If you’ve got $600 to $1000 to drop on a guitar, and you don’t want a Gibson or Fender, here are six amazing guitar brands you need to be looking at – they’re all brilliant…
When you think of a guitar, an electric one, most players imagine a Fender Strat or a Gibson Les Paul. Gibson and Fender make some of the most iconic guitars on the planet and have done since the 1950s. But it is now 2022 and there are plenty of other guitar brands on the market.
And you know what? Most of them are just as good – and in some cases better – than anything you’ll get from Gibson or Fender. And, as a side bonus, pretty much every brand we recommend below is cheaper than both Fender and Gibson too. Who doesn’t like a bargain?
This list of guitar brands isn’t exhaustive by any means. The point of it is to highlight some of our favorite guitar brands that new or non-geek players might not know about. If you have $600 to $1000 to spend on a guitar, and you want something good, you really cannot go wrong with anything from these 6 awesome guitar brands…
The 6 Best Gibson & Fender Alternatives
PRS guitars, generally speaking, are bonkers-expensive. Like $3000 to $4000-expensive. A top-of-the-line PRS will cost more than most Fender guitars. And the reason for this is that they’re all hand-crafted in the US of A. But PRS do make cheaper versions of its expensive models – versions that mere mortals like you and I can afford.
If you have $500 to $600 to spend on an electric guitar, and you want something that looks stunning and plays like a guitar gifted down from heaven by God himself, the PRS SE Standard 24 is just about the most solid option on the market right now. How do I know? Simple: I recently bought one and it has been blowing my mind every day since it arrived.
Perfect for metal, jazz, noodling, pop, and pretty much everything else in between, the PRS SE Standard 24 is a near-perfect mid-market guitar with its HFS Treble and Vintage Bass humbucking pickups, 3-way pickup selector, and a coil tap on the tone control. Oh, and its 25″ scale length 24 fret mahogany neck plays like a dream. I’ve never played a “proper” PRS but I do have trouble understanding how it could be much “better” than this one.
Like Gibson and Fender, Gretsch has been around since day one. Used by all kinds of players from jazz legends to Brent Hinds from Mastodon, Gretsch is one of the most iconic and well-known brands on the planet. It also makes some really great mid-range (less than $500) guitars, as well as its more expensive ($1000+) models.
As for models, you have the Electromatic, Streamliner, Professional, Jet, Falcon, and Broadcaster. For the absolute best value for money – or, if you’re not a) a millionaire or b) a professional – you’ll want to be looking at the Electromatic Jet FT or the Streamliner; both retail for under $500 and are killer setups, although the Gretsch Streamliner is a hollow body electric.
With hardware, build quality, and electronics, Gretsch guitars – even its cheaper models – are made to really high standards. If you’re looking for something that’ll give you a professional-sounding tone, you really cannot go wrong with the Gretsch Electromatic FT or the Gretsch Streamliner. Both run Black Top Filter’Tron pickups and these are great for lead, rhythm, metal, rock, blues, jazz, and country.
- Top of The Line Option – Gretsch GH151 Tim Armstrong Electromatic
- Best Mid-Range Model – Gretsch Electromatic Jet Club
I’ve always HATED the name Music Man. It sounds like something you’d find in Walmart. But that aside, Music Man does make some truly exceptional guitars, ranging in price from damn-affordable ($350 to $500) to get-in-trouble-with-your-spouse (and/or credit card provider) expensive.
For value for money, however, a mid-tier Music Man guitar, something like the Sterling, which is available in a ton of different configurations and designs, is an easy recommendation for anyone that is after a solid, professional-sounding guitar that’ll hold its tune and scream like a banshee when required too.
I don’t think I’d get a Music Man guitar over, say, a PRS Standard 24 or a Gretsch, but that’s just my own personal tastes. If the name “Music Man” doesn’t give you the chills, I would definitely recommend that you check out the company’s Sterling line of guitars. They come in a dizzying array of colors, designs, and configurations. And most of them cost less than $500.
- Top of The Line Option – Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Majesty 6
- Best Mid-Range Model – Sterling by Music Man John Petrucci JP70
It wouldn’t be an ELECTRIKJAM post unless we mentioned Schecter, so here we are, once again, talking about the wonderful world of Schecter guitars. As guitar brands go, Schecter is perhaps one of the most criminally overlooked on the market today. Both Chris and I are huge fans of Schecter guitars. And if you like metal, there’s no better brand out there.
