Last updated on August 1st, 2018 at 10:48 pm
If you’ve ever stepped foot in a guitar shop, you’ve seen the dizzyingly wide array of electric, acoustic, and bass guitars for sale. There’s such a wide selection of guitars available, in fact, that it can be difficult to determine which guitar is a great one, and which one is a dud.
Here at Pickup Plug, we remember our first trip into a guitar shop — which, go easy on us — was several decades ago now. So we know how to spot that affordable diamond-in-the-rough guitar, or help you find the great starter guitar if you’re just learning to play.
This electric guitar buying guide will help you find the ideal electric guitar for your budget. We understand that every guy has his own aesthetic preferences, as well as their own musical dreams. Pickup Plug wants to share in your musical success and joy, whether that’s recording your first album, or playing in your very first garage band.
5 Best Electric Guitars – Under $500, $1,000, and Beyond
|Rank||Product Name||Best For||Our Vote|
|1||Gibson Les Paul Studio (View on Amazon)||High End, Warmth and Soul||10.0|
|2||Fender Classic Series 50s Stratocaster (View on Amazon)||Classic Stratocaster Sound||9.8|
|3||Washburn Parallaxe (View on Amazon)||Quality Sound, Construction, and Style||9.0|
|4||Epiphone Les Paul (View on Amazon)||Committed Young Guitarists||8.6|
|5||Fender Squier (View on Amazon)||Entry Level Guitarists||7.9|
Buying Guide – Deciphering Brands and Finding the Best Guitar for The Money
Like buying any other musical instrument, there are electric guitars available for buyers at any budget. Obviously, high-end electric guitars offer the extravagant bells and whistles of a luxury product, while cost-effective electric guitars offer an entry-level guitar player everything (s)he’ll need to get his musical feet off the ground.
What’s great about Pickup Plug is that we’ve reviewed electric guitars at every price point. We’ve got you covered if you want a simpler starter guitar. If you want something that is made of the finest quality materials, we have everything you need here too.
The Different Electric Guitar Body Types
Musicians in the market for an electric guitar need to decide what kind of guitar body they want their instrument to have. Customarily, there are three different body styles used on electric guitars — solid body, hollow body, and semi-hollow body.
The most common body found on electric guitars is a solid body. Solid body electric guitars are constructed from a sturdy slab of wood. Because the wood used in solid body guitars is so thick, a solid body electric guitar doesn’t resonate as much as an electric guitar with a hollow body.
For guitar players who want an electric guitar that has the look of an acoustic guitar, consider grabbing a hollow body electric guitar. Hollow body guitars can be much lighter than their solid-bodied counterparts, making them great for guys who like to move around when they’re playing on stage.
Because these guitars are hollow, they tend to resonate as you play them. This resonance makes hollow body guitars a popular pick among jazz guitarists who’ll want a guitar that produces a deep, hearty, and rich sound.
To round your electric guitar buying options out, let’s discuss semi-hollow guitars. Semi-hollow guitars feature a hollow body that is stabilized by a wooden block that is embedded in the guitar body’s center.
What’s great about semi-hollow electric guitars is that they produce enough resonance without that resonance being too overpowering. This happy middle ground makes semi-hollow body guitars an excellent option if you plan on cutting a blues album, a punk rock manifesto, or an alternative rock EP.
Choosing the Best Guitar Neck
Once you’ve got your guitar body picked out, you’ll want to make sure that the electric guitar you plan on buying has the ideal guitar neck for your playing style.
Most electric guitars on the market today feature a bolt-on neck, a set neck, or a neck-through design.
Bolt-on necks are bolted onto the electric guitar’s body. Bolt-on necks are found on most entry-level electric guitars because bolt technology is cheap to manufacture and long-lasting.
Set necks, on the other hand, are set into the electric guitar’s body and then glued in place. Because the guitar neck is glued into the guitar, they generally offer a more stable playing experience than bolt-on-necked guitars.
As the name implies, neck-through guitars feature a neck that extends through the entirety of the guitar’s body. These guitars are generally the most durable and stable electric guitars available.
Finding the Right Look for Your Guitar
Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about how your guitar-related aesthetic preferences might influence your buying decision at Pickup Plug.
One reason why solid body guitars are so popular is that guitar designers can dress up a guitar to make it look very ornate and unique. For those who want something a bit more eye-catching, why not grab a guitar that has a beautifully sculpted solid body, or a guitar that is painted up in a mesmerizing pattern?
Guitarists with simpler tastes will do just fine with a plain, unadorned solid body guitar. On the other hand, maybe a guy with straightforward preferences will want a hollow body electric guitar that has the same stained wood finish that’s generally seen on acoustic guitars.
Electric Guitar Reviews
Originally introduced in 1983, the Les Paul Studio is among the most respected guitar lines in Gibson’s illustrious catalog. The Gibson Les Paul Studio 2016 Traditional Electric Guitar is one of the newest entrants in the Les Paul Studio series, and is a continuation of the high quality and excellent playability found in older Studio guitars.
One reason the Studio 2016 is so playable is that the guitar has split coil humbucking pickups that offer rich, resonant tones that will leave your audience wanting more.
More on Gibson
Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Gibson has been a leader in the American guitar space since the company’s inception in 1896. Over the years, Gibson’s guitar-related innovations include adding automatic tuning to guitars, creating semi-hollow body guitar bodies, and introducing guitar body shapes like the Flying V and Thunderbird. Through it all, Gibson has lived by the saying “American Made, World Played.”
