The guitar is arguably one of the most indispensable assets in the music industry. Electric guitars, in particular, have had a massive positive impact on contemporary music genres. More so, the ever-rising competition among electric guitar brands and deals have made these instruments significantly affordable, so much so that the best guitar no longer needs to be the most expensive. So, if you're looking for one on a budget, we've prepared this exhaustive guide on the best electric guitar under $500, so you can get rocking and rolling.
Which is the best electric guitar to buy?
Are Electric Guitars Under $500 Any Good?
Much to the consumer's muse, the increasing competition means a vast array of electric guitars from different manufacturers. There's equally plenty of great options under $500. Most of them are suited to beginners and intermediates, mainly because they're too stacked with features and complex to play. That said, even pros will find a few superb options that fit their musical needs and preferences in this price range.
But before you invest in an electric guitar, it's important to remember these guitars are not overly audible on their own. So you'll also have to budget for an amp, which doubles as a sound amplifier and a monitor for live performances. Plus, you also require a particular cable to connect the guitar to the amp.
That aside, choosing the best electric guitar under $500 requires a bit of extra attention to detail. Here are our five favorite picks to help you whittle down your options and a buying guide for the important elements to keep in mind:
1. Fender Squier Classic Vibe Electric Guitar
- 100% designed by Fender
- Inspired by 1950s-era Telecaster Models
- Fender-Designed alnico pickups, Modern "C", Nut Material Synthetic Bone
- Vintage-tint gloss neck finish, Scale Length 25.5" (648 mm), Fret Size Medium Jumbo with 22 Frets.
- Nickel-plated hardware
A Tele with a sublime vintage blonde-finished body is extremely hard to overlook; ask any guitarist. The Fender Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster makes it top of our list of best electric guitars under $500 for its premium look and feel, plus sublime sound. It's made of pine body with a lustrous polyurethane finish, a one-piece maple neck and a 9.5-inch maple fretboard.
This great guitar comes loaded with two single-coil pickups featuring Alnico III magnets, capable of delivering clear and warm tones with the right setup. It also delivers the distinctive Tele tone to produce and enhance clarity regardless of how your play the guitar. Additionally, it features master volume and master tone controls and a three-way position switch to give you the utmost versatility.
Pro Tip: Consider the Fender Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster if you want a double locking tremolo system.
2. Schecter OMEN-6 Electric Guitar
- The Omen-6 features a Basswood Body with a bolt-on Maple Neck
- Rosewood fret board
- Schecter Diamond Plus Pickups
- Black Chrome Hardware with Schecter Tuners
- Tune-O-Matic Bridge with String Through
Who doesn't want to have an electric guitar that produces the most wonderful and pleasing sounds to the ear? If you're purely motivated by sound quality, it's harder to look any further than the Schecter OMEN-6. It's made of a basswood body, a maple neck and a rosewood fretboard. The smooth fretboard and neck profile allows you to play great sounds for hours on end without feeling stressed.
It's a 24-fret guitar but features a cutaway that makes it pretty easy to access the upper fret. Schecter Diamond Plus pickups are highly reliable to deliver a solid punch while remaining versatile. This is partly because the volume tone and pickup switch are easily accessible and adjustable.
3. Ibanez Artcore AS73 Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar
- Artcore set mahogany neck
- Double-cutaway, all-maple body
- 22 frets
- Bound rosewood fretboard
- ART1 bridge
Professional-looking yet affordable guitars don't get any better than the ArtCore AS73 Semi-Hollow. As the name implies, this guitar features a semi-hollow maple body with an appealing vintage sunburst color. It has a relatively slim and small profile that makes it very easy and comfortable to play, hence ideal for beginners.
The guitar's body features a neck and bridge ACH humbuckers, two volume controls, two tone controls, a three-way toggle switch, an ART1 bridge and even a stop bar tailpiece to change strings easily. Its slim mahogany neck has a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, while the fretboard has trapezoid inlays, making it perfect for jazz and blues guitarists.
4. Yamaha Pacifica PAC311H Electric Guitar
- Solid Alder Body
- Maple Neck & Rosewood Fingerboard
- Stop tail Bridge
- Grover Locking Tuners & Graphtec Nut
- Alnico V P-90 & Alnico V Humbucker Pickups
Over the years, Yamaha has built a solid reputation for making reliable and solid instruments. The Yamaha Pacifica PAC311H is arguably the brand's best value option at this price range. For starters, it has a snazzy wood finish that gives it brilliant aesthetics. It's pretty playable, even for beginners, and the sound is quite remarkable. Furthermore, it has an impressive feel and versatility to bring out your individuality when playing.
This electric guitar is made of an alder solid body, a rosewood fretboard and a maple neck. Its Alnico V & Alnico V P-90 Humbucker pickups deliver exceptional character whether you're attempting to pull off clean or distorted tones. The solid construction, high-quality hardware and quality pickups give you nothing short of outstanding performance.
5. Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar
- Classic Les Paul with Mahogany Body and Maple Veneer Top
- Epiphone Alnico Classic Humbuckers
- Grover Machine Heads
- 1960's SlimTaper D Profile Neck
If you're looking to nail the signature Gibson Les Paul sound, yet can't afford the original guitar, the Standard Electric Guitar is an excellent choice. It comes with a mahogany body to produce the exact resonance you need. Additionally, it also features the Epiphone Classic Alnico humbucker to deliver warm sound output.