Like all good guitar brands, Schecter has a range of models, 15 as of right now, and they span everything from Explorer-style setups to Les Paul models, Teles, and spiky, metal-as-f***k-looking numbers. Basically, whatever you’re after, Schecter will have a guitar for your exact tastes. Me? I like the Schecter Demon, Hellraiser, PT, and the Omen (because I’m a sucker for SG-style guitars).
Schecter has some pretty expensive guitars on its books, prices range from $600 to near $1000, and these are designed for metal with all the accouterments you’d expect – killer pickups, fast necks, wonderful hand-crafted finishes, and premium materials. But Schecter also makes some killer mid-range guitars too, like the Schecter Omen (and you can get 6, 7, and 8 string versions of it too). All for less than $500.
If you like unusual-looking guitars, think something like a Rickenbacker on LSD, then D’ANGELICO is a brand you need to know more about. D’ANGELICO isn’t too well known. But it does make some of the most interesting guitars you’ll come across all year. For me, there’s nothing else on the market right now quite like what D’ANGELICO is doing.
D’ANGELICO kind of melds together classic, iconic design with its own, unique twist. You have Les Paul-style models with a hollow body design, double-cutaway models that remind me of a Gretsch smashed together with a Gibson ES. And some that are just bonkers like the D’ANGELICO Premier Bedford which is kind of like a Tele mixed with a Jaguar. You gotta see it, basically.
As you’d expect, D’ANGELICO guitars are not cheap. The lowest you’ll get one for is around $800. But given a choice between a D’ANGELICO guitar and a Gibson or a Fender, I think I’d be inclined to go with a D’ANGELICO. Why? Because they’re boutique, because they’re unusual, and because they’re crafted to an incredibly high standard and run killer pickups that make them ideal for rock, metal, jazz, and blues.
- Top of The Line Option – D’Angelico Excel Series SS
- Best Mid-Range Model – D’Angelico Premier Series Mini DC
Like Schecter, Charvel makes a wide range of models and most of them are loosely based on classic, iconic designs – like the Tele, the Strat, and the Ibanez RG. They look familiar, basically. In a good way though. And because Charvel likes to get busy with colors and finishes, you have a ton of options if you’re looking for something that plays great and stands out from the crowd.
The build quality and finish of any Charvel guitar is always solid. They hold their tune brilliantly and are wonderful for metal and heavier kinds of music. With pickups, it ranges by the model you go for but you can get Charvel guitars with Fishman Fluence pickups as well as standard Humbuckers from the likes of Seymour Duncan. Basically, Charvel guitars are designed from the ground up to rock.
My personal favorite model? It has to be the Charvel Pro-Mod SO-CAL Style 2. It’s based on a Fender Tele design, but it uses a murdered-out black coloring on EVERYTHING and runs Fishman Fluence Open Core PRF-COC pickups, so it sounds utterly amazing. The neck is thin and fast which lends itself perfectly to things like prog and thrash but it is also great for more traditional forms of metal too – stuff like Lamb of God and Mastodon.
- Top of The Line Option – Charvel Jake E. Lee Signature Model
- Best Mid-Range Model – Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1
Or, if you need something decidedly cheaper (but still equally good), check out our Epiphone section below…
Learn More About Epiphone Guitars: Best New Models, Buying Guides & Tone Tips
The latest and best gear we recommend right now…
Spark Amp – The amp itself is brilliant, coming with a bunch of great tones and plenty of power with its 50W speaker. But the real magic happens when it is paired with your phone, opening up access to thousands of effects and tones that you can customize to your exact specifications. And best of all? It’s not even that expensive either.
BIAS FX 2 – If you want to run your guitar through your PC or Mac, BIAS FX 2 is one of the best ways to develop and create amazing-sounding tones. BIAS FX is an amp and effects simulator and it is one of the best in the business. Inexpensive and perfect for jamming and recording, BIAS FX 2 is one of my favorite amp sims for Mac and PC.
Fender Mustang Micro – The Fender Mustang Micro is a small gizmo that plugs directly into your guitar’s jack. You then plug in some headphones and can switch between 12 of Fender’s Mustang amp, complete with effects and modification options. It doesn’t have any wires, it will fit in your pocket, and it even doubles as a USB audio interface too. It is one of the coolest things I’ve tested all year.
Fender Play – Learning guitar can be hard. It takes forever, seemingly, and progress is slow. But if you take a focussed approach with learning the basics and even more advanced stuff, you’ll develop much quicker. That’s why we love Fender Play; it has over 3,000 lessons and everything a beginner player needs. You can also get a free trial right now too – so you have literally nothing to lose!