When it comes to guitars, great tone and easy playability are priceless attributes that, unfortunately, come at a price.
But fear not—a six- (or seven-) string boasting top-notch features doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Below, Guitar World has compiled a list of 10 killer electrics in a variety of styles that all sell for under $1,000. Whether you prefer single- or double-cut, maple or mahogany, fixed bridge or Floyd Rose, or single-coil or humbucker, there’s guaranteed to be a guitar here for you.
Studio rats and road dogs alike will revel in discovering an instrument with the tone, playability and style worthy of being crowned a “number-one axe.”
1. Yamaha Revstar RS502T
Pick up this double-cut and you’ll be off to the races
Launch price: $649 | 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
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 Design (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.
2. Charvel Pro Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR
Break the speed limit with this sleek shred machine
Launch price: $899 | 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
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 new 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.
3. PRS SE Custom 24 Floyd
Mid-priced model is a versatile classic
Launch price: $879 | Body: Mahogany with maple veneer | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 24 | Pickups: 85/15 'S' humbuckers (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone (push/pull coil-tap), 3-way selector | Hardware: Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo, PRS SE tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Gloss
The SE Custom 24 Floyd offers an affordable alternative to the classic PRS Series “Floyd” Custom 24, with a similar general vibe and design for players who can’t afford to drop more than three grand on a guitar. True to the original Custom 24, the SE “Floyd” Custom 24 has a 25-inch-scale neck with 24 frets and a mahogany body with a maple top (although on this version the flame maple is a veneer instead of a solid slab). Pickups are controlled by a three-way blade selector (instead of a five-way switch), master volume knob and master tone with a push/pull coil-splitting function.
In terms of feel, playability and tone, the SE “Floyd” Custom 24 is better than the early versions of the Custom 24 that PRS made in the Eighties. With its Wide Thin neck profile and Floyd Rose tremolo, the guitar is certainly “shred-worthy,” but its looks and tone will equally please vintage-minded players. Paired with a high-gain amp, the SE humbuckers can produce aggressive metal tones, but the guitar can also go in an entirely different direction through a clean amp setting with the coils split, which delivers bona fide country twang and bluesy bite. An impressively versatile instrument that can handle the roles of three or four different models and in most cases outperform them.
4. Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro
LP features minus the LP price
Launch price: $599 | Body: Mahogany w/ maple top and AAA flame maple veneer | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Pau ferro | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Epiphone ProBucker-2 (neck), Epiphone ProBucker-3 (bridge) | Controls: 2x volume (w/ push/pull coil-tap), 2x tone, selector | Hardware: LockTone Tune-O-Matic/stopbar bridge, Grover 18: tuners | Left-handed: Yes (Heritage Sunburst only) | Finish: Trans Blue, Wine Red, Honey Burst, Vintage Sunburst, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Antique Natural, Cherry, Desert Burst, Iced Tea, Trans Black, Blueberry Burst, Blood Orange, Green Burst, Mojave Fade
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop Pro offers all the familiar features of a classic Les Paul Standard—dual humbuckers, a maple top on a mahogany body and a set neck with 24 3/4–inch scale—while adding the tonal versatility of coil tapping and the beauty of a AAA flame maple veneer top.
Performance-wise, the PlusTop Pro feels like an old friend. The neck profile has the comfortable, slim profile of an early Sixties neck, and the detail in the fretwork is impressive. The ProBucker pickups are perfectly dialed in to provide the ideal balance between clarity and warmth, with responsive attack, smooth sustain and a fat midrange that gives the guitar a bold, assertive voice. When the coils are split, the treble is enhanced, but the overall tone is still fat—similar to a P-90—allowing you to get Burst and Goldtop tones from the same guitar. This simple feature enhances the versatility of the Les Paul design while maintaining its classic appeal.
5. Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster
A feature-heavy Strat for under a grand? Yes, please.
Launch price: $799 | 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
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 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.
6. Framus D-Series Diablo Pro
Single-coil and humbucking tones galore
Launch price: $969 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Tigerstripe ebony | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Seymour Duncan SCR-1n Cool Rails (neck), SSL-1 RW/RP (middle), TB-4 JB (bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone (push/pull for splitting coils), 5-way selector | Hardware: Wilkinson-style vibrato, Warwick security locks, Framus tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Transparent Satin
The D-Series Diablo Pro takes on the challenge of combining traditional dual-humbucker tones with the classic triple single-coil lineup using a design featuring a full-size humbucker at the bridge, a traditional single-coil pickup in the middle and a single-coil-size humbucker at the neck, with coil-splitting thrown in for good measure. This circuit, combined with a carefully selected combination of tone woods, offers guitarists the true performance of “two guitars in one” and much more.
Framus made a few notable changes to the current D-Series Diablo Pro from the previous version of the model, including a basswood body, maple neck and tigerstripe ebony fretboard. Other notable features include a Wilkinson-style non-locking tremolo, and Framus’ patented Easy Access cover for the control compartment. The pickups are all Seymour Duncan models, consisting of a TB-4 JB full-size humbucker at the bridge, an SSL-1 single-coil in the middle and an SCR-1n Cool Rails Strat-size humbucker at the neck. A coil-splitting function for the bridge and neck humbuckers is activated by pulling up on the master tone control, and a five-way pickup selector accesses bridge, bridge/middle, middle, neck/middle and neck settings.
