The best electric guitar not only needs to sound good, but it also has to feel great to play, look incredible and inspire you to perform at or above your best.
But choosing the best electric guitar is tough because the choice is staggering. Not only between the individual brands but options like single coils or humbuckers, fixed neck or bolt-on neck, rosewood or maple fingerboard, etc. etc. etc.
There is also budget to consider. You could, for example, go for the best electric guitar regardless of price. This would end up being some exotic, built to order creation, specially designed for the musician who requested it. Or, alternatively, you could go for the best electric guitar for less than $100.
We’ve done neither of these. For this review, we’ve gone with professional and enthusiastic semi-pro level guitars which are all a little under $1000, some of them by only by a cent.
We are covering their pros and cons and will be letting you know, what in our opinion, is the best electric guitar you can get for under $1000.
Each one is a fantastic guitar in its own right and deserves to be in the Top 5, but which one will be the best electric guitar for you?
Read on to find out…
But before we get to that, here’s some useful information regarding making the right choice.
Electric Guitars – Comparisons
Electric Guitars – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body Guitar with Bigsby
We’ll start with a big old hollow body, which is the only hollow body featured in this review and is easily the best hollow body you’ll get for under $1000, bar none.
It’s the gorgeous Gretsch G5420T Electromatic, and we’ve gone for the stunning orange color, but for those less daring, it also comes in Black, Sunburst and Aspen Green.
It features all-new Black Top FilterTron pickups, which are based on a vintage Baldwin-era FilterTron pickup that the Gretsch R&D team recently unearthed. It had knockout punch and a phenomenal twang, and they liked it so much that they took the ‘DNA’ from the vintage pick-up. It was then crafted to become the basis of the dynamic new Black Top FilterTron.
The pick-up is used on all the companies Electromatic hollow-body instruments, including the G5420T and gives them an electrifying new voice and identity.
Regarding its looks, the G5420T is undoubtedly a looker, with a bound single-cutaway hollow body as well as sound-post bracing and elegantly bound f holes.
It features include a maple neck, on which you’ll find a bound rosewood fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets. The neck inlays are hump-block pearloid inlays. It has a silver plexi pickguard, a three-position pickup switch, and classic arrow design control knobs.
The Adjusto-Matic bridge has a rosewood-base. It has vintage-style open-back tuners, chrome plated hardware throughout and who could forget the gorgeous Bigsby licensed B60 vibrato tailpiece.
So, if you think a hollow-body is the way to go, you have just found your perfect partner to join you on the Stray Cat Strut – the Gretsch G5420T Electromatic.
- Classic style and color options.
- The most authentic hollow-body sound you will get for less than $1000.
- Great build quality.
- As with all hollow body electrics, it is prone to feedback at high volumes.
- Another complaint, even though it’s unfair, is that most Gretsch fans prefer the half-moon inlays to the hump-block ones, so it’s a shame they didn’t use those.
Fender American Special Telecaster
- Loaded with a two Texas Special Tele pickups, the American Special Telecaster delivers classic and contemporary tones that are perfect for Blues, Country, Rock, and Pop
- With a 9; 5" freeboard radius, Jumbo frets, and a satin-finished neck, the American Special Tele offers easy string-bending and a fast, modern feel
- Little extras like the Grease bucket tone circuit (rolls off high frequencies without adding bass), and a deluxe Fender gig bag make this an exceptional buy
The Fender American Special Series Telecaster comes in at just under our $1000 limit and is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the American Standard Series Tele. For under a grand, it’s everything you could want in a U.S. made instrument from guitar manufacturing legends, Fender.
We’ve gone for the vintage blonde color option with a maple fingerboard because we were going for the most classic color combination. But it’s also available in three-tone sunburst with a maple neck at the same price.
Or if you want to go slightly over the price limit, you can get it in Sherwood Green, Lake Placid Blue, or three-tone sunburst – all with rosewood necks.
