The 25 best electric guitars under £1000/$1500 in the world today
31st Mar 2015 | 08:20
What is the best mid-price electric guitar? £1000 buys you a whole lotta axe. For a grand (or roughly $1500 US) you can buy a brand new instrument built for life on the road that will see you through hundreds of gigs and recording sessions.
Here we've gathered a carefully curated selection of 25 of the highest scoring guitars to hit the mid-price category in the last few years. It's not all 'the big two' either - while the Fender Cabronita Telecaster and Gibson 2015 Les Paul Studio both represent excellent value for money - there's a whole world of idiosyncratic designs now available outside of the high-end market.
Browse the gallery to view the full selection and read full reviews of every guitar.
And don't miss...
Hagstrom Pat Smear Signature Electric
What you get is a mash-up body shape of Foos/Germs man Pat Smear's HIIN and the modern Hagstrom double-cut, the F200, with a pair of Hagstrom humbuckers (Custom 58s), tone and volume controls for each and three-way switching.
The body is mahogany with a maple cap, there's a military-grade fixed bridge with roller saddles and each string is anchored by a solid chunk of metal, meaning that we had tons of sustain and zero tuning problems during our test.
"Overall, this is one hell of a rock guitar. It feels weighty, has almost over-engineered hardware, and sounds the business."
FULL REVIEW: Hagstrom Pat Smear Signature Electric review
Washburn Parallaxe PXS20FRTBB
As well as representing a new chapter in Washburn's illustrious history, this guitar also provides yet another choice in what is an already crowed part of the market.
This Parallaxe models would suit any hard rock player down to the ground, and we particularly liked the PXS20's gloss neck finish and Floyd Rose. We hope you'll join us in welcoming Washburn back to the metal fold... where it belongs!
"A genuinely impressive modern guitar, Washburn goes back to its rock and metal roots with gusto."
FULL REVIEW: Washburn Parallaxe PXS20FRTBB review
The Ibanez AT10P is an Indonesian-made incarnation of Andy Timmons' high-end signature AT1000CL and forms part of the Ibanez Premium Series, which centres on the firm's core rock market with a range of guitars built in East Java.
Because of the traditional-style, vintage-inspired vibrato, the AT10P is noticeably resonant and really could be the modern HSS Strat-alike you've always hankered after
"The traditional looks may attract floating Ibanez voters. It sounds great and plays wonderfully well."
FULL REVIEW: Ibanez AT10P review
Fret-King Black Label Corona GW
British guitar ace has Geoff Whitehorn has teamed up with Trev Wilkinson's Fret King brand to produce one of the most sonically flexible signature guitars we've ever heard.
We've always known that the Corona works - especially this value-laden Black Label version made in Korea - but Geoff and Trev's clever tweaks have made the GW potentially the hardest-working one yet.
"Any guitarist after one instrument for almost any occasion need look no further."
FULL REVIEW: Fret-King Black Label Corona GW review
BUY: Fret-King Black Label Corona GW currently available from:
The PT is a bit special. It's a cool concept, fully realised. Taking a vintage-style body and hot-rodding it with some modern firepower is old news these days. But in the '70s and '80s, when Pete Townshend was busy commissioning his Schecter guitars, the concept was new and exciting. He may no longer endorse them, but we think it's still a thrilling package today.
In fact, if you're looking for a versatile twin-humbucker guitar, inspired by the preferences of one of the greatest rock guitarists and tone freaks of all time, there's really no substitute.
"The PT is a modern classic with great playability and tone, and pickups that can kick your teeth in."
FULL REVIEW: Schecter PT review
LTD EC-1000 EverTune
The EC-1000ET is an all-mahogany single-cut loaded with an set of EMG 81 and 60 active humbuckers, a comfortably modern neck and a high level of construction quality.
Once your brain deals with what's happening, the EverTune seems a pretty solid concept, and there's no doubt it keeps your guitar perfectly in tune once settled in. We'd recommend that absolutely everybody gives it a try!
"EverTune actually works, increasing the musicality of you and your guitar at a stroke."
FULL REVIEW: LTD EC-1000 EverTune review
Guild Newark St M-75 Aristocrat
The M-75 Aristocrat, from Guild's vintage-appointed Newark St range, is so refined, you'll want to put on a suit before playing it.
The clean tones could convince you that your suit should be brightly coloured with a wide trouser; the Aristocrat specialises in the sort of clearly enunciated bright-pop and bell-chime tone that would be right at home on Soul Train: 100 per cent jazz, funk and soul. Turning up the gain finds a yowling, chewy rock voice hidden beneath the finery, too
"A great tool for jazz, funk and soul players, the M-75 Aristocrat looks the part, sounds the part - and your back will thank you for it, too!"
FULL REVIEW: Guild Newark St M-75 Aristocrat review
Epiphone Ltd Ed Lee Malia Les Paul Custom
As signature models go, Lee Malia's Les Paul stands out from the metal crowd with ostentatious fretboard inlays and gleaming gold hardware.
However, plug in and any aesthetic preconceptions are negated by the more-than-capable rock and metal sounds produced.
