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

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!

Ibanez IJX25 Jumpstart Package Review

Buy The Ibanez IJX25 Jumpstart Package

Guitar Center: Buy for $229

My Review Of The Ibanez IJX25 Jumpstart Package

Ibanez IJX25 Jumpstart Package is a very good choice for someone who is looking to get started playing the guitar the right way. The first thing that appealed to me about this package is that the entire package is $229, which is less than you would be paying for almost any electric guitar by itself. You get the Ibanez electric guitar which boasts a basswood body, and a rosewood neck with pearl dot inlays. Additionally, you get everything else that you need to get started including an amp, gig bag, shoulder strap, tuner, and more.

I will say that I was slightly disappointed with the overall sound quality of the guitar, as it is not as nice as some of the other guitars that are in this range like the Les Paul Special II, but it isn’t bad by any means. I have found that it is difficult to get a clean sound from the guitar, but there are many music genres for which this is a benefit and not a hindrance including metal, and hard rock. If you are not a beginner then you are probably not going to be very impressed with this package, or rather the guitar itself, but for a beginner, this package has a lot to offer.

The Verdict

Despite having a few faults, I would still recommend the Ibanez IJX25 Jumpstart Package as a decent option for beginners. The guitar is not good enough to impress people who have been playing regularly for more than a year — and those who only need the guitar — but it is definitely good enough for someone new to the instrument. The extras that come with this package are pretty good too and definitely help to push this package from “overlook it” to “consider it.” It isn’t perfect, but getting a full package for $229 is not a bad deal.

Other Relevant Reviews

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Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Review

Buy The Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special

Guitar Center: Buy for $299
Amazon: Buy for $299

My Review Of The Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special Electric Guitar

The Jazzmaster is one of the iconic fender models along with the tele and the strat. This Jazzmaster by Squier, which is the less expensive brand made by fender, has a lot of things going for it, including the price. At $299, the Vintage Modified Jazzmaster comes in well below the price points of most guitars by Fender, which can cost upwards for $3,000, and it still maintains that classic Fender feel and sound.

The guitar that I reviewed was the “Butterscotch Blonde” and, I’m going to be honest, it is an UGLY color. This guitar also comes in a lovely sunburst — as pictured — and I would definitely suggest if you’re going to get this guitar to get it in the sunburst finish. The price is the same, and you won’t want to retch every time you look at your guitar, which is definitely important. I’m a big fan of the Jazzmaster in general, and this version does not disappoint. The solid alder body feels sturdy and the c-shaped maple neck and 21 fret fretboard feel great in your hand and beneath your fingers.

It has a top-loading hardtail bridge with adjustable string saddles, which allow you to adjust the intonation in addition to being height-adjustable. The Vintage Jazzmaster has the old-school volume/tone knobs where you have the volume knob at the center and then the tone adjustment as a ring around the outside, which is something I like a lot. The Duncan pickups, which were designed specifically for this guitar, are definitely solid. The bridge pickup is nice and bright and clean while the neck pickup produces a lovely rich sound. You’ll find this guitar produces a very nice sustain and it is definitely pleasant to play.

The Verdict

The Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special by Squier is a very good electric guitar under 300 dollars. The guitar is well built, it has a very pleasant sound that is both versatile and vibrant. It is definitely worthy of consideration, especially if you’re a fan of the Jazzmaster shape. I can’t say this would be a perennial favorite in my guitar collection, but I would have no problem shelling out $300 for this guitar, and I would consider it money well spent.

Other Relevant Reviews

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Epiphone Dot Studio Review

Buy The Epiphone Dot Studio Semi-Hollow

Guitar Center: Buy for $269
Amazon: Buy for 269

My Review Of The Epiphone Dot Studio Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar

A semi-hollow body electric guitar for $269? Yes. You can get the Epiphone Dot Studio — in the worn brown — for the bargain price of $269. This Epiphone hearkens back to the days of the legendary Epiphone archtops like the Sheraton and Emperor. When I first picked this up, I was very surprised that the instrument that I was holding only cost $269. The one that I was reviewing was the vintage sunburst and that one costs $499. Why Epiphone is charging double for the exact same guitar with a different paint job is beyond me but, whatever.

This guitar feels great in the hands. It’s light and you can tell that it is well made. Epiphones used to have a stigma attached to them because the foreign manufactured ones were terrible, but I have not played a truly inferior Epiphone guitar in many many years. Most of this guitar is made from mahogany, which is known for its resonant qualities, and it does not disappoint here.

This guitar produces a really solid sound. The stock humbuckers are very good, and you will have no trouble playing jazz, blues, or rock on this guitar. It can have an extremely warm, clean sound or it can be really dirty with very little adjustment. Overall, the fit and finish on this guitar is great… with a few exceptions. The nuts are pretty weak plastic and should definitely be replaced with something more substantial. Additionally, most people have not played on guitars without inlays on the fretboard and this lacks inlays. The dots are on top of the neck and this could take some getting used to for people who have never played on a guitar with a blank fretboard.

The Verdict

This is not a Gibson ES-335, but it is an excellent semi-hollow guitar for an extremely reasonable price… provided you don’t go for the absurd markup on the sunburst. This guitar is phenomenal for anyone who is planning to play any genre where a hollow body guitar is better like jazz, folk, folk rock, and blues. For $269, you are going to have difficulty finding a hollow or semi-hollow guitar better than the Epiphone Dot Studio.

