We lost Eddie almost exactly two years ago on October 6th. Today we take a look a the best budget shredder guitars that can help you carry on his legacy!
Best Budget Shredder Guitars: The Man Behind The Idea…
When I woke up on October 6th two years ago, I was having a pretty awesome day. I made some coffee, went to the gym, and basically did my whole morning routine where I am in my own world without distractions. Once I got home and started working, I saw that we had lost Eddie Van Halen to cancer at the age of 65.
It took me a few days to really process what had happened, and the impact that EVH had on my life. When I first started picking up guitar at 12 or 13 years old, my father had given me the first Van Halen album. Grunge was the big thing then, and Nirvana was about to release “In Utero” which would become the antithesis of “shred” .
But I liked literally anything with a guitar in it, and I still do to this day.
I took that album home, and played it to death. It may had been recorded 3 years before I was even born, but the sound completely blew me away. I spent hours with headphones on, listening to Eddie wail on guitar. Not just “Eruption”, which of course is an amazing track that still stands on its own. Eddie was known for flashy lead playing, but people forget his riffs.
“Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” almost didn’t make the record because Eddie thought the song was “too simple”. Yet here we are, years later learning how to play the intro. Eddie definitely played some amazing solos, but his riffs and songwriting were also out of this world.
Not to mention he was also a composer, inventor, and multi-instrumentalist. Tracks like “Right Now” and “Jump” showed off his piano and synth chops. Its almost like Eddie was from a completely different planet. His biggest trick though, was he managed to appeal to the heavy metal fans, as well as the pop fans with well crafted songs.
That was Eddie’s secret weapon right? He managed to slip some really innovative and technical guitar playing in what were essentially pop songs. I cannot think of anyone today that does this. Virtuoso guitar playing with mass appeal just doesn’t happen much anymore.
So today we are going to look at some guitars that would give you the tools to recreate some of Eddie’s famous licks and tricks. These 5 best budget shredder guitars all have the same feel and features that made shred so popular in the first place. So what exactly are we looking for?
Best Budget Shredder Guitars: Parameters
- Must have the “vibe” of a hot rod guitar
- These are all guitars that we have tried personally
- A company legacy of making shredder/mod guitars
- Quality parts/ Workhorse guitar
- A tremolo system that can dive bomb and flutter
- Great pickups for high gain
- Thin, fast necks
- Jumbo Frets
- Cool/unique paint jobs
- Under $1200
Trying to find the best budget shredder guitars is easier than ever today. Budget guitars have been a hot topic for a while now, and you can get a lot of guitar for the money these days. Guitars priced in the intermediate/midrange level have a lot to offer.
$1200 may seem like a steep price for “the best budget shredder guitars”. That’s just the limit we have set, and most of these guitars come well under that price. But we have to take into account that these are not beginner guitars, as well as the financial climate that we are living in these days. These are great guitars for the intermediate players, all the way up to pros.
So whether you are an at-home jammer, or a pro on stage every night, let’s take a look at the top 5 best budget shredder guitars!
#5 Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas Chlorine Burst
It would be impossible to mention the best budget shredder guitars without Charvel being on the list. I mean, Eddie even got his famous “FrankenStrat” body from Wayne Charvel at his Cali Mod Shop. Charvel has been owned by Fender since 2002, and in that time it seems like Charvel has gone back to its roots.
Charvel was always known as the “mod shop” since Wayne Charvel and Grover Jackson cranked out some seriously amazing guitars in the 70’s and 80’s. The smartest thing that Fender could do was take the brand back to being the “hot rod guitar brand”.
The Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas is the perfect example of the Super-Strat. It has all of the bells and whistles you need to do some serious shredding. This is a mean machine built for rocking, you just need to bring the talent! The features really speak for themselves:
- Adler Body
- Quilted veneer top
- Maple neck/fretboard
- Compound radius 12-16
- Jumbo frets
- 25.5 scale
- Seymour Duncan JB pickups
- Floyd Rose 1000 double locking trem
- No-load Tone pot control
- Push Pull coil split Volume
- Spoke wheel truss rod adjustment
The features make the Charvel pro Mod seem like a “custom” instrument, or something straight from the Mod Shop. The Duncan JB pickups are a staple in rock and metal, and work great in split-coil mode for single coil tones. The Floyd Rose 1000 should hold up to any abuse that you throw at it.
What makes this one of the best budget shredder guitars on the market is the little details. The no-load tone pot is a feature that you see all the time in mod shops. It basically acts as if the tone pot is not there at all when turned all the way up. taking the tone pot out of the equation allows more high end and a stronger signal to the amp.
The Charvel Pro Mod Series comes in all kinds of colors, but the Chlorine Burst finish is by far the most eye-catching. It looks just like a throwback to the 80’s, and with these features you can do some serious sonic damage. This is a LOT of guitar, for not a lot of money.
#4 Kramer 84 The Illusionist
Any list of best budget shredder guitars would be crazy not to feature a Kramer guitar, especially since being acquired by Gibson. Kramer was all the rage back in the 80’s and Eddie Van Halen played his “5150” Kramer for quite some time.
