The Best Electric Guitars Under $500 - Solidbody

The Highest Rated Electric Guitars Under $500

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The $200 to $500 price range is where you can get high quality electric guitars that are accessible to beginners, yet are able to meet the demands of experienced guitarists. This guide features the best solid body electric guitars in this price segment, based on the most recent reviews and ratings data up to late May 2021.

This edition adds dedicated sections for guitars with these pickup configurations: P-90, Mixed HSS, Mixed HSH, and there's a special section for those that use unique pickup combinations. Retained are sections for Singlecoil, and Humbucker equipped guitars. It is our hope that this guide can help you find your first (or next) serious axe.

The Best Electric Guitars Under $500

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Pickup Type: Single Coil

Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster (SSS)

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$230
Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster (SSS) - Silver

Being under Fender, Squier builds licensed designs which follow the specs and measurements down to the small details, while using more cost-effective materials and manufacturing.

The Affinity Series Stratocaster SSS is a good example, staying true to the traditional Strat doublecutaway body and three single coil pickup configuration.

What makes this distinct though is the use of alder tonewood for the body, which goes beyond the usual alternative used by other manufacturers in this price range.

Other features include a maple neck with 21-fret laurel fingerboard, die cast tuners and a 6-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo.

Specifications

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Slick Silver, Rece Red, Surf Green, Black, Brown Sunburst, Capree Orange,
  • Bridge: 6-saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
  • Pickups: SSS (Standard Strat Singlecoil x 3)
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 25.5”
  • Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.598”
  • Controls: Volume, Tone, Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way blade switch

Pros

Most of the positive reviews are from beginners, but there are also many experienced users who gave their thumbs up. Tonewood and overall specifications are the main reasons why many find this guitar easy to recommend, while others point to its aesthetic quality and nice finish options as their favorite traits. There are also plenty of positive comments regarding its hardware, which is quite impressive given that this is usually a problem area in the entry-level price range.

Cons

The default electronics are considered good quality by many, but there are some who recommend swapping them out to make the most out of the instrument. Out-of-the-box string action is also another issue that comes up in reviews.

Overall

If you are looking for an affordable officially licensed Strat with good specs and market reviews, then check this out.

Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster (SS)

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Single Coil Solidbody Electric Guitar from $200 to $500.

The Fender Broadcaster, later renamed to Telecaster, is considered as the first commercially successful solidbody electric guitar - and now, decades later, the Telecaster is as in-demand as ever.

The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '50s continues this legacy with its combination of vintage features and modern reliability.

The design of this guitar follows 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: (SS) 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 at gigs and in 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 '50s Stratocaster (SSS)

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$450
Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '50s

Wielded by virtuosos like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Eric Johnson and many more, the Stratocaster is undeniably one of the most instantly recognizable guitars in the world today. This is further 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.

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: Pine
  • Finish: 2-Color Sunburst (pictured), Sherwood Green Metallic
  • Bridge: Vintage-style Synchronized Vibrato
  • Pickups: (SSS) 3x 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 of 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:

Pickup Type: P-90

Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90s (PP)

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$429
Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90s - Worn Cherry

The Gibson SG is a familiar axe used in rock, albeit expensive, but this version from Epiphone makes it more accessibly priced.

Being part of their 2020 release, the SG Classic Worn P-90s comes with modern appointments and aesthetics, while retaining the classic appeal of the SG format.

The most distinct feature of this guitar is its open-grain worn finish that many consider to be quite the looker.

Underneath the finish is a mahogany body cut into the familiar twin horn double cutaway of the SG, paired with a 60's SlimTaper mahogany neck topped with a 22-fret laurel fingerboard.

It derives its tone from its two P-90 pickups, reminiscent of old Gibson SG Specials with the same type of pickup.