This mantra definitely inspired Gibson’s guitar makers when they were designing the Les Paul Studio 2016. For example, this electric guitar features a high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish that gives off a glossy, eye-catching sheen, the sort of sheen that’ll look just as good in the smoky nightclubs of Shanghai as it will in that suburban garage band performance in Wichita, Kansas.
The Studio 2016’s shiny body is augmented by a thick, durable one-piece fingerboard that is constructed from rosewood. The actual body of this Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar is built from a combination of mahogany and maple wood.
Back in the 1950s, the world of rock-and-roll was revolutionized by the electric guitar. For guys wanting to capture the look, feel, and sound of the earliest electric guitars, look no further than the Fender Classic Series 50s Stratocaster.
The Stratocaster’s sleek white pickguard is reminisccent of the classic fin convertibles that were popular during the era, while this electric guitar’s glossy polyester finish matches the gleaming paint jobs that were found on those same 1950s cars.
The Classic Stratocaster’s polyester gloss covers a guitar body made out of ultra-lightweight alder wood. A durable maple wood “V”-shaped neck extends from the Strato’s body, giving you the control you want, whether you’re playing your guitar on a stage or in a studio.
The Stratocaster’s Materials
Founded in California in 1946, Fender quickly earned a rock-solid reputation for producing cutting-edge electric guitars in the 1950s. The Fender Classic Series 50s Stratocaster hearkens back to the custom-built guitars that Fender created for California garage bands over 60 years ago.
And although the Stratocaster is inspired by vintage guitar design, this vintage-inspired electric guitar’s high-quality build and amazing materials mean that it holds up when compared to other electric guitars that are in stores today.
In fact, Fender cleverly added a 5-way pickup switch to the Stratocaster, which is the same switch Fender uses on their more modern electric guitars. Fender also outfitted this Classic Series guitar with their innovative Fender USA 250R strings, which is proof that the company wants to give you the best of both the new school and the old school with this retro-style guitar.
Designed for legendary guitarist, Trevor Rabin, the Washburn PXMTR20 Parallaxe has a carved double set neck that is perfect for guys who like to play their electric guitar with passion. Rabin, the former guitarist for Yes, is of course responsible for penning the mega-hit Owner of a Lonely Heart. The PXMTR20 is Rabin’s signature electric guitar, and it’s the guitar the hall of fame musician plays when he performs today.
The Washburn Parallaxe has a mahogany wood body and a neck constructed from sturdy, lightweight maple wood. The guitar fretboard is made out of ebony, and has 24 frets. These high-quality materials demonstrate that Washburn cut no corners in their production of the Parallaxe.
Learn More About Washburn
Located in the heart of the Midwest, Washburn is a Buffalo Grove, Illinois-based company that has been producing guitars for over 130 years. In more recent decades, Washburn has set itself apart as one of the leaders in America’s ultra-competitive electric guitar market.
Every electric guitar in Washburn’s catalog is designed to meet the rigorous demands of the most intense guitar shredders, and the Parallaxe is no exception.
From a hardware standpoint, the PXMTR20 was built to last, thanks to its D’addario EXL 120 light gauge strings, a 3-way toggle pickup, and a fixed bridge.
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO is an updated version of the legendary Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar. How did Epiphone improve the highly sought after Les Paul guitar, you ask?
For starters, Epiphone outfitted the Standard Plustop with ProBucker pickups that’ll give you those warm, resonant tones that Les Paul-designed guitars are known for. Besides producing a warm sound, these ProBucker pickups give you great range, too, allowing you to hit both high and low notes with ease.
More on Epiphone
Epiphone has been producing instruments in New York since 1873. Over the past 140 years, Epiphone has established itself as one of the most respected instrument makers in the United States. As Les Paul himself once said, “Epiphone always made a good guitar.”
This legacy of making good guitars is evident with the Les Paul Standard. The electric guitar was built to last — it has a fully adjustable bridge and sturdy tailpiece that Epiphone guarantees will last a lifetime.
In terms of the guitar body, the Standard Plustop has a solid mahogany body that’s been finished off with a shiny veneer. This veneer finish, along with 1-ply cream binding, gives this Epiphone electric guitar the sort of vintage look that is on trend right now.
Guys in the market for a vintage-inspired electric guitar should consider grabbing the Fender Squier Telecaster. Like the electric guitars that were played across America during the 1960s, the Squier Telecaster has a “C”-shape neck that is built out of maple. The Squier also has 22 total frets, and a rosewood fingerboard, giving you the sort of tonal range you’ll want when you’re making your next album.
The Fender Squier Telecaster also has a wooden body. More specifically, the guitar has an agathis body that is finished in a glossy polyurethane. This shiny finish is visually complimented by the Fender Squier’s chrome hardware.
Learn More About Fender
Founded in Fullerton, California back in 1946, Fender is like Nike, Apple, or Sony. Mention one of those brands to somebody, and they’ll immediately tell you what they’re known for. Utter “Nike”, and someone will immediately picture a pair of shoes. Say “Apple” or “Sony”, and you can’t help but think about electronics. Say “Fender”, and you immediately start fantasizing about high-end electric guitars.
The Fender Squier Telecaster is a great example of why Fender is known for building incredible guitars. The Squier Telecaster takes inspiration from the earlier iterations of the Telecaster Electric Guitar that were played by the biggest names in rock-and-roll through the 1960s.
The guitar’s chrome-covered single coil pickup is another classic design element that Fender included in this updated version of the Telecaster.
We all know electric guitars can be loud, and this can be problematic if you have close neighbors. These days it’s relatively easy to play and record entirely “in-the-box”, as the saying goes. All you need is a computer with a basic Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), an audio interface, and a decent pair of studio headphones. Give it some thought, it’s how I’ve been playing for years and I couldn’t imagine going back.