Superstrats have a reputation for being the hotrods of electric guitars. Still, they’re definitely not out of reach for beginners. In this article, I will share with you some of the best superstrats for under 300 bucks that can help you get started but also be decent enough to keep your interest until you’re ready to upgrade to something else down the line.
Table of Contents
What Are Superstrats?
Due to the popularity of my previous article about superstrats under $1000, I figured I would make a similar one discussing ones that are ideal for new guitarists who want a cool-looking guitar that’s affordable.
In that earlier article, I cover in-depth what makes a superstrat unique, but to summarize, many brands in the 1980s started making guitars based on the design of the original Fender Stratocaster, but with a few different modifications to be more suitable for heavy metal, which was exploding in popularity, and facilitate fast playing while being a more modern take on the classic design, overall.
Therefore, some of the features you’ll typically see on a superstrat are:
- At least one humbucker
- Locking tremolos, like a Floyd Rose
- A sharper appearance
- Deep cutaways for accessing the highest frets
- Thinner necks for fast playing
Sometimes, you will come across superstrats with fixed bridges too, and this an awesome option to have. They’re still cool, and even as someone who has been playing for years, I think their convenience is hard to beat.
However, on cheap superstrat guitars for beginners like the ones you’ll read about in this article, you’ll often see synchronized bridges that are more similar to the style of regular Stratocasters. These help keep the costs lower on these instruments; locking tremolos are more expensive and take more time for the manufacturer to assemble. You’ll mainly see these on guitars that are over 300 dollars.
Realistically, most of the guitars here will be superstrats for under $250, and as you continue to read, you’ll come across a mixture of different styles of superstrats in this price range, like fixed and synchronized bridges, different pickup configurations, and more!
Jackson, along with Charvel, played a huge part in the success of the superstrat design, and many of the guitar heroes in the 1980s used them.
Unfortunately, Charvel doesn’t really have any budget models at this price point, so they’ll be absent from this list, but thankfully, Jackson has something for you – the Dinky JS22 series.
Like its big brother, the Soloist, the Jackson Dinky has a slick-looking body design with the signature pointed headstock and sharkfin inlays, but it is significantly more affordable. Here are some of the JS22’s specs:
- A Poplar body
- A Bolt-on Maple neck with an Amaranth fretboard with 24 frets
- Two Stock Jackson humbucking pickups
- A Jackson synchronized tremolo and tuners
The stock Jackson components in this guitar are what helps it be budget-friendly, but they are still decent and are perfect for beginners. Having two humbuckers is standard for a lot of shred guitars, and I personally switch between both of them when playing because they have distinct tones.
The neck also has a 12” to 16” compound radius, which is a feature even expensive Jackson and Charvel superstrats use, so cheaper guitars like this one feel good and are easy to play with.
To me, I think that comfort is what is most important for brand new players – if the guitar doesn’t feel good, it’ll be hard to stick with it, and the JS22 offers that along with a timeless look. Because of all of these aspects, I consider the Jackson JS22 to be a contender for the best value superstrat. Additionally, if you look around, you’ll be able to find this guitar in a variety of different colors.
If you’re looking for a fixed bridge option, there is also the Dinky Minion JS1X model, which is a superstrat for under $200 that shares a lot of the same stuff as the JS22 but a bit cheaper than it.
Another very important figure in the world of superstrats is Ibanez – it’s basically impossible to not talk about these guitars when discussing superstrat designs.
Ibanez really gained its footing after collaborating with Steve Vai and creating the world-renowned Jem guitars, and due to its success, they created the RG series, which has been very popular ever since.
RG guitars come at varying price-points, but to make ones that are strictly for those on a budget, Ibanez created the Gio line. The Gio guitars, in general, have a lot of similarities in terms of specs, and usually, the main differences are the paint jobs, bridge type, pickup configuration, and the number of frets, but here’s specifically what the GRX70QA has to offer:
- A Quilted Maple top on a Poplar body
- A thin bolt-on maple neck with a Purpleheart fretboard with 22 frets
- Infinity pickups in the neck, middle and bridge positions
- Ibanez T106 tremolo
I think this guitar is extremely attractive, especially in comparison to a lot of other guitars that are aimed for beginners. You get other color choices such as black and red transparent bursts, to name a couple. It’s motivating for new players to have a guitar that’s nice-looking, but comfort should always be king.
Like the Jackson Dinky, this guitar is also meant for fast playing. From the budget-level guitars to the most expensive ones that they have to offer, Ibanez has a reputation for having some of the thinnest necks on the market.
Unlike the Jackson JS22, though, you get three pickups instead of two, which is a nice thing to have on one of the best bargain superstrats. Both brands offer high-output humbucking pickups that are great for new players trying to learn rock and metal, and usually, two humbuckers will be sufficient, but some people like having the single-coil middle pickup, just for some extra variety.
Alternatively, if you want something with a fixed bridge, the Ibanez GRG6 models are an excellent substitute, Even though it doesn’t have 3-pickups like the GRG70, they do have similar specs, and I think the GRG6s look sleeker.
The LTD sub-brand was created by ESP to help provide customers with more affordable options. If you ever get a chance to get your hands on actual ESP, you’ll soon realize how amazing they are – and many fan favorites like Kirk Hammet, Alexi Laiho, and George Lynch have been using their instruments for years.
While ESP does have very expensive stuff, they haven’t forgotten about those with a smaller budget, and the LTD MH-10 is one of those superstrats that is extremely accessible for beginners.
