Harmony continues its year of strong releases with a classic reissue of the 8418 combo tube amp. Check Reverb.com to find your own before they are gone, as these are exclusively available in the US.
The 8418 has a hand-wired construction with a 6″ Jensen speaker, all original circuitry, and a vacuum tubes built to ’50s specifications. This 5 watt combo amp will be an ideal practice or studio amp for players who crave vintage tone. Retailing for $399 (plus shipping charges), it’s a surprisingly affordable reissue!
Check out more on the 8418 from Harmony’s website and keep an eye out for more exciting amps from Harmony, coming soon!
I love guitar kits, they are pretty much the primary way I learned how to assemble, build, and modify guitars. Kits give you a low-risk way of developing your finishing, wiring, and modification skills without having to rip apart the gear you rely on or spent your money on. Even the highest quality kits are far and away so much cheaper than a pre-assembled guitar. Usually, you can spend around $150 to get a pretty decent kit that you can turn into a unique, customized guitar or bass.
For those who are looking for their first kit or just another fun project for the winter, here are four kits I put together myself. I’ve ranked them 1-4 and while all of them left me a very satisfied customer, there are a few differences in price, labor, and options to note.
Full disclosure, I do have an affiliate relationship with The Fret Wire, but I do not promote their shop because of it. I promote their shop because this is my second kit from them and each time they have provided not only a great product but great customer service. I got both of my kits off of Reverb.com and can’t recommend them enough.
This kit was great for a few major reasons: it was affordable, it was easy to put together, and it creates a great base for a fun mod project. I loved this kit so much it’s the only one of the four that I kept, as I gifted the other three Telecaster’s away to my family members who play guitar.
It’s even the body used for my current project on building a superior Thinline Tele than Fender. The Mahogany body comes with a Maple top, two tonewoods I wasn’t expecting at this price, and the two humbuckers that came with the kit were surprisingly rich and loud.
Even better, every hole comes pre-drilled for you, meaning for true beginners you can just screw parts in and go. For more adventurous modders, feel free to swap out parts like I am and create a truly unique guitar.
Pros: Affordable, Easy To Assemble, Solid Tonewoods, Nice Humbuckers
Cons: Cheap Tuners, Need To Carve Headstock
# 2: StewMac T Style Kit $149.99
This kit is usually a lot more expensive, coming in at $259.99 but it seems to be on sale, making it a great deal right now! This kit was the most expensive of the bunch, and I felt you really saw that extra value in the quality of the pickups. They had much more of a Mexican-Fender feel than a Squier feel, despite still being a sub-$300 guitar.
Not every screw hole is pre-drilled for you, which may be a pro or a con depending on how you view guitar kits. Some people buy them with the intention of assembling them with very little labor so they can get a cheap guitar quickly, some really like to work through piece by piece and enjoy the process.
Overall, I really like this kit as I felt the Mahogany body was really comfortable and the finish came out great.
Pros: Great Tonewood, Twangy Tele Pickups, Comes With Detailed Instructions
Cons: Usually More Expensive, Need To Carve Headstock
# 3: Solo TCK-1 DIY Kit $119.99
One of the most affordable Telecaster kits on the market, the Solo TCK-1 is no slouch despite coming in third. All holes come pre-drilled, except for the string tree, which isn’t a big deal at all but like, c’mon…why not just drill that one too?
This Tele kit does have beautiful black binding around the surprisingly heavy Basswood body. The Maple neck comes with a Blackwood fingerboard, and for those that want a quick, easy Tele build, the headstock comes pre-shaped. If you’re looking to do your own customized, headstock carve, look elsewhere, but I appreciated this feature myself.
The TCK-1 pickups are a bit noisy if we’re being honest, but they also had the most sustain out of the bunch, and I did really enjoy playing this guitar. It was also the heaviest by weight of the four I assembled.
Pros: Pre-Carved Headstock, Good Sustain, Easy To Assemble, Affordable
Cons: Noisy Single Coils, Lesser Tonewood, Heavy
# 4: Bargain Musician GK-002 DIY Kit $129.99
Another incredibly affordable offering, Bargain Musician’s Tele kit for sure requires the use of a drill. This one required the most labor to put together, as you’ll have to drill in guide holes for the pickguard, control cavity, bridge, and neck. Again, not a huge deal for most people, but in case it is, now you know.
