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The best electric guitars under $1,000 in 2021: 10 killer options for beginners and pros

The best electric guitars under $1,000 in 2021: 10 killer options for beginners and pros
(Image credit: Charvel/Ibanez/Fender/PRS)

Buying one of the best electric guitars under $1,000 is a statement of intent. It says you've progressed above and beyond a beginner electric guitar, and you're looking for something to take your playing up a level. It says you've decided on a style of playing that's truly yours and you're ready to commit to delving deeper into it. It's a little bit like a marriage, only without the paperwork. 

Thankfully, there is plenty of choice for your needs at this price point. Guitars of every style, brand, feature-set and finish are available to you. It just depends on what you want – although if you're looking to spend close to a grand, chances are you already have a pretty good idea.

If you'd like to read some more in-depth buying advice about the best electric guitars under $1,000, then click the 'buying advice' button above. If you'd rather get straight to the product guide, then keep scrolling. 

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Top picks

PRS continues to deliver some of the highest-quality guitars available in the sub-$1,000 bracket. The PRS SE Custom 24 is a guitar that covers so many tonal bases. This guitar can do it all - from chunky metal tones through to warmer jazz and blues tones, without even breaking a sweat.

An honorable mention is due for the relatively new kid on the block, too. The Chapman ML3 Pro Modern – and indeed all Chapmans – came from nowhere to deliver unprecedented levels of build quality, features and tones at a level that makes a mockery of their price tags.

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Product guide

Best electric guitars under $1,000: PRS SE Custom 24

(Image credit: PRS)

1. PRS SE Custom 24

A true Swiss army knife guitar that won’t break the bank

Price: $829/£799 | Body: Mahogany with a Maple top | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25” | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 24 | Pickups: 2x 85/15 “S” humbuckers | Controls: Volume, tone (with push-pull coil split), 3-way blade | Hardware: PRS vibrato, PRS SE tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Charcoal Burst, Sapphire, Vintage Sunburst

Truly versatile 
Looks amazing 
Coil splits for even more tones 
Might be a little OTT for some 

PRS’ SE range of guitars has been responsible for some of the best budget instruments money can buy, and this iteration of the Custom 24 is no different. As the name suggests, this SE has a 24 fret ‘Wide Thin’ maple neck, that features PRS’ classic bird inlays. The body is made from the tried-and-tested combination of mahogany and maple, which provides a balanced tone full of depth and personality. 

The 25” scale of the SE Custom 24 sits in between most other electric guitars, offering players an ultra-comfortable ride. The PRS designed hardware is super solid and the tremolo is smooth, making worries about playability and tuning-stability a thing of the past. Coil splittable 85/15 “S” pickups are the SE equivalents of what you’ll find on USA models, and they definitely live up to the hype - capable of sweet clean tones and ridiculous gain, and everything in between.

Granted, the SE might look a little plain compared to its’ USA-made brothers and sisters, but when they are over $3,500, is it worth the extra? We think not. 

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Chapman Guitars ML3 Pro Modern

(Image credit: Chapman Guitars)

2. Chapman Guitars ML3 Pro Modern

Simple but well-equipped

Price: $899/£829 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Roasted maple | Frets: 24 jumbo stainless steel | Pickups: Seymour Duncan Sentient (neck) and Pegasus (bridge) | Controls: Master volume, master tone, 5-way pickup switch with coil tap | Hardware: Fixed bridge, Hipshot locking tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Cyber Black, Hot White, Hot Blue

Fit and finish is superb
Extremely resonant
A joy to play
For the money, nothing!

YouTube has been many things for musicians, from an always-on tutor to a place to ogle over new gear. We're not sure any of us expected it to be the springboard for a new type of guitar brand, although that's what we have in Chapman Guitars. Each model is designed with input from the very crowds who lap up videos from the brand's eponymous leader, and the end result is a range of guitars which very much give the people what they want.

The Chapman ML3 Pro Modern is a perfect example; by favoring simplicity, craftsmanship and high quality materials, this Tele-shaped guitar delivers a playing experience far superior to what you'd normally expect at this price bracket. Well worth investigating.

Best electric guitars under $1,000: ESP LTD EC-1000

(Image credit: ESP LTD)

3. ESP LTD EC-1000

This singlecut beast is built for power

Price: $999/£928 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 extra jumbo | Pickups: EMG 60/81 | Controls: 2 x volume, master tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Tonepros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Many!

Superb spec
EMGs deliver incredibly thick tone
Relatively lightweight
Active pickups not the most subtle

While the body shape may be familiar, the tones you can coax out of the ESP LTD EC-1000 are most certainly not. Sure, you can get meaty sounds out of a Gibson Les Paul, but when you need that little bit extra, the EC-1000 can get you into some truly extreme tonal territory. 

