The Best Electric Guitars Under $1000 in 2020: reviewed and rated!
Moving up from a starter guitar means aiming for the best electric guitar under $1000. We know how important it is for you to find the one that matches your improved skills and more refined taste in terms of guitar specs, so we’ve gathered all the info we could on the top-rated models for intermediate and advanced players.
If you’re a beginner, you’re very much welcome to take a look at this list as well – especially if you’ve really saved up for a quality guitar that will serve you for many years. Read up, compare models and take your pick!
- Our Top Electric Guitar Picks under $1000
- 1. Epiphone Casino Electric Guitar
- 2. PRS SE Custom 24 Electric Guitar
- 3. ESP LTD EC-1000 Electric Guitar
- 4. Fender American Special Stratocaster Electric Guitar
- 5. Ibanez RG550 Electric Guitar
- 6. Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar
- 7. Schecter Synyster Gates Electric Guitar
- 8. Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster Electric Guitar
Our Top Electric Guitar Picks under $1000
|Epiphone Casino Electric Guitar||The Casino has been hailed as one of Epiphone’s best contributions to music, and it’s easy to see why. It’s been a favorite of many since its introduction in 1961 with its hollowbody archtop design and unique jangle. The Casino actually inspired Gibson to create its ES Series. The Epiphone Casino also boasts two P-90 pickups for a classic tone.|
|PRS SE Custom 24 Electric Guitar||PRS is known for its premium-priced electric guitars so we’re very happy to find a PRS guitar under $1000. The PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Custom 24 electric guitar is part of the affordably priced SE series and it features a mahogany body with a maple top, a wide thin maple neck, a rosewood fingerboard and 85/15 “S” pickups.|
|ESP LTD EC-1000 Electric Guitar||Our next pick is the ESP LTD EC-1000 Deluxe Series electric guitar, which boasts EMG 81/60 or Seymour Duncan Alnico II pickups, depending on the guitar’s finish. This model also has a mahogany body and a mahogany set neck that’s built for speed. It’s ideal for players who are into heavy metal and anything that requires high gain.|
|Fender American Special Stratocaster Electric Guitar||The Fender American Special Stratocaster just about makes it as one of the best electric guitars under $1000. The Strat’s timeless style is enhanced with modern features for today’s players. These include Texas Special single-coil pickups and a Greasebucket tone circuit for a more contemporary tone and performance. What’s more, this guitar is proudly made in the US of A!|
|Ibanez RG550 Electric Guitar||If you’re looking for something truly electrifying, we recommend the Ibanez RG550 Genesis guitar. Part of the RG series, this guitar is a reissue of the original RG550 model. Like the original, it has a basswood body and an Edge double-locking tremolo bridge. What makes the RG550 Genesis different from the first RG550 are the pickups and the five-piece neck.|
|Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar||When you need to pump things up and raise hell, well that’s where the Schecter Hellraiser C-1 comes in. Ideal for aggressive playing, the Hellraiser has the specs demanding metal players look for in an electric guitar. Locking tuners ensure tuning stability and a set-neck construction makes sure the guitar doesn’t fall apart in the middle of playing.|
|Schecter Synyster Gates Electric Guitar||Another Schecter on this list of best electric guitars under $1000 is the Synyster Gates model. Part of the Diamond Series, the Synyster Gates Standard guitar features an all-mahogany construction, an ultra thin C-shaped mahogany neck, brand-new Schecter Diamond Syn humbuckers and a Schecter-exclusive Floyd Rose Hot Rod Special bridge. The Black and Silver Pinstripe finish looks incredible too.|
|Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster Electric Guitar||Make way for a Tele! The Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster is our last but not the least pick for this list of top electric guitar models under $1000. It’s got a flexible, versatile tone with its three-pickup design and five-way pickup switching feature. The Deluxe Nashville Tele features an alder body and Fender Vintage Noiseless single-coil Tele and Strat pickups.|
The Epiphone Casino is quite the looker, with its timeless fully hollow and thinline body as well as its archtop design. It’s also extremely iconic, earning mass popularity when the Beatles started toting it in the 1960s. We’re currently loving the Vintage Sunburst finish for its classic vintage look and feel.