Other features include LockTone ABR bridge with stopbar tailpiece, and GraphTech nut.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Worn Cherry, Worn Inverness Green
  • Bridge: LockTone ABR Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: (PP) 2 x Epiphone P-90 PRO Single-coil
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.724”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 24.724”
  • Controls: 2 x Volume, 2 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way Switch

Pros

Visual appeal and cosmetic quality seem to be the main reasons why the Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90s get a a lot of high ratings. Owners are very impressed with the finish of the guitar, some even say that it looks better in person. For an affordable guitar, this one gets a lot of thumb up for its hardware and pickup system. Many find the open and crisp sound of the P90s to be just right for the music that they are playing, especially when paired with a good overdriven amp.

Cons

There are a few reports of players having to adjust the action out-of-the-box.

Overall

With its nice looking finish and P-90 style tones, the Epiphone SG classic Worn P-90s will make a great addition to anyone's tool kit.

Epiphone Les Paul Junior 2020 (P)

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$429
Epiphone Les Paul Junior 2020 (P-90) Tobacco Sunburst

At publication time this was the Highest Rated P-90 Solidbody Electric Guitar from $200 to $500.

What started out as an affordable stripped down version, went on to become a distinct model with its own many variations. The Epiphone Les Paul Junior 2020 is its most current iteration, made to be affordable while incorporating modern and cost effective materials and production.

Like the original, it features the same mahogany singlecutaway body, without the arched top, and with only a single P-90 pickup in the bridge position.

Other features include having a mahogany neck with vintage '50s style profile, GraphTech NuBone nut, and Lightning Bar Wrap-Around tailpiece.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Tobacco Burst
  • Bridge: Lightning Bar Wrap Around
  • Pickups: P-90
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.692”
  • Controls: Volem and tone
  • Pickup Selector: N/A

Pros

The Epiphone Les Paul Jr is well loved for being an easy to play, no-frills, guitar. Many appreciate the sound of its single P-90 humbucker pickup, while others love the feel of the neck. Aesthetic preference also plays an important role in reviews, many love its streamlined look.

Cons

This is not ideal for guitarists who prefer sonic flexibility right on their guitar due to the sing P-90 pickup.

Overall

The Epiphone Les Paul Junior 2020 gives us a more affordable alternative to the iconic Gibson LP Jr. Get this if you want a no-frills rock guitar.

Epiphone Les Paul Special TV Yellow (PP)

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$449
Epiphone Les Paul Special - TV Yellow

The Epiphone Les Paul Special is a modern take on a classic instrument from the '50s, combining latest guitar design and building technology with old school looks.

At its core are two P-90 Pro Soap Bar single-coil pickups that give it a midrange rich tone.

The body is crafted from mahogany, shaped into the familiar single-cutaway LP shape but with a flat top.

The neck is also crafted from mahogany, and topped by a 12" radius 22-fret fingerboard.

Modern implements include having a Graph Tech nut and CTS electronics which improve the lifespan and taper of the potentiometers.

Finally, it comes with a "TV Yellow" finish, which is inspired by the old yellow wooden cabinets that old TVs were placed inside of back in the day.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: TV Yellow
  • Bridge: Lightning Bar Wrap Around
  • Pickups: (PP) 2 x P-90 PRO Soap Bar Single-coil
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.693”
  • Controls: 2 x Volume, 2 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Way Switch

Pros

Being a great buy is a common theme among reviews, both from beginners and experienced musicians alike. Reviewers agree that it sounds and plays much better than what they expected at its price point. And the good reviews themselves prompted the many to be curious enough to buy, causing this guitar to be back-ordered for a while. It's described as a good instrument for rock music with its gritty tone.

Cons

Speaking of being a rock instrument, P-90 tones can be a bit too gritty for musical styles that require clean tone. There are also a few who aren't too fund of the neck profile, stating that it's a little too thick. Finally, this particular model is only available in TV Yellow gloss finish, no other options.

Overall

There's a reason why more and more people are lining up to get the Epiphone Les Paul Special TV Yellow, check it out if you're looking for an affordable P-90 equipped LP.

