The Best Affordable Explorer-Style Guitars Under $1000

Introduced in 1958, the Gibson Explorer was an audacious innovation that stood out with its unique design that was considered futuristic for its time. This guitar model has etched its place in history and remains a much sought-after instrument even today. 

Its shape, tone, and overall aesthetics have appealed to guitarists who favor aggressive music styles, particularly rock and metal. Because of this, it has led various brands to create their own renditions of this iconic guitar, making it accessible to a wider range of players, especially in the aforementioned genres. Here, you will find some of the most popular ones for under $1000

1. Epiphone Explorer

In the realm of Explorer-style guitars, the Epiphone Explorer stands tall as a top contender. Naturally, this is because this guitar is based on the original Gibson Explorer (after all, Gibson owns Epiphone). So, this is as authentic as it gets without spending as much as a Gibson!

With a fraction of the cost of a Gibson one, you get the same iconic body design and a very close sound character to the original. Here are some of its key features:

The Epiphone Explorer is an excellent choice for those who want an authentic Gibson Explorer feel and touch at a more affordable price. This one is excellent for those who also want to go for a more vintage tone; however, with the right amp and effects settings, this is great for modern rock and metal too.

2. Epiphone Extura Prophecy

Speaking of modern, the Epiphone Extura Prophecy is a contemporary take on the classic design, so if you’re looking for something that maintains that authentic shape like the previous one while providing higher performance, this is your guitar.

For under $1000, the Extura Prophecy has a lot of great features to be excited about, such as:

  • Mahogany body with maple veneer top
  • 24.75” scale length maple neck with asymmetrical slim taper
  • Set-neck construction
  • 24-fret ebony fingerboard
  • Fishman Fluence humbucking pickups
  • Tune-O-Matic bridge

I really love the finishes that the Prophecy series guitars come in, and I’ve actually talked about the Flying V version here. The Fishman pickups are, of course, a very nice touch, too, especially since many of the other guitars here have stock pickups that you might decide to upgrade in the future. The Fishmans are amazing and, in my opinion, ones you’ll be impressed by!

3. Jackson Kelly JS32T

The Jackson Kelly is probably the most famous guitar design that’s based on the original Explorer model that Gibson and Epiphone use and made popular by Marty Friedman during his time in Megadeth.

That said, The Jackson Kelly JS32T is a guitar that offers great value for money. It features a sharper and more modernized version of the typical Explorer shape with a shape and specs designed for metal guitarists, such as:

  • Poplar body
  • 25.5” scale length maple neck
  • Bolt-on neck construction
  • 24-fret amaranth fingerboard with 12”-16” compound radius
  • Jackson humbucking pickups
  • String-through-body bridge

The Jackson Kelly JS32 is easily one of the best explorer-style guitars for under $500. For metal players who love to shred and looking for an explorer that’s sleek and affordable, this one is an excellent choice. Also, if you’re a fan of Jackson guitars, give these ones a look to find other models in this price range.

4. Jackson X-Series Kelly KEXM  

Piggybacking off the previous Kelly, the X-Series version is a step up from the JS32 series and ideal who are looking for an instrument that’s simply better overall while keeping your guitar budget under $1000.

As you’d expect from Jackson guitars, especially ones at this price point, this is a metal machine that looks super-cool and plays and sounds great. Here’s what it’s made out of:

  • Poplar body
  • 25.5” scale length maple neck
  • 24-fret laurel fingerboard
  • Neck-through-body construction
  • 24-fret laurel fingerboard with 12”-16” compound radius
  • Jackson humbuckers
  • Floyd Rose Special double-locking tremolo system

At first glance, the specs might not seem that different than the JS32, but they’re definitely an upgrade, as is the overall build quality. To me, one of the most standout features is the addition of the Floyd Rose Special bridge, so, If you like to do whammy bar tricks, this will stay in tune better than cheaper alternatives!

5. ESP LTD EX-200

LTD, a subsidiary of ESP Guitars, is known for producing great budget-friendly guitars, and their Explorer is no exception!

Like the Kelly, The ESP LTD EX-200 is a sleek, high-performance Explorer-shaped guitar that offers an aggressive tone and fast-playing neck, so it’s a reliable instrument that is suitable for high-gain genres. These are its features:

  • Mahogany body
  • 24.75” scale length maple neck
  • Set-neck construction
  • 24-fret roasted jatoba fretboard
  • ESP LH humbuckers
  • Tune-O-Matic bridge

Those looking for a great Explorer copy will surely appreciate this LTD one and the value it provides. It’s definitely a good bang for your buck! The main downside is it only comes in one color for you to choose from – black, but if you don’t mind that, then give this guitar a good look! However, if you would like a bit more variety, one of the other guitars here might suit your style more, especially the ones with similar features.


As you can see, the Gibson Explorer’s unique design and powerful tone have inspired other guitar brands to create their own versions of this iconic instrument. Whether you’re a fan of the original Gibson Explorer model that you can find with the Epiphone or you’re just attracted to the different takes on the design, there’s an Explorer-style guitar out there for you at a nice price! 

Hopefully, one of these suits your personal style and taste in music and has features that will help you get the sound you want. 

Additionally, it’s also worth noting that you can always swap the pickups out on these Explorer copies for something else. Stock pickups aren’t always the best ones out there, and I know from personal experience a lot of Jackson ones can benefit from upgrades. Seymour Duncans are usually always a solid choice! 

If you’d like some excellent suggestions, be sure to check out my guide to the best guitar pickups for metal. These particular pickups are made for 6-string guitars like these Explorer guitars and may be exactly what you need to make it perfect!