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Top 5 Best All Around Electric Guitars Under 500 Dollars (2016)

Updated on March 6, 2016
Chris Whiter profile image

Chris Whiter has been a guitar player for 16 years a guitar teacher for 10 years. He plays many music styles uncluding pop,rock,funk e.c.t.

Top 5 Best Electric Guitars Under 500 $
Top 5 Best Electric Guitars Under 500 $

Electric Guitars: The Middle Way

Electric guitars that costs around 400 - 500 dollars are kind of a middle way between the cheap basic beginner guitars and expensive pro level guitars. These guitars are made like pro guitars, but to reduce their cost, they are manufactured in China, Indoneasia, Mexico, making people to believe that they lack the quality and features of real pro guitars, but I can truly say that it ain't so. These guitars are worth every penny you spend for them and even more.

Guitars featured in this article are:

  1. Squier Classic Vibe 50's Stratocaster
  2. Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro
  3. PRS SE Standard 245
  4. ESP LTD EC-256
  5. Epiphone ES-339 PRO

Squier Classic Vibe '50s Stratocaster

Since it's inception in 1954, Fender Stratocaster has become one of the most recognizable guitars in the world and is considered to be one of the most iconic guitars in the history of music. Squier is a company that is owned by Fender and makes quality guitars at affordable prices, including stratocasters.


Body and neck: Squier Classic Vibe '50s Stratocaster has a solid alder body with maple neck and fingerboard. Alder is a medium weight wood that gives you a strong clear sound, with excellent middle and low frequency response and good sustain. Maple, on the other hand is a heavy, dense wood with good high frequency response. The combination of the two woods gives you a well balanced, clear sound and is common combination for stratocaster guitars. The neck is a bolt on neck (attached to the body with screws) and has a modern c shape, that is comfortable and feels good in hand when playing.

Hardware: This guitar is has a vintage - style tremolo chrome bridge with vintage style chrome tuning pegs, that holds the tuning well. Pickguard is made from one piece plywood and the controll knobs are in aged white color. The fretboard has medium jumbo frets on it, which is an industry standart

Electronics: This Stratocaster is equipped with three vintage styled custom single coil pickups that can be selected with a 5 way pickup selector. there are one master volume control and two tone controls - one for the neck pickup and one for the middle pickup.

Sounds and Playability:

With three pickups that can be selected in 5 different combinations, this guitar gives you a lot of different tones. The first position (bridge pickup only) gives you a clear, bright tone with a little bit of twang, great for country music when played clean, and good rock rhythm guitar sound when overdriven. The second position (bridge + middle pickups) gives you that excellent clean tone stratocasters are known for and cool overdriven tone for blues and rock guitar. 3rd position (middle pickup) is kind of a darker sounding version of the first position with a little more pronounced middle and low frequencies. The 4th position (middle + neck pickups) has a great overdriven lead tone as well a good clean tone. The 5th position (neck pickup) has a great overall overdriven tone. My favourite positions for this guitar are 2nd for clean tone, 3rd for overdriven rhythm and 4th for lead sounds.

This guitar plays really well, the neck is comfortable and pretty "fast" meaning fast solos won't be a problem on this guitar. It is pretty lightweight (weights around 7 pounds) , but at the same time the sustain is good. It stays in tune well and is overall a very reliable instrument. Comes in three colors - 2 color sunburst, sherwood green and olympic white.

I would suggest this guitar to players that play pop, pop - punk, funk, reggea, soft rock, blues, blues rock and rock music. However this woundn't the guitar I would choose if I was more into more agressive music genres.

Check out Squier Classic Vibe '50s Stratocaster in action

Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro

Epiphone Les Paul guitars have always been hugely popular among guitar players because of its low price, stunning looks and great sound. As an affiliate company to Gibson, the originator of the Les Paul guitars, Epiphone delivers a cheaper yet by no means inferior alternative to the Gibson Les Paul.


Body and neck: This Les Paul has a solid mahogany body that has a flamed maple veneer on top of it and with a mahogany neck that has a rosewood fingerboard. Mahogany is a fairly dense, heavy wood that has warm tone with pronounced midrange frequencies and great sustain. In combination with rosewood fingerboard, this guitar gives you a balanced overall sound with more pronounces middle and high frequencies. The neck is set neck (glued into body) and has a slim D shaped neck shape, which is comfortable and lets you access the strings with ease.

