15 best offset guitars under $1,000

Eccentric, retrolicious and value-for-money, these offset guitars are worthy additions to any collection.

There was a time when offset-body guitars were a niche concern. Although they first found favour with 1980s noiseniks thanks to their relative affordability compared to more celebrated vintage Fenders, the Jazzmaster and Jaguar soon attracted a devoted, almost cult-like following.

Here in 2019, offsets are as cool as they’ve been since the early days of grunge, with guitar players of every style and genre embracing their varied wonders, expressive vibrato systems and quirky switching. There are now more offset options for prospective buyers than ever before – and as you can see from our list, $1000 will get you a lot of guitar…

1Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster

fender-Vintera-Jazzmaster

Given that the Californian company invented the genre, it’s no surprise that Fender features heavily in this category. Fender produces more varied and affordable offsets than anyone else, and perhaps no other model is more crowd-pleasing than this new Vintera 60s Jazzmaster.

The introduction of the Vintera range in 2019 overhauled the top end of Fender’s Mexican-made line with upgrades and enhancements to make the instruments feel more vintage-authentic than their predecessors. This Jazzmaster is no exception.

An alder body and bolt-on maple neck provides the classic vehicle for Jazzmaster jangle, which comes courtesy of new vintage-voiced 60s single-coils and a classic floating vibrato. The Vintera range features an array of appealing neck shapes, and this Jazzmaster’s effortlessly playable thin-C profile feels both authentic and enjoyable.

£799/$999

2Guild S-200 T-Bird

guild-s-200-t-bird

The T-Bird is perhaps the most weird and recognisable body shape that Guild has ever produced. The original Thunderbird has been wielded by the likes of Muddy Waters, Zal Yanovsky and most recently by Dan Auerbach. Strapping one on, it’s hard not to channel that scuzzy garage-blues spirit, but this S-200 isn’t a one-trick pony.

With its myriad knobs and switches, there’s an awful lot of scope to shape the sound of the guitar’s twin Guild LB-1 Little Bucker pickups, with the old-school Tremar vibrato unit further enhancing the versatility.

Pick of the knobs is a rather useful low-cut tone capacitor, which sucks the low-end frequencies to give those ’buckers more of a single-coil vibe. It looks weird, but it’s set up to do plenty.

£699/$799

3Squier Classic Vibe Starcaster

Squier-Starcaster

The Starcaster is one of Fender’s stranger and lesser-known guitars: a semi-hollow archtop with an offset body. Its original run only lasted from 1976 to 1980, but, encouraged by a buoyant vintage market, Fender reissued the model in 2013.

For 2019, however, Fender has made the Starcaster more accessible than ever before, adding a range of new models to the Squier line. This Classic Vibe is the most faithful to the original, though it also recalls the player-friendly tweaks of the recent Chinese-made Fender.

Instead of the 1970s original’s six-saddle bridge, we have a more generic Adjusto-matic and stoptail combination, while the master volume knob has been ditched in favour of a classic two volume, two tone arrangement.

Pickups are the same Wide Range humbuckers seen in the 2013 reissue and with 3-Tone Sunburst, Walnut and Natural finish options, this definitely has the vibe that attracted the likes of Jonny Greenwood and Dave Keuning to the originals.

£439/$399

4Fender Meteora

fender-Meteora

Originally debuting as a part of Fender’s USA-made Parallel Universe series back at NAMM 2018, the Meteora was one of the hits of the show and quickly earned a place in the hearts of many guitar players.

Following its success as a limited-run USA-made instrument, Fender has sensibly released a lower-priced version of the Meteora, but much of what got guitarists so excited about the original has been retained.

Of course, that wild, retrofuturistic offset body shape is the main talking point, paired here with a decidedly un-Fender-y dual-humbucker layout and Adjusto-matic bridge.

Unlike the USA version, however, we get a pau ferro board, and a trio of classic (and dare we say it, even better looking) finish options – Candy Apple Red, Surf Green and Lake Placid Blue.

£859/$999

5Epiphone Ltd Edition Slash Firebird

epiphone-Slash-Firebird

The Firebird is one of the coolest guitars in rock, but those looking for an affordable interpretation of Gibson’s reverse-bodied classic face fairly slim pickings. Thankfully, here to help is… Slash?

The Cat In The Hat isn’t exactly notorious for playing anything other than his beloved Les Paul or an occasional BC Rich or doubleneck, but Epiphone has still graced him with this well-spec’d limited-edition guitar that offers an affordable route into Firebirdom.

