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.
- Check out the best electric guitars for all budgets
- Or explore the best electric guitars under $2,000
- Add another dimension to your playing: the best 12-string guitars
Thankfully, at this price point, there is plenty of choice for your needs. 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.
Which are the best electric guitars under $1,000 right now?
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, and does them all to an extremely high level. From chunky metal tones through to warmer jazz and blues tones, this guitar can do it all, and with style.
An honorable mention is due for the relatively new kid on the block, too. The Chapman ML3 Pro – 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 for under $1,000: buying advice
Having a budget of $1,000 opens up a lot of avenues. At this end of the spectrum, you can reasonably expect a certain level of quality, performance and spec. It's more a case of deciding where your personal preferences lie. By now you should have an idea of what you want your new guitar to be. Is it the step-up from the mid-range? Or a workhorse replacement for a weekend warrior? Let's take a closer look.
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. Whichever style of guitar you're after, there is likely a higher-spec option to suit your needs. Trying to find the best electric guitar for $1,000 is a big deal to any player, so it makes sense that whatever you buy has to be an investment in your future playing career. But in which areas should you be looking for value?
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Often, it comes down to the included hardware. Pickups, bridges, locking nuts and electronics are usually the key variables. You can bank on a thousand dollars getting you a decent piece of wood as a base, so it's in the components that make up the full picture where guitar brands can be creative.
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. Alternatively, a guitar maker may try and make an axe which feels silky smooth to the touch, perhaps by opting for a particular finishing method.
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 Squier to Fender. There's a lot to be said for working your way up the ladder in this respect.
Here are some of our favorites available right now, and our price comparison software has found the best prices online for you, too.
The best electric guitars under $1,000 available today
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.
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.
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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 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.
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.
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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.
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
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, 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.