The Best Electric Guitars Under $500 - Solidbody

Electric Guitars Under $500

For solidbody electric guitars, the $200 to $500 price range is where things start to get serious - quality is good enough for mid to advanced level players, while the price remains beginner friendly. And since the demand here is big, you can expect plenty of options and fierce competition. This guide aims to help you narrow down the options to only the most popular and top rated ones, so you can confidently and conveniently pick what suits your playing style.

Click on a model name for further details or scroll down:

Model Gearank Sources Street Price
ESP LTD MH-50 (HH) 91 125+ $299.00
Jackson JS32 Rhoads (HH) 90 30+ $299.99
Epiphone Goth Les Paul Studio (HH) 96 600+ $349.00
Epiphone G-400 Pro SG (HH) 90 550+ $359.00
Kramer Pacer Classic (HH) 91 60+ $390.00
Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s (SS) 94 700+ $399.99
Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '50s (SSS) 94 300+ $399.99
Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Guitar (SS) 91 225+ $399.99
Epiphone Les Paul Standard (HH) 93 1400+ $419.00
Schecter Omen Extreme 6 FR (HH) 91 50+ $449.00
PRS SE Standard 24 (HH) 93 40+ $499.00
Gretsch G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet with Bigsby (HH) 92 100+ $499.99
Ibanez JemJR Steve Vai Signature (HSH) 91 60+ $499.99
Yamaha Revstar RS420 (HH) 91 20+ $499.99

Methodology

The goal of this list is to find the best solidbody electric guitars that retail between $200 and $500. To make sure that you can actually buy the ones we listed, we limited our scope to guitars that are widely available from major online US retailers. We excluded modern 7 and 8 string guitars, focusing only on those with standard 6-string configuration. We then selected the most well received and popular guitars that met our criteria, and gathered their review data to get their Gearank Scores. Click here to see all the guitars that made our short list.

We were then able to narrow down the list via the Gearank Score, and we trimmed it further to just the top rated models for each popular guitar style - i.e. instead of listing multiple Stratocasters, we listed the top rated one, note that the Epiphone Goth Les Paul was a special case because of its very high Gearank Score. Finally, we drilled down on the pros and cons of each guitar as reported in customer and expert reviews to give you an overall idea of why these guitars are well loved. For more information about this process please read How Gearank Works.

Things to Consider When Buying a Solidbody Electric Guitar

  • Pickup Configuration

    The most common pickups you'll find on electric guitars are Humbucking (double coil) and Single Coil pickups. Single Coil pickups tend to emphasize the upper frequencies, while Humbuckers have a rounder tone with more of the low-end. In addition to their expected characteristics, the position of the pickups and the way they are combined also affect the resulting sound. If you're not sure which one to get, you can look at the configuration used by your favorite guitarists.

    Usually, the body shape itself will dictate the pickup configuration, we've listed the most popular configurations below:

    • SSS - Guitars with three single coils, as seen on traditional Stratocasters.
    • SS - Guitars with two single coils, as seen on Telecasters.
    • HH - Guitars with two humbuckers as seen on Les Pauls, SGs, Super Strats, Flying Vs, and more...
    • HSS - Guitars with two single-coils and a humbucker on the bridge position, as seen on some modern Stratocasters and Super Strats.
    • HSH - Guitars with two humbuckers for the bridge and neck position, and a single coil for the middle position, as seen on Super Strats and Custom Les Pauls.

    In addition to the above configurations, technology has made it possible for humbuckers to sound like single coil pickups via "coil tapping", allowing for flexible tone options that were not possible with older guitars. There are a few more pickup variations, but we've left them out because they are not as popular in this price range.

  • Playability

    This is where the neck specifications come into play - which when neglected can result to unpleasant playing experience for both students and advanced players. We've listed the four most important specs to consider below, along with a quick overview of how they affect playability.