In truth, with its mahogany body and AAA flamed maple top, this isn’t exactly your grandaddy’s Firebird, but with Seymour Duncan Slash humbuckers and high-end Sprague Orange Drop capacitors, it offers serious bang for your buck.

It also has classic Firebird banjo tuners and a Slash logo pickguard (your mileage may vary there), but if you want one, you’ll have to hurry – just 900 are being made worldwide.

£599/$899

6Fender Player Jaguar

Fender-Player-Jaguar

Introduced in 2018, the Player series is Fender’s most affordable Mexico-made range of electric guitars and features all of the company’s classic guitar designs overhauled, with a variety of player-friendly tweaks to the conventional recipe.

As you’d expect, the Player Jaguar retains the essential elements that made the Jaguar a classic design, most notably the short, player-friendly 24-inch scale length and 22 frets.

Gone, however, is the usual Jaguar single-coil bridge pickup. Instead, it’s replaced by a humbucker – aping so many grunge-era mods – while the neck single-coil is still present and correct. Also gone is the idiosyncratic switching, though we do get an extra switch to coil-split the humbucker. The Jaguar vibrato is retained and we also get a variety of eye-catching finishes, including Tidepool blue and Capri Orange.

£599/$674

7Italia Modena Challenge

Italia-Modena-Challenge

The Trevor Wilkinson-designed Italia brand has gained a reputation for producing unique and eccentric electrics that nod to the catalogue guitars of the late 50s and early 60s. The Modena Challenge is no exception, with its unique and undeniably retro-vibed German-carved Korina body standing out from the crowd in a pair of metallic finishes – Goldburst or Turquoise.

As is often the case with Wilkinson-designed instruments, there’s no skimping on the hardware side, with Wilkinson E-Z Lok machineheads keeping tuning nicely stable in combination with the Bigsby vibrato. A trio of Filter’Tron-style Wilkinson double-coil humbuckers completes the package and adds a great deal of sonic versatility.

£879/$919

8Fender Duo-Sonic

Fender-SuperSonic

Originally launched in the 50s as a student guitar, the Duo-Sonic has over the decades gone through several iterations without compromising on stripped-down simplicity. Its latest guise is as a short-scale MIM offset guitar that’s ballsy, punchy, lightweight and compact enough for smaller players or beginners.

Duo-Sonics and grunge will be forever associated, and as such it’s entirely appropriate that these new guitars offer a brash and snarly range of tones that are perfectly suited to Nirvana-style powerchords or more modern schools of noisenikery.

The reborn Mexican-made Duo-Sonic comes in two flavours, SS and HS, with the latter offering a coil-split option for the bridge humbucker for extra versatility. The 50s spirit is kept alive with three classic colour options – black, Surf Green and Daphne Blue. Okay, so the short scale length isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it’s an essential part of the Duo-Sonic recipe, and one that has a deep offset association all of its own.

$519/$499

9Rivolta Mondata II

Rivolta-Mondata

Dennis Fano knows a thing or two about building exciting and interesting offset guitars and his Rivolta brand has enabled guitarists who can’t quite stretch to his pant-wettingly good Novo brand to sample a bit of the magic.

The Mondata II strips away all of the excess to create a simple but hugely playable twin-pickup electric guitar that feels notably different from the usual offset crowd.

The solid mahogany body features a German carve with raised centre section that harks back to the Firebird and to complement that, we also get a pair of mini-humbuckers, in this case a pair of Fumante units.

With two controls and a toggle switch, plus a trusty tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece, this is an offset for those who don’t want to over-complicate matters.

£815/$999

10Epiphone 1984 Explorer EX

epiphone-explorer-ex

The phrase ‘offset guitar’ often brings to mind twangy surf guitar and noisy garage rock, but that’s not all it can be. The Epiphone 1984 Explorer EX has its feet firmly in the rock camp and while the original Gibson Explorer debuted in 1958, this example is dressed for metal.

Probably not the guitar to take along to your next blues jam, the EX sports a pair of full-throttle active EMG humbuckers – a classic 85/81 combo – to ensure that your cleans will be hot and your leads will be searing and powerful.

Like any good rock axe, the EX pairs a solid slab of mahogany for the body while the set mahogany neck has a flat and fast 12-inch radius ’board and shred-friendly SlimTaper D-shaped profile to ensure you’re comfortable all the way up to the 22nd fret.

