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The Canoo Pickup looks like no other electric truck, and I’m fascinated

The Canoo electric pickup looks weird, and that’s a really good thing. Unveiled this week, the newest addition to the growing roster of zero-emission trucks isn’t going into production until 2023 at the earliest, the startup says, but is already getting attention by virtue of a design that upends, rather than apes, the traditional pickup aesthetic.

While crossovers and SUVs have rapidly replaced much of the sedan market, someone who might’ve been shopping for a pickup five decades ago wouldn’t find much different were they to head to a Ford, Chevrolet, or Ram dealership today. Yes, modern trucks are typically larger, more frugal, and better equipped than their predecessors – not least because automakers know that many drivers will pay handsomely for those premium features – but the core silhouette hasn’t really changed.

Park a Canoo pickup next to an F-150 or a Silverado, though, and the differences couldn’t be more stark.

Rather than a long hood, Canoo’s truck pushes its cab right to the front. More like a van, in fact. The proportions of a traditional pickup are a function of their underlying architecture, of course. The long hood gives plenty of space for a big, potent engine; cab length is defined by how many people you need to transport versus how long the truck ends up; at the rear, the bed size is a balance between capacity and overall vehicle length and nimbleness.

Despite a very different approach to propulsion, though, most of the electric pickups we’ve seen so far have stuck closely to that template. There may not be a big gas or diesel engine under the hood of Rivian’s R1T or GMC’s Hummer EV, but they still stick to that layout. Even Tesla’s angular Cybertruck, for all its sharp corners and flattened surfaces, is fairly recognizable as a pickup in profile.

For an EV startup at a time when plenty of companies – big and small, old and new – are working on electric vehicles, Canoo has seen arguably more than its fair share of attention. The automaker broke cover back in late 2023, with a 7-seater alt-take on the minivan. Rather than selling or leasing its electric van, Canoo said, it would offer it as a subscription instead.

That was followed in 2023 by Canoo’s multi-purpose delivery vehicle, an electric van to take on the zero-emissions urban and suburban logistics challenge. While with its crisp edges it looked very different from Canoo’s curvaceous first vehicle, what was underneath was the same. In fact, the common architecture is Canoo’s not-so-secret weapon.

Like most automakers with serious ambitions in EVs, Canoo has designed a standardized platform on which to build its vehicles. Known as a skateboard, it typically includes one or more electric motors, the battery packs, and the electronics to run them all. However Canoo’s design goes further still, relying on steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire to do away with mechanical links for steering and slowing between the controls in the cabin and what’s happening to the wheels underneath.

It’s that flexibility which reportedly got Apple’s attention – even if a rumored acquisition never amounted to an actual deal – and which underpins the Canoo pickup, too.

“Traditional EV platforms have power units, shock towers and mechanical steering columns that protrude into the vehicle and take up space,” the automaker points out. “By incorporating steer-by-wire and other space-saving technologies, Canoo’s thin platform, with no need for an engine compartment, allows the company to offer a flatbed size comparable to America’s best-selling pickup truck on a smaller footprint.”

That “best-selling pickup” is the Ford F-150, of course, which in SuperCab form with a 6.5-foot bed measures just under 232 inches in length. Canoo’s pickup, with a 6-foot bed that extends to an enclosed 8-feet, is 184-inches long in contrast. The EV’s 1,800 pound payload capacity is at the low end of what Ford’s can handle, engine depending, but still comparable.

Chopping off the hood, though, doesn’t just make for a smaller truck. It’ll help with visibility, Canoo promises, trimming away the front blindspots that have become so controversial on modern pickups and SUVs. Finding a parking space the EV fits into should be easier, as should actually maneuvering it into there too.

It’s a strange fact of automotive life that, having told us breathlessly for years that EVs would allow an upheaval in vehicle and cabin design, most of what’s on the market today or is coming down the line has stuck to the familiar. For all of the eye-catching concept cars with “lounge style” cabins, maximizing the absence of a bulky engine at the front and a driveshaft running down the center, by the time you get to production EVs it all feels fairly standard.