    • Scale Length - the distance where-in the strings are stretched, from the nut to the bridge saddle. Physics dictate that the longer the scale length is, the more tension is required to get strings in tune. This is the reason why some players prefer the "slack" feel of a Les Paul with its 24.75" scale length, while others want the biting attack of the tighter strings on a 25.5" Scale Length Telecaster.
    • Nut Width - dictates the space between strings at the nut, those with smaller hands will appreciate smaller nut widths (1.65"), while others who prefer more room for their fingers will want the opposite.
    • Fingerboard Radius - without going too technical, this specification describes how flat or round the fingerboard is. Generally speaking, the flatter the radius, the lower the string action can be, which means easier single-note playing and bending. On the other hand, rounder fingerboards follow the natural shape of the fretting hand so are more chord friendly. Some players prefer the feel of vintage Fender guitars with 7.25" radius, while others want slightly flatter ones at 9.5". Those who are into shred and modern rock usually go for flatter radius that range from 12" to 16". Compound radius fingerboards try to give players the best of both worlds, by making the fingerboard flatter as you go up the neck, where you usually do your noodling.
    • Neck Profile - describes the shape of the back of the neck. Together with the fingerboard radius and neck finish, it dictates the overall feel of the neck. Flat radius guitars are usually complemented by wide thin neck profiles, while rounder fingerboards come with U or C shape necks. Again, this is more a matter of preference than being right or wrong.
       
  • Bridge

    This price range is where bridge setup options begin to expand, many guitars in this price range come with a licensed Floyd Rose bridge that allow for tricks like note dives and pull ups. However, this added expression come with a few downsides, including unreliable tuning, inconvenient string changes, and longer learning curve for its operation and maintenance. You will ultimately decide whether to go for simplistic tune-o-matic bridge setups or the more complex floating bridge ones.

  • Body Shape and Finish

    The guitar's shape and finish can spell the difference between a boring and an inspiring instrument, so you'll want one that looks great and feels comfortable to you. Guitar players are drawn to the style of instruments that their heroes play, so they are your best starting point, but don't be afraid to look at other styles.

    Decades after they were first released, the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul and SG are still the most prominent solidbody guitar shapes. While there are other more eccentric shapes meant for rock and metal, most of what guitar builders produce today are either inspired by, or a direct clone of these guitars. In line with this, we covered a wide variety of popular guitar shapes, to help you find one that suits your taste.

The Best Electric Guitars Under $500

Below are the top rated guitars arranged according to their price from lowest to highest, along with their specifications. We've also included general information regarding the companies that built them, professional guitarists that have played them, and summaries of how the market feels about the instruments.

ESP LTD MH-50 (HH)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$299
ESP LTD MH-50

ESP is a Japanese guitar maker that has successfully moved into the international scene, thanks to the quality of their shred-friendly guitars, as well as their big name endorsers that include metal bands like Slayer, Megadeath, Metallica and more. Up to this day, they continue to produce quality guitars aimed at rock and metal guitarists, including the lightweight LTD MH-50, which does not stray too far from the familiar shred guitar formula while keeping the price accessible. It combines smooth playability with double humbuckers, and tops it all off with a Floyd Rose Special bridge.

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Black Drop (pictured)
  • Bridge: Floyd Rose Special
  • Pickups: LH-150 humbuckers
  • Neck: Maple (Thin U Shape)
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 13.78”
  • Frets: 24 Extra Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.654”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

A good chunk of the comments point to the guitar's playability as its main positive trait. A lot of users also found the tone to be ideal for rock, reporting that they are very pleased with the overall performance, look and sound of the guitar. Interestingly, many of the users who got this as their first guitar admit that they were lured to it by its appearance and Floyd Rose bridge, thankfully they were not disappointed.

Cons

There are a few that complained about the guitar's fretwork, stating that they were hoping for more attention to detail. The Floyd Rose Special bridge also got a lot of mentions, especially from first time users who were not really well informed with its setup and maintenance.

Overall

If you're looking for a budget friendly rock guitar with a versatile tremolo system, then get the ESP LTD MH-50.