"An extremely well-constructed guitar from a custom shop that's deserving of serious recognition, especially at this price point."
FULL REVIEW: Epiphone Ltd Ed Lee Malia Les Paul Custom review
PRS S2 Starla
Game-changer is an already over-used phrase, but it seems the most appropriate term to describe this new S2 guitar. Does it feel like the top-flight core line guitars? Yes. Does sound like them? Pretty much. Does it cost a lot less and offer a less opulent, more 'blue collar' vibe? Definitely.
The Starla could really widen the appeal of PRS guitars to an audience who might have appreciated the good bits but just couldn't get on with the style or price. Only time will tell.
"Few players won't enjoy its evocative, classic voice - the guitar that might turn doubters on to PRS."
FULL REVIEW: PRS S2 Starla review
Fender Classic Player Baja '60s Telecaster
Even if Fender has mucked up the recipes a bit for the Classic Player Bajo '60s Telecaster, it's still imbued with Fender DNA.
Designed by the Custom Shop's top guitar makers, but made in Mexico, there's an alder body hidden by an opaque polyester finish, and a gloss untinted maple neck with rosewood 'board. The Baja, in 60s style, has no skunk stripe, and there's a vintage-style truss rod adjustment at the body end.
"Classic 60s-style Tele with extra sounds from the four-way selector and S-1 switch: what's not to like?"
FULL REVIEW: Fender Classic Player Baja '60s Telecaster review
Yamaha Pacifica 611HFM
Yamaha's Pacificas have always ticked the value box, but this guitar adds an air of something more unique and desirable in the classic rock and blues cool of the 611: a good idea, well executed.
We love the 611's depth of tone: give it a go and see if there's a budget boutique choice here for you.
"Just what the range needed - a wholly versatile, mid-priced Pacifica with great style and tones to match."
FULL REVIEW: Yamaha Pacifica 611HFM review
Epiphone Slash Rosso Corsa Les Paul
This is the Epiphone version of a limited-edition Gibson that's no longer available. Slash is often seen on stage with that guitar, and the Rosso Corsa finish, translating from Italian as 'racing red', is exclusive to the RC models.
Strapped on, it's all you can do to resist automatically adopting a rock pose. Pickups comprise a zebra set of Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro II Slash humbuckers that are controlled in the usual manner, and the profile of the neck is based on that of Slash's main Gibson LP, offering a playable mix of late 50s girth with early 60s width.
"We love the Rosso Corsa Les Paul's look, vibe and tonal versatility."
FULL REVIEW: Epiphone Slash Rosso Corsa Les Paul review
Schecter Blackjack ATX Solo-II
With its blood-red finish, the Schecter Blackjack ATX Solo-II is a deadly single-cut has looks that kill - not to mention playability to die for.
Its Seymour Duncan Blackout humbuckers offer a similarly high output to the Hellraiser Hybrid's EMGs, but with a brighter, more transparent quality to the clean tones, while the extra high-end helps them to cut through layers of dirt for metal chug and screaming pinches.
"An impressive spec, value for money and a solid build - it all adds up to a seriously playable rock and metal guitar."
FULL REVIEW: Schecter Blackjack ATX Solo-II review
Fender Road Worn '60s Stratocaster
Fender's much-respected Mexican factory started turning its hand to relic'd finishes in late 2008 and the pre-aged Road Worn range is still delivering.
If the look and feel is old and worn, the sound is a little less specific, which might have vintage guitar forums buzzing but for the majority of players the pickup choice and the overall sounds are eminently useable.
"This one has it all - feel and sound, a great neck and firm tonality. A Strat to love and cherish!"
FULL REVIEW: Fender Road Worn '60s Stratocaster review
PRS SE Bernie Marsden
An endorsement from ex-Whitesnake tonemeister Bernie Marsden was a big coup for PRS in the earlier half of the decade - particularly considering his original 1958 Gibson Les Paul, aka The Beast, is almost as well known as he is.
If you don't like bird inlays or those fancy tops you might pass in favour of a classic Les Paul. Yet informed by the past it might be but the PRS SE Bernie Marsden is its own beast and it's the consistency of build and QC that still impresses after all these years. That, sadly, can't be said of every company in the world building single-cuts.
"If you like your single-cuts rooted in the fifties, you'll like this. It may only be subtly different from the 245, but it's enough."
FULL REVIEW: PRS SE Bernie Marsden review
Gretsch G5655T-CB Electromatic
Straight out of the box, the Jet-style G5655T-CB provoked the kind of reaction in the office usually reserved for a dreamy Custom Shop creation.
This is indicative of how much closer to the 'real thing' Gretsch's Electromatics have come these days in terms of fit, finish and overall vibe.
"A new take on the Jet format that's a compact, retro tone machine with grunt and twang in equal measure."
FULL REVIEW: Gretsch G5655T-CB Electromatic review
Guild Starfire IV
Although the Newark St Collection is manufactured in Korea, some 7,000 miles away from the address that gave it its name, a real effort has been made to get these guitars right when it comes to balancing vintage accuracy, the demands of modern players and the need to work to a price.