This Ash body comes with a Maple neck and fretboard, and is incredibly light and comfortable. These single coil pickups were also a bit noisy as well, but I have to say they did a really good job of imitating that Tele twang and slap for such an affordable price.
They do offer a very helpful support network to new builders and they have worked with some great programs that focus on having high school student’s build their own guitars. It’s a great company, an affordable kit that won’t disappoint, it just may be for the more handy kit assemblers out there.
Pros: Affordable, Pre-Carved Headstock, Great Tonewood
Cons: Cheap Tuners, Noisy Pickups, Absolutely Need An Electric Drill
I have written a few articles before that try to outline the best rig for metal, punk, or live shows below a certain budget. While it is a good exercise in bargain hunting, it always feels pretty useless because each player needs something different no matter what the budget is. So instead I thought I’d provide some guidelines for shopping on a budget that will help inform where/when to save or spend money. Plus, I’ll throw in a few of my favorite budget friendly pieces of gear!
Finding A Guitar
When you’re looking for a cheap guitar there a few major things you need to consider.
Does it stay in tune?
Is it comfortable to play?
Does it inspire you?
I think players often prioritize the wrong features, especially on budget friendly guitars. New players either just get the cheapest guitar they can find, or they just find something (like a Strat or LP) that their idols used. Furthermore, the brand name shouldn’t matter that much. Don’t spend more to get a Fender that may be marginally better than a high end Squier just because it’s a Fender.
Prioritize function and comfort over anything else. If you can find a $300 guitar that feels great and stays in tune, that’s perfectly fine for live or even studio use if it inspires you! Especially if you can’t spend a lot of money on gear, make sure you get something versatile too. Realistically you need a guitar that can get you a lot of sounds and do what 2-3 guitars can do.
One of my favorite guitars that fits this bill is the G&L ASAT Bluesboy. It’s not necessarily a huge brand name like the Fender Telecaster that inspired it. However, it’s engineered to be a phenomenal guitar and the neck humbucker adds great versatility. All of this comes on one of the most versatile guitar models of all time, the Telecaster. It’s about $450 new, and can be even cheaper used, and is incredibly reliable. I highly recommend buying this guitar here!
Filling Out A Pedalboard
Pedal boards are often a tricky thing to make recommendations for. The biggest issue for budget minded players is that just getting a board and power supply can set you back hundreds of dollars, and those are things you really need to have for live gigs. Take a quick look on Reverb, you’ll find many great options up and down the price range, but choosing can be difficult.
Once again, go with the function over form here. Modeling amps are affordable, but are often unreliable for live use. Unless it comes with multiple foot switches (which makes less affordable) how are you gonna bend over mid-song to turn on or off the chorus? Stick to the basics here. Get pedals and effects you need, things like a boost if you’re a lead guitar player, or an overdrive so you can have clean and dirty sounds live.
I would spend the least amount of money on pedals, instead recommending you stick to trusted and affordable essentials like the Boss DS-1 or Ammoon Nano Chorus. You can build your board up over time, accumulating pedals and upgrades as you can afford it, but for now, get a reliable power supply and stick to the basics.
Invest In A Loud, Reliable Amp
I recently wrote about this for Ultimate-Guitar.com, but you really should spend more money on your amp than your guitar. I go into more detail in that article so definitely give it a read! But essentially, you need a few things out of the amp that are non-negotiable. It has to be at least 15 watts, and really should be more like 25+ watts if you are playing anything bigger than a dive bar.
Some players may be tempted to think they need a tube amp to get professional sound. Personally, I do prefer tube amps and I think there are some moderately priced ones that will do a great job. Options like the Vox AC15 might tempt those with bigger wallets, but I’d recommend the Orange Micro Terror 20 watt head paired with some affordable cabinets like the PPC112 60-watt option from Orange. For just over $300-400 depending if you buy new or used, you get quite a large amount of volume and a name-brand, dependable amp head.
