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Best new electric guitars for beginners in 2016 - 8 to choose from (and all are under $300!)

Updated on May 7, 2016
Squier, Epiphone, Dean and Yamaha each have great beginner guitar packs (including a guitar, speaker and essential accessories) - and none of those that we discuss is more than  $299!
Squier, Epiphone, Dean and Yamaha each have great beginner guitar packs (including a guitar, speaker and essential accessories) - and none of those that we discuss is more than $299!

We've included some links to products available through Amazon throughout this Hub, but don't forget you can get some wicked discounts by dealing directly with Guitar Center (and other online or bricks-and-mortar stores). To give you an idea of the discount you can access, you will typically be able to negotiate 10-15% with Guitar Center simply by making a call and asking for a sharper price. Alternatively, there are also coupons that may be available online through various sites, or (and this is handy if you intend to buy more through Guitar Center), you can take advantage of promotions they run where they give you "Guitar Center bucks" (of around $10 for each $50 spent - that's an effective discount of 20%).

For musicians (or for aspiring musicians), this is a Golden Age - where instruments, recording tools and publishing options have never been more accessible. In respect of beginner guitars (the subject of this Hub), this truism holds - never has it been easier to buy new equipment (and never have the new instruments been of such high quality).

Here, we will look at a 8 different quality guitars (from Squier, Epiphone, Yamaha and Dean) that are ideal for both beginner and intermediate guitarists - and astonishingly, these guitars can generally be bundled with Speakers and other essential accessories at close to the very same cost as would apply if you were buying the instruments alone. For this reason, we will be incorporating a discussion of the relevant associated packs with each of the guitars we discuss.

The guitars we will be profiling include:

  • the Squier Affinity Stratocaster (SSS configuration);
  • the Squier Affinity Stratocaster (HSS configuration);
  • the Squier Affinity Telecaster;
  • the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II;
  • the Epiphone SG-Special;
  • the Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II;
  • the Yamaha Pacifica 012; and
  • the Dean Vendetta XMT.

Jimi Hendrix playing a Stratocaster
Jimi Hendrix playing a Stratocaster
Slash playing a Les Paul
Slash playing a Les Paul

The Squier Stratocaster and Telecaster models that will be discussed are based on iconic Fender designs and with Squier being owned by Fender (each new Squier guitar is branded as "Squier by Fender"), these guitars reflect that pedigree.

Similarly, the Epiphone Les Paul and SG models are based on iconic Gibson designs - and again, with Epiphone being owned by Gibson (some of the original tooling from Gibson's Kalamazoo plant is said to be used in the production of the modern Epiphone guitars), the quality of these instruments is typically high. It is noteworthy, too, that Epiphone guitars are backed by Gibson's 24/7 Customer Support and the Limited Lifetime Warranty that also applies to Gibson branded guitars.

Dean have been creating guitars for the better part of 50 years and their instruments are most closely associated with Metal artists.

Yamaha, likewise, have been making musical instruments for a while (since the 19th Century) - and their guitars are part of a range that is acknowledged as the largest full line of musical instruments in the world.

Join us as we explore the fantastic opportunities available for beginner guitarists to get into some fantastic new instruments are very accessible pricing.

Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (SSS Configuration)
Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (SSS Configuration)

Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (SSS Configuration)

The Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (SSS Configuration) is based on Fender's iconic Stratocaster - and due to the close association between Squier and Fender (Squier is part of the Fender "stable"), you can rest assured that you are getting the essential functional elements of a classic Stratocaster (albeit in a "built-to-a-price" package).

A substantial element of cutting the production costs on the Squier products is a result of the manufacturing being based in China (as is the sourcing of the components). There are also some savings derived from the woods sourced for the body (in particular, the body is Alder - a departure on American-made Fenders).

Those differences do result in an instrument that is suited to beginner and intermediate guitarists, but the quality remains outstanding (with the necessary caveats).

The guitar's shape, construction and functioning is definitely that of a Stratocaster (a time-tested and proven design).

Features of the Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (SSS Configuration) include:

  • Stratocaster body (Alder);
  • classic "C" shape neck (Maple [bolted]);
  • Rosewood fingerboard (21 Medium Jumbo frets);
  • Dot inlays;
  • large '60s Style headstock;
  • three Standard Single-Coil pickups (this is the "SSS" Configuration);
  • Master Volume, Tone (Neck Pickup) and Tone (Middle Pickup) controls;
  • Synchronous Tremolo bridge (fitted with Standard Tremolo arm); and
  • Fender USA Super 250L's, NPS (.009-.042 Gauges) strings.

The Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (SSS Configuration) is available in a variety of finishes, including: Black; Brown Sunburst; Shell Pink; Lack Placid Blue; Surf Green and Burgundy Mist (all are priced at under $200).

At the same price-point, too, Squier offer their "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing!" pack that includes a Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (SSS Configuration), a Fender Frontman 10G Amplifier, Instrument Cable, Electronic guitar Tuner, Instructional DVD, Picks, Tools, Gig bag and Guitar strap.

Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster Beginner Electric Guitar Pack with Fender FM 10G Amplifier, Clip-On Tuner, Cable, Strap, Picks, and gig bag  - Black
Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster Beginner Electric Guitar Pack with Fender FM 10G Amplifier, Clip-On Tuner, Cable, Strap, Picks, and gig bag - Black

This pack from Squier is great buying - for the same price as the guitar alone, it also includes a Fender Frontman 10G Amplifier and essential accessories (including a Strap, Picks, Tuner, Cable, Tools, Gig bag and instructional DVD).

To the right (and above), we have included a link to a YouTube review of this pack.

Don't forget, too, that you may be able to negotiate a 10-15% discount (or more) at the time of purchase, so it could well be even less expensive than the already insanely cheap $199!

 
Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (HSS Configuration)
Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (HSS Configuration)

Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (HSS Configuration)

The Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (HSS Configuration) is the same as that with the "SSS Configuration", but for the substitution of a Standard humbucking pickup at the bridge (in place of a Standard Single-Coil).

The inclusion of the humbucking pickup changes the tonal characteristics of the guitar slightly (the question of whether the "SSS" or "HSS" configuration is better will, essentially, be a matter of individual preferences).

Features of the Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (HSS Configuration) include:

  • Stratocaster body (Alder);
  • classic "C" shape neck (Maple [bolted]);
  • Rosewood fingerboard (21 Medium Jumbo frets);
  • Dot inlays;
  • large '60s Style headstock;
  • a Standard humbucking pickup (at the bridge) and 2 Standard Single-Coil pickups (at the middle and neck) - this is the "HSS" Configuration;
  • Master Volume, Tone (Neck Pickup) and Tone (Middle Pickup) controls; and
  • Synchronous Tremolo bridge (fitted with Standard Tremolo arm).

The Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (HSS Configuration) is available in a variety of finishes, including: Black Metallic; Olympic White, Lack Placid Blue; and Burgundy Mist (all are priced at under $200).

At a slightly higher price-point (less than $250), too, Squier offer either a Brown Sunburst or Candy Apple Red version of this guitar in their "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing!" pack that also includes a Fender Frontman 15G Amplifier, Instrument Cable, Electronic guitar Tuner, Instructional DVD, Picks, Tools, Gig bag and Guitar strap.

Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster Beginner Electric Guitar Pack with Fender FM 15G Amplifier, Clip-On Tuner, Cable, Strap, Picks, and gig bag  - Brown Sunburst
Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster Beginner Electric Guitar Pack with Fender FM 15G Amplifier, Clip-On Tuner, Cable, Strap, Picks, and gig bag - Brown Sunburst

At a little under $250 (before any discount you may negotiate), this pack by Squier is a brilliant way to get into a great beginners bundle with an HSS configured Stratocaster, a 15W Amplifier and essential accessories.

Both the guitar and accessories (including the 15W Amplifier) will take a beginner guitarist well down the path of intermediate play before any upgrades will be necessary.

 
Joe Strummer with a Telecaster
Joe Strummer with a Telecaster
Squier (by Fender) Affinity Telecaster
Squier (by Fender) Affinity Telecaster

Squier (by Fender) Affinity Telecaster

The Squier (by Fender) Affinity Telecaster is modeled on the iconic Fender Telecaster (which is associated with quintessential sounds of Rockabilly, Blues and Country).

Like Squier's Stratocasters, this Telecaster essentially only differs from the Fender in respect of matters related to the need to build this to a particular price-point - and while some tonal compromises arise, these are still brilliant instruments for beginners and intermediate players alike.

Features of the Squier (by Fender) Affinity Stratocaster (HSS Configuration) include:

  • Telecaster body (Alder);
  • classic "C" shape neck (Maple [bolted]);
  • 21 Medium Jumbo frets;
  • Dot inlays;
  • Vintage-style Single-Coil pickups (at the bridge and neck)
  • 3-position pickup switching; and
  • Master Volume and Tone controls.

Squier produce variants with a Rosewood fretboard (available in Brown Sunburst, Metallic Red, Lake Placid Blue and Gun Metal Gray) and with a Maple fretboard (available in Actic White, Black, 2-color Sunburst and Butterscotch Blonde). Each of those variants is available for under $200.

