Search

Best Guitars Under $200

Updated: Sep 18, 2019


Guitars are a product you simply can’t afford to skimp on. The difference in build and sound quality between a $100 guitar and a $500 guitar can be enormous.

That doesn't mean you can't find a great guitar on a budget though. If you're looking to spend a maximum of $200 on a guitar, there are quite a few well-designed models with sound quality to rival some much pricier options.

This article will cover the best guitars that are available for under $200. To find the budget guitar of your dreams, read on.


Epiphone Les Paul Special-II Electric Guitar


Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, it’s hard to go wrong with an Epiphone Les Paul Special-II (available on Amazon). Epiphone has been building guitars since 1873, when the company was founded in the Ottoman Empire. They are now based in Nashville, and their dedication to quality has only grown stronger since their inception.


The Les Paul Special-II is honestly a fantastic guitar. While Epiphone has more expensive options than this budget Les Paul, they place many of the same features on this model as they do their more expensive ones ‒ including the stop piece, bridge, and pickups. The strings are also light and sturdy, and sound and play well right out of the box.

This inclusion of high-quality components also makes the Les Paul Special-II sound great without any additional customization, which is more important than you might think. Many budget guitars work well enough, but they often need a replacement of strings or pickups to make them truly shine. This guitar doesn’t need any changes ‒ it’ll sound great as soon as you get it.


Another key feature of this guitar is that the neck and body are composed of two different types of wood. The neck is made of mahogany, while the body is made out of basswood. Many guitar enthusiasts will tell you that having a body made out of basswood will negatively affect the sound quality ‒ I wouldn’t listen to those opinions, at least not in the case of the Les Paul Special-II.

Basswood doesn’t necessarily make your guitar sound bad. It just makes it sound different. The tone of an electric guitar with a basswood body will be slightly altered when compared with the tone of one with a body made out of another type of wood. This really isn’t a big deal though ‒ once you’ve factored in all of the sound changes made by things like amps, strings, and pedals, the basswood body isn’t going to make much of a difference at all.


The main criticism I see people mention when discussing the Les Paul Special-II is that it’s not the Gibson Les Paul Standard, which costs more than $3,000. True, this $200 guitar is not of the same quality as the $3,000 Les Paul Standard, which by all standards is a masterpiece of guitar manufacturing. However, it’s still an amazing option for the incredibly low price point, so I wouldn’t take this criticism all that seriously.

The other criticism I see thrown around is the fact that this model has a bolt on neck. Again, this is quite a nitpicking criticism. Many fantastic guitars have bolt on necks. One excellent example is the Fender Stratocaster, which is considered by many to be one of the best guitars ever created.


If you’re considering purchasing this guitar, here’s some additional information that might affect your purchase decision.

This guitar is manufactured in two different locations: one is in China, and the other is in Indonesia. Though the guitars made in these locations are almost identical, there are some subtle differences. The biggest difference is that the guitars manufactured in China can weigh as much as a pound and a half more than the guitars manufactured in Indonesia. Unfortunately, there’s no way to differentiate ahead of time ‒ you’ll have to make do with whichever guitar Amazon decides to send you.


The strings on this guitar are quite light and bendy. While this is great if you want to shred and bend every note you play, you’ll probably want to replace the strings with a heavier option if you’re not looking to bend every note you play.

The frets are smooth, and the notes you play will be free of buzzing.

The mahogany in the neck isn’t “real” pure mahogany, it’s a lighter version of the traditional heavy mahogany. This still places it above many guitars in the $200 or less price range that use lower quality woods.


The design of the pickups makes for excellent sustain. Your notes will continue playing long after you’ve finished strumming them.

The fretboard is made out of rosewood, which will give your sound a softer, warmer, sweeter tone. Many guitars in the under $200 price range have brighter sounds ‒ the rosewood on the Les Paul Special-II will darken it a bit.

Some users have reported issues with the tuning pegs not being seated in the headstock properly, which can cause this model to go out of tune regularly. This shouldn’t be a problem if you tune your guitar as a matter of course, but the possible defect is worth mentioning.