The Epiphone Casino has a laminated spruce arched top and a hollow maple body. Being fully hollow, the Casino may be more prone to high-gain feedback, but that’s something that can easily be avoided with a good amp. It does have a richer resonance than solid body and semi-hollow guitars, so if resonance is a priority for you, this is one model you should seriously consider buying.
The Casino also has a set mahogany neck for maximum sustain and a pau ferro fingerboard for a powerful punch and midrange presence. The top f-holes, trapeze bridge tailpiece, parallelogram inlays and chrome hardware add to the vintage look.
For its electronics, the Epiphone Casino Archtop is fitted with Dogear Alnico P-90T and P-90R pickups. These are new vintage-voiced, high-output single-coil pups that effectively capture the guitar’s sparkling, jangly sound. The volume and tone control knobs allow for experimentation and tone shaping.
- The hollow body produces a resonant sound
- Great vintage style and sound
- Excellent playing feel
- Sound limitations due to feedback and overtones
- Needs more maintenance because of the hollow body
If you’ve always wanted a PRS electric guitar but couldn’t afford one, now’s your chance to finally own one for under $1000. The PRS SE Custom 24 has the visual appeal, playability and sound quality of a premium PRS guitar but at a lower price.
The SE Custom 24 boasts a maple top with beautiful maple veneer and a mahogany back. It’s comfortable to play especially with its maple neck with a Wide Thin shape and smooth 24-fret rosewood fingerboard. Iconic PRS bird inlays grace the fretboard to serve as position markers. It’s also equipped with a PRS patented molded tremolo bridge. This guitar is a sight to behold.
The SE Custom 24 by PRS is a versatile player as well, thanks to the PRS-designed 85/15 “S” treble and bass pickups and intuitive controls. There’s a volume knob, a push/pull tone control and a three-way blade pickup selector.
The SE Custom 24 comes in a number of color options, namely Tobacco Sunburst, Fire Red Burst, Trampas Green and Whale Blue.
Looking for a shred-worthy electric guitar that doesn’t cost the moon? Check out the ESP LTD EC-1000. The guitars in this series offer the looks, feel, playability and tone that musicians need, especially those who rely heavily on their instrument in daily life. What’s great about the LTD EC-1000 Series is that the models come with a price that is within the means of typical working musicians.
The ESP LTD EC-1000 Deluxe Series electric guitar is marketed toward heavy metal players. It’s equipped with either Seymour Duncan Alnico II or EMG 81/60 pickups depending on the finish. The Amber Sunburst variant has the Duncan pickups while the Black and See Thru Black Cherry models have EMG pickups. Either set is available for the Vintage Black model.
This electric guitar also features a rich-sounding mahogany body and neck, with the neck having a set-neck construction and thin U contour. The fingerboard has 24 extra jumbo frets and is made from either ebony or rosewood, again depending on the finish. The hardware color also varies with the guitar’s finish.
The ESP LTD EC-1000 Deluxe boasts an ESP TonePros System II locking bridge, which offers a greater intonation range and improves sustain.
Many musicians are wary of Fender guitars made in Mexico or elsewhere, mostly because they doubt the quality of the craftsmanship of Fenders made outside the United States. If you’re wanting a Fender Strat that’s U.S.-made, consider the Fender American Special Stratocaster. This model boasts American-made craftsmanship while coming with a pocket-friendly price tag.
The Fender American Special Stratocaster features a lightweight alder body that offers a wide tonal range. The body sports a shiny gloss urethane finish for a sleek look and surface durability and resilience. It also has a maple neck with a modern C-shaped profile and smooth satin back finish, and a maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets.
This Strat is fitted with three Texas Special single-coil pickups and a five-way pickup switch. It also features a Greasebucket tone circuit, which efficiently rolls off the high end tones without creating or adding any bass, resulting in a crystal clear tone. This special circuitry also prevents the output from sounding muddy.
Another thing you’ll love about the American Special Strat is its six-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo bridge. The bridge features narrower saddles that contribute to a better playing feel because of the more comfortable string spacing.
