Dean Evo XM Electric Guitar Package Review

Dean Evo XM Electric Guitar Pack Review

Dean is best known for making guitars that are ideally suited for playing heavy metal and other extremely demanding music genres. With the Dean Evo XM electric guitar pack, you get everything you need to play right out of the box, and at under $200, this is one of the least expensive beginner guitar packages that you can buy from a major manufacturer. The package includes pretty much everything you’d expect in a beginner kit like this including a gig bag, shoulder strap, 10-watt Dean amp, and a bunch of picks. There is, of course, the Evo XM guitar at the center of the package. The XM is a decent little electric guitar featuring a solid basswood body, 22-fret bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard, sealed tuners, and a pair of humbucker pickups. It also has Dean’s patented angled neck, which makes playing it a bit easier. I reviewed this guitar by itself — you can read my full review of the guitar here — and it is definitely a solid instrument for the price. The aggressive and crazy Dean styling that you see on so many of their guitars is painfully missing on this guitar, but it is also much more versatile than most Deans in terms of genres that you can play with it. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the guitar, but I was pleased with it considering the price, and you can definitely grow with it. You won’t have to upgrade for at least a year or two.

I was disappointed with the rest of the package, however. This package definitely has one of the lower quality starter amps that I’ve encountered, and it did not produce as nice a sound as I have found in other packages from folks like Epiphone and Fender. Also, most other beginner guitar packages include some additional extras like an instructional DVD or booklet, a digital tuner, headphones, or a stand. I’ve seen conflicting information on some websites as to whether this comes with a tuner or not, but the one that I reviewed definitely did NOT. Perhaps they decided to include a tuner in a newer production run, but it is something to be aware of nonetheless.

Dean Evo XM Electric Guitar Pack Verdict

The guitar in this package is definitely a good instrument for the money, but the rest of the package left me underwhelmed. The amp isn’t too great, and it lacks some of the other extras that you typically expect to find in a beginner guitar package. If you have your heart set on a you can get this package, but I would recommend buying the guitar and the extras separately. It will cost a little more money, but it is definitely worth the extra cost in my opinion. If the amp were better, I’d be happy to recommend buying it, but it isn’t so I’m not.

Buy The Dean Evo XM Electric Guitar Package

Guitar Center: Buy for $189
Amazon: Buy for $185

Squier Affinity Strat Pack Review

Squier Affinity Strat Pack Review

As I have mentioned in many other reviews, the best way to get started with the electric guitar is to buy a beginner package that has everything you need to get started and the Squier Affinity Strat Pack is one such package. All the top manufacturers offer numerous beginner packages that pair their guitars with the peripherals that you need. This package by Squier — a brand made by Fender — combines one of their less expensive strats with a bunch of nice extras. The guitar in this package is the Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster and it is a pretty good cheap electric guitar. It has 3 single coil pickups, which gives you plenty of different tonal options. It has the classic stratocaster look, a whammy bar, and features a solid agathis body with a bolt-on maple neck that has a 21-fret rosewood fingerboard. Like almost every Fender/Squier guitar that I’ve tested, the build quality on this was very good and I really had no complaints about it. The guitar is a solid guitar through-and-through, but it is not something that is going to knock you off your feet and wow you. You’re not going to be disappointed with the sound, look, quality, or durability of the guitar, but you aren’t going to be blown away.

The rest of the package, however, is absolutely amazing. The most amazing thing about this package is definitely the amp. You’re getting a 15-watt Fender Frontman amp. This is probably the best amp that you are going to get in any starter package offered by any manufacturer. Not only are 15-watt amps uncommon in beginner guitar packages, but you are getting a top-notch 15-watt amp as opposed to a mediocre one. Long after you upgrade to a better guitar, you will still be using this amp. The rest of the package includes the standard cable, instructional dvd, digital tuner, guitar strap, headphones, and, of course, a gig bag in which to carry your guitar.