Pickup Type: Humbucker

Gretsch G5426 Jet Club (HH)

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Gretsch G5426 Jet Club Silver

While Gretsch is mostly known for their hollowbody guitars, they do have a lineup of solidbody electric guitars that are doing well in the market.

The G5426 Jet Club Silver exemplifies what Gretsch is all about, utilizing familiar retro guitar designs and making them unmistakably their own.

This one features a single cutaway basswood body with maple top, with a nice silver finish that makes this guitar easily stand out.

Other features include rosewood fingerboard, maple neck, Adjusto-Matic bridge and dual humbucking pickups.

Specifications

  • Body: Chambered Basswood with Maple Top
  • Finish: Silver
  • Bridge: Adjusto-Matic Bridge with Stop Tailpiece
  • Pickups: Humbuckers
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 24.6”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.6875”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way Pickup Selector

Pros

Groovy, beautiful and stunning are just a few of the various ways people describe their appreciation of this guitar. Many love its trebly and gritty tone. It is also often commended for its visual appeal, which gets complimented often, even by non-musicians. Playability is also another important consideration for those who recommend this guitar.

Cons

Its clear and bright tonality may not be a perfect fit for those who are into heavy distortion musical styles. Not many complaints leveled against it by buyers, other than a few shipping related issues.

Overall

If you're looking for a visually striking solidbody electric guitar with that familiar Gretsch twang, then this is for you.

Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn 2020 (HH)

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn - Heritage Cherry Sunburst

The Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn is a recent iteration of the iconic LP, combining vintage appeal with modern split-coil functionality.

As the label suggests, it has a distinct worn finish that mimics the thinner aged finish found in old vintage instruments.

It has a mahogany body the follows traditional Les Paul designs, complete with an arched maple on top.

The neck is crafted from maple, and topped by a 22-fret fingerboard. Interestingly, it comes with a thinner SlimTaper profile which strays from what you'd expect from vintage LPs.

It draws its tone from two Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers, both of which can be coil-split via push-pull volume knobs. This allows for a bit more flexibility compared to conventional counterparts.

Other noteworthy features include the use of Grover Rotomatic 18:1 tuners and GraphTech nut.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany with Maple Top
  • Finish: Worn Ebony, Worn Purple, Worn Metallic Gold, Worn Heritage Cherry Sunburst,
  • Bridge: LockTone ABR Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: (HH) Alnico Classic PRO Humbucker
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.692”
  • Controls: 2 x Volume (Push-Pull Coil Split), 2 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Way Switch

Pros

Owners describe this guitar as a superb instrument considering its price. The vintage appearance and feel of the worn finish gets a lot of thumbs up, especially the feel of the back of the neck. Many also commend its hardware and tone, along with the flexibility provided by its split-coil functionality. The overall sentiment is that this guitar offers a big jump in quality compared to cheaper entry-level guitars, while still retaining a relatively affordable price.

Cons

There are some action and string setup related issues, while a few aren't too happy with the split-coil tones. As expected from affordable instruments, there are some reports of minor blemishes and cosmetic issues.

Overall

If you're looking for an affordable alternative to the iconic Les Paul that has a distinct vintage vibe, then this is for you.

Epiphone SG Standard '61 (HH)

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$549
Epiphone Inspired by Gibson SG Standard '61 - Vintage Cherry

Note that while this was priced under $500 when we published this edition, the price has since gone up.

The SG makes another appearance in this guide, this time based on the classic 1961 Gibson SG.

It features the iconic rock 'n' roll double cutaway shape, with an old school looking vintage cherry finish. It also features the return of the open book headstock shape found in really old Epiphone guitars.

Giving it its classic voicing are two humbucker pickups, a ProBucker-2 for the neck and ProBucker-3 for the bridge. The pickups are mounted on its mahogany body, along with independent volume and tone knobs for each pickup, and a 3-way selector.

It has a mahogany neck with a SlimTaper profile, and the 22-fret fingerboard is crafted from Indian Laurel.