There’s an argument to be made there, that familiarity helps sell vehicles. Trying to coax any driver out of their internal combustion car or truck, and persuade them that an all-electric alternative will work from them, can be an uphill struggle. If it’s not range anxiety or lingering preconceptions that EVs are lackluster or weak, it’s a simple, deep-running anxiety about what’s “new” and potentially confusing. Dressing up a new-fangled electric drivetrain with a comfortingly recognizable shape and interior could make that process of persuasion a little easier.

All the same, it’s hard not to see that compromise as detrimental – or, at the very least, a frustrating sacrifice – in the long run.

The F-150 became America’s best-selling vehicle for so many decades because it delivered on utility. Form followed function, because the architecture of an internal combustion vehicle demanded that, only now we have new EVs clinging to what’s familiar despite this being a ripe moment for reinvention. Canoo’s fold-out workspace frunk, expanding bed, pop-up camper accessories, and reconfigurable cabin are clever design flourishes, sure, but what’s really special is the automaker’s eagerness to oust the old thinking and embrace the potential differences.

It’ll be some time before you can actually buy one, of course. Canoo expects to open preorders later this year, but production and deliveries won’t begin until “as early as 2023” the automaker admits. We don’t know pricing, or full specs – so far Canoo has only really said to expect 200+ miles of range and a choice of dual- or rear-wheel drive – and it’s worth noting that Canoo still hasn’t actually started producing any of the EVs it has designed. Considering how tricky that process is, as many other startups will attest to, it’s probably best to see 2023 as an aspiration rather than a promise.

Still, even if the timescales struggle and the price proves outlandish, there are other ways that Canoo could be considered a success. Here’s hoping that its willingness to experiment beyond the familiar proves contagious among automakers in general.

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Canoo Electric Delivery Vehicle Aims To Upset Rivian And Ford

Canoo electric delivery vehicle aims to upset Rivian and Ford

EV startup Canoo has revealed its full-electric delivery vehicle, aiming to sell the zero-emissions van from 2023 priced from $33,000. The Canoo MPDV – or Multi-Purpose Delivery Vehicle – is based on the US automaker’s own, proprietary skateboard electric platform, and is expected to offer EPA range of up to 230 miles, depending on configuration.

Canoo made headlines back in 2023, when it unveiled an EV intended for subscription use, rather than outright ownership. The pod-like electric minivan could seat up to seven, and was to be based on the automaker’s own platform that combines the batteries, electric drivetrain, and steer-by-wire system.

On top of that, Canoo suggested, it could mount different types of body to suit different purposes. It proved enough to get Hyundai’s attention, with the two companies announcing a deal earlier this year to collaborate on the skateboard TV platform.

The MPDV will be Canoo’s own product, however. Intended to go into limited availability in 2023, with scaled production and a launch in 2023, the EV promises lower running costs as well as more flexibility than traditional gas or diesel vans. Indeed, Canoo calculates that owners could see between $50k and $80k improvement on return on capital over 6-7 years, compared to the current popular delivery vehicles. It’ll pit Canoo against both electric upstarts like Rivian, which is partnering with Amazon for a huge EV delivery fleet, and industry behemoths like Ford which has an all-electric Transit in the pipeline.

Canoo currently has three versions of the EV in mind. The MPDV1 is the smallest, a Class 1 vehicle that’s 14.4 feet long and 6.2 feet tall, so as to fit into height-restricted areas. It’ll have up to 1,80 pounds of payload, and up to 80 kWh of battery capacity, with a single 200 hp electric motor delivering 236 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. Canoo expects it to drive between 130 and 230 miles, battery pack depending.

The Canoo MPDV2 is taller, at 8.4 feet, and is suitable for walk-through use. It’s also longer, at just over 17 feet, and rated for up to 1,760 pounds. With the same electric motor driving the front wheels, it has between 90 and 190 miles of EPA estimated range, with nearly 6.5 feet of interior height throughout.