See and hear the ESP LTD MH-50 in action below:

Jackson JS32 Rhoads (HH)

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Jackson JS32 Rhoads

It's only fitting that the Jackson JS32 Rhoads guitar made it to this list, when it was Grover Jackson and Randy Rhoads collaboration that helped kick start the company. The asymmetric V shape of this guitar was co-designed by Rhoads himself, which gave this instrument a distinct shape that appeals to many rock guitarists. All the shred features are available in this budget friendly instrument, including a 24-fret fast action neck, twin high-output humbuckers and a Floyd Rose licensed tremolo.

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Satin Gray (pictured), Satin Black
  • Bridge: Double-locking Floyd Rose Licensed Tremolo
  • Neck Pickup: High-output Jackson humbucker with ceramic magnet
  • Bridge Pickup: High-output Jackson humbucker with ceramic magnet
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 24 Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.6875”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way blade switch

Pros

Most of the positive remarks point to the JS32 Rhoads' great balance of function, style and budget. Giving guitarists an inspiring and distinct looking alternative to the typical guitar shapes, while keeping quality and cost at a reasonably good level. The guitar's tone also helped it receive most of its accolades, both beginners and experienced players found the biting sound to be a fitting complement to its appearance. For just under $300, a lot of reviewers found the it went beyond their expectations, and even those who had something to complain about were still often happy with their purchase.

Cons

With its distinct shape, there are a few customers that found the weight balance and contour of the body to be awkward. There are a few who found the fit and finish to be lacking, while others found the sound to be lacking in punch and cutting power.

Overall

This workhorse worthy guitar is highly recommend for rock guitarists who are looking for a standout instrument that's not too expensive.

See the video below to appreciate the Jackson JS32 and the sounds that it can produce:

Epiphone Goth Les Paul Studio (HH)

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$349
Epiphone Goth Les Paul Studio

Many decades after it was first introduced, the Les Paul is still as iconic as ever, available in a variety of versions (including clones) that cover everything from cheap to ridiculously expensive. The Goth Les Paul is an interesting entry in this list because there's nothing different about it on paper, other than its color, yet it still ranked higher than other Les Pauls in this price range. It comes with tried and tested wood combination of mahogany body and neck, alnico magnet humbuckers voiced to sound like old Les Pauls, and a straightforward tune-o-matic bridge.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Metallic Gold (pictured), Cardinal Red, Ebony, Pelham Blue, Ebony
  • Bridge: Tune-o-matic and Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: Alnico V Humbuckers
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.68”
  • Controls: 2-volume, 2-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

Most of the customer reviews are consistent in saying that this is an impressive rock guitar for the price. It appealed to guitarists who are into classic rock, while modern rock players who preferred a stop tail piece guitar also found the Goth Les Paul Studio to be an exemplary instrument. It goes without saying that the black color scheme of this guitar played a big role in its popularity, but its tone and playability also received thumbs up remarks.

Cons

There aren't that many complaints about the guitar, other than a few who mentioned that some out-of-the-box adjustments were needed to get the guitar in optimal playing condition, most notably, the pickup height.

Overall

The Epiphone Goth Les Paul is an easy pick for those who prefer a black guitar while keeping the classic look and playing feel of the Les Paul.

See the Epiphone Goth Les Paul in action below:

Epiphone G-400 Pro SG (HH)

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$359
Epiphone G-400 Pro SG

The original SG may have failed to impress Les Paul, but it did impress scores of other guitarists, including greats like Tommy Iommi, Eric Clapton, Angus Young and many more. The Epiphone G-400 Pro is an affordable remake of the classic twin horn double cutaway shape guitar, albeit with modern enhancements meant to improve playability (via the SlimTaper D Profile), tuning accuracy and reliability (via the LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge) and expand its tone options (via its Coil Tapping enabled circuit).

