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The best electric guitars under $2,000: top spec guitars for intermediate and pro players

The best electric guitars under $2,000: top spec guitars for intermediate and pro players
(Image credit: Jackson/Fender/Gibson/PRS)

If you’re ready to move beyond the budget or mid-range guitar brackets, then it’s time to start exploring what’s on offer in the upper mid-range and high-end. Here we have the best electric guitars under $2,000 which offer the perfect blend of epic tone, quality craftsmanship and big bags full of vibe.

We have top-of-the-line classics from Gibson and Fender and some cult classics-in-waiting that might have escaped your notice to share with you. 

If you've been mulling over an upgrade, or you just fancy a rather expensive treat, you might be in luck. Our list of the best electric guitars under $2,000 is a great place to begin your search.

What is the best electric guitar under $2,000?

For this kind of  money you’re allowed to have high expectations. You're allowed to expect your new guitar - whatever it is - to deliver you the playing experience you've dreamt of since you started out. This is the higher end of the market, after all.

For us, one guitar stands out above the others. In terms of versatility, build quality and sheer class, the PRS CE24 has it all. Sitting pretty above the SE models, but beneath the otherworldly core models, the CE range manages to take the best of PRS' best and package it in such a way that you never feel like you're getting anything other than an exceptional instrument. 

It has a range of tones so wide you can literally take it anywhere, and the attention to detail will have the aesthetes and design fans purring. We know quality when we see it, and it's abundantly clear in this guitar.

Best electric guitars under $2,000: buying advice

We're very much into serious guitar territory here. If you're shopping in and around the $2,000 mark, you’re either a proper player with a clear idea on what you want, or you've won the lotto and are looking for something to hang on the wall! We'll assume it's the former and hope that by now you know your mahogany bodies from your maple tops, and have a keen preference for the type of pickups you want. 

So, where are the improvements made at this end of the scale? Typically, you can expect the very best in fit, finish and overall quality control. You can expect a guitar without any of those slight niggles we've all experienced in our playing careers. Nope, straight out of the case your new guitar should sing. 

Where your decision process should probably focus is on where you'll most notice the improvements a high-end guitar will bring. The pickups will likely allow you to access a wider range of high quality tones. The playability across the fretboard should be immaculate. And, above all, a $2,000 guitar should be something that shouts “play me!” every time you look at it. 

The fact is if you're seriously looking at this end of the market, you don't need us to tell you what you should be looking for. You'll already know. What you maybe don't know is some of the superb models which exist outside your usual sphere of knowledge. So sit back and  allow us to introduce you to a list of the best electric guitars under $2,000, any of which would bring serious joy to your life.

The best electric guitars under $2,000 right now

Best electric guitars under $2,000: PRS CE 24

(Image credit: PRS)

1. PRS CE 24

The best electric guitar under $2,000 right now

Launch price: $1,999 | Body: Mahogany with Maple top | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25” | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 24 | Pickups: PRS 85/15 Humbuckers | Controls: Master volume, push-pull tone, 3-way pickup switch | Hardware: PRS Patented Tremolo and locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Amber, Dark Cherry Sunburst, Gray and Black, Trampas Green, Vintage Sunburst, Whale Blue

Incredible quality
Powerful sounds
Versatile
A case would have been nice!

PRS recently reintroduced the CE range back into its line-up, after deciding there was space in its world for a classic bolt-on design. And boy have they got it right. The PRS CE24 is, by any measure, a tremendous guitar and fully deserves the number one spot on this sub-$2,000 electrics list. It looks, feels, sounds and plays like an elite instrument. Everything from the quality of the build through to the wide range of tones from the 85/15 pickups screams class. 

The modern iteration comes in a range of distinguished finishes, but whichever you choose, the trusty combination of mahogany, maple and rosewood, and some truly wonderful fittings, will be sure to bring a smile to your face. 

