Help Me Buy A Decent Guitar and Amp for $700 or less!

Title says it all. Tax money cometh, and I’ve decided to rededicate myself to practicing again. Problem is right now I have really shitty gear.

I new a new guitar and a new amp.

I’m looking at a couple “best cheap electric guitar” lists online and so far my favorites have been these:

Ibanez Art 100
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
Schecter Omen Extreme 6
Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Strat

I really like the Schecter and the Ibanez guitars on this list, both from a looks and versatility standpoint as I like to play some metal stuff. Anyone have any experience with any of these guitars, or have any suggestions?

For amps, I’m pretty enamored with this Blackstar amp:

I’ve listened to a lot of Blackstar amps played online and I am impressed with the way they sound. I’d love to spring for their 5w stack, the HT-5RS but it’s $800 so therefore not in the cards.

I want to get a tube amp but I’ve never owned one. I’m not playing out anywhere so I don’t need anything more than 30 watts, I’d say. This is an area where I’m going to need some extra help as I have no experience with using tube amps.

Give a fella a hand!


Uh, if you want a hand, you’ll have to be out playing for an audience… :smiley:

I’d suggest putting more of it into the gitter and using a practice amp and headphones until you’ve reacquired your skills. Borrow an amp or buy one down the road. No need to compromise on both items if you won’t be performing.

The problem with this approach is that I have basically had pretty crappy amps for years and it’s part of the reason I don’t (want to) practice as much anymore. My guitars aren’t horrible…I have a Peavy Focus from the 1990’s, a Squier Strat Junior and a Yamaha acoustic…I just want better tone, sound quality etc from both amp and guitar.

More versatility, gain, volume and sparkling clean tones is what I am after. I’m not getting that out of my crappy Fender Junior 10 watt solid state amp.

Cruise your local CL and music shops for the best used amp you can get, then. You might be able to get a lot more bang… make that bwwannnnngg… for your buck.

If you’re just playing alone, you don’t need more than 15 watts. Watt-for-watt, especially playing driven, tube amps are much, much louder than an equivalent transistor amp. I bet that Blackstar 5-watt you linked to is pretty darned loud. What you lose in lower wattage tube amps isn’t loudness so much as headroom – at some point (probably with that 5-watter) you can’t play clean at an appreciable volume, because with the master all the way up and the gain low enough to play clean, the amp just won’t be very loud. If you’re 24-7 metal, though, perhaps this matters little. If you indeed want sparkling cleans, you’ll probably want more than 5 watts, but I think 30 maybe be more amp than you really need playing alone.

And lordy bagordy, Mesa Boogie amps are expensive.

I bought my daughter (and me) a bottom-rung Strat for about $300 a few years back. A guy from church who is a luthier offered to tweak it into something pretty good for $35, but she needed money and sold it to him instead. I hate her.

Amp was a cheap, little Vox that was fine for her (my) needs. It went with the guitar.

I too would go the used route. I got my original set up when I was in high school almost 30 years ago for a total of $650. Though I see that the Pro Reverb amp I got for $250 then is now going for $900 on Ebay . . .

Another thing to consider, if tone tone tone is what you’re after, is taking an axe you already have and putting better pickups in it. This can make an enormous amount of difference, and turn a so-so guitar into something special, at least tone wise. I took my son’s cheap Squier Jagmaster and put some GFS ‘PAF’ humbuckers in it, and that baby sings now. If you have any skill soldering, or can learn, this is a no-brainer upgrade to any low end guitar.

PS: GFS/GuitarFetish also has great guitars for astoundingly little, and the pickups that come in them are quite decent.

I’m hoping WordMan or someone that may have experience with any of the equipment I mentioned might chime in. Appreciate the responses so far. I don’t know squeegee if I want to upgrade pickups in a guitar that I currently have. I think I want to start afresh.

Oh, that advice wasn’t meant for just your existing guitars. Many (or most) guitars in the price range you’re looking at aren’t going to have the best pickups. Even if you buy a new instrument, consider upgrading the pickups when you get a chance. You’d be surprised what that can do for your tone.

So tell me: what do those guitars that you name have in common that you like about them? That list is kind of all over the map. They’re all hardtails except for the Squier. They’re all humbuckers, except for the Squier. The Epi LP and the Ibanez ART are both single-cut, but otherwise probably aren’t that similar to each other. I have a Schecter (C-1 Classic), which is probably a lot like that Damien on your list, although the Damien has high output humbuckers, where mine has only hot-ish pickups. What do they have in common that grabs you? Good looks, good reviews, guys on YouTube that think well of them? I’m trying to get what you’re going for here, help me out.

BTW, obligatory link to Rondo Music, another site full of a zillion improbably low priced instruments. Probably not what you’re looking for, FG, but fun guitar porn. (Skip the first few pages in the electric section to get past the Hello Kitty selection and it’s quite fun. :slight_smile: )

I’m really leaning towards the Schecter. Real maplewood fretboard, double pots (coil splitting controls), attractive finishes, incredibly positive reviews, low cost…talk me out of this guitar!

As for amps, I’m still trying to find an amp that I can live with. I want HUGE tube gain and a good clean channel…anything from 5-maybe 15 watts or so pure tubage. I want to experience the breaking up of tubes on an amp when really pushed. The solid state amps I’ve owned don’t really do that. I’m looking for that glassy sound. Maybe a Marshall?