Squier Affinity Special Strat Pack Verdict

The guitar in this package is a good, solid electric guitar that is a solid B+ across the board. It isn’t spectacular in any one area, but it doesn’t really have any drawbacks either. The amp in this package, however, is hands down the best amp you’re going to find in any guitar package offered by anyone and everything else is better than most. For $250, you are getting a lot of value for your money, and the Stratocaster is a classic guitar that anyone will love. You can’t go wrong with this.

Buy The Squier Affinity Special Strat Guitar Pack

Guitar Center: Buy for $249
Amazon: Buy For $249

Dean Vendetta XMT Review

Dean Vendetta XMT Review

The Dean Vendetta XMT is a nice entry level guitar, particularly for anyone interested in playing metal. There are two different models of the XMT available — one with the tremolo bar and one without — and I highly recommend the one with the tremolo. You will normally spend between $130 and $140 for this guitar; however, guitar center IS selling this guitar for $99 in the natural satin finish (it also comes in black).

The body of this guitar is made from Paulownia, which is a south-east Asian wood with good resonant properties that is typically used in Asian stringed instruments, but it is less expensive than Mahogany. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the sound from this particular wood, but I was pleasantly surprised. The XMT also features a bolt-on maple neck with a 25-fret rosewood fingerboard. I would be lying if I didn’t mention the tremolo as one of the biggest highlights of this guitar for me. For anyone looking to play metal, the presence of a tremolo bar is almost required, and I don’t know of many guitars that cost ~$100 that come with a tremolo.

The Paulownia body is really light, so the overall weight of this guitar is incredibly low. I was shocked at how light this guitar was. The sound was comparable to other guitars that are in the $150-$250 range, and I was glad that Dean didn’t cheap out on things like the humbuckers and hardware. I feel like most of the cost savings for Dean came from using a different wood on the body, which makes this guitar quite a bargain for the price.

Dean Vendetta XMT Verdict

Overall, I was very pleased with the sound and playability of the guitar. The construction was good, the hardware was good, and the pickups were much better than I would have expected on a guitar this price. The tremolo bar is pretty standard and it is definitely an entry level guitar; however, it is easy to play, and it isn’t something that you will need to upgrade right away. This guitar is perfect for someone just starting out, for kids because of the extremely lightweight body, or for someone looking for a cheap but good practice guitar that can take a few hard knocks.

Buy The Dean Vendetta XMT

Guitar Center: Buy for $99
Amazon: Buy for $128

Epiphone Les Paul Standard Starter Pack Review

Buy The Epiphone Les Paul Standard Player Pack

Guitar Center: Buy for $649

My Review Of The Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar Beginner Set

The Epiphone Les Paul Standard is one of the more expensive Epiphone LPs and it is one of the best guitars under $1000 without question. This guitar is definitely the star of the package, and it is what makes up the bulk of the price (the guitar itself will set you back about $550). I have done a review of this guitar in the past, which you can read here. In short, there are really no downsides to this guitar. It is absolutely stunning to look at, and the construction is top notch. The mahogany body creates a beautiful resonance and the mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard feel phenomenal. The guitar has alnico humbucker pickups which give you that classic Les Paul sound and what a sound it is!

The rest of the package is definitely very good for the additional $100, but it is basically the same extras that you get with the less expensive starter sets from Epiphone. It comes with a 15-watt amp, digital tuner, cable, and headphones; all of which are good. With that said, I almost feel like the rest of the package just does not do the guitar justice because it is that good. That is not to say that the extras that come with the package are not good and aren’t worth the money — they definitely are — but the instrument in this beginner set really outshines everything else.

The Verdict

If you’re in the market for a beginner electric guitar pack that is in the $600 to $800 range, you will not be able to find a better choice than this. The guitar is simply outstanding, and the rest of the package is very good as well. If there is a downside to this package, it is the fact that the guitar is so phenomenal that it outclasses the rest of the set.