Third – and arriving later – will be the MPDV3. That, Canoo says, will be larger still, and fall into the Class 3 truck category. Canoo is also open to building custom versions of the MPDV, for larger customers such as delivery fleets, retailers, logistics companies, and others.

The EV platform has a steel frame construction, transverse composite leaf springs, a double wishbone suspension system, variable ratio steer-by-wire, and brake-by-wire. There’s also full cellular connectivity, and Level 2.5 driver assistance tech; Canoo argues that, by virtue of its steering and braking systems, once more ambitious autonomous driving systems are ready for deployment, they can effectively be loaded into the EVs to transition to self-driving.

DC Fast Charging will support taking the battery from 20-percent to 80-percent in 28 minutes, depending on battery size. Canoo expects to sell the vans in the US first, before expanding elsewhere. Those onboard can stake a place in line with a refundable $100 deposit.

I Rode An Electric Motorcycle For The First Time. Here’s What I Learned.

The Zero FX electric motorcycle is an exciting machine with a top speed of 85 miles per hour and enough acceleration to frighten yourself if you twist aggressively enough on the throttle.

But as a relative beginner to the motorcycle world, I didn’t ride it anywhere near its maximum speed when I had the chance to check it out for about a week in November. I’d never driven an electric motorcycle before, and a sense of curiosity coupled with pandemic-induced boredom urged me to try it out for rides in Manhattan (while another, very present feeling of caution urged me to do so carefully).

I’m not the only one hopping on a two-wheeler these days: Sales of new motorcycles and scooters are up by about 10 percent in the third quarter of this year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. That bump is a smaller version of a large surge in bicycle sales.

If you’re curious about climbing onto one—whether as an alternative to public transportation during COVID, for fun, or some combination of those reasons and others—here’s what I learned as a beginner on a fancy new electric motorcycle.

The Zero FX

A standard-issue gas-powered motorcycle requires that its rider shift gears by pulling in the clutch with your left hand and changing gears with your left foot.

But an electric motorcycle strips away that requirement. Because you don’t need to shift, operating it is a cognitively easier task for a beginner like me. The Zero FX I rode, like other electric bikes, is operated simply by rolling on the throttle in your right hand. The rear and front brake controls are in their usual spots—engaged using your right foot, and right hand, respectively.

Because you don’t need to shift, accelerating is an easy, linear experience—twist that throttle and zoom forward. That allows you to zip away from any cars that you think might be encroaching into your space, but it also means that you can scare yourself if you twist it too much. Also, it’s very quiet—it makes a whirring sound when you drive it, and when you’re sitting still with it turned on, it’s completely silent. It’s wise to stay ready with the horn to warn others that you’re there. The common motorcyclist phrase “loud pipes save lives” doesn’t apply here.

The bike was taller than I initially felt comfortable with—the seat height is 34.7 inches—and when I was on it, I could only touch the ground with my toes; its height made swinging a leg over it harder than I expected, and backing it into a parking spot was also a little challenging. But I found that my initial intimidation with the machine faded as I rode it around my neighborhood, and the fact that it felt maneuverable and easy to swerve around with helped me become more comfortable on it.

The Zero FX ZF7.2 starts at $11,295. Zero Motorcycles

If you’re thinking of buying an electric motorcycle, here’s what to keep in mind: You’re obviously going to need to charge it. If you have a garage or other easy way to park and plug it in, that’s a simple problem to solve. If you live in a city—and the Zero FX felt great for cruising around one—then you’re going to need to think carefully. I live in an apartment building and parked the bike on the street, so had no way to recharge, meaning that I had to rely on what was already in the battery for the time I borrowed it. While the model I was using has an integrated battery, the same bike comes with a modular configuration. That means you can remove the battery to bring it inside and then charge it—but it weighs 42 pounds. That’s rough if you live in a walk-up.

