When it comes to affordable guitars, there has never been a better time to be a consumer and player. Mass production, technological advancements, and a robust market have all led to huge increases in quality across all price points.
While guitars from Squier, Epiphone, Harley Benton, and ESP’s LTD line generally won the day in 2020 when it came to killer affordable releases. It didn’t end there however, with Ibanez, Yamaha, and Gretsch all continuing to produce amazing products at price points of $500 or lower.
However, don’t you think a lot of those brands have gotten enough coverage? There are many other companies out there putting out interesting or uniquely spec’d affordable electric guitars that should you be checking out in 2021.
Especially with used and new guitar prices going through the roof from bigger brands like all those mentioned above. Here’s 5 ultra-affordable guitar brands that you should be strongly considering for your first guitar, your next mod project, or just as a fun instrument to have laying around the house!
Strinberg is not only new to me, but seems relatively new to the world with no one else in my circle recognizing the brand name or models. However, they do have some stunning looking products at great prices. And with so many of these cheaper brands and guitars, you kind of know what you are getting so what makes them stand out is a lot of the finish and design routes they went down to spice up otherwise boring, derivative models that are flooding the market. Take their CLP-98 for example, available in this stunning natural finish with gorgeous block inlays. If you’re going to get another affordable LP-copy, why not get one that looks gorgeous and will make you stand out a bit from the pack on stage?
Artist Works is another affordable guitar company that is new to me, but won me over quickly with the huge variety of offerings. It’s a bit like Harley Benton, in the sense that they make dozens and dozens of classic and modern designs around that $200 price or so. Headless models, Jazzmasters, T-styles, and SG-variants all populate the pages. Some even come with genuine hard cases! I think the AG78MS stands out above all else, with a modern headless, multi-scale construction and 8 strings, all for well below what others would charge. Sure, it may take some tweaking, but you could probably mod this into an amazing shredder for a lot less than buying a new, comparable quality product.
Tagima is probably the biggest, most well known company on this list after a strong introduction to the world in 2020. First famous for their amazing Jazzmaster-copies with P90s, they also have a plethora of higher end models alongside an ever growing list of affordable Strats, Super Strats, and Teles. There’s really something for everyone, especially when you consider they cover almost all price points from about $300 through $1000. I think the best representation though is their TW-61SB, which is a Strat-tremolo equipped take on the Jazzmaster with dual soap bar P90s. Probably their most popular guitar, and for really good reason, you should have this on your short list of guitars to play in 2021.
Stagg guitars are another company worth highlighting because while they make a ton of mass produced cheap guitars like everyone else, their products are always quirky and inspiringly different. Try their Silveray Custom Deluxe, which has a Fano-like configuration where an LP-body has been giving the “Micawber” Tele treatment. A mini-humbucker like pickup sits in the neck and a classic Tele bridge pickup and hardware give you a wonderful mashup of classic designs. There’s 3 P90 loaded variants, double cut models with other unique pickup combos, and no shortage of more traditional LP, Tele, ES-335, and Strat models to whet your appetite as well.
Aria Guitar Co.
Last but not least we have another brand that may be more familiar than others. The Aria Guitar Company is based in Japan and has a long history of making reliable and popular electric guitars and basses. They’ve recently seen quite a rise in popularity, thanks to some re-spec’d classic models and some vintage-inspired models that look straight out of the pawnshop. I had the chance to review one of their Aria Retro-1532 and was blown away by the oddball, shortscale offset. It was almost like a Mustang but loaded with huge single coil P90 pickups with the traditional Trem bridge. It also played and sounded real well for the $300 price tag and provides far more inspiration and individualism than just another typical Fender-copy.
Why Not Try Something New This Year?
With more amazing guitar options than ever before, 2021 is the perfect time to try something new as we all hopefully return to safe, active lives with concerts, band practices, and jam sessions. Maybe you want to be a bit more memorable on stage than the average Strat wielding guitarist, or perhaps you draw musical inspiration from the unexpected aesthetic and sonic options provided by these guitars. Either way, the world needs more guitarists and musicians in it going forward and these are all affordable, reliable options for any beginner or pro alike.