Quite often we have beginners around here asking for advice on what is the best beginners electric guitar… and there are many opinions, and many members who are vocal about whatever their own opinions are
Quite often the general recommendation is to get something along the lines of a Fender stratocaster, and perhaps you’ll have heard a recommendation for the Yamaha Pacifica 112 or something similar. But allow me to bring one more instrument on the table:
The Sterling by MusicMan “SUB CT30” Cutlass.
You can check this video about it:
I pretty much agree with all the points being made there. At the moment I own 3 of the (much more expensive) US made MusicMan guitar, but I’ve also owned the Pacifica 112V - and that was, in my opinion, not a particular good instrument. This one is…
For around $500 I agree with Darrell that this is probably one of the best deals you are going to get…
Kasper is this the same Music Man company that Leo Fender was a part of back in the day? Leo was a consultant silent partner with Music Man when he sold Fender to CBS and before he reunited with George Fullerton to found G&L.
I thought this was an interesting observation and wanted to offer my experience as a beginner guitar buyer… 3 years ago I decided to learn guitar but not knowing anything I didn’t want to try anything in a music store as I wouldn’t know what to ask. My musical taste isn’t specific enough to go with a ‘favourite guitarist’. Research online led me to the Pacifica 112 as it was reasonably cheap by guitar standards (I think $200 cheaper than the one above?) and had both single coil and humbucker so I didn’t feel I was committing to any particular style. I didn’t know much more and wouldn’t have understood much of the feature difference in the video… Not uncommon to ‘I want to learn guitar’ dreams - I got nowhere initially… Until 18 months ago when I was suddenly at home a lot and I found JustinGuitar and actually started to learn how to play.
I found the Pacifica good for at least the first 6 months working my way through the beginner stages and open chords and getting into a routine of playing and practicing regularly. It was setup sufficiently well from the store or manufacturer that I didn’t have any major issues getting going, forming chords, making a sound and strumming along. By that point I’d also spent time listening to guitarists and their sounds (and YouTube gear videos… ) and had a bit more of an idea of the style and sound of guitar I actually liked and when one was available managed to get hold of one and that is what I play all the time now. I regularly go back to the Pacifica and try to enjoy playing it but I just don’t compared to my other guitar.
I’ve tried to frame my post more from my experience as a beginner following the internet and buying a guitar rather than stating an opinion on good / bad guitars. I’m not disappointed as I had an instrument when I wanted one that was affordable and playable and got me going while I worked out what I wanted. Thanks for sharing this and I’m be interested in what others also started on and settled on in beginner / early intermediate stages as its pretty overwhelming market at first.
Haha @Kasper I’m glad you didn’t post this yesterday before I clicked the ‘buy’ button on the Harley Benton @DarrellW suggested- I would have been torn (well, except for the price )
@grayal I think you’re dead on the money with that kind of thinking- something that is good value, but not expensive to start off and start drooling/spending when you can play better.
I’ve moved from the ‘beginner’ stage to the early intermediate one and play guitars in that bracket.
I wonder whether I will ever decide to splash out on a big ticket item?
Sorry but I disagree, there have been a few bad reviews on the Sterling Cutlass but never on the USA version, no idea why but in a couple of cases bad enough to send them back! I wouldn’t expect to see this with a company like Musicman.
The HB fusion III has received consistently good reviews especially centred around the specifications and manufacturing quality, the sounds are also very good but a few reviewers mentioned that they may upgrade the pickups at a later date. That could happen with any guitar including guitars much more expensive.
I have to admit my 112V has been a great guitar so far. I actually appreciate now how well it’s made. Stays in tune for ages too. I do think the pickups are weak but in all honesty that comes without really comparing it to another strat. Build quality though is very good. I am starting to have a hankering for a more quality Strat…GAS is on its way.
Interesting to read the comments on the Cutlass although the price in the UK at least is probably a £200 more than the Pacifica so I guess I’d expect it to be slightly better.
@DarrellW That Fusion looks quite good as well! Seems like it also comes with locking tuners, a feature I believe many beginners could greatly benefit from… because it would take away any “fear” of changing strings (and improve tuning stability). In think in this price range it is unavoidable that a few lemons gets shipped out, there simple isn’t enough budget for QC, sadly…
@SgtColon How many guitars? Not as many as some might thinkg, and certainly less than many around here I own 5 electric guitars, all bought for a specific purpose (and all high quality). They are:
EBMM Luke III HSS - very versatile all-round guitar. I use this for live playing
Suhr PT HH - even more versatile, my “main axe”. I also use this with the band / live
EBMM Cutlass SSS - This is my “strat” guitar, only use this for recording
ESP Ltd Deluxe MH-1000 - This is equipped with the Evertune bridge. My “heavy” guitar, I use this very often for double/quad tracked rhythm playing as well as harmonized lead lines (where tuning is absolutely critical!)