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Cherry (pictured), Ebony
  • Bridge: LockTone Tune-o-matic and Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: Alnico V Humbuckers
  • Neck: Mahogany (SlimTaper D Shape)
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.68”
  • Controls: 2-volume with Coil Tap, 2-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

Many guitarists found this guitar to be a legitimate affordable alternative to the Gibson SG, so much so that some experienced players even compare it to vintage SGs, and do so favorably. The guitar's intonation and reliability were mentioned positively a number of times, along with its excellent build, considering its price. Another noteworthy feature that got mentioned quite a lot is its comfortable shape and weight, making it great for long practice and stage performances.

Cons

Most of the concerns raised by users point to the cosmetic finish related issues, however they are quick to point out that these issues are minimal and do not affect the way the guitar plays or looks. There were also a few who found issues with their tuning machines.

Overall

If you're a fan of classic rock and the SG shape, the Epiphone G-400 Pro should be high on your priority list.

See the video below to appreciate the Epiphone G-400 Pro SG and the sounds that it can produce:

Kramer Pacer Classic (HH)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$390
Kramer Pacer Classic

Kramer is known for being one of pioneers of the modern tremolo bridge design, and while they were not as successful as other big brands, they did have quite the endorsers, with Eddie Van Halen being the most popular. Interestingly, vintage Kramer guitars have become sought after and highly collectible, and this led to modern reproductions of their classic designs. This led to the re-release of guitars like the Pacer Classic, which is based on the original Pacer models from 1983. Its '80s metal friendly features include a Floyd Rose tremolo, two humbuckers, and a fast action long 25.5" scale neck.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Candy Red (pictured), Pearl White, Black
  • Bridge: Floyd Rose-licensed Tremolo bridge
  • Pickups: 2 x Alnico V Humbuckers
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-on Slim Wide Shape)
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Hard Rock Maple
  • Fingerboard Radius: 14”
  • Frets: 22 Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.6875”
  • Controls: 2-volume, 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way Toggle Switch

Pros

The general consensus is that the Kramer Pacer Classic is a good quality instrument, good enough for many to take their time to write up detailed reviews. Speaking of details, the guitar's Floyd Rose bridge and the locking nut system got quite a lot of positive mentions, impressing a good number of reviewers with its reliability. Its playability and tone were also prominently mentioned in many of the reviews as part of the reasons why they like, if not recommend the Pacer Classic.

Cons

There were a few who were concerned about the action being too low out-of-the-box, forcing some to make adjustments to fix fret buzz issues. Other noteworthy concerns point to the quality of the finish, which you can't reasonably expect to be of boutique like quality.

Overall

Here's another reasonably priced Floyd Rose equipped shred machine for those who are looking to rock the stage '80s style.

See the video below to appreciate the Kramer Pacer Classic and the sounds that it can produce:

Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s (SS)

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s

The Fender Broadcaster, later renamed to Telecaster, is considered as the first commercially successful solidbody guitar - and now, more than half a century later, the Telecaster is as in-demand as ever. Out of the many Telecaster models available in this price range, the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s is ranked highest, with its combination of vintage features and modern reliability. Features of this guitar follow vintage designs closely, including its single-cutaway body, the specs of its maple neck, and it comes equipped with a set of vintage sounding Alnico III magnet pickups. To keep the price affordable and improve playability, Fender utilized lightweight pine wood for the body and went for a modern C neck profile, and a flatter 9.5" fingerboard radius over the 7.2" that's seen on vintage specimens.

Specifications

  • Body: Pine
  • Finish: Butterscotch Blonde (pictured), Vintage Blonde, Natural, 3-Color Sunburst
  • Bridge: 3-barrel Bridge
  • Pickups: Custom Vintage-Style Alnico III Single-coil Tele
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-on "C" shape)
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Maple
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5”
  • Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.65”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way blade pickup switch

Pros

Review pages are filled with positive comments from guitarists who were impressed by how this affordable guitar successfully captured the classic vintage vibe of old instruments. Even experienced players with actual vintage Telecasters were appeased enough to take their time to write detailed reviews and recommendations. Many users were happy with its lighter pinewood body, thinner neck, vintage appointments and twangy tones. And it is clear that this is not your average practice guitar because a good number of reviewers reported using the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s in actual gigs and recordings.