Other features include GraphTech nut, and LockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Vintage Cherry Finish
  • Bridge: LockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: (HH) ProBucker-2 Neck, ProBucker-3 Bridge
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.693"”
  • Controls: 2 x Volume, 2 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Way Switch

Pros

It is described as a great looking rock guitar, impressing many first time guitar owners, and even satisfying some who own Gibson SGs, stating that it does look and sound close to the original. Some even describe the ProBucker pickups as the best sounding humbuckers in the price range. The feel of its SlimTaper neck is also well received.

Cons

Speaking of neck profile, there are a few who prefer a more chunky feeling traditional neck profile. There are also some reports of hardware and tuning related issues. Some also recommend changing the strings ASAP, which they say helped resolve intonation and improved the overall sound. The top veneer also caused some to scratch their heads, because it doesn't go around the sides.

Overall

The Epiphone SG Standard 61' is as close as you can get to the vintage version, without the extra expense.

Epiphone Les Paul Classic 2020 (HH)

97
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$549
Epiphone Les Paul Classic - Honeyburst

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Humbucker Solidbody Electric Guitar from $200 to $500.

Note that while this was priced under $500 when we published this edition, the price has since gone up.

Epiphone dominates the humbucker configuration section in this price range, and they take another spot with the Les Paul Classic 2020.

This guitar is inspired by late '50s Les Paul guitars, staying true to specs, aesthetics and design, while adding some enhancements and keeping the price just below $500.

Tonewood follows their 2020 lineup format, having a mahogany body with carved maple top, paired with a mahogany SlimTaper D-profile neck, and Indian Laurel 22-fret fingerboard.

And this one does not throttle down in terms of aesthetics, with its body and neck binding, pearloiid trapezoid inlays, and nice looking gloss finish options.

Modern enhancements include GraphTech nut, CTS electronics pots, coil-splitting, and phase switching. The coil splitting and phase switching features are controlled by the pickup dedicated push-pull volume and tone knobs.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany with Maple Top
  • Finish: Ebony, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Honey Burst
  • Bridge: LockTone Tune-o-matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Pickups: (HH) Alnico Custom PRO Humbucker
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.693”
  • Controls: 2 x Volume (Push-Pull Coil Split) and 2 x Tone (Push-Pull Phase Shift)
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Way Pickup Selector

Pros

Awesome and Unbelievable are just a few of the many positive ways that are used to describe this guitar, and this is reflected in its very high rating. Playability is often commended, some even favor its neck feel over more expensive instruments. Tone is equally loved, there are even a few who admit that they find it hard to tell the difference between this and their expensive Gibson Les Paul! Build quality also gets A+ ratings, even those who are picky found it hard to find things to complain about.

Cons

With its close to perfect ratings, we found it hard to find notable complaints to write about, well aside from being a bit expensive for an Epiphone, but it still is way cheaper compared to a Gibson.

Overall

If you want nothing less than the best licensed Les Paul that you can get for under $500, then get this.

Pickup Type: Mixed HSS

Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica (HSS)

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$210
Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica (HSS) Red

The Pacifica line is Yamaha's take on the Strat shape, with modified cutaways for easier upper fret access, and flatter fingerboards for fast action.

The PAC012 in particular is getting a lot of positive reviews, thanks to Yamaha's reputation for producing good quality and affordable, student-friendly instruments.

The PAC012 features an agathis body paired with a C-shaped maple neck.

And while it may have a lot of similarities to a strat, playing feel is different, thanks to its relatively flatter 13.75" radius fretboard.

Another important distinction is the simplification of the control knobs, with just a master volume, master tone knob, and a 5-way blade pickup switch.

