Ask Paul: Five Great Guitars for Under $500, Part 2

In my last post, I started to answer the often-asked question, “Hey, Paul, can you name some good guitars for under $500?”

I offered two models that fit the bill for "metal/shred" (Schecter Guitars Damien Elite, $499) and "classic" (Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro, $499).

Here are three more guitars you (four, actually, because of a tie), namely my choices for "acoustic," "all-arounder" and "quirky."

3. ACOUSTIC:Taylor Guitars GS Mini, $499

I often find myself on the couch playing guitar while watching TV, and this Taylor is the ultimate couch-potato-friendly-acoustic. The action is low and the sound is big, despite its slightly diminutive size.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there are other great, full-size acoustics out there for less than $500 that I’ll discuss in a future post, but I’m a slacker, so I’m picking a guitar that caters to shiftless guys like me.

When I do find myself motivated, I can tell you that the GS Mini is great for higher altered tunings and perfectly setup to practice finger-style acoustic playing. And if you want to amplify it, spring for Taylor’s optional ES-Go magnetic pickup ($98).

4. ALL-AROUNDER (TIE):ESP LTD ST203 Electric Guitar - Distressed Three Tone Sunburst, $349 and ESP LTD ST203FR Electric Guitar - Distressed Black, $399

The reason for the tie? It's because of the category. Meaning, you can play just about any type of music with these guitars, depending upon the what kind of player you are. If you’re more of a vintage player, the ST-203 is great with its three single-coil pickups and some updated features such as the flatter neck radius and jumbo frets. If you’re a modern player, you’ll cover more ground on the ST-203FR with a humbucking pickup, two single coils and the much-revered double-locking Floyd Rose tremolo.

Regardless of the fact that their distressed finishes look as though they’ve been through two phony world tours, ESP guitars have some of the best fretwork in the business, and these more affordable LTD guitars are no exception for precision shredding at any local stadiums.

5. QUIRKY: Danelectro '56 Single Cutaway / Dolphin Headstock Electric Guitar, $349

I find the retro-looking Danelectro ’56 Cutaway guitar works well if you occasionally play slide or are in an alternative band that pursues atypical guitar tones. This ’56 comes equipped with humbucking and single-coil lipstick pickups that deliver both those sounds but in a more raw and wide-open way. Its red flat finish feels slick, and the dolphin headstock looks cool with its plastic tuners. There’s also a ’56 cutaway with the Full Bell headstock that has more polish, but I feel more at home with the pawn shop vibe of this Dolphin headstock model.

Paul Riario on Paul Riario:I try very hard to remain under the radar, despite being on camera as gear editor at Guitar World; but in this age of social media, it was only a matter of time before it came to this. So with that, I’ll make my blog painless and a quick and easy read so you can get onto more important things like practicing guitar and sweep picking. Or, if you’re like me, getting tiger blood transfusions and figuring out how to be Olivia Wilde’s boy toy. I’ll use this blog to inform you of things I find cool, like new gear I’m playing through and what I’m watching, reading or listening to at any given moment. So feel free to ask me anything that’s gear-related — or if you have a problem with your girlfriend, ya know, life-lesson stuff, I’m pretty good at that too — and I’ll do my best to answer or address it here.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.