Buyer's Guide: The Best Budget-Friendly Offset Guitars

The budget guitar era has, for too long, been dominated by stripped-down versions of classic designs. We all know about bang-for-the-buck wonders like the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster and the Epiphone Pro SG—and those are highly regarded for good reason—but if we’re being honest, traditional can be a little boring sometimes.

Meanwhile, Squier, G&L, and Fender itself have all gotten into the affordable offset market to sate your funkier appetites—as have other companies like Danelectro and Eastwood.

So if you’re looking to spice things up and stick to a budget, you have plenty of options. Below, we're taking a close look at three of our favorite affordable offsets, along with a slew of worthy contenders.


Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster

Arguably the most well-known commodity on this list, the 21-fret Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster is a delight.

For starters, it’s just hard to ignore—thanks in large part to the reflective nature of the gold anodized aluminum pickguard. And looks are one thing, but it's the J Mascis Jazzmaster’s playability that sets it apart.

New Price: $449.99
Reverb Range: $339-$425
Shop Now on Reverb

"The feel is really smooth and comfortable," says Greg S. from Lafayette, Indiana, who bought his J Mascis back in 2012. "I love the neck and the jumbo frets—and it doesn’t hurt that it looks cool as hell, either."

Greg also notes that the Adjusto-Matic bridge and floating tremolo setup is top-notch, citing tuning stability as a major selling point.

"I’ve never played a guitar that can be whammied as hard and frequently, and stay in tune as well as this. I whammy pretty frequently, since I play both in surfy and shoegaze styles, and I rarely need to tune mid-set. It will stay in tune for a whole show."

Greg runs an Orange Tiny Terror into a 2x12 Fender cabinet and uses a large pedalboard, but still appreciates the J Mascis Jazzmaster’s tonal range.

"I love that it can give me those smooth, clean, and sparkly tones for the '60s Motown sounds I want at times, and then in a blink—with some pedal help—it can do awesome shoegazey washes with great feedback."

The only drawback, Greg indicates, stems from his disdain for the vintage-style tuners.

"I like to keep my strings untrimmed and sticking out all directions, and this style of winding mechanism makes it hard to put strings on. I’ve had slipping issues where the string just comes right out of the mechanism, even when fairly tight."

Even still, the Squier J Mascis absolutely delivers for the budget-conscious player.


G&L Fallout Tribute

Dave H. from Vista, California calls the G&L Fallout a "tonally purposeful" instrument that "doesn’t suffer from excess." He also says he’s convinced several friends to fall for one.

New Price: $449.99
Reverb Range: $325-$429
Shop Now on Reverb

"It’s a fun, lightweight guitar with simple and useful controls that allow a plethora of tonal changes," he says. "I use all the pickup settings and dial in different volume levels as to what's dynamically needed."

He’s owned a Tribute for three years, gigging it frequently while playing rock with a heavy emphasis on improvisation. As such, he covers everything from blues and funk to rockabilly, surf, and psychedelia through a Vox AC30 and 59’ Reissue Bassman—so a wide range of tones is usually required.

And that’s precisely where the Fallout Tribute delivers, since it comes loaded with a coil-splitting humbucker in the bridge and a P90 in the neck. Tonal options abound: You can get twang, bite, and growl—or combinations of all three at the flick of a switch.

Plus, unlike the other two guitars on this list, the Fallout Tribute comes with several finish and fingerboard options to match your style. Built with a mahogany body, you can find Fallout Tributes in Alpine White or Mint Green with a Brazilian cherry fingerboard, or Sonic Blue and Gloss Black with Maple. And all come with 22 medium jumbo frets and G&L’s proprietary Saddle Lock bridge.

Another bonus? Consistency.

"I have played a few different versions of the Fallout and actually have found the Tributes to be more consistently balanced in their make and weight," Dave says. "It’s simply a functional guitar that’s easy to bond with, especially when playing live. It’s ergonomically balanced and comfortable enough to play for hours."