Cons

There are a few who mentioned minor imperfections on the finish and fretwork. There are also those who reported having to make minor adjustments to the guitar's setup out-of-the-box, but most of them still rated the guitar very high. A few experienced players mentioned that swapping out the bridge pickup greatly improved the tone and enjoyment they get from this guitar.

Overall

If you're in the market for a reasonably priced Telecaster, then the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s should definitely be the first model for you to seriously consider.

The video below puts the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s into its paces:

Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '50s (SSS)

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '50s

Wielded by the virtuosos lik Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, John Mayer and many more, the Stratocaster is undeniably one of the most instantly recognizable guitars in the world today, as evidenced by the number of versions available, along with the many ways other manufacturers have copied and modified the design for themselves. Speaking of copying, you will notice that a number of guitars in this list follow the Strat's double-cutaway shape, a testament to its legacy and continued popularity. If not for us limiting the list, we would've ended up with more Squier Stratocaster variations in this guide, because many of them are highly rated. Among these highly rated licensed Strats, the Squier Classic Vibe '50s got the highest ratings, so it is only fitting to give it a prominent spot in this list. This model follows after old Stratocasters from the '50s, featuring an alder body with a maple neck, as well as familiar specs that include a 25.5" scale length, 1.65" nut width and "C" shape profile. To cater to today's players, the fingerboard radius is adjusted to meet modern standards at 9.5". Finally, three single coil pickups give the guitar its tone, all of which feature alnico III magnets and are custom wound to reproduce the sound of vintage specimens.

Specifications

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: 2-Color Sunburst (pictured), Sherwood Green Metallic
  • Bridge: Vintage-style Synchronized Vibrato
  • Pickups: 3 x Custom Vintage-Style Single-coil
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-on C Shape)
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Maple
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5”
  • Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.65”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 2-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way blade pickup switch

Pros

The overall market opinion for the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '50s (CV Strat '50s) is that it provides the best balance of quality and affordability. Reviewers commend its build quality, vintage style appearance and genuine sounding old school Fender tones. Even players who have played more expensive Fender Stratocasters found the shimmer and quack of the CV Strat '50s to be convincing enough to take on the road. And what's particularly interesting about the reviews is that people were not expecting too much from this Squier Strat, but were pleasantly surprised when it exceeded their expectations.

Cons

As much as I would like this guitar to be perfect, there are users who raised concerns about the quality of the tuners, and minor finish issues. And while many did find the guitar tone to be convincing, there are some who found that upgrading the pickups made a very big difference to the sound.

Overall

You're looking at the best Stratocaster in this price range, so this is the right guitar to start your hunt for your first or next Strat.

See and hear the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '50s in action below:

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Guitar (SS)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Guitar

The Jaguar is one of those guitars that didn't do well while it was originally in production, but became in demand after - thanks to guitarists like Kurt Cobain, John Frusciante, Johnny Marr and more. These days, a vintage Fender Jaguar will cost you many times the original price, so having an affordable option like the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar is a welcome addition to the market. As the name implies, this guitar follows after vintage Jaguar guitars, albeit with some of the features modified to appeal to modern players. Its distinguishing features include the offset basswood body, the floating-vibrato bridge, and the dual-circuit switching and controls.

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Surf Green (pictured), Candy Apple Red, Ebony, Olympic white, 3-Color Sunburst
  • Bridge: Non-locking floating vibrato
  • Neck Pickups: Duncan Designed JG-101N single-coil
  • Bridge Pickup: Duncan Designed JG-101B single-coil
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-On, "C" shape)
  • Scale Length: 24”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.65”
  • Controls: 1-volume,1-tone, Jaguar switching system,
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

One reviewer aptly summarized what many users felt about the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar guitar, that it is a "Great blast from the past". A lot of the feedback pointed to the guitar's familiar yet distinct appeal, and its value for money, as its best traits. As expected, fans of surf music were well represented in the reviews, as well as modern rock players who were looking for a stylish and versatile sounding instrument. A number of players were also happy with its shorter than usual 24" scale length, which many put to good use by using thicker strings and alternate tunings.

