The superstrat is one of the most successful guitar designs of all time; some might argue that it’s just as popular as the original! This guide will show you some of my top picks for the best superstrat guitars for under 1,000 dollars. Sure, you can find some for way cheaper, but these high-end ones will last you forever and are ideal for the advanced guitarist who is looking to settle down with one for a very long time.
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What Is A Superstrat?
As you can have probably guessed, or even known already, a superstrat is based on the classic Stratocaster design by Fender, but with a few enhancements.
Conceptualized in the 1980s, these were created to suit the needs of the upcoming guitar heroes of the time and the style of music – blazing fast and flashy heavy metal.
As such, some of the primary features that you’ll typically (but not always!) see in a superstrat-style guitar are:
- Humbucking pickups
- Locking Tremolos (i.e., Floyd Rose, Kahler, Edge)
- Thin neck-profiles
- Sharper and more-streamlined bodies with deeper cutaways
While the Fender Stratocaster is capable of producing a tone suitable for heavy metal and it has been featured on many landmark records such as Iron Maiden’s The Number of The Beast and Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force self-titled debut, the superstrat was able to expand on it and take guitar design to the next level.
Because of this, superstrats from various manufacturers have been the instrument-of-choice for some of the greatest guitarists of all time, and you’ve probably seen them many times online or on the shelves in stores. Now that you know a bit about them let’s go over some of the best superstrats for under $1000.
Jackson’s Soloist model definitely played a large hand in the popularity of the superstrat during the 1980s, and it still passes the test of time. The Soloist is often considered the cream-of-the-crop of all Jackson guitars along with some of the RR models.
Here’s what you can expect from this beast of a guitar:
- An ebony fingerboard with 24 frets
- 12” to 16” compound radius
- Neck-through-body construction
- Seymour Duncan SH-6 pickups
- Floyd Rose 1000 tremolo
From the fast neck profile and responsive pickups, Soloists were always designed for the shredder in mind, and the SL2 is no exception. Trust me, I used to own one, but I needed the extra money so unfortunately, I had to let it go.
For all Jackson Soloists, the neck-through-body construction is aesthetically pleasing, and it offers more sustain as well. It’s also one of the main things that separate a Soloist from a Dinky. Jackson Dinkies are great superstrats too, but for the best that Jackson has to offer, you’ll probably want to go with a Soloist.
If you liked the Jackson Soloist, you may or may not know that Charvel used to be closely affiliated with Jackson. In the late 1970s, Wayne Charvel sold the company to Grover Jackson and both brands, now under the same roof, were prominent throughout the 1980s. In the early 2000s, after being purchased by Fender, Charvel saw a revival.
One of the original lines of guitars created by the Charvel brand is the San Dimas, and since returning along with the So-Cal, it has been one of the best-selling superstrats which features:
- Maple or ebony fretboards, depending on your choice; 22 frets
- 12” to 16” compound radius
- Bolt-on Neck
- Seymour Duncan JB bridge pickup and Seymour Duncan ‘59 neck pickup
- Floyd Rose 1000 tremolo (hardtail options are also available)
This San Dimas actually has a lot in common with the Jackson SL2 Soloist aside from the bolt-on neck and guitar pickups. The JB is one of my favorite pickups of all time and one of my top choices for metal. However, I think the ‘59 in the neck and the SH-6 Distortions on the Soloist are amazing as well for the genre.
In my opinion, if you’re looking for something that is less pointy and closer to the original Stratocaster design, you’ll probably like this one more. Additionally, if you want a pickguard, the Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal is available and even more Strat-like.
The Ibanez RG line has been around for a very long time, and it encompasses several different models. I personally own an Ibanez Prestige RG2550, which may be discontinued now. Unfortunately, you’d be hard-pressed to find a brand new Prestige under $1000, but nonetheless, the guitar I’ve selected as the best Ibanez for under $1000 is the new Exotic series that they’ve come up with.