Necessary changes? Two. Dave recommends swapping out the nut and input jack.


Fender Duo-Sonic

The original Fender Duo-Sonic was introduced in 1956 as a short-scale student-model guitar, but quickly became a cultural phenomenon that famously hooked Jimi Hendrix in 1964.

New Price: $499.99-$524.99
Reverb Range: $375-$475
Shop Now on Reverb

Fast forward to 2016 and Fender re-released the Duo-Sonic in a variety of colors and two distinct versions, one with single coils in both the bridge and neck, and another with a bridge humbucker—all with alder bodies and a 24" scale length.

So if you can get down playing a guitar that’s an inch-and-a-half shorter in scale, you may be like Bud S. from Westport, Massachusetts, who opted for one of the HS configurations in mid-2017.

"I play a wide-ranging variety of music with it," he says, "but I love that the Duo-Sonic is ultra lightweight, weighing only 6 pounds, 12 ounces. For this alone, I tend to pick it up when I want something easy to play."

Though he’ll talk about the "unbelievable price"—ranging from $500-$525 dollars new, depending on the bridge pickup—playability is a core component of why Bud loves the Duo-Sonic.

"The instrument's overall scale length and use of jumbo frets make for an all-around player that can take anything I throw its way."

Another positive, the low price point makes it a perfect starting point for customization. Bud has installed locking tuners, ditched the string tree, and swapped out the pickups.

"The guitar before played well and I loved its initial tones. Now, it sings like no other! It's one of my top playing guitars."

As far as concerns go, Bud had some wiring issues and warns that it can be overly bright, so he runs it with a Two Rock Studio 50/15 amp and an always-on clean boost, such as the Emerson EM-Drive to keep his tones full and rich.


Other Offsets to Consider

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Check out these other affordable offsets.

All the retro you can handle—and more visually tolerable than the Danelectro ‘67.

Key Features:
  • 25″-scale bolt-on neck with 19 frets on a rosewood fretboard
  • Bright and sparkly tones from dual lipstick pickups w/ 3-way switching
  • Height-adjustable saddles for individual intonation
Shop Now on Reverb

Get low with a single humbucker, single volume, and a sexy blackout finish.

Key Features:
  • 27.5"-scale set maple neck with 22 frets on a rosewood fretboard
  • Hi-Output (15.2k) Open Coil Humbucker
  • Fixed Tune-O-Matic Bridge
Shop Now on Reverb

Mustang body with dual P90s. For when you just want to rock out.

Key Features:
  • 24″-scale bolt-on maple neck with 22 medium jumbo frets on a Pau Ferro fretboard
  • Six-saddle string-through-body hardtail strat bridge with bent steel saddles
  • Four finish options, including 2-Color Burst, Olympic White, Torino Red, and Silver
Shop Now on Reverb

A budget take on the Jazzmaster platform with genuine MFD pickups.

Key Features:
  • 25.5"-scale bolt-on neck with 21-frets on maple or rosewood and pearl block inlays
  • Dual-fulcrum vibrato
  • Four finish options, including Jet Black, Olympic White, Surf Green, and Lake Placid Blue
Shop Now on Reverb

It’s like a tele and a strat made a baby… which was adopted by a Jazzmaster.

Key Features:
  • 25.5″-scale bolt-on neck with 22 frets on a maple fretboard
  • 3 single-coil pickups with 3-way switching and a volume control for the middle
  • Locking tuners
Shop Now on Reverb

If you like knobs and switches and single coils, this 24"-scale-length beauty beckons.

Key Features:
  • 24″-scale bolt-on maple neck with 22 medium jumbo frets on a rosewood fretboard
  • Vintage-style bridge with non-locking "floating" vibrato
  • Four finish options, including 3-Color Burst, Candy Apple Red, Surf Green, and Olympic White
Shop Now on Reverb

comments powered by Disqus