Features

  • Body: Agathis
  • Finish: Black, Metallic Blue, Metallic Red, Old Violin SunBurst
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Hard Tail
  • Pickups: HSS (Humbucker Bridge, Singlecoil Middle, Singlecoil Neck)
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 13.75"
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Nut Width: 1.614"
  • Controls: Volume, Tone, Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position Blade

Pros

Common among reviews are praises pointing to the PAC012's easy playability, impressing both students and experienced players alike. The quality of its hardware gets a lot of thumbs up, which is refreshing given that this is supposed to be a common issue in this price range. It also helps that it looks as good as it sounds, exceeding the expectations of many players given its price tag.

Cons

There are some reports of small cosmetic issues, while others rate the PAC012 lower because of the bundled accessories, which is a shame because the guitar itself does not have many negatives.

Overall

There's a reason why Yamaha is the go-to brand when it comes to student friendly instruments. Get this is if you're looking for one that's modified to make your learning experience more enjoyable.

Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J (HSS)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$230
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J

The Pacifica PAC112J is the bigger sibling of the PAC012DLX, with the main difference being the use of alder wood for the body, much like classic strats.

It features a double cutaway body crafted from agathis, and sports a c-shaped strat style neck made from maple with a rosewood fingerboard.

And it sports the HSS pickup configuration.

Features

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Black (pictured), also comes in Lake Blue, Natural, Old Violin Sunburst
  • Bridge: Vintage Tremolo
  • Pickups: 2 x Yamaha Ceramic Single Coil, Yamaha Ceramic Humbucker
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25 1/2" (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 13.75" (350 mm)
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Nut Width: 1.614"
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position

Pros

Many guitarists favored the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J over the budget Squire HSS strats in their reviews. They commend its build quality and its tone. Value for money got repeated mentions, with some going as far as claiming that this guitar plays as well as those priced twice more. There are many who find that the guitar doesn't look and feel cheap at all, and appreciate the quality of its finish and fretwork.

Cons

There were no consistent complaints about this guitar in customer reviews - just a few of the same negatives about quality and tuning stability that most guitars in this price range get.

Overall

With Yamaha's reputation for student friendly quality, you can't go far wrong with the Pacifica PAC112J.

Here is a good review and demonstration of the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J:

Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster (HSS)

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$230
Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster (HSS)

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Mixed-Pickup Solidbody Electric Guitar from $200 to $500.

The Affinity Stratocaster HSS is an affordable licensed Stratocaster with a humbucker in the bridge position, and distinct finish options that make it visually standout among similarly priced guitars.

Many manufacturers are switching to using poplar wood for the body of entry-level guitars, and this model is no exception.

The poplar body is paired with a maple neck topped by a 21-fret Indian Laurel fingerboard, with a narrow 1.598" nut width that many prefer.

Giving the guitar its voice are two singlecoil pickups for the neck and middle position, and a humbucker for the bridge position which allows this guitar to better handle high-gain tones in the bridge position.

Everything else about the guitar follows the expected Strat design.

Specifications

  • Body: Poplar
  • Finish: Montego Black Metallic, Olympic White, Race Green, Slick Silver
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Synchronized Tremolo
  • Pickups: (HSS) 1 x Standard Humbucker, 2 x Standard Strat Single-coil
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5”
  • Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.598”
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 2 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way Blade Switch

Pros

Users are initially drawn to the Squier Affinity Strat HSS because of aesthetics, and this attraction grew stronger once they actually got their hands on it. There are many positive reports pertaining to its fretwork and playability, describing it as easy on the hands. There are also many who are satisfied with its tone. Note that most of the reviews come from students, but there are some experienced musicians who recommend it as a good value guitar to start with.

Cons

There are some who report that keeping the guitar in tune is an issue, prompting others to recommend swapping out the strings asap to alleviate the problem. Others point to having the guitar setup properly to improve your experience with it.

Overall

If you want nothing less than the best rated HSS guitar in the sub $500 price range, then this is for you.

Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V (HSS)

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$310
Yamaha PAC112V

The PAC112V is part of Yamaha's Pacifica line of electric guitars, it is basically a modified Strat / Superstrat style guitar marketed for students of the instrument.