The set-neck construction, combined with the slip-taper neck profile, allow you to not only achieve Les Paul's signature sound but the characteristic feel and playability as well. It also features neck and body binding on top of the trapezoid inlays. Plus, while the StopBar tailpiece and LockTone Tune-o-Matic bridge may take some time to get used to, they're incredibly helpful in achieving a better sustain. And to cap it off, the neck and bridge positions make it very easy to play.
What to Consider When Buying the Best Electric Guitar Under $500
1. Style of Music
Guitar manufacturers design their guitars to suit a specific set of musicians. Your music style, or the kind you want to play, determines what kind of guitar is perfect for you. For example, a metal guitarist is best suited to a solid body guitar, while a blues guitarist would be better off with a semi-hollow guitar. Therefore, look into the music genres you want to indulge in to choose the right guitar for your musical needs.
2. Body Type
There are three distinct types of electric guitars:
a). Solid Body Guitar
Solid body electric guitars are made of solid wood and characterized by high resistance to feedback and a greater sustain than other guitars. This makes them arguably the most popular option among expert guitarists. More so, they have an exceptionally powerful distortion that makes them ideal for rock and metal.
b). Semi-Hollow-Body Guitar
These often feature exposed openings, usually sporting f-shaped holes on their resonating box. They mimic big violins and look pretty stunning. Semi-hollow body electric guitars are fairly lighter than solid guitars, and the general opinion is that they are quite versatile. They produce a warm and bright sound with nice overtones, hence perfect for jazz, blues and country music.
c). Hollow-Body Guitar
Hollow-body guitars sound almost similar to semi-hollows, but their bodies lack the woodblock that runs down the middle of the latter. This slight variation allows them to deliver a more natural, acoustic-like sound. Nevertheless, they tend to be quite prone to feedback, especially in higher volumes. Even so, jazz guitarists are drawn to them for their full tone with impressive bass response.
This price range typically includes the most basic pickups: single-coil, humbucking and filtertron.
- Single-coil pickups have a wire wrapped around a single magnet, hence produce crisp, mellow tunes high on the hum or echo factor. They normally emphasize higher frequencies.
- Humbucker pickups are made up of two magnets fixed parallel, where opposite ends face each other. The hum factor is a tad low and the tone is rather thick.
- Filtertron pickups are a hybrid of the two previous types. They are similar to humbuckers in shape and size, although the dimensions tend to differ.
4. Neck Design
A guitar's neck is pretty critical as it impacts the instrument's playability and comfort. There are three major kinds of neck construction:
- Bolt-on necks are the most common, especially for solid-body guitars. Most guitarists use bolts to fasten the neck to the guitar body, resulting in easier installation and repair.
- Set-in necks are glued to the body, making them easy to install but hard to repair since the existing glue has to be detached.
- Set-through-body necks are usually found on expensive guitars. They run through the body towards the other end of the guitar.
There is no right and wrong neck profile, it all depends on your personal preference. However, the neck size should always be directly proportional to the size of your hands so that you have an easier time wrapping them around the instrument.
As a general rule of thumb, the flatter the fingerboard radius, the lower the string action, thus the easier it is to play and bend single notes. Conversely, a rounder fingerboard conforms to the natural shape of the fretting hand, hence it can be a lot more chord-friendly.
You may also consider a compound radius fingerboard, which offers the best of both worlds. The fingerboard flattens gradually as you move up the neck, letting you enjoy your noodling.
6. Scale Length & Nut Width
Scale length is the distance between the head nut, where the strings are attached, and the string saddle. It has a huge impact on the sound a guitar produces. The longer the scale length, the more tension need to get the strings in tune. This is why some guitarists prefer a "slack" feel while others enjoy tighter strings.
Nut width refers to the gap between the nut and strings. People with smaller hands are better off with narrower nut widths, around 1.65 inches. However, those who want more finger room are better off with a wider nut width.
7. Tone Shaping Options
As a guitarist, it's important to have a clear idea of how you want to sound right off the bat. Therefore, you must look at the tone-shaping options available on your preferred guitars to determine if they suit your style of play.
The best guitars in this price range feature volume and tone controls and a toggle switch. The toggle switch allows the player to adjust the pickup position depending on the kind of sound they are looking to achieve.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Best Electric Guitars Under $500
1. What is a guitar's set-up?
This refers to a range of adjustments made to a guitar for proper health and playability. The general checks for the best electric guitars under $500 include:
- Nut height from strings and width to ensure the strings don't get stuck.
- Bridge height at every string
- Strings' condition
- Fretboard and body alignment
- String height from the fret wires
- Overhanging or wearing fret wires
These adjustments are usually a tad tricky for beginners. Therefore, it's better to seek a professional service and best to learn from them so that you can set up your electric guitar with time.
2. Can I get carpal tunnel syndrome from playing an electric guitar too frequently?
It depends on how you play the instrument. It's usually recommended to play the guitar more while sitting than standing, as this takes the pressure off your elbows. You must always ensure that your elbow stays in a relaxed position and avoid getting too aggressive on the instrument too.
That said, if you notice symptoms of carpal tunnel setting in, reach out to your doctor immediately.
3. Is a used electric guitar ideal for learning how to play?
Yes, mostly because it can be a cost-saving measure. However, you have to acknowledge that a used electric guitar may not go without a few issues. Therefore, if you decide to go secondhand, it would be best to try it out before purchasing. Tha last thing you want is an instrument giving out as soon as you start having a good time.