Bottom line if you’re thinking about an electric motorcycle: It’s a great option for a beginner, because you don’t need to worry about shifting, and it can be a great way to commute or run errands around the city or suburbs, too. The range on the model I had was 91 miles, making short trips easily accomplished for days on end between charges, but of course you’re not going to easily take it on a road trip. Plus, the starting price is steep: $11,295 for the non-modular version. And beyond the Zero offerings, another famous electric motorcycle comes from a classic brand: Harley Davidson’s LiveWire, which begins as $29,799.

Keep in mind, though, that starter internal-combustion motorcycles are so much cheaper—they might cost you somewhere around $4,000 (like for a Honda Monkey) or $4,600 (for a Honda Rebel) or more, depending on what you want.

Getting started

Of course, a dual-sport electric motorcycle is just one option out of a myriad of two-wheelers out there, and they come in different types: The basic categories include standard motorcycles, sport bikes, dirt bikes, and others.

Riders should follow the ATGATT protocol when on the bike: Wear “all the gear, all the time.” Roselle Chen

“Unlike cars, motorcycles are very individualistic,” Yu says. Besides the issues of ergonomics, what you need it for, and the relatively new electric-vs-gasoline question, there’s also a question of style and even the culture of where you live. That individualistic nature is “kinda the joy of it,” she says. That differentiates buying a bike from purchasing a simple car like a Toyota Corolla or Subaru Forester—you’re thinking more about comfort, capability, and image than you do with a four-wheel vehicle.

Last but definitely not least, she recommends taking a safety class, which can pave the way for getting your license. A good place to look for those is through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or the website for your state DMV. I took a basic class twice, so had plenty of time to learn in the relative safety of a small parking lot in Queens, New York. Those experiences helped me feel comfortable with the basics of operating a standard motorcycle like a Suzuki, but also jumping onto that zippy Zero when I had the chance.

Last month I had the chance to check out an electric motorcycle from Zero. Here’s a look at what it’s like to cruise around the block on it. (Note! Both the video and audio have been sped up more than twice as fast.) chúng tôi Rob Verger (@robverger) December 9, 2023

This story was originally published on December 9, 2023.

No One Really Cares What You Call It (And Other Startup Naming Tips)

What’s in a name? Everything and nothing.

Naming your startup can be a big deal. And, trust me, everyone you know will have an opinion. As a good friend of mine once lamented the difference between my profession (graphic designer) and his (copywriter):

“Dean, not everyone can draw – but everyone has a thesaurus.”

Today, more than ever, you can spend a ton of time and money coming up with startup name ideas, testing them, focus-grouping them and researching them with the endless online tools at your disposal.

But, don’t do it.

Now, that sounds like heresy coming from a working creative, but the cold truth is: today’s consumer really doesn’t care what your service or product is called – as long as they can say it out loud in front of their mother.

If the name is unique for your product or service, is memorable, is easy to recall and doesn’t require thirty keyboard strokes to type in a URL, then you’ll be fine. And if it has a relationship to the product or service, then all the more better.

Case in point: Uber – here’s a word that has nothing to do with cars, transportation or even technology. But people around the world love (and hate) it so much that it’s evolved into that rarity of company names – it’s a name, verb and noun.

Another: Amazon – everything from A-to-Z you say? That logo didn’t happen until well after the company was founded. Allegedly the name came from two factors: to suggest scale (the biggest river) and because it starts with the letter “A” (website listings in the 90s were often alphabetical).

Haze, Clear, Google, Apple, Kik, GoDaddy, Zynga, Zillow, Squarespace, Box, Banjo, Spotify, Hulu, Etsy. You get the idea.

And once you get a name, a little research could save you untold grief down the road.  Simple stuff but check these off your list:

1. Research and Make Sure No One Else Has It

Research the name to make sure someone else doesn’t already have it in your category. An hour with Google should tell you everything you need to know. For most startups this is plenty.

2. Look Into the Word’s Origin

Look into the origins of the name to make sure it’s Latin or Greek meaning isn’t something at odds with your company. Or worse – a meaning for something completely inappropriate.

