10 Best Electric Guitars Under $1000 in 2020
Electric Guitars for Advanced Players
If you plan to spend $1000 you want the best electric guitar you can get your hands on. It might surprise you to know there are some classic guitars out there with features that bring their price tags into your budget range. If you are willing to do some research, there are gems to be found.
Hopefully, I can make your life a little easier with this shortlist of some of the best options out there for under a thousand bucks. You'll see some names and designs you recognize, presented in a new way by some very clever gear makers. You might also see a few surprises thrown in.
If you stick to your budget you can grab a quality instrument that is good enough for the stage or studio and will stay with you for decades. As you'll see, there is a reason these are some of the most popular guitars in the world!
Remember, even the guys in your favorite bands who have those high-profile gear endorsement deals didn't start out playing expensive guitars. Just like you and me, they made do with the best guitars they could find for the money. A thousand dollars is more than enough to hook you up with a great sounding instrument.
Here are ten instruments made by the top guitar brands in the world. You should be able to grab each of them new for under $1,000 as of this update.
Top 10 Electric Guitars Under $1000
Here is my list of the best electric guitars under $1000:
- Fender Player Stratocaster
- Epiphone Les Paul PlusTop PRO
- ESP LTD EC-1000
- PRS SE Custom 24
- Schecter Hellraiser C-1
- Charvel San Dimas and So Cal
- Fender Player Telecaster
- Jackson SL2 Pro Soloist
- Ibanez Iron Label S-Series SIX
- Gibson SG Tribute
Below you can find more information for each guitar on my list. Remember that prices and specs change. While I do my best to keep everything accurate, please be sure to check the manufacturer websites for the latest info on their gear.
Fender Player Stratocaster
The Fender Stratocaster is a classic guitar that needs to be mentioned in any discussion of top-of-the-line instruments, but a new one will push you over the thousand-dollar budget. There are plenty of copies out there, but why not go with a real Fender? Because you can.
The Player Stratocaster is definitely one of the best electric guitars under $1000 you're going to find. It is made in Mexico, and it took the place of the beloved Standard Series MIM Stratocaster. Fender made a few upgrades to the pickups are hardware and the result is an affordable Stratocaster that rivals the real deal for a fraction of the price.
Because of its wide range of pickup combinations, many players consider the Fender Stratocaster the best all-around guitar out there. The Player version is no different. With upgraded Alnico V pickups this thing just oozes Strat mojo.
The bridge is a nice upgrade from the old Standard Series too. Fender always used a vintage 6-point bridge here, but with the Player Stratocaster, we see a 2-point tremolo, similar to what’s you’d find on an American Strat.
It's tough to find a better value than the Fender Player Stratocaster. These guitars are real Fenders for very affordable prices, and they sound great. They give the USA-made Fender Professional Stratocaster a run for its money.
- Pros: This thing will sound good enough to make you forget it’s not an American Strat. You can always upgrade later.
- Cons: People will always compare your Player Strat to an American Strat. Do you care? You shouldn't.
- Note: There are a bunch of models with different pickups configurations in the Player Series, and even one with a Floyd Rose tremolo. Check them out!
Check Out the Player Series Strat
Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO
The Gibson Les Paul is one of my all-time favorite guitars, and Gibson has really stepped it up recently, with a couple of great Les Paul Standards in their lineup based on classic guitars from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Still, a new Les Paul Standard comes in around the $2,500 mark. That’s a little steep for some players, and it doesn’t fit into our budget for this review.
Enter the Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO. Epiphone is owned by Gibson and makes more affordable versions of Gibson’s legendary instruments. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that Epiphones aren’t for serious players.
There are many similarities between Epiphone and Gibson here. Both instruments are made with the classic Les Paul tonewood profile of a mahogany body and mahogany neck. However, the Epi has a thinner maple veneer instead of a thick maple cap over the body of the guitar. Both guitars feature a 24.75” scale length and 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, along with tune-o-matic bridges.
There are a few differences as well, and I think the most notable is the pickups. As of this writing, the 1950s and 1960s Gibson Les Pauls feature Burstbucker 1/2 and Burstbucker ’61 pickups, respectively. I have Burstbuckers on my Gibson Les Paul, and in my opinion, they are outstanding pickups.
The Epi Les Paul, on the other hand, features Epiphone’s ProBucker pickups. While they aren’t quite up the Gibson level, they are excellent pickups and pretty darned close to Gibson standards. I used to say the pickups were the biggest downside to Epiphone Les Pauls, but I don’t think that’s true anymore.
- Pros: It’s nice to see Gibson offering a super-affordable, Les Paul even if it does have the name Epiphone on the headstock!
- Cons: It’s not a Gibson, but remember it comes in around a third of the cost.
- Note: If you can find one, you might also check out the Les Paul Studio Faded T from 2016. This was a great guitar, and I'm glad I grabbed one while I could!
More on the Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO
ESP LTD EC-1000
The ESP LTD EC-1000 is one of my favorite alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul because ESP does a great job of adding some features to their guitars that Gibson might never dare. In this case, it’s a pair of active EMG pickups: an EMG 81 in the bridge and EMG 60 in the neck. This is a legendary pickup combination, and paired with the already awesome tonal characteristics of the EC-1000 will bring out some great sounds.