Admittedly the pair of active EMGs aren't going to be highly desired by more genteel players, but for anyone looking to incorporate serious gain into their setup, you could do a lot worse than consider one of these relative veterans of the scene. High quality fixtures and fittings make this a serious guitar with tonnes of longevity. We're big fans of the vintage black version in particular, on account of its satin-smooth finish and classy gold hardware. 

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Charvel Joe Duplantier Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH Mahogany

(Image credit: Charvel)

4. Charvel Joe Duplantier Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH

An elegant, yet ferocious instrument that won’t let you down

Price: $899/£719 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 | Pickups: DiMarzio Fortitude and PAF 36th Anniv. humbuckers | Controls: Volume, 3-way toggle | Hardware: Charvel radius compensated bridge, Anchored tailpiece, Charvel locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Satin

Simple controls mean you just play
Classic, traditional look
Scale length makes drop-tuning easier 
No tone control 

If you’re here, then chances are you’ve heard a Joe Duplantier riff or two. For those who aren’t familiar, he’s the singer and rhythm guitarist of French metal titans Gojira - and he’s got good taste.

His latest signature model from Charvel features a solid mahogany slab body, bolt-on mahogany neck and an ebony fingerboard. These culminate in a solid-feeling instrument that produces a huge tone. The bolt-on neck provides some bright snappy-ness which compliments the mahogany body perfectly, making this a surprisingly versatile beast.

It’s a beefy guitar for sure, but it couldn’t be easier to play. Charvel has implemented a specially contoured neck heel for easy upper fret access, and the 12”-16” compound radius fingerboard makes fast legato playing and string bending an absolute pleasure. 

Monsieur Duplantier has opted for a pair of DiMarzio humbuckers in this guitar, with his signature ‘Fortitude’ ‘bucker in the bridge position and a PAF 36th Anniversary in the neck. This configuration covers all potential requirements, from crushing, heavy riffs to open soundscapes. This Charvel really is hard to beat.

Read the full Charvel Joe Duplantier Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas review  

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Fender Vintera '50s Telecaster

(Image credit: Fender)

5. Fender Vintera ‘50s Telecaster

Get a slice of history without vintage prices

Price: $949/£829 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: 2x Vintage-style ‘50s Tele single-coils | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Vintage-style 3-Saddle bridge, vintage-style tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: 2-tone Sunburst, Fiesta Red, Sonic Blue

Has the DNA of a guitar icon 
‘50s pickups provide magical Tele tones 
Definitely looks the part
You prefer slim neck profiles 

Fender’s Vintera series is an affordable, high-quality nod to the guitars that started it all - and this ‘50s Telecaster is the star of the show. For anyone that wants the sound and style of Fender’s golden era, this is the guitar for you.

The ‘50s Vintera Telecaster proves that sometimes simple is best. The slab-like alder body and bolt-on maple neck bring bags of bite and snap, with that iconic Tele twang that we’ve grown to know and love. The maple neck has the era-specific “Early ‘50s U” profile, and the maple fingerboard is radiused at a very old-school 7.25”. The frets are also vintage-style, for that traditional vibe that we dig.

Fender recreated their favorite set of ‘50s pickups especially for this Tele, and we’re glad they went to the effort. They sound quintessentially ‘Tele’, and are arguably unbeatable at this price point. Luckily for us, the electronics and wiring is done to today’s spec - but everything else feels perfectly vintage. For under a grand, there’s no Tele we’d rather have.

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Yamaha Revstar RS502T

(Image credit: Yamaha)

6. Yamaha Revstar RS502T

Pick up this double-cut and you’ll be off to the races

Price: $649/£599 | Body: Mahogany w/ maple cap | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: YGD-designed V5 Alnico soapbar single coils (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone (with push-pull “Dry” switch high-pass filter), 3-way selector | Hardware: Tune-o-matic bridge, aluminum tailpiece | Left-handed: No | Finish: Bowden Green, Black

Sleek finish
Innovative “Dry” switch
P-90-style pickups
A fairly heavy piece of wood

A quick glance at the spec sheet for the RS502T suggests that the model is heavily influenced by Les Paul designs circa 1955, with a mahogany body and maple top, a set-in mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard, 24 3/4–inch scale and 22 frets plus a pair of P-90-style single-coil pickups. However, Yamaha has made numerous refinements to the designs and also introduced a few impressive innovations. There are master volume and master tone controls, and the master tone control pulls up to engage Yamaha’s passive “Dry” circuit, which rolls off frequencies below 2kHz by about -5 to -10dB to enhance clarity. The VP5 single-coil pickups built by Yamaha Guitar Development (YGD) feature alnico V magnets, a German silver baseplate, plain enamel wire and 8.3k ohms of output. Furthermore, the finish is probably the coolest shade of British racing green ever.