Cons

Problems with tuning stability was mentioned a few times, although the issue tends to go away as the string tension stabilizes with time and use. Speaking of strings, there were some who immediately changed the strings to gauge .11 from the thinner default set which starts at .09. Other concerns that were raised by a few users point to quality issues with the fretwork and finish.

Overall

If you're into surf music, or you just like the offset shape, then the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar guitar is highly recommended.

Check out the demo video below to see and hear the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar in action:

Epiphone Les Paul Standard (HH)

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$419
Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Of the many Les Paul clones in the market, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard lets you get as close as possible to the original Gibson version, while keeping the price affordable. And thanks to technology and fierce competition, the quality gap between the two different models is getting smaller and smaller. Following the "Standard" formula, this guitar features a mahogany body with maple top, and a set-in mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, all of which give this guitar a familiar and elegant look. Slash, Jimmy Page, and Gary Moore are just a few of the many artists who prefer the dual humbucker setup of the Les Paul, and as expected, Epiphone did a good job of reproducing the tone without having to dig too deep into your pocket.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany with Maple Top
  • Finish: Metallic Gold (pictured), Cardinal Red, Ebony, Pelham Blue, Ebony
  • Bridge: Tune-o-matic and Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: Alnico Classic Humbuckers
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.68”
  • Controls: 2-volume, 2-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

Many of the customer reviews attest to the guitar's excellent sound and build quality, which for most reviewers were more than enough to satisfy, if not exceed, their expectations. There are a lot of comments about how good the guitar plays out-of-the-box, while others praise it for its reliable tuning. The guitar's tone also got a lot of thumbs up from users who commented that they are not planning to change the pickups. It should be noted that a good number of respondents spoke of the goldtop finish as their favorite.

Cons

A few users reported encountering fret level issues, fret buzz, and other fret quality related concerns. Some users also recommend adjusting the action and pickup height to get better results.

Overall

This is an easy recommendation for those who are looking for a straightforward Goldtop Les Paul that can be bought for a fraction of Gibson's pricing.

See and hear the Epiphone Les Paul Standard in action below:

Schecter Omen Extreme 6 FR (HH)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$449
Schecter Omen Extreme 6 FR

From a repair shop, Schecter grew to be a parts manufacturer that supplied guitar companies like Gibson and Fender. It didn't take them long to start producing their own guitars, which were played by professionals like Ritchie Blackmore, Chris Poland, Jeff Loomis and more. While ownership has changed (now owned by the same parent company that owns ESP guitars), the company didn't stray from what made them popular - modded versions of classic guitar designs. The Omen Extreme 6 FR is Schecter's top rated super strat style guitar in the sub $500 price range, thanks to its premium cosmetics, playability and tone. Wood components include a carved maple top on a basswood body, and a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard on a bolt-on maple neck. Shred-heads appreciate its Floyd Rose locking tremolo system, while the two Schecter designed high-output alnico humbuckers give the guitar the tone that satisfies most rock, progressive and rock players. Finally, these pickups feature coil-splitting for single-coil like tones.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany with Quilted Maple Top
  • Finish: Black Cherry (pictured), Vintage Sunburst, See-Thru Black
  • Bridge: Floyd Rose Special
  • Pickups: Two Diamond Plus Humbuckers
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-on Thin C)
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 14”
  • Frets: 24 Extra Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.625”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone with Coil Tap
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

While reviews are articulated differently, most of them share a common appreciation for the guitar's elegant cosmetic appointments, specifically mentioning that they got a lot of compliments from other musicians and their audiences as well. A good number of commendations were also directed towards the guitar's playability, including the reliability and stability of the guitar's Floyd Rose setup, its weight balance and lightness. The guitar's tone and coil tap sounds were also well received,

Cons

There are a few that had initial setup issues, but they were able to quickly address them with a few adjustments. There were also a few that knocked a star off the guitar's rating because of the slight color differences between the picture and the actual guitar, some of them further noted that it could be due to lighting differences.