3. Is a URL Available?

Check to see if a suitable URL is available. If it is, grab it – today. Do not underestimate how quickly good URLs get snatched up by companies and squatters.

4. Get Creative with It

Take a good look at the spelling and see if there are any letter formations that could fool the eye in seeing something that isn’t there.  The people at Experts Exchange found that out the hard way.

5. Is it Memorable?

Ask yourself if the name truly memorable. Not just in your particular category but in general. People are naturally drawn to things that are familiar to them. Potential customers are no different.

The name is important. It will go on a business card (yes, people still use those every day I promise you). It will go on your website, in your URL. You will speak it a thousand times over.

So, do put thought to it. Spend time coming up with something good and original. Just realize that these days more than ever it’s the product or service behind the name that really counts.

Lg’s Mad Styler Shoecare And Shoecase Are The Gadgets I Didn’t Know I Wanted

LG says it is “revolutionising the at-home shoe care experience” with these new Styler models. Now, I don’t normally cover this kind of tech, and while I was aware of the original Styler, I didn’t imagine it would be repurposed for shoes to provide such an ‘experience’.

Despite this, I couldn’t help but want one while LG was demonstrating it on its sizable booth at the show, more so than the other shiny things on display including its bendy LG OLED Flex TV and MoodUP refrigerator (aka the ‘disco fridge’) with its illuminating panels. 

And I don’t even collect sneakers, boots or slippers. Heck, I don’t own many pairs of shoes at all. 

Chris Martin / Foundry

It’s perhaps down to the sheer enjoyment of seeing a totally new gadget, the fact I just bought a new pair of Vans, or that LG was displaying some Nike baby shoes and I’ve got a baby on the way later this year. Regardless, the technology here seems worthwhile. 

To explain, the Styler ShoeCare and ShoeCase are two different products in a modular system that can be used with each other in different combinations depending on what you want.

The ShoeCare is a sort of wardrobe for your shoes with up to four shelves, though fewer if you want to store something taller like wellington boots. LG uses its TrueSteam technology to keep your kicks fresh but in a different way to the Styler for clothes which gently shakes garments to freshen them up. 

Steam rises up from the bottom of the cabinet creating a sort of spa treatment for your shoes. An adjustable Moving Nozzle system dries out the inside ready for them to be worn. 

A small touchscreen on the front allows you to control the ShoeCare (although you can also use the ThinkQ app). This involves telling it what kind of shoes you’re putting in so it can adjust to the material. LG says it can handle leather, suede, sports footwear and more with 10 different ‘courses’. 

Only two different fabric types can be refreshed at the same time. On the standard course, the machine can refresh four pairs in just 37 minutes and do so at a whisper-quiet 37dB. 

Chris Martin / Foundry

The Styler ShoeCare also comes in a gorgeous dark green colour that just so happens to match my home decor, though other colours are available. 

Considering there’s space for up to four pairs of shoes, it’s perhaps a good job I don’t have a large collection, but I love the feel of new shoes and – we can all agree – ones that aren’t smelly or damp. 

If the ShoeCare can keep that feeling of new shoes last longer, I’d certainly consider parting with the cash. And it should mean I wouldn’t have to buy new shoes as often. 

Those who do have collectable sneakers will be more attracted to the ShoeCase. This does exactly what it says and is a display case for showing off one pair of prized kicks.  

Chris Martin / Foundry

LG has fitted it with clear panels on three sides which not only lets you view the shoes like they’re artwork at a gallery but protects them from UV light. Moisture protection is another benefit and there’s a turntable plus lighting so you can see the shoes from all angles at any time of day. 

The ShoeCase comes in a range of colours and also some funky editions (see above) in collaboration with artists. You can stack up to four ShoeCases on top of each other or put a single unit on top of the ShoeCare unit.

The latter would be my preference and perhaps if I did get one, it would be the beginning of a very expensive shoe collection. 

That’s unlikely though, as the Styler ShoeCare and ShoeCase are initially launching in Korea only (I live in the UK) and they may never launch anywhere else. Even then, the price is still to be confirmed and likely to be eye-watering despite an LG representative telling me it would be “reasonable”. 