At its core is its double cutaway alder body, with more room on the lower cutaway for reaching the highest notes.

The neck is crafted from maple, and topped by a rosewood fingerboard, with a C-shape profile that's familiar and beginner friendly.

Finally, it comes equipped with two singlecoil pickups for the neck and middle position, and a humbucker with coil splitting for the bridge position.

Specifications

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Natural, Violin Burst, Black, Red Raspberry, Silver, Sonic Blue
  • Bridge: Vintage Style Tremolo with Block Saddles
  • Pickups: Two Alnico V Singlecoils (Neck, Middle), One Alnico V Humbucker (Bridge)
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 13.75”
  • Frets: 22 Medium
  • Nut Width: 1.614”
  • Controls: 1-master volume, 1-master tone (push/pull coil-split), 5-way blade pickup switch
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way toggle switch

Pros

Value for money is this guitar's main strength, many are surprised with its sonic flexibility, especially when considering the price tag. Playability and overall quality are also often pointed to by satisfied owners and expert reviewers like Music Radar who said, "the construction is of excellent quality". More importantly, the Yamaha PAC112V gets a lot of complements from long time owners of the guitar, establishing its reliability and longevity, and further expanding the value that you're getting from the guitar.

Cons

There are a few complaints about the strings it comes shipped with, along with the need for adjustments out of the box.

Overall

If you're looking for a shred and rock style friendly beginner guitar, then do check out the Yamaha PAC112V.

Pickup Type: Mixed HSH

Ibanez RG470MB (HSH)

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$400
Ibanez RG470MB - Autumn Fade Metallic

The RG series started out as a streamlined affordable version of the Steve Vai Jem, but it ended up joining the Jem as the two main models that put Ibanez on the map.

Up to this day, the RG continues to be their most popular guitar line, thanks to highly rated guitars like the RG470MB which makes the original RG design more accessibly priced.

Speaking of original design, this one has an HSH pickup configuration, which was popularized by the original Jem.

It also comes with the latest version of Ibanez' popular Wizard neck, which many consider as a very shred friendly neck.

Other noteworthy features include double locking tremolo, locking nut, and it comes with a distinct looking Autumn Fade Metallic finish.

Specifications

  • Body: Meranti
  • Finish: Autumn Fade Metallic
  • Bridge: Double Locking Tremolo
  • Pickups: (HSH) 2 x Quantum Bucker, 1 x Quantum Singlecoil
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Maple
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15.7”
  • Frets: 24 Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.692”
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way Blade Switch

Pros

It's not surprising that its fast neck gets acknowledged often, but good tone seem to be the most prominent reason why people rate the Ibanez RG470MB highly. Owners love the way it sounds, especially when using the bridge and neck positions with modern distortion effect. A lot of good things have been said about its hardware, and it convinces most owners that they are getting their money's worth. It also helps that it looks unique with its distinct finish.

Cons

There are some who caution that handling and maintaining its bridge setup may take some time to get used to.

Overall

If you're looking for a shred friendly guitar, then this is a great guitar to consider.

Ibanez RG470DX (HSH)

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$400
Ibanez RG470DX - Black Planet Matte

The Ibanez RG470DX stays true to the Jem-derived RG design, only this one comes with a stylish Black Planet Matte finish, and a 24-fret fingerboard crafted from Jatoba.

Like the original, this one features HSH configuration pickups, with two Quantum Buckers for the neck and bridge positions, and a Quantum Singlcoil for the middle position. This lets you utilize rock friendly double humbucker tones, while having in-between tones thanks to the singlecoil middle pickup.

As for the hardware, it has a locking nut paired with a double locking tremolo.

Tonewoods include Meranti (an affordable alternative to mahogany) for the body, and maple for the neck.

As expected it comes with Ibanez' famous Wizard III neck, known for being shred friendly.