Due to licensing issues, Kramer cannot make any of the guitars like the 5150 that Eddie played. But the Kramer 84 Illusionist IS the same guitar as the 5150. Now Kramer cannot just come out and say that, but this is as close as you can get to the actual Kramer that Eddie played in the 80’s.
Now this may seem like just a bare bones 80’s rock machine but there are a few tricks up the sleeve of this Kramer that sets it apart from the standard series. It may look simple, but there are a ton of features under the hood.
- Alder Body
- Maple neck
- K-Speed Slim taper neck
- 22 frets
- 12 inch radius
- Illusionist graphic
- Original oversized banana headstock
- Seymour Duncan JB humbucker (direct mount)
- Coil tap volume pot (series/parallel)
- Floyd Rose 1000 double locking trem
- EVH D-Tuna installed
- Included gig bag
There is a lot going on with this Kramer 84, and a lot of the features are things that EVH put there himself! The Duncan JB pickup is directly screwed down to the body, allowing it full contact with the body wood (something Eddie insisted on). It also features a D-Tuna on the Floyd Rose, so you can easily drop tune your E string with a flick of the switch.
You can definitely get some good clean tones when you pull the tap, but other than that, you have no real controls. Back in the day, people like EVH were running their amps at full blast, so you would manipulate the volume knob to clean up your sound. Turn down for the verses, and then turn way up for the chorus!
The Kramer 84 is the closest you can get to having the same guitar that Eddie played in the 80’s. It may be stripped down, but the vibe makes it one of the best budget shredder guitars around! If you have never played a single pickup “hot rod” then you’re missing out!
#3 Ibanez RG420HPFM RG High Performance
While companies like Kramer got Eddie van Halen, Ibanez managed to get another shred master when Steve Vai came around. The RG was meant to be an affordable version of the Ibanez Jem in the beginning, but has since become its own thing over the years. This particular RG is ready for the stage or studio!
The High Performance lineup from Ibanez does exactly what it says. These have a proper Edge bridge, Dimarzio pickups, and beautiful finishes that are ready to hit the stage. This is one of the best budget shredder guitars because it has so much versatility!
- Nyatoh Body
- Flame Maple Top
- Roasted maple neck
- Jatoba fretboard
- 24 jumbo frets
- Dimarzio Air Norton and Tone Zone
- 3 way switch
- Coil tap switch for both humbuckers
- Edge Trem
- Illuminated side dots/glow in the dark
- Gold Hardware\
Ibanez is known to use mostly proprietary parts on the lower end models that are not made in Japan. Even then, some Japanese models are fitted with Ibanez branded pickups. The Edge bridge has been a staple of Ibanez design, and it works like a lower profile Floyd Rose.
I picked this one to be one of the best budget shredder guitars because it has some serious “mods” under the hood that make it very unique compared to the usual Ibanez models. The Dimarzio pickups are a classic set for not only high gain, but just about any application. Shredders like Angel Vivaldi use these pickups because there are so many sounds you can get from them.
The coil split option takes this idea even further, and allows you to get some great clean tones. But there are also some other features that made me choose this model over the others. I love the gold hardware, color scheme, and flame top that just screams “Look at me!”.
Everything about the Ibanez RG420HPFM is flashy and unique. It will stick out in a sea of standard Ibanez models, and it has the components to back up the astonishing looks. This thing is made for the stage, even dark ones since you have the the cool illuminated side dots!
#2 Schecter Sun Valley Super Shredder
You all know I am a Schecter player, and this guitar will be in my hands by the time this article is published. We couldn’t possibly make a list of the best budget shredder guitars without mentioning Schecter. A lot of people like to diss Schecter for the older models that were “edgy”. But that is not where Schecter comes from, or where its going!
Schecter has a rich heritage that stems back to the late 70’s. David Schecter opened his shop in 1976 in Van Nuys, California. The shop was a lot like Charvel, since it offered bodies, necks, parts, electronics, and all kinds of accessories to mod your guitar. The original Van Nuys models were hot-rodded Strat style models, and were very popular in the 80’s.
Schecter has been going back to basics lately with a lot of the newer models, and the Sun Valley Super Shredder is one of the best budget shredder guitars on the market, period. When these first came out 4 years ago, people were blown away by the features you get for such an affordable price.
- Mahogany body
- Hard Rock Maple neck
- Ebony or maple fretboard
- Slim C neck
- 14” radius
- 24 extra jumbo frets
- EMG Retro-Active 70’s Pickups
- Optional Sustainiac Pickup
- Floyd Rose “Hot Rod” Special
- Two volume/No tone controls
- Easy access neck heel
- Spoke wheel truss rod adjustment
I mean, everything you need to know about this guitar is in the name. But there are some really interesting details that make this one of the best budget shredder guitars you can buy. Starting with the mahogany body, which is definitely a strange choice for a Super Strat style guitar.