For now, then, my Vans will have to live on the floor in the hallway with the rest of the collection, such as it is. And I’ll make do by keeping them fresh with a quick spray of Febreeze: I know my bank balance will thank me for it.

Find out what won our Best of IFA 2023 awards.

The Best Electric Guitars Under $500 Of 2023

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Written By Julian Vittorio

Updated Apr 28, 2023 11:57 AM

Thanks to the instrument’s rich history, decades of design and development, and the prevalence of high-quality CNC machining, it’s never been easier to find an electric guitar under $500. Unlike the budget guitars of years past—which often suffered from issues with durability, tuning stability and overall playability—approachable electric guitars today are built to precise standards and designed for comfort and reliability above all else. Whether you’re looking for an affordable way to build your existing guitar collection or you’re shopping for a beginner-level instrument, a sub-$500 electric guitar is a great way to get very close to the sound and feel of the pro-level instruments after which they’re modeled while spending less than half the money. In this article, we’ll dive into the best electric guitars under $500 currently available and detail what sets them apart from the crowd.

How we chose the best electric guitars under $500

When selecting the best electric guitars under $500, we combined personal musical and production experiences, as well as the opinion of trusted peers, published critics, and online user impressions. We also considered a handful of criteria when compiling our list, beginning with the sound of a guitar, so we selected products that are capable of delivering some of the most versatile and well-known tones from popular music throughout history. In the case of purely electric guitars, the tone is dictated largely by the pickup configuration, while the acoustic-electric guitar’s body and pickups both contribute equally to its sound performance.

The design and materials of an electric guitar in general play a significant role in the overall playability of the instrument, so we aimed to select electric guitars with woods, finishes, and designs that are easy to play and comfortable to hold. But great instruments are becoming more affordable every day, so we made sure to select instruments that offer the best price-to-performance ratios available, whether as a standalone guitar or as a part of a bundle. Finally, brand reputation goes a long way in determining whether an electric guitar is likely to satisfy its users. Manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, and Martin have decades of experience under their belts, and their sub-$500 instruments are designed specifically to emulate their more expensive guitars at a friendlier price.

Related: Best guitar tuners

The best electric guitars under $500: Reviews & Recommendations

Why it made the cut: The Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster pulls off the clarity, responsiveness, and unmistakable twang of a vintage Tele at a wallet-friendly price.

Specs

Pickups: 2 x single-coil Alnico

Scale Length: 25.5 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Pine body

Pros

Timeless and versatile single-coil electric tone

Comfortable modern C-shaped neck profile

Stylish hardware and wood finish

Cons

Relatively heavy, weighing an average of 9 pounds

Gloss neck finish may feel “sticky” to some players

Frets may require edge filing out of the box

The Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is one of the best guitars under $500 currently available, boasting a build quality and finish that prove you don’t have to spend a fortune to find an instrument that sounds, feels, and looks fantastic. It’s built from a sturdy and rather heavy combination of pine and maple and comes in two distinct polyurethane body finish options (white blonde or butterscotch blonde) paired with a black pickguard to closely emulate the look of Fender’s legendary “black guard” Telecasters from the early 1950s. The guitar’s two single-coil Alnico pickups gracefully deliver Fender’s timeless palette of warm and woody tones at the neck coupled with a bright and snappy bridge sound, and its modern C-shaped neck features a 9.5-inch radius to maximize comfort and ease of playability.

Overall, Fender’s quality control of the Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is excellent, but its price point corresponds to a relative lack of attention to some small finishing details. While any guitar can benefit from a professional setup to ensure that it performs at its best, small issues like sharp, unfinished fret edges and high string action may make a setup more or less a necessity for this Telecaster straight out of the box. Some players may also find its glossy neck finish a bit too grippy, but this is mostly a matter of personal preference and shouldn’t affect playability for the majority of guitarists. Still, if you’re open to a bit of initial maintenance and setup, the Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is built to sound and feel nearly identical to more expensive models like the Fender Player Telecaster, making it a fantastic way to enjoy one of music history’s most versatile and ubiquitous instruments on a budget. If a Stratocaster is more your style, consider the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster by Fender from the same product line.