Check out the EC-1000 line in general, but if you have $1,000 to spend you may want to consider this bad boy. It's something like a Les Paul but with that signature ESP custom vibe to it. Very cool.
With its modern take on a classic design, the ESP LTD EC-1000 gives guitar players in all genres a solid option when it comes to single-cutaway, dual humbuckers electric guitars.
It has the sound for any style of music, but for hard rock and metal players, it may be the ultimate weapon.
- Pros: The ESP Eclipse is an incredible guitar, and this LTD rendition is a great version for under a grand.
- Cons: Because it's sandwiched somewhere between a Les Paul and something more modern, guitar players who are sticklers for tradition might not dig the EC-1000.
- Note: The ESP LTD EC-1000 is available in several models with various pickups and finishes. If you don't like EMGs, there are versions with Duncan and DiMarzio pickups as well.
Hear the ESP LTD EC-1000T/CTM
PRS SE Custom 24
The PRS SE lineup gives fans of PRS guitars a way to own some of their classic designs without the classic price tags. The SE Custom is one of their top offerings, and very affordable. In fact, at one time it made the top of my list for best guitars under $750.
You can still grab one for around that price, though depending on the finish and hardware prices can be a bit higher. Don’t worry though; you’ll still stay under your thousand dollar budget.
I’ve always loved the feel of PRS guitars. They have a different scale length compared to both the Les Paul and Stratocaster, and the carved tops are fantastic. The SE Series really does a great job of bringing everything players love about PRS to another level of guitar player.
Like the PRS Custom, the SE version features a mahogany body and a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard.
- Pros: Great build quality and design in an affordable guitar. The PRS SE Custom 24 is a solid alternative to the PRS Custom 24 for players on a budget.
- Cons: The main competition for the PRS SE lineup is Epiphone, guitars that typically cost a few hundred bucks less.
- Note: The PRS SE Custom is also available in a Floyd Rose model.
More on the PRS SE Custom 24
Schecter Hellraiser C-1
For a long while, I have said Schecter guitars may be the best values in the music world. They are well made, and feature appointments not often found on guitars under a thousand dollars.
The C-1 is a beautiful body shape, and Schecter puts out some great options featuring this design. Personally, I've never played a Schecter I didn't like, and the Hellraiser follows in that tradition.
The Hellraiser is a guitar that looks as good as it sounds, even with pretty finishes and bindings. The mahogany body with a maple top allows for deep resonance and clarity, and the maple/walnut neck is rock solid.
Add in a TonePros tune-o-matic bridge, string-thru-body design, and locking tuners and this thing is built like a tank. The active EMG 81/89 pickup set completes the tonal package.
- Pros: Schecters are always great guitars, and solid to the core. The EMGs are icing on the cake.
- Cons: The vibe of this guitar may be a little intense for some genres, though it can no doubt do the job.
- Note: The Hellraiser is available in several different models and each differs slightly from the description above. There is even a version with a Floyd Rose tremolo that will still come in under your $1000 budget.
Check Out the Schecter Hellraiser Series
Charvel Pro Mods: San Dimas and So Cal
I love single-cutaway guitars made in the Les Paul-mold. In fact, I love all guitars, from acoustics to pointy-shaped metal machines. But, when I am really honest with myself, I have to admit that the guitars I love most are Stratocasters. I know I am not alone!
Fender Strats are awesome, but if you want a truly hot-rodded, tricked-out, Strat-style guitar take a hard look at Charvel. This is the company that took hard rock and metal by storm in the ‘80s, only to fade out when grunge became popular, and guitar solos became passé.
All good things come around again, and once again the San Dimas Strat is one of the best guitars for shredders. It seems Charvel is getting stronger year after year. With awesome appointments like Seymour Duncan pickups, Floyd Rose tremolos and fast, one-piece quartersawn maple necks the glory days of shred are back again.
- Pros: Quality appointments and build make the San Dimas and So-Cal among the best electric guitar values. They are built for precision, and if you want a hot-rodded Strat-style guitar this is the way to go.
- Cons: These guitars definitely have an ‘80s hard-rock vibe. To me, that’s a good thing, and it’s nice to see these styles returning, but it may turn some players off.
- Note: There are several styles of San Dimas and So Cal in the Charvel lineup, so make sure you check them all out before making a decision.
Hear the Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas Style 1 HH
Fender Player Telecaster
Some players love the Fender Stratocaster, but for others, it’s all about the Telecaster. Fender has you covered either way with the Player Series.
The Fender Player Series Telecaster follows the same smart construction philosophy as the Strat: They are made in Mexico like the old Standard Series Telecaster and feature quality components where they count, slight downgrades where possible, and an overall package that sounds and looks great.
This guitar combines modern components like upgraded Alnico V single-coil pickups and a 6-saddle bridge, along with classic Tele staples like an Alder body with maple neck and fingerboard.