Balancing The Budget
If you read this and felt like it’s hard to put together a solid rig for under $1000, you’re not wrong. It’s gotten a bit easier with options like the Boss Katana modeling amps but you still have to pony up for an expensive foot controller. A lot of this stuff just isn’t one size fits all and you really need to take the time to try out and research gear before you buy. I try to make a huge portion of my reviews affordable gear so that players can find answers to their questions here at Guitars For Idiots. Ultimately, all the gear I recommended here really is reliable and high quality enough to get you playing your best on stage. Think there are other guitars or amps that can get you to the next level? Let me know in the comments!
When I’m not reviewing guitars here or ranting about some opinion I have, I’m often trying to fix up cheap guitars by swapping parts, re-wiring, or mixing and matching my favorite guitar designs. I thought it might be a cool read to go over all the projects I’m working on that may or may not end up as future articles. Plus, if you have any ideas for builds or mods you want to see me do, let me know! Also, if anyone wants a partscaster built to their specs or is looking for build ideas, reach out!
Turning A Squier Stratocaster Into My Dream Stratocaster
I love Strats, actually, I just love Fender guitars. My first guitar ever was a Sunburst, Mexican-made HSS Stratocaster and it is still my number 1 to this day. When I saw this beat up Squier at my local music store, I was instantly inspired to make it great, and luckily my good friend and trusted tech gave it to me for next to nothing. I am still in the planning phase but I’m going to put some premium single coils in there, swap out the bridge, and add locking tuners. Hopefully, this will get me really close to the SSS Strat I’ve always wanted! I love the feeling of the neck on this thing, and even though it’s cheap Maple wood, it’s just so comfortable to my hands. Plus the guitar is naturally relic’d from years of abuse and just looks great.
Re-Building Joe Strummer’s Telecaster
To my complete and total surprise, I found a Fender Joe Strummer signature model Telecaster on Reverb for around $300 or so bucks. The complete guitar usually goes for anywhere from $800 to $1400 used, and was always out of my price range. I jumped on that deal quick, even though the guitar was missing a few original parts. While it still has the original pickups, bridge, and wiring, it needs a white pickguard to replace this black one that the original owner put on. Plus, I had to re-install the input jack. I couldn’t get any neck to fit on it right, so luckily my local music store helped me sort out the installation and intonation. All it needs now is a proper Rosewood Fender Tele neck, instead of the Squier Strat neck I put on as a place holder.
More Telecasters Than I Know What To Do With
Both of these Tele bodies are wired up, with the natural finish Tele coming from a kit I assembled myself. The black one is a Squier Affinity Telecaster I outfitted for an Ultimate-Guitar.com article. The guitar sounds great and is loaded with used Fender Standard MIM Tele pickups. I temporarily put the neck on it that I am using for the Can We Build A Better Guitar Than Fender? article, just to test it out, but now it needs a proper neck of its own. I’m wondering if I should rout out cavities for the humbuckers I have left over from the 920D Custom wiring harness, or if I should add a P90 I took from my Les Paul Special? I also have a GFS Retrotron humbucker lying around, so many options…
While we’ve been fairly conservative with the body and hardware choices for our take on Fender’s ’72 Thinline Telecaster, it’s time to add a premium neck! With our budget of $600 in mind, I felt the neck is one of the most important items to splurge on, because feeling comfortable can make or break the guitar playing experience. Almost all the guitars that I own have Rosewood necks, which made me want to go with a nice Maple neck here, to change it up.
Thanks to Reverb.com, I was able to find an awesome Fender Tele neck and Fender tuners for just over $200 combined. This Fender Standard Telecaster neck came with 21 medium jumbo frets, a modern C shape, and smooth Satin finish on the back of the neck. The neck in total was $169.99 from an independent seller, while the tuners were $34.99 from a great shop called The STRATosphere.
So far, we’ve spent $190.00 on the body and $204.98 on the neck, with just the loaded pickguard to go. That’s at total of $394.98, leaving us just over $200 to add some premium pickups and wiring. Think we’ll end up with a comparable or even better guitar than Fender’s $1000+ Vintera model? I’m pretty confident we will and I’m already in love with how this neck feels. Stay tuned for the final installment, before we compare the two guitars side by side!
Fender is getting the holiday season started early by gifting the world a new line of premium electric guitars and basses. The Fender American Ultra Series will be Fender’s most advanced and modern line of instruments yet. Featuring 6 new instruments, the Ultra line will feature new finishes, new pickups, modernized guitar designs, and much more.