Read the review: PRS CE 24 semi-hollow

Best electric guitars under $2,000: Fender American Professional Telecaster

2. Fender American Professional Telecaster

A new take on an established classic

Launch price: $1,499 | Body: Ash | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple/rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x V-Mod Single-Coil Telecaster | Controls: Volume with treble-bleed, tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: 3-saddle, strings-through-body Tele bridge with compensated brass saddles, 6-screw mounting with removable modern 'Ashtray' bridge cover | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Mystic Seafoam, 2-Color Sunburst, 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Butterscotch Blonde, Candy Apple Red, Crimson Red Transparent, Natural, Olympic White, Sonic Gray

V-Mod pickups deliver bold, dynamic tones
Comfortably rounded “Deep C” neck profile
Treble-bleed circuit
Not much!

At first glance, the American Professional Telecaster seems like the classic version of the iconic electric solidbody model that most guitarists know and love, with an alder body, maple neck with a satin urethane finish on the back, 25.5-inch scale length, a 9.5-inch radius, 22 frets, master volume, master tone and a three-way pickup selector. However, subtle differences are immediately apparent the moment you pick it up and plug it in, such as the narrow-tall frets and the distinctively comfortable feel of the modern “Deep C” neck profile, a treble-bleed circuit that preserves high frequencies when turning down the volume and a three-saddle bridge design that looks familiar but has compensated brass barrel saddles for accurate intonation and a flat plate with no raised edges above the saddles.

What’s more, the American Pro Tele sounds absolutely amazing. The two V-Mod single coils are beefy and ballsy with twang that packs a solid punch. It’s tone that vintage connoisseurs spend years searching for while pros go on endless quests for the ideal replacement pickups. Yet here it is in an affordable, off-the-shelf, brand-new instrument. What’s more, the Tele design may be a classic, but the new model comes in a wide variety of traditional and unconventional finish colors and styles.

Best electric guitars under $2,000: Yamaha Pacifica 612 VII FM

3. Yamaha Pacifica 612 VII FM

A superstrat with deep cutaways and comfortable contours

Launch price: $1,050 | Body: Alder w/ Flame Maple top | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Seymour Duncan SSL-1 single coil (neck), SSL-1 RWRP single-coil (middle), TB-14 humbucker (bridge) | Controls: Master volume, master tone (push/pull coil split), 5-way selector | Hardware: Wilkinson VS50 tremolo, Grover Locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss Polyurethane

Duncan single coils and humbucker provide variety of tones
Pro quality hardware
Neck heel is not as slim or contoured as many modern superstrats

Yamaha’s Pacifica series guitars have remained best sellers since their introduction way back in 1990 for several very good reasons, but the main reason for their popularity and longevity is that every Pacifica model - from the most inexpensive entry-level instrument to the top-of-the-line artist signature guitar - provides unbeatable value for the money.

The Pacifica 612 VII FM is no exception, offering an alluring combination of high-quality tonewoods, hardware and electronics along with superior craftsmanship and playability. The 612 VII FM features a sleek, modern “superstrat” design with deep, sweeping cutaways and comfortable contours. What’s really impressive about the guitar is its first-class hardware and electronics, which make the usual pro-quality upgrades unnecessary, unlike most other guitars in its price range. Pickups consist of a Seymour Duncan SSL-1 single coil at the neck, a reverse wind/reverse polarity SSL-1 single coil in the middle position and a Seymour Duncan TB-14 humbucker with a chrome cover at the bridge.

Thanks to those pickups, the 612 VII FM is a tone monster. The single coils deliver impressively fat and harmonically rich tones, and their output is perfectly matched to the humbucker so there is no volume drop when changing pickups. The reverse wind/reverse polarity SSL-1 middle pickup provides completely noise-free performance when the neck/middle or bridge/middle setting is selected, while still delivering the desirable out-of-phase “quack” that Strat players adore. With its immaculate craftsmanship, comfortable design and pro-quality hardware and electronics, the 612 VII FM is a great bargain on today’s market.

Read the review: Yamaha Pacifica 612 VII FM

Best electric guitars under $2,000: Gibson SG Standard '61

(Image credit: Gibson)

4. Gibson SG Standard '61

Our pick of the SG crop

Launch price: $1,799 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75” | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 medium jumbo | Pickups: Gibson Burstbucker 61R/61T | Controls: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, 3-way pickup switch | Hardware: ABR-1 tune-o-matic bridge, vintage deluxe keystone tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Vintage Cherry

Certainly looks the part
Slim taper neck is a joy to play
Changes are mostly cosmetic

There's something about a Vintage Cherry SG. From the curves on its body to the grain of the wood, everything about these guitars has a certain personality about it. And, if you're exploring this price bracket, we'd usher you towards the absolute peak of SG perfection. 