At a slightly higher price-point (less than $250), too, Squier offers either of the 2-color Sunburst or Butterscotch Blonde versions of this guitar in their "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing!" pack that also includes a Fender Frontman 15G Amplifier, Instrument Cable, Electronic guitar Tuner, Instructional DVD, Picks, Tools, Gig bag and Guitar strap.

Squier by Fender Affinity Tele Beginner Electric Guitar Pack with Fender FM 15G Amplifier, Clip-On Tuner, Cable, Strap, Picks, and gig bag - Brown Sunburst
Squier by Fender Affinity Tele Beginner Electric Guitar Pack with Fender FM 15G Amplifier, Clip-On Tuner, Cable, Strap, Picks, and gig bag - Brown Sunburst

For those who have been captivated by the classic Telecaster sound, this pack by Squier is offer a brilliant price-point for a quality guitar (suitable for beginner and intermediate players), a 15W Fender Amplifier and essential accessories.

 
Epiphone Les Paul Special-II
Epiphone Les Paul Special-II

Epiphone Les Paul Special-II

The Epiphone Les Paul Special-II is based on the iconic Gibson Les Paul.

Like the Squier offerings discussed previously, of course, this Epiphone guitar is "built-to-a-price", manufactured in China and does compromise somewhat on the standards established by its inspiration.

Nevertheless, it does retain many of the features of a traditional Les Paul and is a more than capable instrument for beginners and intermediate players - and the price-point, starting at less than $130, is very attractive.

Features of the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II include:

  • Les Paul-based Single-cut body (Mahogany);
  • Mahogany neck (bolt-on, SlimTaper D shape);
  • Rosewood fingerboard (22 frets);
  • Dot inlays;
  • 650R humbucker (neck) and 700T humbucker (bridge);
  • 3-way pickup switching; and
  • Master Volume and Tone controls.

The Epiphone Les Paul Special-II is available in a variety of finishes, including Wine Red, Ebony, Heritage Cherry Sunburst and Vintage Sunburst.

At a slightly higher price-point (less than $200), too, Ephiphone offers either of the Ebony or Vintage Sunburst versions of this guitar in a pack that also includes a 10W Amplifier, Instrument Cable, Tuner, Picks, Gig bag and Guitar strap.

Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package, Vintage Sunburst
Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package, Vintage Sunburst

On the right, we show a link to a YouTube review of this pack.

This pack from Epiphone, which includes the Les Paul Special-II guitar (in either Ebony of Vintage Sunburst), a 10W Amplifier and essential accessories is great way for beginners to access a Les Paul experience.

 
Derek Trucks playing an SG
Derek Trucks playing an SG
Epiphone SG ''Goth'' Special LE
Epiphone SG ''Goth'' Special LE

Epiphone SG-Special

The Epiphone SG-Special is based on the iconic Gibson SG.

Like the Epiphone offering discussed previously, of course, this guitar is "built-to-a-price", manufactured in China and does compromise somewhat on the standards established by its inspiration.

Nevertheless, it does retain many of the features of a traditional SG (including an innovative integrated killswitch/tone pot). It is a more than capable instrument for beginners and intermediate players - and the price-point, starting at less than $180, is really accessible.

Features of the Epiphone SG-Special include:

  • SG-based Double-cut body (Mahogany);
  • Mahogany neck (bolt-on, SlimTaper D shape);
  • Rosewood fingerboard (22 frets);
  • Dot inlays;
  • 650R humbucker (neck) and 700T humbucker (bridge);
  • 3-way pickup switching;
  • Kill switch;
  • Master Volume and Tone controls;
  • Tune-o-matic bridge; and
  • Stop Bar tailpiece.

The Epiphone SG-Special is available in a variety of finishes, including Ebony and Cherry.

At a slightly higher price-point (less than $250), too, Ephiphone offers a "Goth" Special LE version of this guitar in a pack that also includes a 15W Amplifier, Instrument Cable, Tuner, Picks, Gig bag and Guitar strap.

Epiphone SG Performance Solid Body Electric Guitar package, Pitch Black Satin Finish
Epiphone SG Performance Solid Body Electric Guitar package, Pitch Black Satin Finish

On the right, we show a link to a YouTube review of this pack.

This pack from Epiphone is a brilliant price-point for a quality SG for beginners (and intermediate players) bundled with a 15W Amplifier and essential accessories.

 
Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II
Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II

Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II

The Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II is a stunning budget offering from Epiphone that is based on the Gibson Les Paul used by Slash.