Best acoustic-electric: Little Martin LX1E

Why it made the cut: The Little Martin LX1E is a convenient travel-sized acoustic guitar built from durable laminate wood and equipped with a built-in pickup for amplification.

Specs

Pickups: 1 x Fishman Sonitone piezo pickup

Scale Length: 23 inches

Materials: Birch laminate neck, Spruce top, Mahogany laminate back and sides

Pros

Rugged medium-density fibreboard construction

Spruce top delivers powerful projection in spite of its small size

Includes a padded gig bag for easy transport

Cons

The small body delivers less low-end than full-sized acoustics

Recessed truss rod requires a special tool for adjustment

Built-in tuner is sometimes slow to respond

The Little Martin LX1E’s compact frame, impressive unplugged volume, and easy-to-use electronics make it one of the best acoustic-electric guitars available under $500. As the most affordable acoustic-electric model in the legendary Martin company’s product line, the LX1E is a short-scale travel-friendly instrument composed primarily of a tough wooden fibreboard that’s as cost-effective as it is durable. The guitar features the same traditional solid spruce top found on the best full-sized acoustic guitars, like the Martin D-10E and D-18, which gives the LX1E outsize volume and projection performance for its relatively shallow body. A single 1/4-inch jack and a built-in Fishman pickup allow players to connect the guitar to any PA or amplifier and enjoy clearer and fuller amplified sound than can be achieved with a microphone. 

Like other Martin guitars, the Little Martin LX1E comes with a non-standard truss rod, so you’ll need to purchase a specific wrench to make neck adjustments. Because of its small dimensions, the LX1E also lacks some of the round and open low-end resonance that’s typical of standard-sized acoustic guitars. Though its unplugged sound is bright and woody with plenty of projection, amplifying the LX1E by plugging it in is the best way for players to enjoy a more traditional and full bass response from the guitar. If you have a bit more to spend, the slightly larger body cavity and solid back and sides of the Martin 000Jr-10E deliver a similar unplugged sound with some added low-end presence. But if you’re on a budget, the Little Martin LX1E offers some of the best sound and performance available anywhere in the sub-$500 range.

Why it made the cut: This short-scale bass from Squier has a classic and stylish design that’s comfortable to play and delivers a rich low-end thump that’s ideal for a wide range of musical styles.

Specs

Pickups: 1 x Alnico split single-coil

Scale Length: 30 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Nato body

Pros

Punchy single-coil pickup delivers timeless and versatile bass tones

Short 30-inch scale is comfortable for smaller players

Bone nut offers greater sustain and tuning stability than plastic

Cons

Requires a setup out of the box for optimal performance

Single pickup provides limited tone-shaping options

Prone to low-volume electrical hum in certain situations

The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass is one of the best bass guitars under $500 thanks to its combination of superb build quality, punchy tone, and easy-to-play design. Its single split-coil pickup configuration is similar to that of the legendary Fender Precision Bass, delivering a comparable tonal range that’s appropriate for almost every musical style from rock to R&B. Like other basses in the Mustang product line, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang is a short-scale instrument, measuring in at 30 inches from nut to bridge. This smaller scale, combined with the neck’s C-shaped profile, gives the bass an accessible guitar-like feel in the hands that makes it easier to play than standard full-sized basses, especially for players with smaller hands. Despite its small size, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass offers up plenty of beefy low-end and defined attack with excellent sustain and tuning stability thanks to its real bone nut and string-through bridge design.

Like other instruments in this price tier, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass will perform and feel its best if it’s given a proper initial setup. This may involve neck and bridge adjustments, fret filing, and other small considerations that are overlooked on the production line. The bass may also be prone to buzzing audibly when players’ hands aren’t in contact with the strings, which may catch new owners off guard despite being a fairly common occurrence in the world of electric guitars. All in all, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass is an incredible option for a punchy and straightforward tone, but If you’re looking for a wider palette of sound options, the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass is a solid, similarly priced alternative to consider.