The Gibson SG Standard '61 is an homage to the original SGs that came when Gibson ceased production of the Les Paul to put all its energy into this bold new design. It may never have caught on in the way they'd hoped, but to those who have fallen for the SG's unique charms - which is still going strong 58 years later - the '61 reissue is the ultimate nod of appreciation.

Best electric guitars under $2,000: Jackson Soloist SL7 HT

5. Jackson Soloist SL7 HT

A seven-string speed demon

Launch price: $1,319.71 | Body: Mahogany w/ ash top | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: PRS S2 Type-D single coil (neck) and S2 humbucker (bridge) | Controls: Duncan SH-6 7 humbuckers (neck and bridge), 5-way selector | Hardware: Jackson HT7 Hardtail string-thru bridge, Jackson die-cast locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Satin

Affordably-priced seven-string
Neck-through construction
Duncans have high-output punch and outstanding clarity
Solid all around

For players who prefer a hardtail bridge, a traditional (i.e. non-slanted or multi-scale) fretboard, passive pickups and a non-extended scale length, Jackson’s Pro Series Soloist SL7 HT is a great choice. Priced right in the middle of Jackson’s seven-string range, it offers a great balance of value and pro features.

The most distinctive feature of the SL7 HT is its body construction, which places a layer of ash with a distinctive transparent satin Charcoal Gray finish on top of a slab of mahogany. The single-piece maple neck extends all the way to the body’s heel for true neck-through-body construction, but ash laminates on the sides and back give the body a consistent look.

Consistent with Jackson’s other Soloist models, the SL7 HT is a speed machine with a very fast-playing neck that, despite having a very slim profile, feels rock solid. The high-output Duncan SH-6 humbuckers deliver remarkably clear and well-balanced sound. Thanks to treble and midrange emphasis with slightly rolled-back bass, the pickups allow the low B string to produce a brilliant, metallic clang rather than the deadened mush one often encounters on seven-string guitars with non-extended scales. As a result, the SL7 HT sounds as good when played with a clean amp setting as it does when pushed to the brink with high-gain distortion.

Read the review: Jackson Soloist SL7 HT

Best electric guitars under $2,000: ESP LTD EC-1000 EverTune

6. ESP LTD EC-1000 EverTune

A solid buy with even more solid tuning

Launch price: $1,427 | Body: Mahogany w/ maple cap | Neck: 3-piece mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Seymour Duncan JB humbucker, Seymour Duncan Jazz humbucker | Controls: 2x volume, tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: EverTune bridge, Grover tuners | Left-handed: Yes (without EverTune) | Finish: See Thru Black, Dark Brown Sunburst

EverTune bridge keeps you in tune
Seymour Duncan humbuckers
Great playability
EverTune is a bit difficult to get a handle on – at first

The EverTune bridge, which provides amazing tuning stability and intonation - just try to knock this baby out of tune - is the selling point here, but the EC-1000ET is a beauty besides. The guitar features a mahogany body with maple cap, a three-piece mahogany set neck and impeccable construction. Pickups are Seymour Duncan, and lend the guitar a range of tones, from full and aggressive with the bridge ‘bucker engaged, to more rounded and mellow with the neck.

And the playability is impeccable. It's a guitar that's perfectly tuned and intonated up and down the neck and not only sounds great, but allows you to riff and solo with confidence. If never going out of tune is important to you (and how could it not be?), this is one of the best electrics going today.