Like the previous guitars that have been discussed, this is a stripped down version compared to he inspiration, but the attention to detail and quality of this product is easily a grade or two above the other offerings from Epiphone (and it is at only a slightly higher price-point, being available for a little less than $200 bundled with a Strap, Picks, a Gig bag and Cable).

The body is Mahogany and is topped with a Flame Maple top - plus gorgeously detailed binding. The pickups, too, are an upgrade on the other budget guitars from Epiphone, being Ceramic Plus humbuckers (at the bridge and neck).

Features of the Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II include:

  • Les Paul-based Single-cut body (Mahogany) with Flame Maple top;
  • Mahogany neck (bolt-on, SlimTaper D shape);
  • Rosewood fingerboard (22 frets);
  • Dot inlays;
  • Ceramic Plus humbuckers (at the bridge and neck);
  • 3-way pickup switching;
  • Master Volume and Tone controls;
  • Tune-o-matic bridge; and
  • Stop Bar tailpiece.

The Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II is available only in the Appetite Amber finish.

At a slightly higher price-point (less than $300 before any discount you may negotiate), too, Ephiphone offers this guitar in a pack that also includes a 15W Amplifier, Instrument Cable, Tuner, Picks, Gig bag and Guitar strap.

Epiphone Slash "AFD" Les Paul  Electric Guitar Performance Package
Epiphone Slash "AFD" Les Paul Electric Guitar Performance Package

To the right, we show a link to a YouTube review of this pack.

The vintage-style Amplifier in this bundle was developed by Epiphone in consultation with Slash (just like the guitar) and it's a very classy looking piece of kit - it would be great for both beginners and intermediate guitarists (and be sure to keep in mind the prospect of negotiating a discount on the already reasonable price).

 
Yamaha Pacifica 012
Yamaha Pacifica 012

Yamaha Pacifica 012

The Yamaha Pacifica 012 is a guitar that borrows styling cues heavily from the Fender Stratocaster (HSS Configuration). It delivers similar performance - albeit, as moderated by the necessity to "build down" to a price - with a few aesthetic changes.

Features of the Yamaha Pacifica 012 include:

  • Agathis body;
  • Maple neck;
  • Covered tuners;
  • Vintage-style Tremelo;
  • 2 Single-Coil pickups (neck and middle) and 1 humbucker (bridge); and
  • Master Volume and Tone controls.

The Yamaha Pacifica 012 is available in a variety of finishes including Black, Metallic Blue, Metallic Red and Old Violin Sunburst - the pricing (at less than $180) is attractive.

Yamaha also offer each of those guitars in a pack at a slightly higher price-point (a little under $260) bundled with a 15W Amplifier and essential accessories.

Yamaha Gigmaker EG Electric Guitar Pack with Amplifier, Gig Bag, Tremolo Bar, Tuner, Instructional DVD, Cable, Strap, Strings, and Picks - Black
Yamaha Gigmaker EG Electric Guitar Pack with Amplifier, Gig Bag, Tremolo Bar, Tuner, Instructional DVD, Cable, Strap, Strings, and Picks - Black

These packs from Yamaha are available with each of the Yamaha Pacifica 012 finishes - at a little less than $260, these bundles are of a quality that would suite beginners and intermediate players.

 
Dean Vendetta XMT
Dean Vendetta XMT

Dean Vendetta XMT

The Dean Vendetta XMT is a budget guitar that borrows from both the Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul for inspiration (the body and tremelo system are similar to a Stratocaster, while the humbuckers, switch-gear and headstock borrow from a Les Paul).

It comes from a tradition of Dean guitars that have been favored by Heavy Metal musicians - and at a price-point of under $150, the Dean Vendetta XMT is strongly focused on appealing to the budget of a beginner musician.

Features of the Dean Vendetta XMT include:

  • Basswood body;
  • Maple neck (bolt-on);
  • Rosewood fingerboard;
  • Die-cast tuners; and
  • 2 humbuckers (neck and bridge); and
  • Vintage Tremelo system.

The Dean Vendetta XMT is available in a variety of finishes including Metallic Black, Metallic Blue, Metallic Red and Satin - the pricing (at less than $180) is attractive.

Dean also offers the Metallic Black and Metallic Red guitars in a pack at a slightly higher price-point (a little under $180) bundled with a 10W Amplifier and essential accessories.

Dean Vendetta XMT Electric Guitar with Tremolo - Metallic Black
Dean Vendetta XMT Electric Guitar with Tremolo - Metallic Black

This pack by Dean offers the opportunity to access a beginner's guitar and amp bundle for a very reasonable price.

 

Which electric guitar would your choose as a beginner?

When looking for a great electric guitar for beginners, which would you choose?

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