Other Relevant Reviews

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Peavey JF-1 Hollowbody Review

Buy The Peavey JF-1 Hollowbody

Guitar Center:Buy for $299
Amazon: Buy for $349

My Review Of The Peavey JF-1 Hollowbody Electric Guitar

It isn’t often that you find a hollowbody electric guitar for under $300, but the Peavey JF-1 hollowbody clocks in right at $300 (from a number of prominent retailers). Peavey is probably best well known for their excellent amps, but this hollow body electric guitar does not disappoint. When I picked this guitar up, I felt like I was holding a much more expensive guitar. The maple body feels well crafted and it looks absolutely stunning. The one that I tested was the candy red, but it also comes in a traditional sunburst as well as solid black.

One thing that I really like about this guitar is the fact that the neck is connected to the body at a slight angle, which gives you easier access to the upper register of the fretboard. This is something that is quite helpful if you are playing jazz or fusion, which happen to be the types of music that this guitar is designed for among a few others like blues. The stock humbuckers definitely provide a smooth, rich sound, which resonates extremely well through the body of this guitar. The knobs are well placed, feel solid, and they give you 2 volume controls, 2 tone knobs, and a 3-way toggle-switch pickup selector so you’ve got plenty of ability to control your sound.

If there is one downside that I found with this guitar, it is the fact that I felt like it was a touch on the fragile side. Obviously, hollow body guitars are not going to have the same durability as a solid body, so I’d definitely recommend a hard case if you’re thinking about picking up this — or almost any other — hollow body electric guitar.

The Verdict

You probably won’t see BB King picking up one of these, but if you’re looking to get a solid hollow body electric guitar for under 300 dollars, you should definitely be looking at the Peavey JF-1 Hollowbody. This is definitely a worthy competitor for the slightly less expensive Epiphone Dot Studio, and unlike the Epiphone, there isn’t a $250 markup for the sunburst finish.

Other Relevant Reviews

Epiphone Dot Studio Review
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Dean MLX Review

Buy The Deal MLX

Guitar Center: Buy for $219
Buy Fluorescent Yellow version for $299
Amazon: Buy for $219
Left Handed: Buy from Amazon for $219

My Review Of The Dean MLX Electric Guitar

The Dean ML series was created in 1977 in an effort to create a guitar that provided the maximum amount of sustain and the sweetest tone. The theory behind the design was that the more spaced out the mass of the guitar was — hence the large V at the base of the guitar — combined with extremely long string lengths would create excellent resonance and tonal qualities. Having picked up the Dean MLX electric guitar and given it a run through the paces, I can say that it definitely has an extremely pleasing sound. For a guitar that is only $220, this thing looks and sounds awesome.

While the design may be quite radical, I really enjoy the way it looks. The body is made from solid basswood and comes in solid black, the sunburst pattern that is shown, and a fluorescent yellow which costs $299. The neck is well sized and is made from solid mahogany with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard. I had no trouble at all moving from cord to cord or firing off a sick riff, as the neck felt comfortable in my hand. The headstock is classic Dean with the unique V shape, which is definitely a good thing. The stock pickups on this guitar are definitely solid, and you’ll have no trouble playing most types of music on this, though Dean guitars are known for their popularity in metal bands. This thing was made for distortion, but it could never be called a one-trick pony. You’ll be hard pressed to find better pickups on another ~$200 guitar.

One downside about this guitar, however, is that it is fairly heavy. It is on the larger side in terms of body size so that contributes to the weight, but the weight is well balanced and there isn’t a lot of torque being placed on the neck. I found it neither difficult to tune nor requiring too much tuning, so it isn’t going to be problematic in that department. Another small problem is because of the size and shape, you will probably have difficulty finding a decent case for this guitar.

The Verdict

If you’re looking for a guitar that is great for metal and hard rock in this price range, you can’t go wrong with the Dean MLX. It has a radical design that looks cool and one that improves the sound quality. This guitar is on a short list of good guitars for metal in the $200 price range.

Other Relevant Reviews

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Yamaha GigMaker EG Beginner Pack Review

Buy The Yamaha GigMaker EG Beginner Pack

Guitar Center: Buy for $259
Amazon: Buy for $259

My Review Of The Yamaha GigMaker Electric Guitar Starter Hit

If you are new to playing the guitar, it makes perfect sense to start off at the very beginning. Most guitarists, especially those that have begun to play in the past 20 years, will have owned a guitar starter pack at some point in their lives, and they can be incredibly beneficial starting out. There are many different guitar starter kits out there and they tend to be on the cheaper side. (You can read my other reviews of beginner guitar packages.) As such, it is important to do your research before buying one. In addition to this review, I have many guitar starter package reviews that you can browse through in your search. Today, I’ll be talking about the Yamaha GigMaker EG Electric Guitar Pack. First, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages.

The contents of the Yamaha GigMaker EG Electric Guitar Pack contain everything that you could possibly need to get started when it comes to learning how to play the guitar. Not only does it contain a Yamaha guitar, a brand that is known for making quality instruments, but it also has a 15-watt amp, gig bag, guitar cable, tuner, spare strings, picks, and am excellent introductory DVD. This guitar sounds good and has a nice dual humbucker setup. Finding a beginner electric guitar kit that has a quality guitar is the biggest challenge as these packages are targeted for beginners who do not know a great deal about guitars. Fortunately, sound quality is not an issue with the Yamaha GigMaker EG Electric Guitar Pack. The sound is very good for the price range, the build quality of the guitar is good, and it is definitely a guitar that can grow with you as you learn how to play.

The Verdict

Overall, I was really pleased with this starter kit. The guitar is good and you get a nice 15-watt amp to jam with (most starter packs have a 10-watt amp). If I have one complaint, it is that the gig bag isn’t great but that is really a small complaint when compared to the overall package you’re getting. This may not be the greatest beginner package that I’ve ever tested, but considering the fact you can buy it for $259 puts it safely near the top in the under $300 category and a solid choice any way you slice it.

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