Available in rock-ready black or Alpine White, and sporting quality Grover tuners and a no frills two-control layout, this is one asymmetric axe that’s more than ready to rock hard.

£509/$749

11Reverend Jetstream 390

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Many offset guitars use Fender’s hallowed Jazzmaster and Jaguar as their inspiration, but the Jetstream from Reverend takes its own path to electric eccentricity with an angular postmodern body shape. There’s something undeniably retro-futuristic about it and that’s not hindered by a choice of colours that includes some classic DuPont-style hues.

On the pickup front, the trio of overwound alnico V P-90s gives you a nice blend of rauch and twang. If you want classic in-between quack, then head to positions two and four, but those extra winds come in handy when you turn up the wick, giving a thicker and hotter tone that’s perfect for raunchy blues.

If you want more sonic flexibility, Reverend’s much-loved bass contour knob will keep your low end taught, while high-quality components including a Wilkinson WVS50 IIK vibrato, pin-lock tuners and a comfy roasted maple neck make things even more reassuring.

£799/$999

12Eastwood Univox Hi-Flyer Phase 4 DLX

Eastwood

The original Univox Hi-Flier Phase 4 was a late-70s instrument made for Univox by the Japanese manufacturer Matsumoku. This Eastwood replica is very faithful, both in spirit and offset weirdness, to the guitar famously used by Kurt Cobain in Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box video.

Often mistaken for a Mosrite due to their similar body shapes, the Hi-Flyer might not exactly be overflowing with sonic options, but if punk and garage rock are your vibe, then this will deliver with bags of personality.

With its German-carved basswood body and ‘reverse’ horn layout, the Hi-Flyer certainly doesn’t feel like many other guitars, but with a pair of P-90 pickups and a bolt-on construction, it’s solid, reliable and offers plenty of punky snarl.

And if you can’t resist channeling a bit of the Hi-Flyer’s original surf DNA in your playing, the DLX has you sorted with a Jazzmaster-style vibrato system with roller bridge for extra-smooth jangles.

£860/$899

13Fender Vintera ’60s Mustang

Fender-Vintera-Mustang

Don’t think this student guitar is just for beginners – over the decades, everyone from Kurt Cobain and Thurston Moore to Mac DeMarco and Matt Healy have been captivated by the Mustang’s charms.

Originally intended as a student guitar, the Mustang is a short-scale instrument, so it’s entirely appropriate that the new 2019 Vintera guitar continues that trend with a 22-fret, 24-inch scale neck that also sports a vintage-correct 7.25-inch fingerboard radius.

The old-style appointments continue with revoiced Mustang single-coil pickups that are designed to give more of that classic 60s sound, plus a vintage-style control layout, which includes individual on/off sliders for each pickup.

The classic Mustang vibrato looks just like it always has, but under the hood it’s been redesigned to be more stable and easy to use, while not sacrificing any of the vintage mojo.

£689/$899

14G&L Tribute Doheny

G&L-tribute-doheny

G&L was founded by Leo Fender, George Fullerton and Dale Hyatt in 1980 after Leo left the company that bore his name and, unsurprisingly, G&L’s instruments have always harked back to those classic designs he created in the 50s and 60s.

The Doheny is G&L’s take on the Jazzmaster design, but featuring various tweaks that streamline the model for the modern player. Instead of the Jazzmaster’s floating vibrato, here we get a more straightforward Dual-Fulcrum system and instead of the involved switching and wiring arrangement, we have a simple three-position selector switch and three knobs for Leo’s PTB (passive treble and bass) tone circuit.

Pickups comprise a pair of Leo Fender wide-bobbin MFD single coils, which are inspired by Leo’s much-loved G&L Jumbo MFD ASAT designs.

£519/$647

15D’Angelico Premier Bedford

DAngelico-premier-bedford

D’Angelico is better known for its big jazzboxes than its unconventional offsets, but the Bedford is an interesting and left-field addition to the brand’s stable for 2019. The New York brand’s instruments have always been heavy on art-deco aesthetics, and so it’s no surprise that even when they’re working on an offset, the designers at D’Angelico can’t resist throwing in a unique flourish to the pickguard.

Tone-wise, however, this is very much a modern instrument. A humbucker in the bridge and single coil in the neck offer plenty of versatility, with separate tone and volume controls providing blend potential in the middle position. The basswood body comes in a variety of interesting finish options, including the love-it-or-loathe it black with blue tortie pickguard.

£599/$699

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