I just don’t freaking know what I want I suppose.

Schecters are fine guitars. Like I said, I own one. Mine is from 2008, and it’s an extremely well made guitar, though it was about double the price you’re looking at so I can’t speak to the Damien models quality. I wouldn’t overvalue coil-tap controls, the tonal variety isn’t really that useful IMO. The fretboard on that Damien is rosewood, which is pretty much what any guitar you’re considering will have, but maple is a fine fingerboard as well. The Damien pickups are Alnico, which is great. Overall, it’s not a bad choice.

A downside with a Schecter (a criticism not unique to them) is that they have little resale value. Schecter and a lot of makers change models every year. If you want to sell your guitar in 2-3 years, it’s hard to value it because it will no longer be made, and some nearly identical model with a different name will have replaced it.

There’s a couple of a approaches here.

  1. If you want huge, HUGE overdriven amp sound, get a low-wattage tube amp, the simplest kind possible, and turn it up all the way. WOO. That was the idea behind the Marshall Class 5 (discontinued, and crazy overpriced IMO) and the Epiphone Valve Junior (also discontined, but $100 on EBay! Woo!). You can get aMAzing drive tones out of these things, but they were fairly useless for playing clean.

  2. Get a normal, mid-wattage amp and add a pedal to drive it. This is different than using a transistor amp with a pedal. A tube guitar amp’s input stage can be overdriven by pounding more signal into it - you overdrive the amp’s input tubes and they respond by adding warmth and tone, in addition to whatever the pedal is adding. A transistor amp adds nothing: whatever tone it had sans the pedal is what it contributes with more signal, and in fact it only gets worse from there. It’s hard to explain, but the takeaway is that tube amps can be abused it much more creative – and musical – ways than transistor amps could ever be.

I was in kinda the same boat as the OP; been slacking off in my practicing for a while and not feeling terribly inspired. If I can suggest a cheap alternative, I’ve been having a lot of fun with Rocksmith. I play it on a laptop (PC) with headphones. It models the effects of whatever amps were used on the song you’re playing, and I like the sound of some of them. The difficulty increases as you get better, and it’s more fun to feel like you’re playing with a band.

I’m been practicing a lot more since I got it. You might check it out before getting a whole new guitar.

FGiE - I’m here but I won’t be much help. From what I know of your musical tastes and the type of playing you really like, I simply don’t have enough exposure to the types of guitars in that price range that would deliver what you want. I think a decent Tele, with a good dirtbox, through a decent small-watt amp could probably do it, but I am offering a generic answer there.

squeegee is steering you right - from what I have played, Schecters and Ibanez are typically well-made guitars for their price points. The Epi’s and Squiers, in my exposure to them, are a bit more hit or miss quality wise, so you need to play a few - or have a Guitar Buddy™ play a few - and find a good one. Couple that with something like a Fender Mustang amp and a good distortion (again, squeegee has geeked out over a few in the past few years - I have an original ProCo Rat and a Blackstone Mosfet; both make smaller, less expense amps sound very hard rock, but are pricey).

So - it sounds like you should do some research, then reach out to squeegee and make him an offer on his Schecter ;), then get a good dirtbox and something like a Fender Mustang 15 watt - all set!

Hmm, the Mustang is a modeling amp. Which IMO is perfectly fine for metal tones, but from FG’s comments not where he wanted to head. Maybe a Fender Super Champ X2 (XD is the modeling version, X2 is all tube) would be more appropriate in that class? Though the 10" speaker would be a little wimpy IMO.

Also: :smack: I was referring to FG’s Schecter as a Damien, not an Omen. Sorry FG, though similar comments apply, but the pups on the Omen are listed “Schecter Diamond Plus” aka “house brand”, whatever that means for it’s tone, could be good or not.

Hmph, nm. I think the X2 also has modeling, though the Fender site is a little cagey about it. There’s a tube preamp and power section, but then there’s a “Voicing knob with 16 different amp types (Tweed, Blackface, British, Metal, etc.)”. How is that not modeling? Anyway, it’s not really a pure tube amp, disregard.

Hm. I just had a look through the GuitarFetish site. I’ll bite… what’s the catch?

Not a one. I own one, a (sadly discontinued) Les Paul Special clone of theirs with P90 pickups. I love it. The wiring/shielding job wasn’t the best so it hummed a bit, so I rewired the guitar (no biggee if you know how to solder and use shielding tape) and it was great. Best of all, it was on clearance for $135, blemished. The blemish was that the “Xaviere” headstock logo had a missing part on the “r”, so it reads “Xaviei e”. Big whoop. :slight_smile:

Watch the Guitar Player magazine vid on that page I linked to. They review a Jazzmaster clone and, well I’m not sure what the hollowbody is a clone of, Gretch? Anyway, they liked them.

That said, I did try one of their acoustic guitars, and it was a disappointment, so there’s that.

ETA: I’ve also got one of their Fatbody Tele pickups in neck position of my American Deluxe Telecaster, and it’s a really really great pickup. I’ve gotten great complements from people who play it. I think I paid less than $35 for it. Woo!