The budget guitar era has been, for too long, dominated by the classics. We all know about bang-for-the-buck all-stars like the Squier Classic Vibe series and Epiphone Pro line — and those are highly regarded for good reason — but if we’re being honest, traditional can be a little boring. Sometimes, a Strat is simple, a Tele is tepid and a Les Paul is, well, less than ideal. So if you’re looking to spice things up and stick to a budget, look no further than these three offbeat gems. I've owned or extensively played all of these, so know that this is an earnest review.
Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster
New Price: $449.99
Arguably the most well-known commodity on this list, the 21-fret Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster is a delight.
For starters, it’s just hard to ignore — thanks in large part to the reflective nature of the gold anodized aluminum pickguard. And looks are one thing, but it’s JMJM’s the playability that sets it apart.
The feel of the neck is comfortable and the jumbo frets make it a dream to play. Top it off with an Adjusto-Matic bridge and floating tremolo, and you’ve got a winner. Plus, whether you’re into surf, rock or shoegaze — it sounds great and looks cool as hell doing it.
From clean, sparkly clean tones to fuzz-drenched madness, the Squier J Mascis absolutely delivers for the budget-conscious player.
Sterling by Music Man St. Vincent
New Price: $599
Simultaneously retro and futuristic, the St. Vincent is a standout — even on a list like this. As enigmatic as its creator, Annie Clark, this value-forward version of her signature guitar carries many of the merits of the made-in-the-USA version, only at a third of the price.
Featuring a basswood body and a bolt-on maple neck with 22 jumbo frets, the Sterling St. Vincent is loaded with a trio of mini humbuckers and 5-way switching, dishing out more tonal variety than you’d expect from a guitar at this price point.
And for those concerned about playability, have no fear — the shape is universally comfortable and the neck is quite comfy as well. Plus, this guitar just drips with cool — angles and all. It’s really a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with modernized classics.
G&L Fallout Tribute
New Price: $449.99
The G&L Fallout is a tonally purposeful instrument that doesn’t suffer from excess.
It’s a fun, lightweight guitar that comes loaded with a coil-splitting humbucker in the bridge and a P90 in the neck. Tonal options aboud: you can get twang, bite and growl — or combinations of all three at the flick of a switch.
Plus, unlike the first two guitars on this list, the Fallout Tribute comes with several finish and fingerboard options to match your style. Built with a mahogany body, you can find Fallout Tributes in Alpine White or Mint Green with a Brazilian cherry fingerboard, or Sonic Blue and Gloss Black with Maple. And all come with 22 medium jumbo frets and G&L’s proprietary Saddle Lock bridge.
Plus, it’s got a unique look that’s ergonomically balanced and comfortable enough to play for hours — a big win.
Note: A similar version of this review previously appeared on Reverb.com