Getting your hands on a guitar that bears the name and specs of your favorite guitarist can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be.
On the high-end, take “the guitar that started it all” Gibson Chuck Berry signature 1955 ES-350-T that lists for $9,999. Sure, this replica honors a legend and the guitar that brought us “Mayballene” and “Johnny B. Goode,” but just because you spend $10k on one of only 55 of these guitars being made, it isn’t going to make you play like the one-and-only Chuck Berry.
That said, signature series guitars have a lot to offer. Replicas like the Chuck Berry ES-250-T are created to the specs of his original guitar – from the P-90 pickups to the ’55 medium C-shaped neck. Then there are signature series guitars that are created with input from the players themselves to include player-friendly and iconic hardware, looks and style. The latter often come with a price tag that is also more player-friendly.
Here are 10 signature series guitars under $1,000 that will get your closer to playing with your guitar heroes without breaking the bank.
Ibanez Paul Stanley PS120 Signature
While it’s not an exact replica of the KISS guitarist’s axe, the PS120 combines some of the legend’s favorite features. Its distinctive mahogany iceman body design with a maple top connects to a set-in neck and a bound ebony fretboard. It will have you rockin’ and rollin’ all night with a pair of Seymour Duncan pickups.
PRS SE Zach Myers Semi-Hollow
The Zach Myers SE semi-hollowbody stands out from the crowd as a rare breed thinline in the PRS family. The result is a lighter weight guitar with the sustain and extra headroom of a solid body and the thick tone of a hollowbody. The Zach Myers signature guitar gets a vintage-style growl and feel with a pair of punchy zebra coil SE-245 humbuckers and a wide fat neck profile. This guitar is also a looker with a flamed maple veneer top that sports a single f-hole on a mahogany body.
Sterling by Music Man St. Vincent
When St. Vincent’s Annie Clark sat down with Ernie Ball Music Man to develop a custom guitar, she came up with a unique guitar that was crafted perfectly to fit her form, technique and style. Although the original signature series comes in at closer to $2,000, the Sterling St. Vincent signature guitar maintains the style with adjusted appointments like a African mahogany body, mini humbuckers with a custom configured 5-way switch and a vintage tremolo.
Jackson Scott Ian King V KVXT
As a co-founder of Anthrax, Scott Ian is a thrash metal legend and his signature Jackson V-shaped Jackson guitar let’s you capture his huge iconic tone. It’s versatile voice is powered by dual Seymour Duncan humbuckers and its chrome hardware includes Jackson tune-o-matic adjustable bridge with anchored tailpiece. This is a reinforced beast as well with a mahogany body and a through-body maple neck with graphite reinforcement and a scarf joint.
Squier Jim Root Telecaster
Designed in cooperation with Slipknot/Stone Sour’s Jim Root, the Squier signature telecaster delivers crushing tone and foreboding looks. Root is a traditionalist who likes to take the standard and push it over the edge, and that comes through in the design of his signature model. “I wanted to take the tele to a whole other world,” Root said. The Jim Root tele swaps out the single coil pickups for a pair of passive humbuckers with black covers. This signature model also has a mahogany body with a satin fish and black hardware throughout, including the bridge.
Ibanez JEMJR Steve Vai
While most Steve Vai signature JEM guitars come in around $2,000, the JEMJR was designed specifically to provide more affordable access to the iconic Ibanez guitar. The JEM has been around since 1987 when Ibanez and Vai first got together. Famous for its distinctive look – sharp points, through-body Monkey grip and Lion’s Claw tremolo cavity – the JEMJR has all the style of the original and plenty of features for playing fast and aggressive like a Wizard III maple neck and Quantum humbucker and single coil pickups.
Martin Ed Sheeran 3 Divide
Based on the Martin LX1E Little Martin and Ed Sheeran’s love of the small-bodied guitar, the 3 Divide signature model is the final in a trilogy of Martin signature models for Sheeran. The guitar features a solid Sitka spruce top etched with Sheeran’s album artwork and a blue soundhole rosette to match. It also features blue divide symbols across the fingerboard and headstock and Fishman Sonitone electronics. Little guitar, big sound.
Martin DX Johnny Cash
Martin first made the “Man in Black” guitar in the early 1970s. It was a D-35 with an all-black lacquer – a request from Johnny Cash that Martin had never considered before. While Martin issued a commemorative D-35 Johnny Cash edition in 2006, now in 2019 the DX Johnny Cash is a nod to the iconic black guitar with affordable features. Like the earlier commemorative edition, the DX includes a custom fingerboard inlaid with stars and the “CASH” logo. As for construction, the top, back and sides are high-pressure laminate with Fishman MX electronics.
Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special II
While it’s more on the beginner side, the Slash “AFD” (“Appetite for Destruction”) signature Epiphone Les Paul boasts some pro-model features and a very affordable price. With Ceramic Plus zebra-coil humbuckers and a AAA flam maple veneer top with cherry back and sides, the “AFD” Les Paul Special II looks and sounds like a Slash-played machine. Classic Slash Les Paul tone and style and under $300 for the complete player pack is a huge win in the world of affordable signature guitars.
ESP LTD Kirk Hammett KH-202
The most affordable ESP Kirk Hammett guitar, the KH-202 let’s you get close to the Metallica guitarist’s vibe and tone with a simple, straightforward design. The KH-202 has a basswood body, maple neck and comes equipped with a Floyd Rose Special bridge and locking nut, and ESP LH-301 pickups. And it’s extra-thin bolt-on neck is built for speed and includes Hammett’s signature skull-and-bones inlay.