Dean Evo XM Review

Dean Evo XM Review

The Dean Evo XM is one of the most inexpensive guitars that I have reviewed so far on this site coming in at $119 from traditional musical instrument vendors (you can get it for less on Amazon). This guitar has what would be considered a standard construction for less expensive guitars with a solid basswood body and a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. This is not a bad thing; it is just a statement of fact. Down in the $100 price area, you can expect to get plywood construction with shoddy workmanship and abysmal hardware, but that is not what you get with this little guitar. The hardware is quite good for the price, and the pickups aren’t too shabby either. Eric Clapton isn’t going to be clamoring to pick one of these up for his next live performance, but it definitely offers a much better sound than what I was expecting before picking it up.

You can get the guitar in one of two finishes: transparent black and natural mahogany. Visually, the guitar is pretty ho-hum — there is no crazy Dean shape or radical body design here — but the finishes look good. While Dean is typically known for guitars designed for metalheads, this guitar is a much more versatile affair in that it can handle most musical genres pretty well. I can happily report that I could hold this guitar and play without any of the annoying problems that you will often find from really cheap electric guitars like jagged fret spacers, rough wood, and things like that. The guitar definitely played well, it was comfortable to hold, and it sounds pretty good. The guitar’s weighting was a little top heavy in my opinion, but it isn’t oppressively unbalanced. The volume controls could be a little more sensitive and the strings that come with it are pretty bad, but these are small potatoes and easily fixed.

Dean Evo XM Verdict

The Dean Evo XM is a very very good deal. It offers versatility, quality construction, a good sound, and plenty of growth potential without breaking the bank. You don’t get all the bells and whistles that you will get on a more expensive instrument and there are some small problems here and there, but I was truly shocked by this guitar. I did not believe I would play a guitar in this price range that would not feel like it was just a cheap piece of junk, but the Dean Evo XM has surprised me. If you’re looking for a very inexpensive beginner electric guitar, you’ll have trouble finding a better instrument for such a low price.

Buy The Dean Evo XM

Buy for $119
Amazon: Buy for $102

Best Metal Guitars Under 500 Dollars

Buy The Best Metal Guitars Under $500

Dean Razorback DB Floyd
Guitar Center: Buy for $499
Amazon: Buy for $246

B.C. Rich Metal Master Warlock
Guitar Center: Buy for $299
Amazon: Buy for $285

B.C. Rich ASM 1
Guitar Center: Buy for $199
Amazon: Buy for $199

My Reviews Of The Best Metal Guitars Under 500 Dollars

Heavy metal is probably the single most demanding genre of music for the electric guitar in terms of equipment. The extreme sounds that are found so often in the music put the guitar under great stress, and not every guitar is designed to function well under these conditions. As heavy metal has grown in popularity over the past 25 years, electric guitar manufacturers have increased the number of instruments they offer that cater to the demands of this genre. Technology that was once only available to professional guitarists like Dimebag Darrel, is now available to everyone. Unlike many middle-of-the-road genres where you can play almost any electric guitar, heavy metal demands certain specific traits in order to get the right sound. In this article, I review the best electric guitar for metal in three price categories: under $500, under $300, and under $200.

Dean Razorback Dimebag w/ Floyd Rose

Dean is one of the names in guitars that are built specifically for metal, and they have been pioneering cutting edge technologies that have revolutionized this genre. The Dean Razorback DB with the Floyd Rose combines all of the most impressive technologies into one amazing and extremely cost efficient package that will set you back $499. The styling on this guitar is simply wicked, and the materials are top-notch with a solid basswood body, bolt-on maple neck, and a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard. The all-black hardware looks wicked, and the specially designed humbucker pickups are absolutely impeccable. This Razorback features a Floyd Rose Tremolo, which means that you can savage the strings and the guitar still stays in tune. This also comes with a guitar case, so you don’t have to hunt for one to fit the unique body design. This is simply the best metal guitar under $500.