Specifications

  • Body: Meranti
  • Finish: Black Planet Matte
  • Bridge: Double Locking Tremolo
  • Pickups: (HSH) 2 x Quantum Bucker, 1 x Quantum Singlecoil
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Bound Jatoba
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15.75”
  • Frets: 24 Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.692”
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way Blade Switch

Pros

Playability gets a lot of commendations in reviews, with many reporting that it feels and plays great right out-of-the box. Many also appreciate its high-gain tone, which is mostly what this guitar is used for, and there are some who report being able to get good sounding clean tones. Its distinct finish looks even better in person, prompting many to describe the RG470DX as the best looking guitar in their arsenal. It also passes the many thrill and dive bomb tests that users have done with flying colors.

Cons

Because it uses a double locking tremolo, using different tunings will require a bit more time and effort to do. There are also some new players who complain about the lack of instructions, which is especially needed given the use of locking nut and tremolo.

Overall

The RG470DX is a great entry way into the world of premium shred friendly guitars while still staying within the mid-tier price range.

Pickup Type: Other

G&L Tribute Fallout (HP)

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$450
G&L Tribute Fallout - Alpine White

The G&L Tribute Fallout features an interesting combination of pickups, a coil-split capable humbucker in the bridge position, and a P-90 soapbar in the neck.

This combination allows for tones and pickup combinations that you won't normally get from mass produced guitars.

It also stands out with its distinct body shape, and unique positioning of knobs and pickup switch.

The body is crafted from mahogany, while the neck is maple, with a 21-fret brazillian cherry fingerboard.

Finally, it comes with G&L's proprietary saddle-lock bridge, said to be an invention of Leo Fender meant to improve string to body vibration transmission.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Alpine White, Gloss Black, Mint Green, Sonic Blue
  • Bridge: G&L Saddle-Lock
  • Pickups: (HP) G&L Humbucker Bridge, G&L P-90 Alnico Singlecoil Neck
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Fingerboard: Maple
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.625”
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone (Push/Pull Coil-Tap)
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Way Toggle Switch

Pros

Owners are pleased with the overall quality of the G&L Tribute Fallout, and many say that it is comparable to more expensive instruments. Guitarists commend everything from the neck and fretwork, to its pickups and hardware, down to the finish details. Even experts like Jonathan Horsley of Music Radar gave it perfect ratings in his review, concluding that it is "a great-looking design with some clever tweaks. Comprehensive gamut of tones. Excellent value for money."

Cons

There was one user who mentioned that the neck is a bit on the heavy side, which is noticeable when standing up, but this info should be taken with a grain of salt.

Overall

If you're looking for a quality guitar that is unique both in terms of looks and tone, then definitely check this out.

Gretsch G2215-P90 Streamliner Junior Jet Club (FP)

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$350
Gretsch G2215-P90 Streamliner Junior Jet Club - Mint Metallic

The G2215-90 is part of Gretsch's Streamliner line of affordable electric guitars.

And as the name implies, cosmetic appointments are streamlined, but what makes this special is its pickup combination - a Broad'Tron (FilterTron style) humbucker at the bridge and a P-90 soapbar in the neck position.

The bridge pickup is meant to provide the distinct high-end zing expected from Gretsch, while the neck pickup offers a fat contrast.

The pickups are mounted on a nato body that follows Gretsch' Jet Club singlecutaway shape.

The neck is also crafted from nato and bolted on to the body. It has a thin U profile and features a 22-fret fingerboard.

Wrapping up its features is a compensated wrap-around bridge with ridgest that help intonation.

Specifications

  • Body: Nato
  • Finish: Mint Metallic, Single Barrel Stain, Sahara Metallic
  • Bridge: Anchored Compensated Wrap-around
  • Pickups: (FP) Broad'Tron Filtertron Bridge, P-90 Soap Bar Neck
  • Neck: Nato
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.6875”
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way Toggle Switch

Pros

Many users, including experienced musicians find themselves genuinely impressed at the sound of this guitar, which one user correctly described as Chime and Growl. There are even some who own more expensive Gretsch guitars who report that this guitar definitely has that Gretsch signature tone. Being fun to play is another common theme in reviews, along with comments regarding its great value. Interestingly, people still find its minimalist design to be aesthetically pleasing, a testament to Gretsch' penchant for making eye candy instruments regardless of price range.