I personally think that the Exotic line is one of the coolest-looking ones that Ibanez has to offer. Living up to this name, this line of guitars uses some pretty unique woods, and keep a natural finish. Here are some of the options the Ibanez Exotic guitars have:
- Roasted Maple or Ebony Fingerboards with 24 frets
- Wizard III necks
- DiMarzio Air Norton & Tone Zone pickups
- Fixed Ibanez bridge
- Nyatoh body with Zebrawood, Ziricote, or Flamed Maple top (depending on the model)
These are some of the most beautiful guitars I’ve seen in a while and the look more expensive than they actually are. I’ve noticed that roasted maple necks and fingerboards are growing in popularity lately, and for a good reason! While I think the one with the macassar ebony fretboard is incredible too, I’m in love with the one with roasted maple.
More importantly, they sound great; the pickups give you plenty of versatility and when combined with the tonewoods, it has a lot of sustain.
If you are interested in one with a floating tremolo there is the RGEW520. However, I’ve only tried out the 521s with the fixed bridge, so I can’t vouch for this one in particular as I don’t know how well that bridge holds up. One thing for certain is that the 520 should feel and sound as amazing as its counterpart.
Kramer guitars were at the forefront of the development of the superstrat in the 80s because of Eddie Van Halen’s involvement with the brand. Unfortunately, because the company went under in the early 1990s, they became somewhat of a forgotten treasure.
Gibson eventually took over the Kramer name, and classic models like the Pacer and the Baretta have made a comeback. Regarding superstrats, I think the Kramer Baretta is one of the most unique, and based on the ‘85 model, it offers:
- A rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets
- A bolt-on neck
- Made with a solid maple body
- Floyd Rose tremolo
- Single Seymour Duncan JB humbucker with a slanted cavity.
One thing that I really like about the Kramer Baretta is its minimalist design – for scorching metal riffs and licks, all you really need is a single humbucker and the locking tremolo! This also gives the guitar a very distinct aesthetic along with its banana/hockey-stick headstock.
Kramer, as a whole, is definitely a brand worth checking out and it has made history. If you require two humbuckers, the Pacer is also a good alternative. Nonetheless, the Baretta has a ton to offer while keeping it simple – just check out this video!.
Although all of the previous instruments we’ve gone over were derived from the original Stratocaster design, we can’t forget that Fender themselves have also responded to the Superstrat sensation since the mid-80s.
Fender has produced many electric guitars to hop on the bandwagon – a lot of them were created in Japan and are now considered vintage, and would be lovely to own. Fender Contemporary and HM Stratocasters are a couple that comes to mind. While these have been discontinued, this particular modern Fender Player Series Stratocaster model fills that void and offers:
- A maple or pau ferro fingerboard, depending on the guitar model
- 12” radius
- Bolt-on neck
- Player Series pickups – 2 single coils, 1 humbucker
- Floyd Rose-designed tremolo
While the other guitar brands have contributed to the success of the superstrat movement, there’s something about the one that really started it all that makes it special. Without the iconic Fender Stratocaster, none of this would have been possible.
In my opinion, I think that a Fender Stratocaster beefed up with a humbucker and a Floyd looks really awesome. Performance-wise, you’ll also be able to achieve anything you want; from the vintage sounds that a Stratocaster has historically been a part of as well as the thickest heavy metal tones.
For ESP guitars, it was basically a coin flip between the Snapper and the M series, and the M-1000 came out on top. Don’t get me wrong, I love ESP Snappers and their more traditional appearance, but the best ones are very expensive; therefore, for under $1000, the LTD M-1000 is the winner.
ESP has also created signature designs for dozens of well-known players, and if I were to compare this to one to another, it is most similar to Kirk Hammet’s with the skull-and-bones inlays, at least in appearance. The LTD M-1000 is a comfortable guitar that has:
- A Macassar ebony or maple fingerboard with 24 frets, depending on the model
- Neck-thru-body construction
- EMG 81 active pickups in bridge and neck
- Gotoh Tuners
- Floyd Rose 1000
This guitar does have a lot in common with all of the previous ones, but there is one huge distinction – the pickups. All of the others have passive pickups, while this one went with actives. If you don’t know the difference, my beginner’s guide to guitar pickups can help clear things up for you.
Overall, I’ve always felt that ESP superstrats like these felt like a cross between a Jackson Soloist and an Ibanez RG. If you’re looking for a guitar that’s a little more hot and aggressive without straying too far from the others, this one should be right up your alley.