B.C. Rich Metal Master Warlock

B.C. Rich is the other company along with Dean that is known for its specializing in making electric guitars for metal. The Metal Master Warlock is, hands down, the best metal guitar under $300. The Metal Master Warlock definitely looks gorgeous with its sharp and aggressive styling, and its construction is definitely top notch. You’re getting the same high quality craftsmanship and materials that you would expect from any top manufacturer, and it features a solid agathis body, a bolt-on rosewood neck, and a 24 fret rosewood fingerboard. Everything about this guitar was designed to play metal perfectly. The B.C. Rich designed BDSM humbucker pickups are specifically created to give you that unmistakable metal tone, and they do. I was extremely pleased with the performance of this guitar in terms of sound, quality, and craftsmanship.

B.C. Rich ASM 1

The choice for the best metal guitar under $200 was one of the harder ones to make, because there are a bunch of different guitars from a handful of companies including B.C. Rich and Dean that are quite good. In the end, the features on the B.C. Rich ASM 1 pushed it over the top in my opinion. Unlike most B.C. Rich guitars, you don’t get any crazy styling with the ASM 1. In fact, it actually looks pretty understated. This is probably disappointing to some — especially considering that B.C. Rich is known for their crazy body designs — but the quality of this guitar more than makes up for it. This guitar is designed for metal, and it features the B.C. Rich BDSM humbucker pickups, which are made specifically to be great at playing metal, though they aren’t bad in many other genres of music. The thing that pushed this guitar over the top, however, was the fact that it also has a tremolo bar, which is not a feature you find on too many guitars under $200 and even fewer that are made for metal.

The Verdict

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that B.C. Rich and Dean have won all the categories as they are simply the best two manufacturers when it comes to guitars that specialize in metal. Regardless of what your budget is, you can get an excellent guitar that is made with metal in mind, and each of these guitars is the best of the best in their respective price ranges.

Epiphone Les Paul 100 Review

Epiphone Les Paul 100 Review

The Epiphone Les Paul 100 is one of the middle children of the Les Paul family of guitars from Epiphone. The LP 100 is one step above the special II, and it is a rather significant step up from $169 to $299, but the improvements over the less expensive version are extensive. This model has the more standard body design, which is more rounded and less flat. My Epiphone Les Paul 100 review starts with the body which is made from Mahogany, as is the bolt-on neck, which also features a rosewood fingerboard. The construction of the guitar is definitely top notch, and the chrome hardware looks great. The sunburst, as always, is super gorgeous and the smooth lines just make it even sexier. As with the other Epiphone Les Paul guitars, this one also features the plastic volume and tone knobs, which I am not ecstatic with, but they aren’t bad either.

The dual humbucker pickups on this guitar are phenomenal for the price of this guitar. We are talking serious SERIOUS versatility with this little honey. You really have complete control over how this thing sounds, and it sounds great running the range from folk to heavy metal. You’re really not going to find a better sounding and more versatile guitar under $300. The neck and fingerboard feel really good in the hand, and I had absolutely no complaints with being able to keep my fingers dancing along the frets. There’s no buzz or feedback, and it keeps its tune quite well. The overall weight of the guitar is extremely light, so it isn’t too heavy for younger/smaller players, and it is something that you can be comfortable holding while standing for an extended period of time.

Epiphone Les Paul 100 Verdict

This is a great beginner electric guitar for just about anyone because of the incredible versatility that it provides. The construction is excellent, the pickups are excellent, and it looks absolutely beautiful. This is definitely one of the best options for an electric guitar under $300.

