New vs. Used Axes
Obviously, a brand-new glossy guitar is a dream. But how much the new guitar is actually better than a used one? It’s a complicated answer.
When it comes to new axes the most obvious pros are good condition and factory set up and quality. Most of them also come with a warrant (which is rather neat I’d say). As they come right from the factory you can do whatever the hell you want to after you get it. I mean upgrades, of course. You can adjust it to your liking with changing hardware and electronics, making it perfect for you.
However, used guitars aren’t too bad either. The greatest thing about this model is the price. Even the most expensive guitars of their time might come for under $300. So, if you are an experienced player, you’ll find used vintage guitars to be a sweet deal. However, many guitarists upgrade their guitars to their own liking, so when it comes to selling, you can never know what you get in terms of sound and quality.
Honestly, I would always recommend a new guitar, especially if you are a beginner. Considering the variety of options on the market, it’s possible to find a solid axe without breaking a bank.
Are budget guitars only for beginners?
Short answer: not quite.
Obviously, when you are just starting out and you know nothing about electronics or hardware, it is wiser to go for a cheaper version. Newbies usually can’t tell the difference between high-quality gear on an expensive one, and its cheap counterpart. So budget guitars are naturally the optimal choice for the beginners.
However, there are some solid budget guitars that experience player will be happy to try out, especially if you are learning new genres, developing new techniques and just trying out new brands. The Squier or Epiphone Les Paul-100 would be great options for you.
Guitars for under $300: what to look for
Chances are that if you are looking at this review you are a beginner in the guitar world. So I’m going to tell you this: You don’t need high-end electronics and big brands.
As you are just starting out, you need to go for the basic set up at the highest quality you can find. How can you determine the quality? Start with tonewoods and aim for mahogany or basswood. When it comes to hardware: look away from the Floyd Bridge as it will be hard to control and set up. When it comes to electronics: prioritize the ones with humbuckers, over single-coil. The best ones for you will be the Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Stratocaster Electric Guitar HSS or Epiphone Les Paul-100.
How budget guitars are different?
It’s a good question. There are, indeed, lots of guitars in the same series that look exactly the same, but the price difference is enormous. The reason behind this is pretty simple: it all comes down to the materials, hardware and craftsmanship.
Basically, budget guitars use cheaper raw materials (basswood and poplar) and hardware. Besides, they are also built with quicker production methods and often in Asia (Korea, China, Indonesia), which makes the production, and labor cost less. It could be somewhat of a problem because the quality may not be exceptional and there could be more flaws compare to the expensive once. Good news though, the quality of budget guitars has rocketed in recent years, and every legendary brand launched budget series like the Squier by Fender, Epiphone (bought by Gibson) and ESP LTD.
As you could see, there are plenty of budget options to choose from. There are axes for all complete beginners, amateur players learning new genres and simply those on a tight budget. My top pick is Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Stratocaster Electric Guitar HSS, which even experience player will find exceptional. If it will seem a bit too tricky to use, go for the Epiphone Les Paul-100 or Ibanez RG421. They all use quality raw material and have wicked electronics (compare to many others on the list). However, if you dream to be a new Kirk Hammett, go for ESP LTD M-10.