Here’s what you can expect from the MH-10:
- A Basswood body
- A Maple neck with a 24-fret Hardwood fingerboard
- Two stock ESP humbucker pickups
- Tune-O-Matic bridge
The Tune-O-Matic bridge is something unique to the budget superstrats in this list. In fact, I believe it’s pretty obscure in general when it comes to these types of guitars – typically, superstrats will use a hardtail or a locking tremolo. I haven’t seen that many with these kinds of bridges. They are best known for being used on Les Paul-type guitars.
Nonetheless, I’ve always taken a liking to Tune-O-Matics because they are typically lower maintenance than a tremolo system, at least the locking Floyd-style ones seen on pricier superstrats.
Unfortunately, the MH-10 only comes in one color, but at least it looks somewhat similar to Kirk Hammett’s signature model. It also comes with a gig-bag and some other goodies, unlike the previous two guitars, so maybe that’ll help make up for its lack of color options.
Overall, it’s a solid guitar for beginners! The neck isn’t as thin as the Ibanez, but it’s still cozy, and you’ll have easy access to every fret.
In general, I’ve thought of many ESP/LTD necks as being like a cross between a Jackson and Ibanez. Some people don’t like ultra-thin necks anyway and would prefer to have a little extra substance in them, which is one reason why people love Gibson Les Pauls.
Dean is best known for creating guitars for Dimebag Darrell, who brought us the Razorback and ML designs, but they also have some superstrats too that often get missed out in favor of these crazier designs.
One of these superstrats is the Vendetta by Dean Guitars, which is one of the most affordable ones that this brand has to offer. There are two different Dean Vendettas – the XM and XMT, and in this section, I will primarily be discussing the latter, which has:
- A Paulownia body with a natural finish
- A maple neck, Rosewood fretboard, and 24 frets
- Two Dean humbuckers
- A Dean vintage-style tremolo
The vintage-style tremolo is basically a synchronized tremolo that you’d find on similar guitars, such as the ones that we’ve gone over. However, if you don’t want a tremolo, the XM version uses a Tune-O-Matic bridge, much like the LTD in the last section.
The XMT is just slightly more expensive than the XM, but overall, they’re great budget superstrats that you can’t go wrong with if you’re just starting out.
It might not be as flashy as some of the other guitars, but the pickups are solid, and the guitar feels nice to play.
Even though Dean isn’t exactly known for making superstrats, they do have a couple of others on the market that I’m aware of like the Jacky Vincent or Michael Angelo Batio signature models.
Nonetheless, if you enjoy the Dean Vendetta, you might consider upgrading to one of these other ones in the future!
Yamaha Pacificas are some of the best entry-level guitars a person can get, in my opinion. Some people might argue that they’re not really superstrats, are just strat-copies, but I think for some of its features and when comparing to the other guitars in the list, I think the Pacifica earns a spot here, and I’ll tell you why.
The Yamaha Pacifica PAC112 has:
- An Alder body
- A Maple neck, Rosewood fretboard, and 22-frets
- Vintage synchronized Tremolo
- One humbucker and two single-coil pickups
The main thing from this list that would lead me to justify the Pacifica being a superstrat is the humbucker. Sure, some Fender Stratocasters do have them too, but I think the majority of them have 3 single coils. The Pacifica’s neck feels a lot quicker than the Squires that you’d find at this price range.
Compared to Fenders, the Yamaha Pacifica seems to have a deeper cutaway, giving you better access to the 22nd fret.
If the Pacifica had a Floyd Rose, there would be no question about its status as a superstrat, but if the bridge alone dictated what a guitar is, none of these guitars would be superstrats.
At the end of the day, regardless of what you want to call it, the Yamaha Pacifica is an excellent guitar for the money and super popular with beginners. There’s no question about that.
They even have some higher-end Pacificas as well that many people aren’t aware of (many people automatically assume they only have beginner guitars), which makes the brand, as a whole, very underrated.
The superstrat is a fantastic guitar design, whether you’re a beginner or a professional, there is something that everyone can enjoy. I’ve been using superstrat-style guitars for the majority of the time I’ve been playing, and I honestly can’t see myself going back to anything else (my first guitar was a B.C. Rich Warlock, and I also used to have a Jackson Rhoads many years ago).
To me, it’s hard to beat them, and they’re versatile. They look and sound perfect for metal, but they’re also conventional enough to be used in other genres of music, too.
Hopefully, by reading this article, I have helped you find the best value superstrat to get you started. These guitars have a lot of the same features and are of similar build quality, but they still have things that make them unique, and those are the things that will, ultimately, involve your personal preferences.
To summarize, the best superstrats for under $250 that I’ve selected are:
- Jackson Dinky JS22
- Ibanez GRX70QA
- ESP LTD MH-10
- Dean Vendetta
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J
You should have no problem getting plenty of mileage out of these guitars before thinking about upgrading to something better if you decide that you want to commit to playing the guitar.
Luckily though, before that time comes, there are some upgrades that you can make before moving on to something new. New pickups are something that you can consider if you feel like you want something better than the stock ones. If you do this, I’d recommend swapping the bridge humbucker out first before anything else. You can find some excellent choices in my guide to the best guitar pickups for metal, which are naturally, ideal for superstrats.
There are some additional things you can do as well, such as replacing the nut near the guitar’s headstock or the saddles on your bridge if you happen to run into any tuning issues.
Overall though, as I said before, these cheap superstrats should serve you just fine for a while. You might even start to develop some brand loyalty! I know I do for Jacksons, Charvels, and Ibanez guitars, and I owe some of my early experiences to that.
Once again, I hope I was able to help you find exactly what you were looking for, and I wish you the best in your guitar journey!