Soundwise, the RS502T is ballsy and aggressive, like a good P-90-equipped guitar should be, with complex upper midrange harmonics and tight low-end spank, plus impressive resonance and sustain from the floating tailpiece. Engaging the Dry switch takes the pickups towards fat Strat territory but with more body and midrange punch. The RS502T may not reinvent the wheel, but when you strap one on it’s still going to take you for one hell of a ride.

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster

7. Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster

A feature-heavy Strat for under a grand? Yes, please.

Price: $949/£810 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple/pau ferro (dependent on finish) | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 3x Vintage Noiseless Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Volume, 6-position V6 rotary tone switch, tone, 5-way pickup selector | Hardware: 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo, Deluxe locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Olympic White, Mystic Ice Blue, Classic Copper, 3-Color Sunburst

S-1 and V6 switches offer dramatic tonal variation
Vintage Noiseless single-coil pickups
Affordably-priced Strat
Could turn off those who desire a traditional Strat

With its oversized “CBS-era” headstock, 22-fret maple neck, synchronized tremolo with vintage-style bent steel saddles and three single-coil pickups, the affordably-priced Deluxe Roadhouse Fender Stratocaster looks like a classic Strat that nods towards the late Sixties in overall vibe. However, befitting its Deluxe name, it includes numerous performance upgrades, including Vintage Noiseless pickups, locking tuning machines, a contoured neck heel and custom electronics that are engaged with a pushbutton S-1 switch built into the master volume control knob and consist of a preamp and a six-position V6 rotary switch replacing the middle tone knob. When the S-1 switch engages the preamp, six different and distinct tone settings are available, ranging from fat lead tones with enhanced midrange to shimmering rhythm tones with slinky treble.

The basic tone of the Deluxe Roadhouse (with the S-1 switch depressed) is comparable to most other present day Strat models, with a pronounced midrange honk, treble sparkle and round, percussive bass. When the S-1 switch is up, the output level jumps up by a few dB. In this mode the V6 switch plays a significant role in the overall tone. With the switch at the setting similar to turning the tone control to “10,” the midrange is fat and enhanced. As the settings are turned down, the midrange is progressively scooped down and treble and bass frequencies become more prominent.

A gig-worthy guitar for players who need a variety of Strat tones at their fingertips and, with its noise- and hum-free performance, an ideal studio tool as well.

Read the full Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster review

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Ibanez RG 550

8. Ibanez RG550

The colorful Eighties icon returns

Price: $999/£849 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Five-piece maple/walnut | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Ibanez V8 humbucker (bridge), S1 single coil (middle), V7 neck humbucker | Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: Edge locking vibrato | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Desert Sun Yellow, Road Flare Red, Purple Neon, White

Versatile pickup set
Ultra-thin neck
Edge tremolo
Eye-popping finishes may not be for everyone

First introduced in 1987 and discontinued in ’94, the RG550, with its pointy edges, super slim Wizard neck and “totally eighties” finishes, conjures up fond memories for a generation of budding shredders. Now, Ibanez has resurrected the iconic guitar, keeping some features intact (including those finishes) and also updating it for a new era.

Features on the new RG550 include a solid basswood body and an ultra-fast Super Wizard 5-piece maple/walnut neck. There’s also a maple fretboard, jumbo frets and Gotoh tuners. Pickups are Ibanez V7 and V8 humbuckers in the bridge and neck and an S1 single coil in the middle position. Finally, there’s an Edge tremolo bridge to help players perform all manner of wild, Vai-like sonic acrobatics.

While the 550 no doubt comes off as a singular shred machine, tonally, the guitar covers a lot of ground. The V7 bridge humbucker will help you crank out razor-sharp riffs and biting leads, while the V8 in the neck adds a hint of compression at higher gains. The S1 in the middle, meanwhile, offers up suitably single-coil sounds. The new RG may look like a throwback, but this is no mere nostalgia trip.

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR

(Image credit: Charvel)

9. Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR

Break the speed limit with this sleek shred machine

Price: $949/£759 | Body: Alder | Neck: 2-piece maple with graphite reinforcement | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Direct Mount Seymour Duncan JB humbucker, Direct Mount Seymour Duncan '59 Zebra humbucker | Controls: Volume with push/pull coil-split, No-Load tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Floyd Rose FRT-O2000 double-locking tremolo | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Rocket Red, Neon Pink, Matte Blue Frost, Satin Black, Snow White

Hot Seymour Duncan pickups
Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo
Fast neck
Not ideal for non-metal and hard-rock styles

Music trends have changed since the eighties, but fleet-fingered guitarists have always remained, which is why Charvel’s high performance guitars are still in favor. The Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR epitomizes the classic, stripped-down superstrat with premium components and an eye-catching finish that’ll turn heads, but with a price tag that won’t leave you down and out on the Sunset Strip.