It features an alder body, a satin-finished maple neck with 9.5″ radius fingerboard and jumbo frets. This gives the guitar a fast, modern feel and makes it effortless to bend strings while remaining perfectly in tune.
A pair of Texas Special Tele pickups are used to capture the sound, and they deliver contemporary and classic tones that are perfect for Blues, Rock, Pop, and Country.
The Special Series Tele goes old-school with its vintage style string through body, three brass saddle Telecaster bridge, and gloss urethane finish. It even features a Grease bucket tone circuit which rolls off the high frequencies without adding bass.
Classic shape, classic look, classic sounds, you just can’t go wrong with a Fender American Special Series Telecaster.
- Classic in every sense of the word.
- Sounds great.
- Comes with a “certificate of authenticity.”
- Many buyers have complained of lousy finishing – sharp fret edges, unfinished jointing, etc.
- Not the best factory set-up, you will probably need to get it set-up again far sooner, rather than later after delivery.
- Comes with gig bag! A gig bag for a $1000 guitar? Come on Fender!
Ibanez RGDIX6PBSKB RGD Iron Label Electric Guitar
- The RGD Iron Label RGDIX6PB is optimized for the heaviest music styles, executing every note with precision and power. The fast Nitro Wizard neck, topped with a luxurious ebony fingerboard, plays...
- The RGDIX6PB's DiMarzio Fusion Edge pickups deliver powerful scooped tone with tight, compressed bass response and crisp high-end bite. The Ibanez RGD Iron Label RGDIX6PB is a progressive metal...
- The Fusion Edge humbucking pickups on the RGDIX6PB are the result of a collaboration between Ibanez and noted pickup maker DiMarzio. Designed for down-tuned metal, Fusion Edge pickups deliver a...
- The RGDIX6PB's DiMarzio Fusion Edge pickups give you the aggressive, yet precise tone that the modern metal guitarist needs.
- The 3-piece maple/bubinga neck on the RGDIX6PB features Ibanez's Nitro Wizard neck profile, which gives you effortless access to this guitar's entire range. And for the ultimate in playability, the...
Now, we went all rockabilly with the Gretsch and all country/country rock with the Telecaster, so it’s now time to get dark and menacing with a guitar made for METAL! – The Ibanez RGD Iron Label to be precise.
And since we seem to have developed color as a sub-theme of this review, we’ve gone for the wonderfully named Surreal Black Burst – what could be more Metal than that? If you don’t want to go all Spinal Tap and “none more black,” you could, of course, go for the far brighter Surreal Blue Burst or the Blue Space Burst.
The RGD Iron Label is optimized for playing the heaviest music styles. Where executing every note with precision and power is all important.
The 3-piece maple/bubinga neck with the Nitro Wizard neck profile is topped with a luxurious ebony fingerboard, which makes the guitar play beautifully. It’s deep cutaways giving you unrestricted access to the upper registers, so every note is within easy reach.
It’s DiMarzio Fusion Edge humbucking pickups deliver a powerful scooped tone with tight bass response and crisp high-end bite. Making it the ideal guitar for high-speed staccato riffing and for bludgeoning djent chugs.
It comes supplied with a Snark clip-on tuner and a 10 foot guitar cable.
The Ibanez RGD Iron Label RGDIX6PB is a metal or a progressive metal player’s dream come true. If you’re either, you now know what you should be playing.
- It’s very metal!
- Superb sounding guitar for the genre.
- Incredible build quality.
- It’s unfortunately Very Metal! So, if your thinking of playing one at your next barn dance gig, maybe you should think again.
Fender American Special Stratocaster
- With a 9.5" fret-board radius, 22 Jumbo frets, and a satin-finished neck, the American Special Strat offers easy string-bending and a fast, modern feel.
- Explore dark thicker tones while retaining clarity with Fender's Grease Bucket Tone circuit (rolls off high frequencies without adding bass).