Hardware: The Plustop Pro comes with Locktone locking Tune - O - Matic chrome bridge and chrome stopbar tailpiece that locks into place ,Grover tuners that keeps the tuning well, 22 medium jumbo frets and a white pickguard.

Electronics: This guitar has two Probucker humbucking pickups that can be coil-splitted to give you single coil tone. Each pickup has its own volume and tone controls. Volume controls has a push/pull potentiometer, that are used to for coil splitting (switches out one coil of humbucker). With the three way pickup selector you can select eacho pickup separately or both of them together.

Sounds And Playability:

This guitar has it all, decent clean sound, great overdriven rhythm sounds and excelent lead tone. With the bridge pickup you get a good clean sound with more pronounced high frequencies . With the neck pickup you also get a good clean but with more middle and low frequencies. When combining these two together you get a great clean tone with very clearn, balanced sound. When you split the coils of the pickups, the sound becomes even more clearer and you can even play some funk licks and riffs. I would use the bridge pickup for distorted rhythm playing, both of them together for clean sound and neck pickup for lead tones.

Overall the LP Plustop Pro plays really well, the necks sits in the hand comfortably, the sustain is great and the tuning stability is also great. The guitar is pretty heavy (around 8.7 pounds), but that is to be expected with Les Pauls. Comes in 10 different colors, which you can see here

I would suggest this guitar to the guitar players that play Pop, Punk, Rock, Metal music genres

Check out Epiphone Les Paul Plustop Pro in action

PRS SE Standard 245

PRS are well known for their high quality instruments and the SE line, that is meant to be for guitar players who can't afford their standard guitar, offers nothing but quality.


Body and neck: The SE Standard 245 has a solid mahogany body with maple top that goes with the combination of a mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard. The combination of these woods gives this guitar a warm, balanced sound with balanced tone. The neck has a wide-fat neck shape that is kind of between the D and C neck shapes and feels comfortable in the hand and it is a set neck meaning that it is glued into the body.

Hardware: This guitar has PRS own designed stoptail bridge and guitar tuners that hold the tuning well.

Electronics: This guitar is equiped with PRS own designed treble and bass pickups. Each pickup has its own volume and tone control and the three way switch lets you choose each separate pickup or both of them together.

Sounds And Playability:

The bridge pickup gives you a clear, bright clean sound and a punchy, gritty overdriven sound, great for rock rhythm guitar. Putting both pickups together gives you a warm , well balanced clean sound and a nice dirty sound with pronouced lower mids, great for blues rock soloing. The neck pickup gives you a great lead tone.

Overall this is a really nice guitar to play and it also looks great. It's somewhere between stratocaster and les paul in heaviness scale (about 8 pounds). Comes in five colours - black, platinum, tobacco sunburst, translucent blue and vintage cherry.

I would suggest this guitar to players that play Pop, Rock, Metal, Punk music

Check out PRS SE Standard 245 in action

Esp LTD EC - 256

ESP is a well known Japanese manufacturer and their LTD line of guitars offers great quality instruments for affordable price. Guitarists like James Hetfield, Kirk Hammet and Ron Wood each have their own signature ESP guitar.


Body and neck: LTD EC - 256 has a solid mahogany body with flamed maple top and a three piece mahogany neck (meaning that that three pieces of wood are glued together) with rosewood fingerboard. The combination of these woods gives you a warm and balanced sounding guitar. The neck is set`neck meaning that it is glued into the body.

Hardware: The EC - 256 has a chrome Tune - O - Matic bridge and tailpiece, LTD designed tuners and 22 extra jumbo frets which are great for rock and metal style of playing.

Electronics: This guitar comes with a set of ESP designed humbucker pickups, a volume control for each pickup and a master tone control that also acts as a push/pull switch that is used for coil tap function (this feature disables part of puckup winding, giving you a cleaner sound). The three way switch lets you select each pickup separatey or put them both together.