Some of the highlights include:
New Body Contours: A super sculpted neck heel will give players premium access to the upper frets and the new body contour will make playing even more comfortable sitting or standing.
Noiseless Pickups: Fender’s new Noiseless pickups will come in single coil, humbucker, jazzmaster, J bass, and P bass varieties. The Hot Noiseless pickups will provide more modern tone while the Ultra Noiseless will give you that vintage Fender tone without any hum or buzz.
Upgraded Wiring: Fender has added crazy nice wiring and electronic options across the board on the Ultra line. The basses will have an active/passive control switch giving you elite control over your tone. The S1 switch will allow you to add new tonal dimensions like dual pickup activation on the SSS Strat, a double-tapped humbucker on the HSS Strat, and Tele single coil pickups run in series to provide more of a humbucker tone.
Awesome New Finishes: New finishes include Ultra Burst, Plasma Red Burst, Aged Natural, Mocha Burst, Texas Tea, Arctic Pearl, and Cobra Blue. The Ultra Telecaster will also be available in the classic Butterscotch finish.
The line will include the Ultra SSS Stratocaster, Ultra HSS Stratocaster, Ultra Telecaster, Ultra Jazzmaster, Ultra Precision Bass, and Ultra Jazz Bass (Either 4 or 5 string). Prices will range from $1899.99-$2099.99.
I’ve been singing the praises of GFS pickups for some time now, but I’ve never actually had the chance to try one of their Xaviere guitar products until now. The Pro845 immediately caught my eye as both an affordable and awesome alternative to Fender thinlines. My Pro845 came in the beautiful sunburst finish with a Maple neck joined to the Alder body. A Graphtech nut, Mother of peal pickguard, and GFS Gold Foil Humbuckers wrap up the surprisingly premium features on this sub-$300 beauty. The 25.5″ scale length Tele is also incredibly lightweight and comfortable, with 22 easy to reach frets and string-through body construction.
The GFS Gold Foil Humbuckers are incredibly versatile and sound great through the resonant, thinline body. They sound more clean and clear than warm, giving them a distinct single coil-like tone but with higher output and no buzz or hum. The pickups in both positions were very responsive to the attack of your pick or fingers, staying jangly and full of chime when lightly played, before churning out more mid and low-end muscle when you dig in. With a little bit of overdrive and distortion, classic humbucker tones were easy to coax out. This made it easy to go between playing The Killers, Rage Against The Machine, and Coldplay without needing to change guitars. When played clean, you were left feeling a little wanting for more of a full, well rounded tone that usually get out of humbuckers. The PRO845 is certainly a better option for players who want more sparkle than depth.
I was surprised by how well the guitar stayed in tune, even though the die cast tuners really should be replaced. The string-through body design really helps stabilize the bridge and added a ton of natural sustain though. The finish on the Maple neck felt a little thin for my liking, but was still above average in comfort. On the bright side, the neck feels thin and fast, despite their website describing it as “not fat, just beefy” thanks to added “chunk”. I much prefer the slim feeling of this neck though, and think it inspired me to move around between many different positions while playing. Plus, it balances the lightweight Alder, semi-hollow body nicely.
Finish & Construction: 8
The finish on the Sunburst model I received is stunning, it actually looks better than the Sunburst finish on my Fender Stratocaster. The hardware was also well polished and clean, giving it a really high quality appearance. The tuners and pots feel a bit cheap, and likely could use an upgrade, but they were overall non-offensive as they didn’t really interfere with the tuning stability or tone shaping. That’s more me being picky, but still worth noting for those who may want to get this guitar and just spend a few bucks on modifications. The construction does seem better than expected for the price, with good action, little to no fret buzz, and no dings, scratches, or signs of poor finishing.
I think the fact that you can get such a quality guitar for around $230 is insane. As some one who loves cheap gear, I’m used to handing out scores like this to something in the $400-$600 and being really happy with the bargain I got. This guitar is more comparable to a higher end Squier model than it is to the similarly priced low end Squier Affinity or Bullet series. The Gold Foil pickups shimmer, sparkle, and chime giving you many tone shaping options, and the overall design is just beautiful. Having a thinline Tele has always been a dream of mine, and I feel like I fulfilled that dream for a few hundred less dollars than I expected to pay!