Even when working on a budget, you can still get a guitar that offers amazing performance and still entertain your audience. With the best guitars under $500, you can expect to leave your audience asking for more entertainment. So, you don't have to rob a bank to get a high-quality guitar that produces quality sound.
There are a large number of guitars ranging under the $500 price range. We selected these guitars based on two main criteria: the value and the uniqueness of their feature set, specifications, and construction. We have also included a buying guide and frequently asked questions to help you get the right guitar under the $500 price point. Read on!
1. Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC112V Electric Guitar; Black
- Alder Body
- Maple Bolt-On Neck
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- Vintage Tremelo
- 5 Position Switch with coil Tap
If you are looking for the best guitar under $500 that delivers exceptional performance, you can count on the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V guitar. This guitar is designed with an alder body to precisely respond to your style and personality so that you play different genres with it. This guitar will deliver exceptional performance whether you are an R&B, country, rock, or blues player.
The Pacifica PAC112V guitar has a maple neck (bolt-on) and can handle various pickup configurations to provide a wide range of sounds. You can play something crystal clear or something heavy with sound distortion with a purity of tone. It comes with a comfort-contoured body that allows any newbie to play it without feeling bulky. Furthermore, it features a vintage tremolo bridge, maple top, and a rosewood fingerboard.
You should make this guitar one of your best electric guitars if you are a newbie. It features a five-position switch with coil tap and push-pull coil-split, which you can use to controls the master volume and master tone. Lastly, the black color adds to this guitar's appeal because it looks exceptionally well and worth the price.
2. Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar-Melody Maker E1
- Melody Maker Features: Slim lightweight Poplar body, Epiphone 700SCT Ceramic...
- The most affordable two-pickup Les Paul ever made. Perfect for your first...
- Epiphone is one of American's oldest and most revered instrument makers. Since...
The Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 is another great option to consider when looking for the best electric guitars under $500. This guitar is an excellent option for practicing guitar fundamentals since it comes with an ergonomic build and mahogany body and neck. Additionally, everything this guitar will inspire you to keep playing, from the high-quality sound to the red Les Paul design.
This Les Paul Melody Maker E1 model by Epiphone has a ceramic single-coil bridge and dot inlays along the fretboard for you to keep track of the frets. Additionally, it comes with heritage cherry sunburst, Pacific blue, turquoise, sunset yellow, ebony, and vintage sunburst finishes.
The Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker can use a 3-way pickup selector, master tone, and master volume to adjust volume and tones. It is an excellent option for a newbie since it provides great performance while remaining easy enough for a novice to use.
3. ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar
- An affordable and popular guitar with many similarites to some of the most...
- Features a comfortable Mahogany body and 3 pc. neck, as well as roasted jatoba...
- Also features covered passive pickups, set-neck construction, and 22XJ frets
- At home on blues, classic rock, hard rock, progressive rock, fusion, and much...
If you are looking for the best guitars under $500 that can still perform like those pricier guitars, you can bet on the ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar. It comes with a comfortable mahogany body, a flamed maple top, a three-piece neck, and a roasted jatoba fingerboard. It also comes with covered passive pickups, 22XJ frets, and set-neck construction.
The guitar's bridge and neck humbuckers give you a wide range of sonic output, from lean to serious distortion. The pull/push tone pot for coil-splitting allows for cutting through the mix plainly, while the 3-way pickup selector switch provides up to 6-pickup settings. Furthermore, the stylish cutaway allows you to access the upper registers of this 22-fret fretboard easily.
4. Squier Classic Vibe '70s Telecaster Thinline Guitar
- 100% designed by Fender
- Inspired by 1970s-era Telecaster models
- Fender-Designed Wide Range humbucking pickups
- Vintage-tinted gloss neck finish
- Nickel-plated hardware
If you are looking for the best guitars under $500 with Thinline tones, we highly recommend you the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster '70s Thinline. Squier's version of the guitar undoubtedly looks the part with a white petaloid scratchplate Fender-embossed humbuckers and finely carved f-hole. However, like most other Squier versions, the '70s Telecaster Thinline comes with a gloss-finished modern C neck. The guitar's performance and tone are phenomenal, considering the price point it comes with. Moreover, It has a maple, semi-hollow body.
The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Thinline's cleans from the middle positions and neck are rock-solid. Reminiscent of the unique sounds produced by fat P-90-esque single coils, which are packed with plenty of punch, while the body makes for a woodier and less aggressive tone than you would get from any straight-up solid-body guitar. Furthermore, the bridge humbucker pickup produces a much more formidable voice that would be right at home coming from an overdriven, cranked -to-11 valve amp.
Lastly, the guitar's open midrange makes it perfect for both massive and delicate fingerpicking, in-your-face rock riffing. Like its counterpart Fender-produced big brother, the Squier Classic Vibe '70s Telecaster Thinline is a beautiful and unique guitar that can wear many hats.
Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Electric Guitars Under $500
1. Guitar size
For electric guitars under $500, you still have to consider the sizes since your ability to play can be either enhanced or hindered by the guitar size you select. If you are purchasing an electric guitar for under $500, you shouldn't get a full-size model for a young student since the weight, neck width, and wider fret spacing will make it difficult for them to play all the notes. Therefore, it is important to purchase the best electric guitar under $500, whose size complements the player. If not, it will be much harder to learn new skills and techniques as they play.
2. Material of the guitar body
With a budget of $500, you have to be concerned with the material of the body since it will significantly affect the sound the guitar produces. So, knowing the tonewood that your guitar is made from will greatly help you out in the long run. Here are some of the main materials;
- Soft woods-Softwoods on a guitar give a warmer and mellower sound. So, they are great for bass players who are in the metal and rock genres. These guitars are known for being highly resonant.
- Hard woods-Hardwoods produce brighter and snappier sounds. So, bass guitars with hardwoods are known for their percussive tones. They are great for bass guitarists who want their piece sound to go through their playing room. Furthermore, jazz bass guitarists and funk and pop genre players prefer a guitar with harder woods.
3. Scale length
The scale length of your guitar is the length of the neck. The scale length does not directly relate to the fret number because frets can be of different sizes. However, a long-scale guitar usually has tighter strings than a short-scale guitar.
A long scale is not an ideal option for beginners since it makes it hard to perform solo techniques; therefore, when looking for the best guitars under $500, avoid this model even though it has a resonant and vibrant sound. For an experienced player, you have no limitation. Conversely, a short-scale guitar has less tension which makes it perfect for lower tuning.
4. Tuning and guitar action
When shopping for the best guitars under $500, you need to consider the tuning. The sound the guitar produce should be worth the money whether you are a beginner or an experienced guitar player. If the guitar's sound is terrible, you shouldn't then spend your $500 on it. Look for another guitar that you can easily tune and play.
5. The neck of the guitar
The guitar neck is made from different materials, such as mahogany and maple. Each material offers its pros, whether functional or aesthetic. Nonetheless, the material is not the only thing to keep in mind when considering the neck of your guitar. Sometimes your electric guitar could come with a neck that is curved or bent at a certain angle. If you are a newbie, when it comes to shopping for the best electric guitars under $500, consider that one with a straight neck because it can be hard to play a bowed guitar for inexperienced guitarists.
A straight-neck electric guitar will keep the strings from hitting the frets while playing the guitar. If you are not sure how to identify a curved neck, you should consult a professional to do so on your behalf. Conversely, ensure you choose an electric guitar that allows you to play without discomfort.
6. The bridge position of the guitar
With this price range, you will realize that the bridge hardware quality is different from other cheaper models, from the usual tune-o-Matic style bridges to an advanced licensed Floyd Rose bridge system. It easily allows for tricks such as note dives and pull-ups.
Although having a fancy tremolo bar system is a good thing, there are a few drawbacks:
- Inconvenient string changes.
- Tuning instability (Floyd Rose systems are much better at preventing this).
- A longer learning curve for its operation and maintenance.
Floating type tremolo bars are normally paired with locking nuts as well to help alleviate tuning-related problems. Therefore, the choice is up to you whether to buy the more complex floating bridge ones or simplistic tune-o-Matic bridge setups.
7. Distance of the strings
Even though you are looking for the best electric guitar under $500, the distance of the strings and fretboard still matters. Usually, this is something that you can easily regulate; however, if the guitar's design has a gap between the strings and the neck, we recommend you not to purchase it. It will make playing guitar harder with no good progress.
When the strings are far from the guitar, you will need to press harder on them to get a clear sound, which will end up making your fingertips sore and painful. To avoid these issues, you should pick an electric guitar with a short distance between the neck and the strings.
8. Pickups configuration
Pickups are accessories that people usually use to project the sound of non-electric guitars like acoustic and classical models. The type of guitar you choose will determine the type of pickup selector you can use if you intend on playing for a small audience.
There are various types of pickups like bridge pickups, single-coil pickups, humbucker pickups, and neck pickups. The pickups rest on different areas of the guitar, as their names imply. Therefore, if you are using a non-electric guitar, this is a vital consideration.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Guitars Under $500
1. What are the best electric guitars under $500?
In this review, the best guitars to buy under the $500 price tag are the Pacifica PAC112V guitar, Squier Classic Vibe '70s Telecaster Thinline, ESP LTD EC-256FM Guitar, and Epiphone Les Paul Guitar-Melody Maker E1. They are made from high-quality and have high playability.
2. What is a good price for a guitar?
Well, the cheapest guitar goes for a little over $100, while a high-end guitar can go for almost $900. Therefore, a good compromise lies somewhere in between, depending on your budget and preferences. When choosing, ensure the guitar can deliver up to your expectations or beyond. Also, check the material for durability; a mahogany body is preferable.
3. Can I change the pickups of my guitar?
Yes, you can. When you buy a below $500 electric guitar, you have the advantage of changing the pickups. It offers you the freedom to choose. Besides, the high-quality, budget-friendly guitars can be seen as a foundation on which you can easily create one of the best music instruments of your dreams.