Sounds And Playability:

Although this guitar does give you a decent clean sounds, it really shines when you turn on overdrive/distortion. The sound is well balanced, with rich harmonics and very warm. Beidge pickup gives you a great overdriven tone with plenty of bite and grit. For clean sound I would suggest using both of the pickups together. Neck pickup gives you great lead tone for soloing.

From playability standpoint it's great, the guitar is not too heavy (around 8 pounds) and the neck feels and plays great. Comes in 4 colors - lemon drop, black, see thru green and dark brown sunburst.

I would suggest this guitar from players that are into Rock and Metal music.

Epiphone ES-339 PRO

Another Epiphone guitar, this time a semi-hollow body guitar


Body and neck: This guitar has a semi-hollow (meaning that some parts of the body are made from solid wood and some parts of the body are hollow.) laminated maple body with mahogany neck that has a rosewood fretboard. Maple is a hard and heavy wood has more upper frequency response while mahogany neck with the rosewood fretboard gives the midrange frequencies and warmness to the sound. Combining the body with beck gives you a clear sound with plenty of high and middle frequencies. The neck is set neck, meaning that it is glued into body. It also has a slim D shape that feels really comfortable in the hand.

Hardware: The ES-339 PRO has a Locktone Stopbar tailpiece and bridge that locks into place for better sustainm deluxe Epiphone tuners for great tuning stability a pickguard and 22 medium jumbo frets.

Electronics: Epiphone has equipped the ES-339 PRO with two alnico classic pro pickups. Each pickup has its own volume and tone controls and both volume controls are also push/pull controls for coil splitting. Three way pickup switch lets you select each pickup separately or put them both together when in middle position.

Sounds And Playability:

This guitar offers some really great tones. The bridge pickup sound bright and clear and when coil splitted it becomes even clearer for great clean sound. In the midlle position you get cool jazzy tone when clean and great blues lead tone when overdriven. The neck pickup gives you great lead sound.

Overall this is a really great sounding guitar and it plays great also. It's lighweight (7.2 pounds) and comes in five colours - cherry, ebony, natural, vintage sunburst and black.

I would suggest this guitar for players that are more into Jazz, Blues and Rock n' roll music genre

Check out Epiphone ES-339 PRO in action

Other Guitars

I chose these 5 guitars because I think these will give you best set of features for under 500 dollars, but there are other nice sounding and playing guitar out there like Squier Classic Vibe 50's Telecaster, Ibanez RG450, Gretsch G5445T, Schecter Omen - 6 and Kramer Pacer Classic just to name a few. Also if you have a guitar for this list, please post it on the comments section.

Top 5 Best Electric Guitars Under 500 dollars - Squier Classic Vibe 50's Stratocaster, Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro, PRS SE Standard 245, LTD EC-256 and Epiphone ES-339 PRo
Top 5 Best Electric Guitars Under 500 dollars - Squier Classic Vibe 50's Stratocaster, Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro, PRS SE Standard 245, LTD EC-256 and Epiphone ES-339 PRo

Which Electric Guitar Of These 5 Are The Best Guitar Under 500 Dollars?

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    • profile image

      Jon Rearden 

      16 months ago

      My comment was messed up. I meant Squire is made to be always worse than a Fender. And Fender is the Mcdonalds of the Industry.

    • profile image

      Jon Rearden 

      16 months ago

      The best guitars for under $500, really? These are just popular guitars with little to no research done in the making or materials of them. Nothing actually makes a "pro" guitar professional. They're not more sturdy and sound quality is mostly opinion. If Pete Townsend plays a 1975 Sears beginner guitar it becomes a pro guitar and the price usually triples after because they become popular, sometimes for no other reason than a famous person played it. A Yamaha Strat style guitar for under $500 is made much better than a Squire in terms of playability construction and materials. I'll agree with the ESP but nobody wants to play one who isn't into crap metal. They're good guitars for the cash anyway. A Hamer for under 500 is much better than most any Epiphones which are junk because Gibson makes them and they are the "Mcdonalds" of the guitar industry. They sell their name at a premium which hurts every other part of the guitar, and they make sure they're not in competition with the "real" Fenders. Both are all about the cash flow and they must never sound better than a true Gibson because that would hurt their parent company. So these are the only guitars in the world that are made specifically to be not that great.


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