Overall

This is a premium looking Floyd Rose bridge equipped guitar that is very easy to recommend, especially if you want the added versatility of coil tapping.

See and hear the Schecter Omen Extreme 6 FR in action below:

PRS SE Standard 24 (HH)

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
PRS SE Standard 24

Paul Reed Smith guitars, have grown to compete with big brand contenders in a relatively short amount of time, thanks to the quality of their guitars. And while they are well known for their more expensive instruments, they have since expanded into more budget friendly price ranges with their SE Standard range, including this 24-fret model based on their popular Custom 24 guitar. The PRS SE Standard 24 comes with everything that made the more expensive versions popular, including a 24-fret mahogany set-neck, rosewood fretboard with bird inlays, and a PRS-Designed tremolo - albeit using more cost effective materials and manufactured in South Korea.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Translucent Blue (Pictured), Black, Vintage Cherry, Tobacco Sunburst
  • Bridge: PRS designed Tremolo
  • Neck Pickup: SE Vintage Bass Humbucker
  • Bridge Pickup: SE HFS Treble Humbucker
  • Neck: Maple (Wide Thin Shape)
  • Scale Length: 25”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 24
  • Nut Width: 1.6875”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone with Coil Splitting
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way blade switch

Pros

For the price, the SE Standard 24 impressed many users with its true to form PRS playability and appeal, to the point that it got perfect ratings from some industry experts. The guitar's tone was also commended for its clarity and sustain, while the coil tap quack sounds also got a lot of thumbs up, even from experienced users.

Cons

There were a few that found the PRS "approved" tuners and tremolo system to be quite clanky out-of-the-box, but they did mention that they work fine when you don't go over the top with the tremolo. Some reviewers commented that minor setup adjustments resulted in better playability.

Overall

The PRS SE Standard 24 is the best PRS guitar you can buy in this price range, so if you are into their brand of tone and attention to details, then pick this one.

See and hear the PRS SE Standard 24 in action below:

Gretsch G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet with Bigsby (HH)

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Gretsch G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet with Bigsby

Established back in 1883, Gretsch guitars have helped shape music as we know it today, used by a long list of iconic guitarists that include Chet Atkins, John Lennon and George Harrison of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and many more. The company maintains its distinct old school appeal up to this day, their designs have been made more affordable via the Electromatic line. While they are well known for their hollow body guitars, the Gretsch G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet with Bigsby is their top rated solidbody offering in this price bracket. It features a basswood body with arched laminated maple top, two Blacktop Filter'Tron humbucker pickups for authentic Gretsch tones, and a Bigsby Licensed B50 vibrato tailpiece which expands playability and adds to the overall visual charm of the instrument.

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood with Arched Laminated Maple Top
  • Finish: Black (Pictured), Gold
  • Bridge: Bigsby Licensed B50 Vibrato Tailpiece
  • Neck Pickup: Blacktop Filter'Tron Humbucker
  • Bridge Pickup: Blacktop Filter'Tron Humbucker
  • Neck: Maple (Standard Jet Shape)
  • Scale Length: 24.6”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.6875”
  • Controls: 3-volume (Neck, Bridge & Master), 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

Many guitarists were instantly hooked with the G5435T's premium look and excellent build quality, even experts found the feel and appeal of the guitar to be similar to instruments that are three to four times more expensive. Be it for modern rock, old school rockabilly, blues, and even jazz, players of different musical styles found themselves impressed with this guitar's playability and sound. Many experienced players comment that the Blacktop Filter'Tron pickup allows it to match if not beat the sound of other more expensive solidbody guitars.

