When it comes to buying one of the best electric guitars under $1,000, you're not just buying a guitar. This move is a statement of intent. It's you, declaring to the rest of the guitar world that you're here, you're not a beginner anymore and that you're a force to be reckoned with.
Once you reach up into this price bracket, you're buying an instrument which is an investment in you and your future ability. Any of the best electric guitars under $1,000 are going to take you far – with the right input, of course. These guitars are for those who've found their style, their niche – and want to commit fully to the guitar. It's like a marriage, but without the paperwork.
This price-point opens up a much wider area of the market. Gone are the quality restrictions of the beginner budget; instead, you've got access to guitars made in the Far East, Mexico, Japan and even some US-made axes. It all depends on what you're after – but if you've earmarked four digits for your new guitar, chances are you know exactly what you're looking for.
If you'd like to read some more in-depth buying advice about the best electric guitars under $1,000, then click the link 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
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. We love this guitar so much, that we've even got a page dedicated the best PRS SE Custom 24 deals.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The Player Series of guitars from Fender has been one of their most successful to date. Offering players a killer entry point to having the Fender name on their headstocks, we were all impressed with the exceptional playability and build quality of this budget-friendly series. The Player Plus range offers that same great playing experience, but with a few tasty extras.
The main upgrade from the Player to the Player Plus range is the electronics. Especially when it comes to this HSS offering, the Player series pickups have been replaced with a set of noiseless single coils and a Wide-Range looking bridge humbucker to elevate this Strat to another level. This is an edit which took us by surprise, and gives the Player Plus a sense of refinement which we love. The bridge humbucker offers lots more power and output, but when combined with the five-way switch, brings some sweet single-coil versatility too. Very nice.
The other main difference is the compound fingerboard radius, which is an updated 12" as opposed to the original 9.5". While 12" is pretty flat and might alienate some more traditionally-inclined players, the Player Plus is about updating, renewing and generally freshening up the Strat line and bringing it firmly into the 21st Century. As such, we love the modern, more shred-friendly appointments. All in all, a great Strat for those who want to freshen up their playing.
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.
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
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
What should I know about buying an electric guitar under $1,000?
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?
Which brands make the best electric guitars under $1,000?
Like we mentioned in the intro of this guide, the amount of choice available to you with a $1,000 budget is vast. Pretty much every major guitar brand offers something under a thousand bucks, and while this does mean you can choose from loads of brands, there are a few select names we'd suggest you look at first.
Guitars from PRS' SE range are some of the very finest under a grand. Although 'SE' stands for 'Student Edition', there's nothing beginner-feeling about these guitars. They're capable of keeping up with absolutely anything sub $1,500, and even offer pair competition to more expensive US-made PRS guitars. Fender also offers some of the best guitars for less than four digits. You've got the Player, Player Plus and Vintera series' all vying for your attention – and even perhaps a Japanese-made model here and there too. It's no secret that we adore Fender guitars here – but who can blame us when they're really this good?
Fender also owns Charvel – another brand who is churning out killer guitar after killer guitar. Charvel's models are slightly more metal-facing and offer loads of cool modern shred-friendly features for those who'll be using their overdrive channel more than anything else. They will do clean tones too, however – and they sound pretty damn good too.
Yamaha, Ibanez and ESP's LTD brand are all strong choices too, and while some guitars are more versatile than others, we can almost guarantee you'll find something right for you for under $1,000.
You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Which areas are the most important on a guitar?
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.
How we choose products
At Guitar World, our team of experts has extensive experience playing and testing various guitar products, including a wide range of electric guitars that can be purchased for under $1,000. As passionate guitar enthusiasts, we understand the importance of achieving the right sound and tone, and we leverage our expertise gained from using these products in live performances, recording sessions, and rehearsals to identify the best products for our guides.
To compile this list of electric guitars, we use a combination of practical experience, user feedback, and in-depth discussions with our editorial team to reach a consensus. We take into account factors such as pricing, playability, sound quality, versatility, and build quality to ensure that we showcase the very best guitars available on the market for under $1,000.
As guitar players ourselves, we appreciate the value of having the right equipment to create the perfect sound. Therefore, we are committed to providing reliable and knowledgeable recommendations to help guitar players find the ideal electric guitar to suit their specific needs and preferences. Our ultimate aim is to assist guitar players in unlocking their full potential by elevating their sound with the best guitar gear out there.
Read more about how we test products and services and how we make our recommendations.
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