This guitar is honestly gig-worthy for the majority of professionals. While rockstars and headliners might prefer the perfection that comes with a $3,000+ guitar, this $200 option is an excellent option for gigging on a budget.


Ibanez GRGA120 6 String Solid-Body Electric Guitar


If you're looking for a budget electric guitar with high-end sound, I highly recommend considering the Ibanez GRGA120 6 String Solid-Body Electric Guitar (available on Amazon).

Ibanez has a long-standing reputation for producing high-quality guitars. Since their inception in 1957, the Japanese company has produced more than 300 electric guitar models.


One of these models is the GRGA120 6 String. The first thing people usually mention when discussing this model is the sound quality. This guitar produces off rich, deep tones whenever you strum it. The sound quality honestly rivals guitars that cost two or three times as much ‒ so if you’re looking for a budget performance option, this model should definitely be higher up on your list.


At just over 9 pounds, the GRGA120 is a pretty lightweight instrument. Beginners in particular will like how light this guitar, as it will allow them to focus more on learning how to play and less on balancing the weight of the guitar. The strap will certainly help with this, but people with smaller frames will find the lack of heaviness quite useful.

Although it’s lightweight, the guitar doesn’t feel cheap in any way. The neck is made of fine maple, and the fingerboard, frets, and pickups all feel polished and professional. This guitar ‒ and all its parts ‒ can easily last for ten years or more with proper care.

If you’re into playing aggressive power chords, the jumbo frets will help you transition between chords quickly and smoothly. This is another feature that will help beginners out. The GRGA120 also has two Infinity R pickups with a 3-way selector switch, so you can choose between a number of tonal options.


One of the primary downsides of the Ibanez GRGA120 is how the whammy bar affects the guitar’s ability to stay tuned. Guitar players who use the whammy bar regularly have reported that it usually takes the guitar out of tune. You can always re-tune the guitar each time you play, but this will become tedious quickly. So if you plan on using the whammy bar often, you might want to consider going with another guitar.

If you’re considering purchasing this guitar, here’s some additional information that might affect your purchase decision.


Some users have reported their GRGA120 didn’t come with a whammy bar. If this happens to you, just know that it’s supposed to have one ‒ you should be able to send it back and get one with a whammy bar without cost to you.

I mentioned that the whammy bar can affect the guitar’s ability to stay in tune. Well, the bridge on some of these guitars stands straight up, which can also cause tuning issues.

The strings on this guitar are located rather far away from the fretboard. If you like your strings closer to the fretboard, you’ll need to make some manual adjustments.

While we’re talking about the strings, this model doesn’t ship with a super high-quality set of them. Though the standard strings will work for beginners, guitarists who want a more refined sound should consider buying their own set of strings.

The humbuckers on this guitar are split coil. The guitar has a 5 way switch, and the 2nd and 4th positions split the humbucker pickups to provide a single coil sound.


Squire by Fender Affinity Series Stratocaster


Guitarists who are looking for a classic electric guitar sound at a reasonable price should consider the Squire by Fender Affinity Stratocaster (available on Amazon).

While typically considered a beginner’s guitar, the Squire Affinity Stratocaster is perfectly suitable for players of all skill levels. The misconception that the Squire Affinity Stratocaster is rather bad comes from the reputation of some of the previous Squire models, which had a number of flaws. The Affinity fixes and improves upon most of those flaws, thus transforming the Squire line from a starter guitar to a serious contender for the attention of professional guitarists.


While this model is certainly gig-worthy, it was designed with beginners in mind ‒ so people who have just started learning will be most interested in this model.

One reason this guitar is so beginner-friendly is how light and holdable it is. People with small frames or small hands should have little trouble handling this guitar. This makes the Squire Affinity Stratocaster a great starter electric guitar for children in particular.

The other main reason for it’s beginner-friendliness is the “plug-in and play” reputation the Squire line has. You won’t need any extensive customization to begin playing ‒ just plug it in to your amp and commence shredding.