Note that both the Player Telecaster and Stratocaster are available with a maple fingerboard, but rosewood is no longer an option. Instead look for pau ferro, a good rosewood alternative.
- Pros: This is a pretty awesome Telecaster for the money. Fender has a few different models under a grand, but in my opinion, this is the best you are going to do.
- Cons: Pretty much the same as the Strat. The bottom line is this is an affordable Telecaster with some impressive features. It's not a Professional Series guitar, but it is still a darned good guitar.
Hear the Fender Player Tele
Jackson SL2 Pro Soloist
The Jackson Soloist is a classic, and one of my favorite guitars of all time. Born in the ‘80s, it is perhaps the ultimate Super Strat. From classic rock to extreme metal, the Jackson Soloist has made its mark.
You can drop a lot of cash on a Jackson Soloist if you feel like it, but to make this list a guitar needs to be one of the top choices under a grand. The Jackson SL2 Pro Soloist fits that description.
The SL2 Soloist features a 3-piece, though-body maple neck with an alder body, a compound-radius, 24-fret ebony fingerboard, and Floyd Rose tremolo system. This creates the fast, solid frame Soloists are known for.
Where much of the rock and metal world is swaying toward active pickups, this guitar features passive Seymour Duncans, a JB at the bridge and SH-1 at the neck. These pickups give the guitar a powerful but classic sound with plenty of character.
Aesthetically, the colors are basic, but there is pretty white binding on the neck and headstock, and very cool albuminoid piranha inlays take the place of the Jackson sharkfins.
- Pros: If you want a guitar with a legendary reputation and a classic sound for anything from hard rock to extreme metal, you don’t need to look any further than the Soloist SL2 Pro.
- Cons: A few more color options would have been nice. Otherwise, it’s tough to find fault with this guitar.
- Note: There are a lot of affordable, quality guitars in the Jackson Pro Series, in styles such as the Rhoads, King V and Dinky. Check them all out before making a decision.
The Jackson Pro Series Soloist
Ibanez Iron Label S-Series SIX
Ibanez guitars are good in general, and some of the best guitars for metal. The RG tends to get all the attention. Ibanez is known for making great metal guitars, especially for the shred crowd. The S series continues this tradition. With a slimmer and sleeker body style than the RG, Ibanez S guitars are pretty awesome in their own right
The Ibanez Iron Series debuted a few years ago, with some awesome additions to the S lineup. The Ibanez Iron Label S-Series SIX is a gorgeous guitar and a top choice for under a grand. There is a range of awesome tops, and with Ibanez pickups and hardware you’ll get the great sound and performance you expect. An amazing guitar at an amazing price.
The Iron Label Series makes one of the best metal brands in the world a little more metal. Some of the unique appointments are Ibanez Fusion Edge pickups, an Edge-Zero II tremolo, ebony fingerboard, coil tap, and the Nitro Wizard neck.
- Pros: This guitar is fast, with hot pickups, and I love ebony fretboards. Shredders can’t ask for much more. And it's an Ibanez, so you know it will be put together with precision.
- Cons: Definitely geared for the shredder. If that's you great. If not, maybe look elsewhere.
- Note: The Ibanez S Series is an incredible group of guitars, but you also shouldn't overlook the RG Series. There are several Ibanez RG models that will keep you under your budget.
Gibson SG Tribute
Like the Les Paul, the Gibson SG is a classic. I would have loved to put the Gibson Les Paul Tribute on this list, but unfortunately, it comes in over our $1000 budget, Not so with the SG Tribute though!
Here Gibson cuts some costs by skipping the fancy bits and employing some rough but very classy looking finishing techniques. The pickups are open-coil 490s, and the layout is exactly what you'd expect from a real Gibson SG. The body is mahogany, but the neck is maple.
The SG Tribute only landed so low on my list because the Standard is only a few hundred dollars more. It used to be that Gibson had real Les Pauls and SGs around the $700 range, and that was a great deal. I note my Les Paul Studio Faded I picked up a few years back.
I still think the SG Faded is an excellent guitar, but for the price difference, I'd probably suck it up and go with the Standard.
- Pros: This is a very cool guitar, and it’s a very affordable way to get a real Gibson.
- Cons: As I said, the price is just too close to the Standard.
- Note: Don't be afraid to look at Epiphone when it comes to Les Pauls and SGs.
Guitar Center Reviews the SG Tribute
Choosing Your New Guitar
Some of the suggestions above might seem unusual, but sometimes you need to take the road less traveled.
There are some excellent deals out there if you take the time to search them out. The important thing is that you choose a guitar with a sound and look you like, no matter what it says on the headstock.
Remember that these are just suggestions. As always, I invite you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. Back in the before time, when you wanted to buy a new guitar the first thing you did to begin your quest was to get in your car and drive down to the music store.
Today, it’s wise to do your research beforehand. Take advantage of the internet for discovering what guitars are out there, how much they cost and what people are saying about them.
Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the instruments in this review. They are among the top electric guitars for intermediate players and above, and I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't think they were the best out there, and great values.
Good luck with finding your new guitar!
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.