Cons

There were a few who were used to conventional humbuckers that found the sound of the Filtertron pickup to be "different", but this is more of a personal preference than an issue. Aside from one user who reported upgrading the tuners, there are no other notable complaints.

Overall

If you are into the Gretsch style and sound, or if you are simply looking for an old school looking versatile instrument, then the Gretsch G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet with Bigsby is highly recommended.

Check out the demo video below to see and hear the Gretsch G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet with Bigsby in action:

Ibanez JemJR Steve Vai Signature (HSH)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Ibanez Jem Jr

First launched in 1987, the Ibanez Steve Vai Signature Jem continues to be one of the most popular and instantly recognizable signature guitars in the world, so much so that it has grown into a line of guitars in itself. Thanks to its expansion into the mid-tier market via the JemJR, Ibanez secured a spot in this list. The JemJR follows after the design of the original white Jem, with the same double cutaway mahogany body, monkey grip, lion's claw trem cavity, maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard with "tree of life" inlay - only this one uses more cost effective materials and production. Other features include Ibanez' Wizard III neck shape, double-locking tremolo bridge and Quantum Pickups.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: White (pictured)
  • Bridge: Double-locking bridge
  • Pickups: Two Quantum Humbuckers and a Quantum Single-coil pickup
  • Neck: Maple (Wizard III shape)
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 24
  • Nut Width: 1.693”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way blade switch

Pros

To summarize what is commonly mentioned in majority of customer reviews, users simply found the Ibanez JemJR as a high quality and great value instrument. Even experts were impressed with its premium looks, fast playability and hardware reliability. Also the Quantum pickups were well received, with users commenting that they find no reason for upgrading the pickups because of how close they sound to Steve Vai's favorite DiMarzio pickups. Both experts and students approve of the guitar's expressive playability and tone.

Cons

There were a few who mentioned having to adjust the action a bit after receiving the guitar, but all-in-all, reviewers have mostly nice things to say.

Overall

For fans of Steve Vai who are looking for an affordable axe to shred with, then this is a no-brainer. But even if Vai's eclectic playing style is not your choice, and you're looking for a well rounded fast action guitar, then you should check this one out.

Check out the demo video below to see and hear the Ibanez JemJR in action:

Yamaha Revstar RS420 (HH)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Yamaha Revstar RS420

Released late in 2015, the Yamaha Revstar RS420 is the newest guitar to make it to this list. Said to be inspired by vintage street-racing motorbikes, this guitar has a unique shape that looks familiar, without being just another clone of classic designs. And it's not just about looking unique and cool, because this guitar also sports some distinct tones, courtesy of its push-pull dry switch. Instead of merely splitting the coils of its humbuckers, Yamaha implemented built-in filters to morph the sound into single coil sounds that are hum-free. To keep the price reasonable, Yamaha went with nato for the body and the set-in neck, but they did add a maple top to the body, as well as a 24.75" scale rosewood neck. It comes with interesting finish options that include Black Steel, Fire Red and Factory blue.

Specifications

  • Body: Nato with Maple Top
  • Finish: Factory Blue (pictured), Black Steel, Fire Red
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: 2 x VH3 Alnico V YGD humbuckers
  • Neck: Nato (Set-in Slim Profile)
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 13.75”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.692”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone (push-pull dry switch)
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way toggle switch

Pros

Its new comer status did not stop it from receiving rave reviews from users who found the Yamaha Revstar RS420 to be extremely playable and pleasing to the eyes. Most reviewers point to the guitar's unique appeal and build quality as its defining features, while others found the guitar's flexible tone to be their favorite. It has been reported to work well in various music styles, especially in modern rock, blues, jazz and even pop.

Cons

Paint chips and minor finish issues were reported by a few users, other than that the comments point mostly to positive traits, even when the scores were a bit lower.

Overall

Looking for a fresh looking guitar that has a familiar retro vibe? Then the Yamaha Revstar RS420 may tickle your fancies.

Check out the demo video below to see and hear the Yamaha Revstar RS420 in action:

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