If you’re considering purchasing this guitar, here’s some additional information that might affect your purchase decision.

To improve the sound quality and ease of use of the out of the box model, you can replace your tuners and get rid of your tremolo.

The sound across the pickups on this model is more consistent than others in this price range. If you’re looking for something with a bit more overdrive, you’ll need to go with another option though.

If you purchase this guitar new from the manufacturer ‒ or new through Amazon ‒ it comes with a 2-year limited warranty.

As of the time of writing, this model is made in China. While some Fender guitars are made in the United States, these typically cost much more than $200.

The guitar body is made out of Alder. This is a heavier wood, but it doesn’t affect the overall weight that much.


Some people who bought this guitar received a different bridge than the one pictured in the Amazon stock photo. The guitar is supposed to come with a bent steel vintage style bridge, but some guitars seem to have been manufactured with a lower quality bullet style bridge. This can cause an issue with the fret edges, making them sharp and hard to put your hands on. If you do get a guitar with a bullet style bridge, you should be able to return it for a properly made one without additional charge.


Jackson 6 String JS22 Dinky Arch Top


Rounding out this list is the Jackson JS22 Dinky Arch Top (available on Amazon). While this guitar might not be as well-known as the other options on this list, it’s still an excellent budget option for beginners and experts alike.


The Jackson line of guitars was first created in 1980, and they have manufactured dozens of models in the nearly 4 decades since they opened shop. One of these is the JS22, a guitar that rocks both an extremely distinctive look and high-quality tone and playability.

Despite the budget price, this model was built with higher-skilled guitarists in mind. The poplar body and 12 to 16 radius fingerboard on this intermediate guitar were designed to enable high tempo playing, easy chord transitions, effortless soloing, and effective string bending. And capping the poplar body is a maple speed neck, on which 24 jumbo frets lie ready and waiting for the rockers and metalheads out there.


This model is arguably the most gig-worthy option on this list of guitars under $200. It sounds great, which is the most important characteristic ‒ but it also looks awesome. The arch top and snow white finish look phenomenal on stage, and will definitely add to your credibility as a skilled musician.

If you’re considering purchasing this guitar, here’s some additional information that might affect your purchase decision.

The whammy bar on some guitars can be stiff and difficult to use. If your purchase has a stiff whammy bar, you can return it for a unit with a usable whammy bar.

While we’re talking about the whammy bar, there’s another issue that some users have run into ‒ it’s pretty flat. If you prefer a floating whammy bar, you might want to consider a different guitar.


A medium string gauge is your best bet with the default strings that come with this guitar.

The tremolo on the JS22 can throw it out of tune regularly. If you need the tremolo, you’ll have to re-tune your JS22 regularly. If you don’t need the tremolo, I recommend removing it.

The fret ends are a bit sharp and can hurt your fingertips if you’re not used to them.

The intonation on this guitar is excellent out of the box.

This model comes with Master Volume and Master Tone controls, making it easy to change and shape your sound on the fly.

The 2-point fulcrum tremolo provides stability and consistent performance even after you perform some intense vibratos.

The default strings work, but they aren’t great. I recommend replacing them when you get the chance.


Like most of the other options on this list, the JS22 is on the smaller side. It weighs in at just under 9 pounds, making it a good option for children and adults alike.

The neck is a bolt on neck, which can be indicative of a lower-quality guitar. However, as I mentioned with the Les Paul Special-II, this is less of a problem than some might lead you to believe.

The JS22 is made in China. Similar to the Squire Affinity, you can purchase models made in the United States instead ‒ but it’s going to cost you much more than the China-made versions.


Summary


If you’re looking for a great guitar under $200, the four options discussed in this article are all excellent choices.

Epiphone Les Paul Special-II (available on Amazon)

Ibanez GRGA120 6 String Solid-Body Electric Guitar (available on Amazon)

Squire by Fender Affinity Stratocaster (available on Amazon)

Jackson JS22 Dinky Arch Top (available on Amazon)

14 views

Recent Posts

See All

©2019 by Guitarsavant.com.