at MusicRadar, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything music gear related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides.
When choosing what we believe to be the best electric guitars under £1,000/$1,000 available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.
First and foremost, we are musicians, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best bass drum pedals on the market right now.
Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.
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