- Express yourself with pitch variations via Fender's famed Synchronized tremolo a signature ingredient of the Stratocaster
- Keep a Strat close and comfortable via the 'belly cut' in the back of the body and the contour arm bevel in the top of the body.
- Fender Deluxe Gig Bag Included
Fender is undoubtedly one of the leaders in guitar manufacturing since they formed in 1946. First came the Telecaster (well the Broadcaster as it was then known) and that was followed by the guitar that has probably been used on more records than any other – the Fender Stratocaster.
And the latest incarnation of this timeless classic is the American Special Series Stratocaster HSS.
We’ve again gone for the classic color combination of a two-tone sunburst with a maple neck, but it’s also available in Olympic White, Mystic Seafoam, and Walnut – all with maple necks for the same price.
Or, if you want to spend a little more, you can get a rosewood fingerboard version in either Sonic Blue or Two-tone Sunburst.
Features include the incredible contoured alder body, a maple neck with 9.5″-radius fingerboard, and 22 jumbo frets. As well as three Texas Special pickups, and a satin urethane finish.
And, if you want to express yourself even more with pitch variations – you’ve got Fender’s famed Synchronized tremolo, which has always been a signature ingredient of the Stratocaster.
Whereas, if you’re looking for darker, thicker tones while still retaining clarity, you can use the Grease Bucket tone circuit to roll off the high frequencies without adding any bass.
These all add up to a very versatile guitar, that can easily cover Rock, Blues, Funk, Country, Pop and just about any other genre as well. This ensures that the American Special Series Stratocaster still remains true to the icon that Leo Fender invented more than 60 years ago.
- Classic looks and sound.
- It’s an American made Fender Strat!
- Always thinking that you should have saved up more and bought an American Standard Series Strat.
- All guitars need a set-up, some more than others, but this Strat is in desperate need of one!
- Comes with a gig bag for a $1000 guitar? Why???
Schecter E-1 Custom Special Edition
- Solidbody Electric Guitar with Mahogany Body
- 2 Humbucking Pickups - Vintage Sunburst
- Ebony Fingerboard
Schecter has grown steadily to be a brand to be reckoned with over the years, with more and more well-known, professional players using their guitars. They also think differently to the established brands, in that they do not stick to the same design year after year and are not afraid to try new ideas.
They use the same, if not better quality materials in crafting their guitars and the quality of the finished product is as good as, and in most cases far better than, most of the established brands. Brands who are merely relying on their name and past successes to sell average quality guitars.
This means that they create far better guitars, build from the best materials with an incredible build and finish quality. We mentioned that many Fender Telecaster buyers have noted sharp and poorly finished fret edging on their guitars, that’s as rare as a chocolate toaster on a Schecter.
One example of this philosophy is their Special Edition guitars, which are all very limited and often unexpected. Each one is a short-run creation of between 25 to 50 units, so you’re very unlikely to end up playing a festival and finding another guitarist on the line-up, with the exact same guitar as you!
What makes them Special Editions varies, but it can be as simple as an unusual finish or as bizarre as something completely left field!
Schecter uses the Series to test new guitar concepts and to fill a particular niche, no matter how small it is. And what’s fantastic about these guitars, is that the models change and evolve over time, so not only are you getting a fantastically well-built and great sounding guitar, but also one that’s incredibly collectible!
Regarding specifications, the Schecter E-1 Custom Special Edition is an Ultra Access mahogany body with a quilted maple top and a set three-piece mahogany neck with an ebony fretboard. The Thin ‘C’ shaped neck features mother of pearl block inlays and has 22 X-Jumbo frets.
The bridge pickup is a Schecter USA Sunset Strip, while you’ll find a Schecter USA Pasadena in the neck position. It has a Volume and Tone knob and a 3-way selector switch.
It’s obviously based on a Gibson Explorer, the guitar of choice of everyone from U2’s The Edge to Metallica’s James Hetfield, but we have to say the Schecter is a better guitar in every way but one. It’s got a far higher build quality, sounds and plays better, is cheaper – the only thing it hasn’t got is the ‘Gibson’ name stamped to it. It’s incredible how much some people pay for a name?