EBMM Reflex - Hardtail. My “Les Paul” style guitar. Used everytime I quickly need to change tunings (drop D, Eb tuning etc). Also use(d) this live for some songs, now that I re-bought it I will start bringing it to the band again.
That’s a good way of looking at it, and I also did not mean to talk bad about the Pacifica 112 (or whatever other instruments people have decided on). There are so many (good) options, the Cutlass was just something I would recommend myself… but, as an EBMM fan I’m biased
It’s a very nice guitar that at some stage I shall get myself, I have other priorities at the moment 🥲 The things I like about the Fusion III are the SS frets plus it has a Plek setup also the very attractive roasted maple neck. Pickups are reasonable and the Trem is quite decent also.
Yes you’re absolutely right, at this price bracket QC can be a bit sketchy! I think that with HB guitars as there’s no middle man you often get a lot for the cost.
Darrell Braun Guitar is probably one of the best places to learn about guitars. He’ll give you many ideas for affordable guitars and how to improve an inexpensive guitar. After watching his channel, my key take away is that comfort and playability are much more important with electric guitars than the actual components which are 100% changable. Also, a good amp can compensate for mediocre components; but no matter how good the components a bad amp will make them sound not so good.
I agree with grayal about the Pacifica 112. The instant I tried it, I knew I would not love playing it. I kept trying guitars up the price range and even some $800 guitars did not feel right. That included some PRS’s. Unfortunately, the minute I felt my Godin in my lap, no other guitar would do it. I say unfortunately because it was more than I wanted to pay; but it’s a lifetime commitment so I rationalized it.
I would rate how the guitar neck feels in your hand and playability as most important. Some guitars have wider string spacing which may feel better to some people. Balance and comfort in your lap is #2. Weight might be important as well for you. Pick up configuration is also important. The kind of pickups, tuners, switches and knobs are much less important but can make up a lot of the cost of a new guitar and it’s also where afforable guitars tend to provide some value. All of the components are changable/upgradable with relative ease over time. The amp you buy is the next most important component.
Comfort is quite subjective so I would physically play something but that’s just me.
Yeah, not sure how a pure beginner would know. I think i got super lucky and I didn’t realize it until I went shopping for an LP-style guitar.
I think equal focus should be paid to the amp. I like the one I have but it’s a really basic beginner amp. For another $100 I could have bought one with substantially more features. It’s harder to sell used amps than used guitars and I don’t need or want two amps. So while the guitar is about comfort and feel, the amp is all about the features and specs.
So for an absolute beginner, whateve amount of time you spend on buying a guiter; spend at least that much time on researching an amp. Then, whatever you settle on if you can afford another $100; see what that will get you.
Discounting the First Act HH guitar that came with a VW Rabbit I bought back in 2006, that got promptly stashed in the attic, but emerged last year (broken) when guitars piqued my interest, a Yamaha Pacifica 112V (the slightly over $300 version) was my first “real” guitar (whew…). I did quite a bit of research on the Pacifica, but never found one locally to try out, so I ordered it online, along with a cheap $99 Vox amp, figuring that if playing guitar didn’t stick, I wasn’t out a great deal of money.
The Pacifica is a fine, well-built instrument and I was not disappointed with it. As I got mine from Sweetwater and it cleared the $300 mark, it received their condition inspection and setup to ensure it wasn’t completely out of whack. I suspect getting this guitar from retailers that don’t do any sort of inspection could potentially result in problems for brand new guitarists who just don’t know any better about setup at that point. I certainly didn’t know jack about such things when I started out; I just had a clamp-on tuner and a willingness to jump in.
After 3 months of solid JG lessons and practice with the Pacifica, and deciding that I might just like this guitar stuff after all, I was afflicted with G.A.S. and decided it was time to step up to a higher quality guitar. I eventually fell in love with the PRS SE Custom 24 and made one mine. The Pacifica has since hung on the wall, though I did pull it down and play with it briefly last week; it just doesn’t compare with the SE, but will always hold a spot in my heart as being the key to this journey I’m on.
I’d still recommend the Pacifica to new players, but with the caveat that there are some really fine, inexpensive guitars out on the market these days, so research carefully!