Buy The Epiphone Les Paul 100

Guitar Center: Buy for $299 Lefty for $314
Amazon: Buy for $249 Lefty for $264

Best Beginner Electric Guitars

Buy The Best Beginner Electric Guitars

Fender SE Special Strat Starter Pack
Guitar Center:Buy For $199
Amazon:Buy For $199

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Player Pack
Guitar Center: Buy for $269 Lefty for $284
Amazon: Buy for $259

Epiphone LP-100 Starter Pack
Guitar Center: Buy for $399 Buy Lefty for $414

Reviews Of The Best Beginner Electric Guitars

With the electric guitar, the best way for beginners to start learning is to purchase a package that has all of the pieces you need to get started. The electric guitar requires a lot of extras in addition to the guitar so getting everything together is perfect. In addition to the guitar, you also need an amp, a cable to connect the guitar to the amp, extra strings, a tuner, and a case to carry your guitar, accessories, and to protect the instrument from damage. Each guitar package is the best package in its respective price range: under $200, under $300, and under $500. There are many other good options available, but these are the packages that I consider the best based on my experience and knowledge. Without further ado, I give you the best beginner electric guitars.

Fender SE Special Stratocaster Starter Pack

The under $200 price point is the most entry-level guitar point but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get something that is very good. Guitars and guitar starter packages in this price range won’t have all the bells and whistles that you would find with a higher priced instrument, but it is a great way to get started, and it doesn’t break the bank. The best package that you are going to find under $200 is, without a doubt, the Squier by Fender SE Special Stratocaster Starter Pack (Squier is a brand that is made by Fender). This starter pack has a great deal going for it in addition to the price. Included is a Squier SE Special Strat with a tremolo bar — a nice bonus in this price range — as well as a 10-watt Squier amp, gig bag(soft carrying case), a guitar stand, picks, digital tuner, cable, shoulder strap, and an instructional DVD. Each component of this package is very good, and you won’t be disappointed with this. My full review of this package is here.

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Player Pack

This specific electric guitar package clocks in at $269 and it is absolutely amazing. The guitar that comes with this package is the best electric guitar that you can buy under $200, and it is definitely one of the best beginner electric guitars you can buy. If you buy the guitar by itself, it will set you back $169, so the rest of the package tacks on an addition $100. The best thing about this package is the fact that you get the truly phenomenal Les Paul Special II as the guitar. This is a guitar that will grow with you as you get better, and it is an absolutely gem. You can read my full review of the guitar here but, suffice to say, I love this guitar. Included with the amazing guitar is a very solid 15-watt amp — you typically get a 10-watt so this was a nice plus — as well as a gig bag, digital tuner, 20 foot cable, shoulder strap, and headphones. The headphones are great because they allow you to play with your amp without disturbing anyone else, which is great for those late night jam sessions when you get the itch to play. Maybe it’s just me, but I do a lot of my best playing late at night, so I am always listening to myself play through headphones. I do this with my piano too! The one thing I wish this package had that it doesn’t is a guitar stand, but you can buy one for $10, so it is a very negligible problem.

Epiphone LP-100 All Access Pack

Another Epiphone Les Paul? Yes. I have been quite impressed with the Epiphone Les Paul guitars — they have a wide range of them — and I actually own one of them myself. I’ve been a Les Paul fan since I was a boy, and I used to go sleep at night and dream of the day when I would have my very own Gibson Les Paul, and I am now fortunate enough to own a few. Back to the guitar! This guitar is definitely a solid step up from the the Les Paul Special II, and the guitar itself will set you back $299. This whole package is going to cost you $399, and the rest of the package is more-or-less the same as the LP Special II pack. Once again, this package doesn’t include a stand, but that is not a big deal. The extra $100 over the other package definitely brings everything to a whole new level, as the guitar is just a better instrument. You can read my review of the guitar here.

The Verdict

Whatever price range you are looking at when buying your first electric guitar, you can find something excellent that will get you started the right way. Most of the cost of these packages is tied up in the instrument, so the more you spend, the better the guitar you are going to get. With that said, when friends come to me and ask about getting started, or buying a guitar for their kid to learn to play, I typically recommend with staying under $300 unless you really know that you’re going to want to continue playing. These three packages are the best beginner electric guitars that you can buy in each price range, and you’ll be happy no matter which route you take. Happy Jamming!