Before being endorsed by Kramer, Eddie Van Halen is known for his Frankenstrat which was one of the very first guitars with superstrat features. Created in 1977, it used a Fender body that was routed to fit a humbucking pickup from a Gibson, and later, incorporated the Floyd Rose system.
Eddie Van Halen also worked with Charvel to create the Charvel EVH Art Series, and that’s where his black and white design originated from. This guitar is based on these earlier designs, is much more affordable, and has:
- A maple fingerboard with 22 frets
- 12” to 16” compound radius
- A single Wolfgang pickup
- EVH-branded Floyd Rose tremolo with D-tuna
- EVH tuners
This instrument is basically a cross between a Charvel So-Cal and a Kramer Baretta, which makes sense because of Eddie’s involvement with the two brands. If you’ve had any trouble deciding between those two superstrat brands, in particular, you’re in luck because this guitar combines the features of those two models pretty well, while still adding the Van Halen twist to it with the paint job.
Unfortunately, the iconic red and black design is more expensive and goes for over a grand, hence why the black & white one was chosen. I’m honestly unsure why that one is more costly, as it seems like they have the same exact specs, aside from the pickguard. Regardless, I think the black and white design is outstanding, and this EVH guitar is excellent if you’re looking for something a little flashier while still staying true to its roots.
Schecter is a very popular guitar brand, but I’ve always been on the fence on whether or not their Hellraiser or Omen guitars were really superstrats or not. I know they make some true superstrats in the Japanese market (Schecter Japan has some gorgeous instruments) that aren’t available in the West, but I’ve always wondered why they never brought them over here.
However, I recently came across their Sun Valley models and I’m unsure how long they’ve been around for, but I’m pleasantly surprised. These are totally superstrats, but they have some unique features along with ones that you’d expect from these types of guitars. Here’s what Schecter’s Sun Valley series has to offer:
- Maple or Ebony fingerboards
- Bolt-on neck
- EMG Retro Active Hot 70 bridge pickup
- Sustainiac neck pickup
- Floyd Rose Special Hot Rod Locking Tremolo
Before coming across this guitar, I’ve never heard of the EMG Retro Active pickups, but I’m actually glad to see another superstrat with some EMG pickups. The vast majority of them use Seymour Duncans, so it’s nice to have a little more diversity. The Sustainiac pickup is something that I’ve only ever seen on Schecter guitars, but they’ve always been impressive and it does what it’s supposed to do – provide incredible sustain. I’d argue that, because of it, these Sun Valleys have the best sustain out of all the guitars mentioned here.
I’ve seen Floyd Rose Specials on many guitars before, but the Hot Rod version is apparently something that is unique to Schecter guitars. I couldn’t really tell the difference but seemed to be quite reliable and hold it tuning well.
These guitars live up to their expectations, and I’m so glad to have tried one. It’s also worth noting that there are some Super Shredders without the Sustainiac pickup and use two EMG Retro Actives instead, and they are considerably more affordable, and start moving closer to the $600-700 range. I like the Sustainiac, but some people prefer to save a bit. No matter which one you choose, though, you’ll be able to find them under a grand and both are fantastic.
Other than during the grunge-era in the 1990s, the superstrat is a timeless guitar design that will probably be here to stay for a very, very long time – possibly forever! In my opinion, they’re irreplaceable and have been one of the most significant innovations in the last few decades.
With these instruments, you’re also not limited to one style of music either. The necks are definitely sleek to facilitate shredding, but they’re still versatile instruments and accommodate crisp, clean tones, heavily distorted riffs, and everything in between. From the 80s enthusiast who reminisces about the good ol’ days, to the newer generation of players, there’s something for everyone in these instruments.
In this article, I’ve given you seven of the best superstrat guitars for under 1000 dollars, all from different brands, which gives you plenty of choices. Each of them has a lot of similarities while having aspects that make them special and stand out from one another.
Additionally, if you happened to be new to this breed of guitars and wanted to figure out if they were right for you, I hope that my guide has helped shed some light on these beautiful instruments. I may sound biased, but I’ve been using them for pretty much as long as I’ve been playing. Once I put my hands on one, I’ve never looked back, and I want the superstrat to have that effect on everyone.