- Pickups deliver a balanced output
- Good clarity, articulation and sustain
- Classic Stratocaster styling
- Gig bag is an additional purchase
- Tuners not that good
The Ibanez RG550 Genesis is a stellar piece of equipment that’s a throwback to the original RG550 produced from 1987 to 1994. As a reissue, it has a lot in common with the classic model, but it also has features that set it apart and make it contemporary.
Like the classic RG550, the Genesis model has a basswood body and a maple fretboard with 24 jumbo frets and black dot inlays. It also has a tilt neck joint with a stamped metal plate. The RG550 sports the ultra-thin Super Wizard neck, which is made of five solid maple and walnut pieces for maximum stability and comfort.
The Ibanez RG550 Genesis guitar also has the classic Edge double-locking tremolo bridge along with a locking nut. The Edge tremolo provides a frictionless operation for a smooth playing feel.
The Genesis however has a different set of pickups. Instead of the Ibanez V1/V2 humbucking pickups on the original, it has V7 and V8 humbuckers at the neck and bridge respectively, flanking an S1 single-coil pickup at the middle position. Combined with the five-way pickup selector lever and master volume and master tone controls, the pickups allow for a wide range of sound.
The Schecter Hellraiser C-1 is an electric guitar that looks as hardcore as the music you’re playing. One look at the Hellraiser and you’ll know it means business. Indeed, the Hellraiser C-1 by Schecter is packed with specs that will make the most metal musician swoon.
There’s the mahogany body with an ultra-access cutaway for unimpeded action along the length of the neck. Choose the Black Cherry finish and you’ll get a quilted maple top as well. The body is paired with a set neck made with three pieces of mahogany and topped with a rosewood fingerboard with 24 X-jumbo frets.
Tasteful appointments include Schecter locking tuners, a TonePros Tune-o-matic-style bridge and gray pearl binding on the black-finished models and abalone binding on the White and Black Cherry variants. All finish options feature Gothic Cross inlays on the fretboard for an edgier feel.
Want more? Get the Hellraiser C-1 FR and you’ll also get an original Floyd Rose tremolo system.
The Schecter Hellraiser C-1 is equipped with EMG active 81TW/89 pickups. The EMG 81 TW pickup is at the bridge position and it outputs an aggressive yet focused tone. The EMG 89 active humbucker allows for coil tapping.
- Impressive build and design
- Pickup configuration offers a wide range of tonal options
- Stays in tune well
- Original Floyd Rose bridge
- Guitar case is sold separately
- Lacks sustain
Brian Elwin Haner Jr., AKA Synyster Gates of the band Avenged Sevenfold, has been working with Schecter Guitar Research for a while and has signature electric guitar models under the brand, one of which is the Schecter Synyster Standard.
The Syn Standard guitar features a mahogany body and neck, with the neck having a three-piece construction. The bolt-on neck has an Ultra Thin C shape and it’s reinforced with carbon fiber rods, a feature you don’t usually find on guitars in this price range. With this neck construction, you can play fast and hard with no worries at all.
Topping the neck is an ebony fingerboard with 24 X-Jumbo frets. The fretboard sports pearloid inlays: ‘Syn’ spelled out and an appropriately named ‘Death Bat’ at the 12 fret.
Another feature that makes this guitar worth the money is the Schecter-exclusive Floyd Rose Special ‘Hot Rod’ Locking Tremolo bridge. The whammy bar-styled bridge can make the guitar a bit hard to tune however, but it’s a minor tradeoff.
Electronics-wise, the Schecter Synyster Standard is fitted with new high-output Schecter Diamond Synyster Gates Signature humbuckers at the bridge and neck. It has volume and (push/pull) tone controls and a three-way switch.
The Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster is not your usual moderately priced Tele. For one thing, it’s got a three-pickup design incorporating Tele and Strat pickups, which could make Tele purists raise their brows. And since you have three pickups, it also means you get a five-way pickup switching. It’s like wielding a Strat!
The guitar definitely delivers tonal versatility and flexibility, and it scores high in terms of playability as well. The single cutaway alder body is lightweight, while the maple neck is carved into a modern C shape and features a contoured neck heel for your playing comfort. The fingerboard with pearloid dot inlays and 22 Narrow Tall frets is also made of maple and is more flat than curved to make it easier to bend notes without fretting out.