The Starfire is built to travel further forward through time via Cream, Jimi and beyond into muscular hard rock territory. A very impressive range.
"A grand to spend? Put this straight at the top of your double-cut semi shopping list."
FULL REVIEW: Guild Starfire IV review
Fender Classic Player '60s Stratocaster
Fender's Stock and Custom Teambuilt guitars are pretty special in their own right, but to run your hands over a Masterbuilt guitar is an almost religious experience, and the idea behind the Classic Player Fender Stratocasters is to try and bring some of this magic to the hugely popular mid-price Classic Series.
The '60s Strat is loaded with a trio of Custom '69 single-coil pickups that are slightly hotter than average. Texas springs to mind when plugging in the '60s Strat, as you can revel in the higher output and associated increased aggression within the performance.
"The '60s Classic Player Strat offers top-quality performance and it's pretty obvious that the magic touch of the Custom Shop masterbuilders has been efficiently transferred."
FULL REVIEW: Fender Classic Player '60s Stratocaster review
Jackson Chris Broderick Pro Series Soloist 6
Megadeth's 2008 recruit and axeman extraordinaire Chris Broderick landed his own signature model back in 2012 - but with the Jackson Chris Broderick Soloist 6's current street prices of over £4k, it's a case of, 'Who's buying?' Praise the lords of shred, then, for the Pro Series Soloist 6.
Broderick's latest sig boasts all the key plugged-in specs of his high-end model, with the same DiMarzio pickups and switching options as its big bro, but a quarter of the price.
"Whether you like Megadeth or not, this is one seriously impressive metal guitar."
FULL REVIEW: Jackson Chris Broderick Pro Series Soloist 6 review
Fret-King Black Label Elise 'JE'
Essentially the same as the standard Fret-King Elise in terms of its Korean origin and solid-wood construction, this John Etheridge signature impresses, as it's lighter than the previous Elises we've tested.
With its downsized, offset ES-335-meets-mini-archtop vibe, this Fret-King is a superb guitar.
"Superbly crafted, with a broad sonic palette to draw from. Beyond the 335 indeed."
FULL REVIEW: Fret-King Black Label Elise 'JE' review
BUY: Fret-King Black Label Elise 'JE' currently available from:
Gibson 2014 SG Special
Having not had extensive hands-on time with the new 2015 SG Special, we're sticking with the 2014 SG Special - still available at some retailers - for our mid-price SG recommendation.
Compared to the likes of the Futura series, the SG Special has perhaps the best combination of tradition and innovation, with tweaks in all the right places, and all the sounds you want from an SG - and more besides.
"Offering superb value, classic rock tones and modern versatility, this SG is special indeed."
FULL REVIEW: Gibson 2014 SG Special review
Jackson Pro Series DKA8 Dinky
Shopping for an eight-string electric is a bit like buying a guard dog. You're looking for all the same qualities: plenty of bark, more than a little bite and, err, a firm bottom-end. The usual rule applies - always buy from a reputable breeder.
And you don't get much more reputable than Jackson, whose stock-in- trade is tailor-making electric guitars for musical roughhousing. And the firm has pulled out all the stops when spec'ing the DKA8.
"A guitar designed with the post-progressive metaller in mind - it takes the hot-rodded S-type concept to new extremes."
FULL REVIEW: Jackson Pro Series DKA8 Dinky review
Fender Cabronita Telecaster
A Mexican-built replica of the La Cabronita Especial at a much more affordable price point, the Cabronita Tele covers all the same bases as the Custom Shop original: a body of alder or ash, a pair of Gretsch-style Fideli'Tron pickups (replacing the original's TV Jones 'buckers), a trimmed scratchplate and a single volume control.
Anyone who's picked up a Mexican-made Fender in the past couple of years knows that the quality of guitars being produced there is through the roof, and the Cabronita is no different.
"Spirited, endlessly playable and extremely difficult to put down, the Cabronita is a Fender unlike any other, and thankfully, one most of us can afford."
FULL REVIEW: Fender Cabronita Telecaster review
Gibson 2015 Les Paul Studio
Who's been mucking about with my Les Paul? Gibson has. 2015's annual makeover of the Studio is one of the most dramatic we can remember.
However, the more time we spent with this guitar, the more we liked it in general. Love at first sight? No, but it is a grower... so long as you don't have your 'vintage-is-best' blinkers on.
"Excellent value, high-quality sounds - including those single-coil voices - these will sell by the truckload."
FULL REVIEW: Gibson 2015 Les Paul Studio review
Fender Classic Series '60s Stratocaster Lacquer
At 2013's Frankfurt Musikmesse, Fender announced that it was, for the first time ever, producing guitars with gloss nitrocellulose 'lacquer' finishes from its factory in Ensenada, Mexico.
Fender's regular Classic Series guitars hit a sweet spot of vintage aesthetics and affordable pricing that's bang-on for people who 'just want a nice Strat'. Only time will tell how they'll weather, but we'd venture that we're looking at the best made, best value, vintage-inspired Strat to come out of Fender since the 60s.
"The perfect choice if you can't stretch to a Fender American Vintage-series instrument. More colours please!"