Cons

Aside from a few shipping related issues, there aren't any noteworthy negatives.

Overall

The Gretsch G2215-P90 is a great sounding guitar for anyone who wants to try and experiment with non-conventional pickup configurations.

Things to Consider When Buying a Solidbody Electric Guitar

  • Pickup Configuration

    Much of how an electric guitar sounds like is dictated by the type of pickups used. 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. FilterTron is another popular pickup type that is available in this price range, it is a staple pickup of Gretsch guitars and is a big part of their sound, which is described as a cross between a singlecoil and humbucker pickup. Shape and size-wise, filtertrons are similar to humbuckers, but they have different dimensions. The P-90 pickup is a singlecoil pickup developed by Gibson that usually comes in the same shape and size as humbuckers. It continues to gain traction in the market because of its distinct grit and growl.

    There are a few more pickup variations, but we've left them out because they are not as popular in this price range. If you're not sure which one to get, you can look at the configuration used by your favorite guitarists.

    Here are some pickup configurations that can be found in the sub $500 price range:

    • 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...
    • FF - Guitars with two Filter’Trons, most commonly found on Gretsch guitars but can also be found on some Fender guitars - you can learn more in this article by James M Brill for Reverb.
    • HSS - Guitars with two single-coils and a humbucker in the bridge position, as seen on some modern Stratocasters and Superstrats.
    • 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.
    • PP - Guitars with two P-90s for the bridge and neck position, can be usually seen on some SGs, and Les Pauls.
    • HP - Guitars with a Humbucker for the bridge and P90 for the neck position, this usually seen in custom models, but some manufacturers like G&L have incorporated this in affordable mass produced models.
    • FP - Guitars with a FilterTron for the bridge and P90 for the neck position, this usually seen in custom models, and are sometimes used by Gretsch in their entry-level to mid-tier models.

    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.

  • 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 hardware quality begins to improve over cheaper models, from the usual tune-o-matic style bridges to a licensed Floyd Rose bridge system that allow for tricks like note dives and pull ups. While having a fancy tremolo bar system maybe a good thing, there are a few downsides, including tuning instability (Floyd Rose systems are better at preventing this), inconvenient string changes, and longer learning curve for its operation and maintenance. Flating type tremolo bars are also usually paired with locking nuts, to help alleviate tuning related issues. The choice is up to you 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 better get 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.

Electric Guitars Under $500 Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on May 28, 2021.

The goal of this guide is to find the best solidbody electric guitars that you can readily buy in the $200 to $500 price range. And to keep this guide focused, we decided to filter for highly rated solidbody 6-string electric guitars that are widely available from major online US retailers. With these criteria in place, we ended up with 55 guitars on our short-list for closer examination (see them in the database), which is almost 3x what we had in the previous edition. We then gathered and analyzed over 13,000 reviews, ratings and forum discussions, including the most recent ones up to late May 2021.

All these data were then fed into the Gearank Algorithm, which resulted in rating scores out of 100 that closely represent how actual owners, users and experts feel about the guitars. We used these ratings to cut down the list to just the very best, separated into pickup type used, and for this 2021 edition, we expanded the sections into - Singlecoil, P-90, Humbucker, HHS, HSH, and a section for those with alternative pickup combinations. 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 our methods please read How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

Contributors

Jason Horton: Product research, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Compiled using photographs of the G&L Tribute Fallout, Ibanez RG470DX, Gretsch G5426, Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster, Squier Classic Vibe '50s Stratocaster, Epiphone Les Paul Classic Worn, Epiphone Les Paul Special, Gretsch G2215-P90 and Epiphone SG Standard '61.

The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

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