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Review

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Review

Guitars for under $200 are definitely not hard to come by, there are a lot of them around. With that said, finding one that is excellent is a much more difficult proposition. One guitar that I had the pleasure of testing in this price range was the Epiphone Les Paul Special II. I am a HUGE fan of it’s bigger brother, so I had high expectations for this Les Paul. Epiphone definitely has a reputation to uphold and they certainly haven’t failed with this guitar. This guitar has a mahogany body, mahogany neck, and the standard 22-fret rosewood fretboard. One thing that I did notice about this guitar is that the sound is incredibly versatile. This is something that I hoped for but did not expect from this entry-level Epiphone.

When I first picked up the guitar I was pleased to discover that the body is actually pretty lightweight, and that was definitely a nice surprise. Because it’s lightweight, this guitar is great for younger players. The Epiphone Les Paul Special II comes in a variety of different colors, from the standard solid black to bright white and almost everything in between including both vintage sunburst and heritage cherry sunburst. Epiphone did a great job with this guitar getting it ready to play right out of the box and no adjustment is needed to start shredding. I was not concerned at all with the durability of this instrument and that isn’t something I can say for every electric guitar under 200 dollars.

The only negative that I can really complain of at this point is the fact that the jack socket can be troublesome. Personally, I didn’t have any problems with mine, but the problem has cropped up with enough people that it is something to be aware of.

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Verdict

Overall, I consider this electric guitar to be the single best overall electric guitar under 200 dollars. This guitar does just about everything well, it is extremely well built, it sounds great, it looks great, it IS great. You can pick this up for 169 dollars and you would be hard pressed to find a better guitar for the price.

Buy The Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Guitar Center: Buy for $169
Amazon: Buy for $169

Other Relevant Reviews

guitars under 200 dollars
ESP LTD EC-10
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus

Epiphone SG-Special Review

Buy The Epiphone SG-Special

Guitar Center: Buy for $169
Amazon: Buy for $169

My Review Of The Epiphone SG-Special Electric Guitar

Epiphone has been making some exceptional guitars in recent years. From my personal favorite, the Les Paul Custom, to others like this Epiphone SG-Special, Epiphone has been making some very solid guitars. This particular model happens to be one of the least expensive Epiphone guitars on the market at just under 170 bucks. It is definitely worth the money, especially for beginners. This guitar is well constructed and it features a rosewood fingerboard with 22 thin frets, and a three-way pickup selector. While this guitar would definitely be phenomenal for a beginner, there are some issues that are likely to bother the more experienced player.

First of all, the guitar body is laminated. It may look good — who am I kidding, it does — but it does show finger prints and scratches very easily. This can be pretty annoying as you constantly have to polish the thing to get rid of the fingerprints. When playing without an amp, the Epiphone SG Special tends to buzz… a lot. Obviously, this is not an issue when playing through an amp as you are not going to hear it, but it can be really annoying when you are just practicing without one. With that said, this guitar definitely has a number of things going for it as well.

First of all, it is lightweight in comparison to some other guitars in this price range. This is good for playing live, but it does not really matter too much if you’re sitting. It does look good, and it is different in comparison with the standard strat style guitars that are in this price range. The strings are very easy to change, which is definitely important if you are new to playing the electric guitar, because there is nothing more annoying that not being able to change the strings.

The Verdict

This guitar is definitely good value for money, but it is not as good as the Les Paul Special II. It is unlikely you will be disappointed with this guitar, and if you prefer the look of this guitar more than the Les Paul, you won’t be disappointed choosing this over the other. This isn’t my favorite guitar under 200 dollars, but it is a very solid instrument at a very reasonable price. I was very pleased with this guitar and, at $169, you will be too.

Other Relevant Reviews

Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica Series
Epiphone Electric Guitars