The Nashville Tele is equipped with Vintage Noiseless Telecaster single-coil pickups at the neck and bridge and a Vintage Noiseless single-coil Strat pickup at the middle position. The five-way switching feature along with master controls for volume and tone lets you play and experiment with your output.
The Deluxe Nashville Telecaster also has an upgraded sting-through-body bridge with block saddles for the best intonation, ease of adjustment and sustain.
- Customized switching offers a wide range of sounds
- Noiseless pickups produce a great single-coil tone without hum
- Comes with a deluxe gig bag
- Not for Tele purists expecting two pickups only
- Not for aggressive music styles
Buying Guide for the Best Electric Guitar under $1000
Those are our top 8 recommendations for the best electric guitar under $1000. Have you made your pick? If not, let’s dive deeper into one of the factors that musicians consider when deciding on which guitar to get. Aside from the guitar’s body style, these components affect how a guitar sounds: the pickups.
Here’s a quick review of the pickups installed on the guitars in this list.
● Epiphone Casino – Dogear Alnico P-90T and P-90R pickups. High-output single-coil pickups with a vintage voicing for that classic chime and growl.
● PRS SE Custom 24 – 85/15 “S” treble and bass pickups. These pickups are based on the company’s 1985 pickup design and are updated for 2015, thus the name.
● ESP LTD EC-1000 – EMG 81 humbucker at the bridge and EMG 60 humbucker at the neck or Seymour Duncan Alnico II pickups. Either set is ideal for metal.
● Fender American Special Stratocaster – Texas Special single-coil pickups at the neck, bridge and middle positions, wired to a Greasebucket tone circuit. Great for blues.
● Ibanez RG550 – V7 humbucking pickup at the neck, S1 single-coil at the middle position, V8 humbucking pickup at the bridge – a versatile pickup configuration offering a wide range of sound.
● Schecter Hellraiser C-1 – EMG 81TW pickup at the bridge, EMG 89R active humbucking pickup with coil splitting at the neck
● Schecter Synyster Gates – Schecter Diamond humbucking pickups at the neck and bridge. These are signature pickups designed according to the custom specs of Synyster Gates.
● Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster – three pickups, uncommon in a Telecaster: at the bridge and neck, Fender Vintage Noiseless single-coil Tele pickups. At the middle position, a Vintage Noiseless single-coil Strat pickup.
As you can see, there are lots of different kinds of pickups manufacturers install on their guitars. In most instances the pairing of pickups with the guitar is a perfect fit, in some others players may find the pickups lacking. It all depends on the sound you want to make. So, while you may love the look of a guitar, you may or may not be too enamored of its pickups.
If you’re looking into the best electric guitars under $1000, know that at this price point most pickups are more than decent and can meet your tonal requirements. However, if the guitar you choose comes up short in terms of matching your preferences, there’s still something you can do: change those pickups!
At this price point a guitar’s pickups may be good, but perhaps not the best according to your ears. Not to worry because they could still be swapped out for another set of pickups that can deliver the tone you want.
Do research on the best pickups that would suit your guitar and the sound you’re going for. It’s also worthwhile to ask other musicians who have the same guitar and/or play the same kinds of music for advice on the subject.
Beginners and intermediate players looking to go pro in the future are usually advised to consider swapping out their guitar’s stock pickups for higher-quality aftermarket models. If you want to upgrade your sound, changing your pickups may be the most cost-effective way to achieve just that without having to purchase another electric guitar.
Do note, however, that new pickups are recommended for guitars that are already well-built. If the construction of a guitar itself is flawed, it can be difficult to get a good sound out of it, no matter how high-end your pickups are.
If the problem is structural and the cost of repairs and upgrades take you upwards of $500, then it would make more sense to simply purchase a new axe. There are hundreds of options out there, starting with the best electric guitars under $1000 we’ve written about.
If you’re serious about becoming a better guitar player, you need to be serious about your guitar. A $1000 electric guitar is already a sound investment, but don’t hesitate to consider improving its sound quality via upgrades such as pickups.
Of course, no matter how feature-rich your guitar is, there’s no substitute for practice when it comes to becoming a the best guitarist you can be. So – whether you’re a beginner or have several years of experience under your belt – keep learning and sharpening those guitar skills!