Tonewise, the Diablo Pro’s basswood body and maple neck with an ebony fretboard is a proven winning combination that provides aggressive attack, full-bodied midrange and impressive sustain. The Seymour Duncan pickups perfectly complement this tonewood combo by providing harmonically rich humbucking tones with tight bass, vocal-like midrange and articulate treble, and single-coil tones with percussive snap and impressive body. The guitar is exceptionally comfortable to play, boasting a fast, slim neck that combines the best of favored vintage and modern shred designs. If you’re looking for a single axe that can get you through an entire gig, the Diablo Pro is a very worthy choice.
7. Cort MBC-1 Matthew Bellamy Signature
Affordable version of Muse man’s main axe
Launch price: $799 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Hard maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Manson Design bridge humbucker, Manson Design neck single coil | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: Two-piece bridge and tailpiece, staggered height locking tuners | Left-handed: Yes (MBC-1LH) | Finish: Matt Black
The price of a custom Manson similar to any of the various models Muse’s Matt Bellamy has designed and plays starts at around $4,500. But recently, Bellamy and Manson Guitar Works collaborated with Cort Guitars to offer a Matthew Bellamy signature model, with many of the features found on Bellamy’s personal instruments, at a much more affordable price. The Cort MBC-1 most closely resembles the Manson Matt Black model that has been one of Bellamy’s main stage guitars since 2012. Pickups consist of a Manson-designed single-coil at the neck and a Manson-designed humbucker at the bridge, while controls include master volume, master tone, a three-position pickup selector toggle and a mini “arcade-style” spring-loaded kill switch mounted on the upper bass bout.
With its slim, rounded profile and gloss finish, the neck is very fast, and the generously contoured body offers a comfortable, unobtrusive feel in both sitting and standing playing positions. While it doesn’t have a built-in Sustainer, Kaoss pad, or other effects like many of Bellamy’s Mansons, the MBC-1 is still a very versatile instrument with crisp single-coil and dark humbucking pickup tones that enable it to go from bright to black in an instant. The kill switch is much more than a novelty, allowing players to manually create tremolo-style effects, DJ-like stutters and even abrasive trills.
8. Jackson X Series Monarkh SCX7
Jackson gets into the single-cut business with this sleek, affordable seven-string
Launch price: $965.50 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Dark Rosewood | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Seymour Duncan Sentient (neck), Seymour Duncan Nazgul (bridge) | Controls: 2 x Volume, master tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: Jackson fully-adjustable radius-compensated bridge w/ anchored tailpiece | Left-handed: No | Finish: Gloss Black
Probably the last style of guitar most people would imagine from Jackson would be a curvaceous single-cutaway model, but that’s exactly what you get with the Monarkh. But this is not your run-of-the-mill single cut—just as you’d expect from Jackson, it’s a sleek, hot-rodded shred machine, with a solid mahogany body and a set maple neck with a dark rosewood fingerboard, 24 jumbo frets and 25 1/2–inch scale. Pickups consist of a Seymour Duncan Sentient humbucker at the neck and a Seymour Duncan Nazgul at the bridge.
While it might not look like the sort of Jackson guitars we’re all familiar with, it certainly feels like one. Belly contours and a generous scoop at the cutaway on the back of the body give the guitar a very slim and sleek feel, even though the body is as thick as the usual classic single-cutaway models. The neck, meanwhile, has Jackson’s super-slim, super-fast profile, but—thanks to the graphite reinforcement—is rock solid. The cutaway contour also provides unrestricted access to the highest frets.
The SCX7 delivers killer Jackson tone as well, with the passive Duncan humbuckers emitting rich, organic sounds with deliciously meaty bass and articulate treble. If you love the feel of a hot-rodded Jackson guitar but your eye is more attracted to the sexy curves of a single-cutaway solidbody, the Monarkh is the affordable answer to your dreams.
9. D'Angelico Premier Series SS
Classic D’Angelico looks at a lower price point
Launch price: $750 | Body: Laminated Maple | Neck: Three-piece maple | Scale: 25" | Fingerboard: Ovangkol | Frets: 22 | Pickups: D’Angelico (neck and bridge) | Controls: 2 x Volume, 2 x tone, 3-way selector switch | Hardware: Tune-o-matic bridge, Chrome Rotomatic Stairstep tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Gloss
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, while the neck has three-piece maple construction, 22 medium frets, a rosewood fretboard, block pearloid 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 tailpiece, but D’Angelico offers the trapeze chrome stairstep tailpiece as an option.
Electronics consist of a pair of D’Angelico humbuckers, each with their own volume and tone controls, plus a three-position pickup selector switch. Hardware includes a Tune-o-matic bridge, black speed knobs and an EG-2P output jack. Most importantly, sound-wise, the Premier SS is a powerful rock and roll animal that delivers fat, dynamic tone with signature semi-hollow resonance and aggressive midrange. An affordable D’Angelico that doesn’t sacrifice the construction, playability, sound and style that made the company’s guitars so desirable in the first place.
10. Ibanez RG 550
The colorful Eighties icon returns
Launch price: $999 | 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
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.