The HH FR features an alder body, a two-piece maple neck with 25 1/2–inch scale length, 12- to 16-inch compound fingerboard radius, 22 jumbo frets and a heel-mounted spoke wheel for adjusting neck relief on the dual graphite reinforcement truss rods. The guitar comes equipped with a Floyd Rose double-locking, recessed tremolo and a pair of Seymour Duncan pickups, a master volume with push/pull coil-splitting, a master tone and a three-position blade switch.

Plugged in, the So-Cal’s high-output pickups turn any mild-mannered amplifier into a fire-breathing beast. When played with tons of distortion the Duncans sound huge, with a fat bottom end, warm mids and searing highs. The coil tap on the volume knob is a nice touch to get some brighter spank on cleaner settings. The combination of the hot-rodded pickups, hand-rubbed neck and Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo make the Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR a street lethal, fretboard-racing machine built for breakneck speed.

Read the full Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR review

Best electric guitars under $1,000: D'Angelico Premier SS

(Image credit: D'Angelico)

10. D'Angelico Premier Series SS

Classic D’Angelico looks at a lower price point

Price: $749/£765 | Body: Laminated Maple | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Ovangkol | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Duncan Designed (HB-102N neck and HB-101B bridge) | Controls: 2 x Volume, 2 x tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: Tune-o-matic bridge, D’Angelico stairstep trapeze/stopbar tailpiece, Rotomatic stairstep tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Black Flake, Ocean Turquoise, Fiesta Red, Champagne

D’Angelico features at affordable price
Optional stairstep tailpiece
Great construction
Some players may prefer solid wood body

With the introduction of its new Premier Series guitars, D’Angelico now offers a wide variety of instruments that sell well below the $1,000 price barrier. Even more amazing is that the Premier Series guitars offer as much elegant styling and playability as their more expensive predecessors. The attention to detail in the construction of these guitars is impressive. The single-cutaway, semi-hollow Premier SS features a laminated maple body, and the maple neck has 22 medium frets, an ovangkol fretboard, block inlays and a shallow C-shaped profile. The guitar's distinctive semi-hollow body design measures 15 inches wide and 1.75 inches deep. There’s also a stop-bar tailpiece, but D’Angelico offers the trapeze chrome stairstep tailpiece as an option.

The Premier SS' electronics consist of a pair of ultra-responsive Seymour Duncan designed humbuckers, each with their own volume and tone controls, and a three-position toggle switch. The Premier SS is a powerful semi-hollowbody that covers all ground, from smooth jazz tones all the way through to aggressive grit - all the while maintaining the construction, playability, sound and style that made the company’s guitars so desirable in the first place.

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Buying advice

Best electric guitars under $1,000: Charvel Joe Duplantier Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH E Mahogany

(Image credit: Future)

Having a budget of $1,000 opens up a lot of avenues. You can reasonably expect a certain level of quality, performance and spec at this end of the spectrum. By now you should have an idea of what you want your new guitar to be, so it's more a case of deciding where your personal preferences lie. Is it a workhorse replacement for a weekend warrior? Or just a step-up from the mid-range?

It's fair to say this bracket of guitars is well above the entry level. One of the key benefits here is that you don't have to compromise anywhere near as much as you would a more budget guitar. There’s likely a high-spec option to suit your needs, whichever style of guitar you’re after. Trying to find the best electric guitar for $1,000 is a big deal to any player, so whatever you buy has to be an investment in your future playing career. But in which areas should you be looking for value?

Nine times out of ten, it comes down to the included hardware. Bridges, pickups, locking nuts and electronics are usually the key variables, as you can bank on a thousand dollars getting you a decent piece of wood as a base.

A guitar maker may try and make an axe which feels silky smooth to the touch, perhaps by opting for a particular finishing method. Alternatively, it may be that your brand of choice goes heavy on parts that elevate the sound to fit in with a particular genre – for example, metal guitars which opt for active pickups or locking trems.

For our money, one of the biggest treats comes from playing a guitar that's the same as what you know, only better. If, for example, you've cut your teeth on an Epiphone Les Paul, owning a full-fat Gibson is a pretty special experience. Likewise moving from even one of the best Squier guitars to a Fender. There's a lot to be said for working your way up the ladder in this respect.