I would highly recommend getting one with the Sustainiac Pickup System. If you have never played with one before, they can be a LOT of fun. I have one on my Hellraiser FRS and I use it often. That being said, the EMG Retro-Active pickup system no slouch either. These are obviously based on a certain brand of pickups that rhymes with “Sunken” and they deliver a full, midrange throaty sound.
The Floyd Rose is technically from the “Special” series, but Schecter have modified some of the parts. The main problem with most Floyd Rose Special models is the parts strip out, especially the Allen key screws that hold everything together. Schecter has replaced most of those parts with stainless upgrades, which is why the Floyd and the locking nut is two different colors of metal.
These come in some absolutely crazy colors, like the “Birch Green” above. All in all, the SVSS lineup really captures the feel, look, and attitude of everything that makes a throwback shredder guitar. After all, Schecter has more than enough experience in this area to make one of the best budget shredder guitars on the planet!
#1 EVH Striped Series
Surprise surprise, right? Of course the best budget shredder guitars list would end with an actual EVH guitar. The EVH brand name is owned by Fender and over the last few years the striped models have made a huge comeback, even before Eddie’s untimely passing.
These were designed in collaboration with Eddie so I think it is safe to say that this is as close as you can get to actually owning Eddie’s guitar. These come in three different colors, showing the evolution of the paint jobs that Eddie created himself. The black and white became the famous red, white, and black FrankenStrat that we all know.
But these are not just replicas of the guitars that he made himself. These have lots of updated features that appeal to more modern shredders, while still keeping the simple setup that launched the whole idea of a Super Strat.
- Basswood body
- Quarter-sawn Maple neck
- Hand-rubbed oil neck finish
- Compound radius 12′-14′
- 22 jumbo frets
- Floyd Rose locking nut
- Thumbwheel truss rod adjustment
- Direct mounted Wolfgang pickup
- EVH Branded Trem system
- D-Tuna System
- Graphite reinforced neck
- Engraved EVH neck plate
- Made in Mexico (Fender)
This thing is super lightweight, and the Basswood body is all one piece. The maple neck has the amazing compound radius that Jackson/Charvel and the other Fender brands are known for. I had forgotten just how much I like a compound radius until I tried out the Jim Root Sig last week. The neck getting flatter as you go up means you never fret out with big bends.
The EVH Branded Trem is very interesting, and it mixes the modern Floyd style with the original that Eddie used to play in the 80’s. It is mounted flush with the body which gives you a little more resonance with the body, but makes this a “dive only” trem. But this design also makes it more stable with tuning (and easier to maintain).
The D-Tuna is something we already mentioned with the Charvel, but this is just an amazing tool. You can literally switch tunings with a quick movement, even in the middle of a song! You can switch back and forth without ever actually tuning anything! This guitar is begging to play “Unchained”
What makes this one of the best budget shredder guitars is the sheer simplicity. It has a single volume, and it even has the little details like the volume knob being labeled “tone” since that was what Eddie had laying around when he built the original. Eddie looked at his guitar as tool, not some work of art, yet we marvel at his design like an art piece. This is as close as you can get to having the same guitar as Eddie!
The Best Budget Shredder Guitars: Wrapping Up
Eddie played a massive part in my life as a guitarist, and what always got me was how much he smiled when he was playing on stage. You could tell that he was having the time of his life, every night on stage, right up to the end. Eddie changed the entire landscape of guitar, not just playing, but also innovating.
Eddie was a known prankster, and he used to constantly throw people off when it came to his gear. But what he actually used was incredibly simple at the end of the day. This list of best budget shredder guitars is meant to give you a starting point to carve your own shred style and tones.
People have spent their entire guitar journey to learning how to play like Eddie, and chase his tone. There is nothing wrong with that at all, and if that is what makes you happy as a guitarist, I say go for it. Any of these guitars have the tools you need to learn the techniques that Eddie used. Throw in a few pedals and a Marshall and you will definitely get there!
At the end of the day, there was only one EVH, and I don’t think we have ever seen another guitarist change so much in the culture of guitar so quickly (Maybe Jimi). If you were alive in the 80’s, you know that everyone was trying to replicate the “EVH Sound”. Suddenly guitarists were tapping and dive-bombing everywhere to the point of it becoming obnoxious.
His technique was a mix of Blues, Classical, Punk, and Metal. Over the years his style changed, but it was always unique. The same can be said of his innovations, like his contribution to Floyd Rose and his 5150 amp design. The 5150 is one of the best -selling amps ever made, and it is still coveted by Metal musicians and heard on albums to this day.
So if you have ever wanted to break into shred territory, but didn’t know where to start with the guitar side of things we hope this list helps you. These best budget shredder guitars will get you well on your way to high speed madness. Maybe you can carve out your own place in shred history!
Stratocaster-style bodies with quartersawn maple necks, a hand-rubbed oil finish and thumbwheel truss rod adjustment, compound-radius maple fingerboard (12"-16") with 22 jumbo frets and black dot inlays, plus a single ferocious direct-mount Wolfgang humbucking pickup.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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