Best electric guitars under $2,000: Fender EOB Stratocaster

7. Fender EOB Stratocaster

Get sustain for days with this Radiohead-approved Strat

Launch price: $1,124.99 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: Sustainer Driver (neck), Texas Special single coil (middle), Duncan JB Jr humbucker (bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone, 1 x intensity, 2-way on/off switch, 3-way switch (Sustainer modes), 5-way selector | Hardware: 6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo, Vintage-Style tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Olympic White

Sustainer pickup
Wide range of tones
Seymour Duncan humbucker
Few finish options

A partnership between Fender and Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, the EOB Strat offers a wide palette of tones, thanks to its Seymour Duncan JB Jr. humbucking bridge pickup, Texas Special single-coil middle pickup and Fernandes Sustainer unit in the neck position. The Sustainer creates near-infinite sustain on one or more strings, making it easy to achieve thick, textured sounds.

Controls include an on/off switch, intensity control and a three-position switch to select the mode: Fundamental only, Harmonic only or Blend. Other modern and classic features include a six-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo bridge, vintage-style tuning machines, a “10/56 V” neck profile, 21 narrow-jumbo frets, a synthetic bone nut and a special neck plate engraved with a custom “Flower of Life” emblem. Furthermore, the guitar’s ethereal all-white design is a perfect complement to its otherworldly tones.

Best electric guitars under $2,000: Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH HT M Ash

8. Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH HT M Ash

A T-style shred machine

Launch price: $1,199.99 | Body: Ash | Neck: Two-piece maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Duncan '59 SH-1N humbucker (neck) and JB TB-4 humbucker (bridge) | Controls: Volume (push/pull coil-split), tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: HT6 hardtail bridge string-through-body bridge | Left-handed: Yes (Style 2 HH FR M LH model) | Finish: Satin

Super-fast playability
Generous body contours
Dynamic Duncan humbuckers
Not a lot of finish options

A Tele-shaped model with a hard tail bridge, the Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH HT M comes with a beautifully grained natural ash body coupled with a two-piece bolt-on maple neck. In a smart design move, the body is contoured with a generous belly cut to hug your midsection, a contour on the cutaway and a heel for unfettered access ahead of the 15th fret, in addition to a slick contour behind the lower bout for the output jack.

Performance-wise, the Style 2 feels like a wild bucking horse  once you strap yourself in, you can’t help but hang on as your playing heads toward breakneck speed. The fast-neck profile with a hand-rubbed urethane gel back finish is so smooth it allows your fingers to effortlessly skate across the whole neck. When it comes to the guitar’s sound, Charvel was wise to use the darker-voiced Seymour Duncan humbuckers to balance the ash body’s brighter tone characteristics. Here, the pickups have a strong midrange that makes chords sound chunky when using high-gain amplifiers, while leads have the perfect bite and roundness that slice through the mix. 

Engaging the volume’s push/pull coil split brightens up the tone for single coil spank. This is a totally versatile hard rock masterpiece stripped down for dexterous guitar acrobatics.

Read the review: Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH HT M Ash

Best electric guitars under $2,000: Guild Starfire V

(Image credit: Guild)

9. Guild Starfire V

A semi-hollow with Bigsby-style vibrato

Launch price: $1,699 | Body: Laminated mahogany, semi-hollow | Neck: 3-piece mahogany/maple/mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2x LB-1 humbuckers | Controls: Bridge volume, bridge tone, neck volume, neck tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Guild Tune-o-matic bridge with rosewood base, Guild vibrato, Grover Sta-Tite open-gear 14:1 tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Cherry Red, White, Black

Classic looks and tones
Vintage-voiced pickups
Bigsby-style vibrato
A bit heavy for a semi-hollow

The semi-hollow Starfire was first intended to compete with Gibson's ES-335 but still boasts plenty of classic Guild style, including spacious cutaways and a wooden foot Tune-o-matic-style bridge. The new Starfire V sports mahogany laminates with a striped figure under the Cherry Red finish and, unlike the Starfire IV, adds in a Guild vibrato. The three-piece neck joins the body at the 18th fret and features a 'soft U' profile, and is topped with a rosewood fingerboard.

Soundwise, the guitar is bright and bold, with plenty of low-end definition. The LB-1 "Little Bucker" pickups here replicate the early Sixties-era “Anti Hum Pickups,” and come with their own tone and volume controls. Though the Starfire is a little weighty around the neck due to the maple center block, it has all the ease and easy playability you would expect from a thinline design.