Whether you’re a seasoned guitar player, or just learning the ropes, the “budget” or “beginner” axe will always have its place in the world of guitar. Perfect for those starting out who aren’t willing to invest in a high-end guitar from the get-go, or as a backup guitar for the road, or even a trusty no. 2 guitar.
Of course, working with a tighter budget means you’ll surely find a few areas that give away its price. While not everyone is willing to spend a fortune on a guitar, there are areas that are worth a compromise. For starters, many of these wallet-friendly guitars are made in countries like Indonesia. But with guitar building technology improving all the time, and more stringent quality control, you’ll find that many of these guitars are built to impressive standards.
Here we pull together a list of electric guitars that make $500 sound like a steal.
The Stratocasters of the 70s were easily distinguishable – they rocked a larger headstock than their counterparts from the 50s and early 60s. Squier’s homage to the Strats of the era is the Classic Vibe 70s. They boast good tone thanks to a trio of Fender-designed single-coil pickups, vintage-styled tremolo and a comfortable C-shape maple neck. Available in HSS configuration and a choice of a maple or Indian laurel fretboard.
Sterling by Music Man make wallet-friendly versions of their big sibling Ernie Ball Music Man. But don’t let its price tag give you false assumptions of its quality. The Axis traces its roots from Eddie Van Halen’s signature axe with Ernie Ball Music Man in the 90s and made a name for being a truly versatile and easy-to-play workhorse guitar. A unique 5-way switching offers interesting out-of-phase tones and a wide variety of sounds.
The archetype Stratocaster is a tried and proven design, but many builders such as Music Man have dabbled in the modified, super-strat realm and the Cutlass is their take on the classic. Keeping the trio of single-coils, this Sterling Cutlass is made with a poplar body and a satin-finished maple neck.
Jackson have a reputation for building some of the best shred-centric guitars. Speed, comfort, playability and of course, eye-catching finishes are the priority here. This Dinky features a compound radius fretboard – with means the frets are rounder at the nut end, and flattens out towards the higher frets, making it comfortable while chording and slick while soloing high up.
The undeniably cool and iconic shape of the Epiphone G-400 is a good place to start, but this guitar is more than meets the eye. The worn finish and “aged” fingerboard adds a look and feel of a worn-in, vintage guitar. Coupled with a pair of alnico humbuckers and you’ve got an affordable rocker for those Angus-inspired duckwalks.
Another Classic Vibe Squier makes this list because the line delivers incredible value for money. With superb build quality and components to boot, this Classic Vibe 60s Mustang packs incredible tone thanks to the dual Fender-Designed alnico single-coil pickups. Many guitarists love the shorter scale length of the Mustang, and its slim neck makes it a comfortable and easy-to-play guitar.
The Squier Affinity line lets you dip your fingers into the world of Fender’s famed guitar shapes and tones. This Affinity Telecaster bears all the hallmarks of a classic Telecaster – the vintage-style pair of single coils, the iconic headstock and shape. Like many other guitars in this list, it also features an Indian laurel fretboard, which is a substitute for the harder to source rosewood.
The Ibanez RGKP6 is no ordinary guitar. Made in collaboration with Korg, this guitar has a built-in Mini Kaoss Pad S2 – an effects processor, sample recorder and audio player and even a touchpad. You’ll probably have seen Matthew Bellamy of Muse work one on stage with his custom guitar. You’ve got a world of sonic options in your hands, and at this price point, the RGKP6 makes for a superb no. 2 guitar.
Swee Lee stocks many more guitars that will satisfy players of almost any budget. But the best way to find out whether a guitar is perfect for you, is to test them out and play them in person. Head down to a Swee Lee store today and our friendly staff will be more than willing to help you find the right guitar. Or get your electric guitar wishlist started online here.