There’s something to be said for a $3000+ guitar, in many cases. Take for example a Paul Reed Smith Custom 25 30th Anniversary guitar. Versatile switching, beautiful selected woods. Resonant and loud before you even plug it into an amp. Amazing-sounding pickups. Flawless build quality in every respect.
But…..it’s $3000+. Not everyone can afford, or wants to spend, $3000 on a guitar, and that’s fine. It’s 2015, and there are many choices.
Take for example PRS’s own SE line, of which there’s the PRS SE Custom 24 30th Anniversary. Like it’s more expensive sister, it’s got amazing fit and finish, particularly for an instrument costing well south of a grand. Additionally, it plays very well, and it too is quite resonant. Sure, you might want to toss some locking tuners on, and maybe even swap pickups. But that’s still going to bring you in at less than $1000, and for a guitar that’s truly a pro instrument.
Modifying “cheap” or inexpensive guitars has been a thing for decades, but I would arguably say that it’s less of an issue to do so these days than ever before. A PRS SE may shine with new pickups, but it doesn’t need it. A G&L Tribute ASAT might benefit from a setup, but it doesn’t need a massive amount of work; it’s an amazingly playable guitar right from the start.
So what’s an example of modifying an inexpensive (my definition being <$1000) guitar? Well, take the PRS SE Zack Myers signature guitar.
It’s a semi-hollow, mahogany neck and body, with a maple cap. It comes with an adjustable stop tail piece and Kluson-style tuners. It plays and sounds fantastic, right out of the (heavily padded) gig bag it comes with.
So how would I make it better for me? Well, this guitar is loud as hell unplugged, and I suspect it’s the semi-hollow nature speaking there. So plugged in, it’s a strong voiced instrument. So how about adding a TonePros style piezo equipped bridge, and giving it some acoustic tones as well? And while we’re making it even more versatile, how about a set of Seymour Duncan P-Rails, to give it p90, single coil, AND humbucker tones? The tuners are pretty decent stock, but Gotoh makes some nice locking Kluson style tuners, so let’s toss those on there.
For still under $1000, you’ve got a solid axe with a set of electronics who’s versatility is second to none.
So, in the end it really comes down to what camp you fall into, and what you want to spend, an how much tweaking and experimenting you want to do.