If you want a unique guitar and you believe that build quality, playability, and the sound are more important than the name, then go get yourself a Schecter, I promise that you’ll be more than happy with your decision.
- A unique instrument.
- Finest quality materials crafted to make an exquisite instrument.
- Sounds incredible.
- A collectable guitar.
- Not as famous as the more established brands – YET!
Picking the best electric guitar
The shape of the Guitar
When it comes to guitar bodies, everyone has designs that they do and don’t like. It’s mainly a cosmetic decision and is often based on certain guitarists or bands the musician likes. It’s impossible to advise on, just go with something you really like the look of.
The Guitar Body construction
Electric guitars come in a few different body types, but to keep it simple we’ll only discuss the three most common.
These have no sound box, unlike an acoustic guitar, but rely on the guitars pickups to gather the vibrations of the strings to amplify the sound. The advantage this body type has is the ability to be played to very high volumes, without any feedback worries.
Other advantages include the ability for manufacturers to be more creative with guitar designs. It’s obviously far easier to make a crazy new design from a single piece of wood than to try and create it as a hollow body, with layers of wood and complicated bracing, etc.
They are used extensively by rock, punk, funk, metal, pop and classic rock guitarists.
A semi-hollow electric guitar has a sound box, but not one that extends throughout the whole body of the guitar. They create a quiet sound when played without an amplifier and obviously need amplification.
They weigh a lot less than solid bodies, and many guitarists prefer them because they are more versatile. They are often described as being ‘warm’ sounding and having nice overtones, due to their semi-hollow nature.
They are often used by jazz, rockabilly, and traditional country guitarists.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, these have a much larger hollow body than the semi-hollow and sound a lot more like acoustic guitars when played without an amplifier.
They are, however, much more prone to feedback due to their design, but they do have a particular sound that you can’t get with any other electric guitar.
They are used a lot by jazz and rockabilly guitarists, but you will see them occasionally in every genre of music including indie, rock, pop, even metal.
Keeping things simple, single coil pickups produce a thinner toppier tone that cuts through mixes and are great if you play with a rhythm guitarist or an overexcited bass player. Humbuckers deliver a more rounded, fuller tone which is great for single guitar bands.
But, there are famous real-world examples, that go against everything we have just mentioned. There are, for example, many famous bands with two humbucking guitar line-ups, and many with two single coil lineups, so it’s whatever works for particular guitarists at the end of the day.
In reality, you need to go for a guitar that sounds the way you want it to and fits in with the style of music you play and the band you play with.
The Woods used in its construction
Before we open the whole tonewood debate, let us just say that all that is important is how the guitar sounds to you. A maple fingerboard does have a slightly different sound to a rosewood fingerboard when compared in perfect conditions.
But again going back to the real world, no one will ever tell you that they love your tone, but if you only had a rosewood fingerboard on your guitar, it would be even better!
We admit that it makes much more difference to an acoustic guitar, where you are actually listening to the sound being reflected back from the wood. But, on an electric guitar, you are mainly listening to the sound the pick-up captures, so don’t get to hung up on what wood is used. If it sounds good – it is good.
Now, since that’s all been covered, it’s time to move on. And discover, what the five best electric guitars currently available for less than $1000.
So, what’s the Best Electric Guitar?
So, there you have them. The five best electric guitars you can buy for under $1000. Everyone is superb in its own way, and that’s why unusually it’s very difficult to pick an overall winner, so for this review, the winner is…
All of them!
They are all the best of the best within the price limit, if we had decided that the Telecaster is the best and you want to play Rockabilly or hardcore, then it obviously isn’t. Therefore, just choose whichever guitar best suits your style, that way you will end up with the best electric guitar for YOU, which is, of course, the most important thing.
Have fun playing whatever guitar you choose, and we’ll see you again soon for more great reviews.