Best beginner: Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Pack

Why it made the cut: The Epiphone Les Paul Player Pack is built around a dual-humbucker Les Paul Special-II electric guitar and includes all the accessories a beginner needs to get started.

Specs 

Pickups: 2 x open-coil humbuckers

Scale Length: 24.75 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Alder body

Pros

Includes gig bag, amplifier, strap, cable, and more

Dual humbucker configuration offers a variety of tones

Comfortable 24.75-inch scale suitable for beginners

Cons

Small 10-watt amp limits tonal options

Quality control of components necessitates initial adjustments

Barebones accessories may lack long-term durability

Assembling all the mandatory accessories for an electric guitar can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to begin. This all-inclusive Player Pack from Epiphone includes everything you need to hit the ground running—including an amplifier, cable, strap, gig bag, and tuner—making it one of the best values on the market for beginning guitarists. The Epiphone Player Pack is built around the Les Paul Special-II, a solid body electric guitar with a dual-humbucker pickup configuration capable of a wide range of sounds suitable for rhythm and lead guitar. Like the Gibson Les Paul after which it’s modeled, the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II features a 24.75-inch scale that’s a little easier to play than the more common 25.5-inch scale found on guitars like the Fender Telecaster. This, combined with the neck’s flat 12-inch radius, make the Les Paul Special-II perfect for playing chords, basic lead lines, and getting acquainted with the instrument overall.

The star of this bundle is definitely the guitar itself—while the inclusion of an amp and cable presents a great value, the low price point of the bundle is reflected in the limited durability and overall quality control of the accessories included. For example, the 10-watt amplifier features a relatively small 6-inch speaker that’s great for basic practice but lacks the detail, volume, and tonal range of more substantial designs. Other components—like the cable, strap, and gig bag—aren’t as durable as other options on the market, but they should hold up fine to light use. In short, the Epiphone Les Paul Player Pack is an absolute steal for any beginning guitarist, but expect to need to upgrade the amplifier, cable, and other accessories down the line if you want to continue growing your relationship and developing your performance with the instrument.

Why it made the cut: The Donner DST-100R is an incredibly affordable budget electric guitar that’s capable of a wide range of sounds and comes with a ton of extras.

Specs 

Pickups: 2 x single-coil, 1 x humbucker

Scale Length: 25.5 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Basswood body

Pros

Stratocaster-style electronics offer a range of classic guitar tones

Amplifier, cable, and other essentials included

Easy-to-play C-shaped neck with satin finish

Cons

Budget-level build quality affects longevity

Issues like jagged frets make some initial user setup mandatory

Tuner, amp, and other accessories have limited functionality

If you’re shopping for an electric guitar below $200, the Donner DST-100R is one of the better budget values currently available on the market. Consisting of a Stratocaster-style electric guitar bundled with an amplifier, gig bag, tuner, capo, and more, the DST-100R offers a good balance of sound, value, and functionality that will be adequate for most players who are starting from scratch. The guitar itself is built from solid basswood and features two single-coil pickups and a humbucker in the bridge position, giving users access to five different tonal variations suitable for a variety of musical styles. The DST-100R’s C-shaped maple neck features a smooth satin finish that’s comfortable to play and conducive to rapid movements and quick fretting.

The Donner DST-100R offers good build quality and machining overall, but the durability and finish of the components make it more of an instrument to start with and graduate from than anything else. It suffers from a few issues commonly found at this price point like unfiled fret ends, but some users have reported quality control issues like cold solder joints and loose connections as well, which would make a setup all but mandatory. Critical accessories, like the amplifier and tuner, offer a barebones user experience that should suffice for learning, but you’ll definitely want to upgrade them for anything other than simple practice use.

Things to consider when buying one of the best electric guitars under $500 What size of guitar do you need?

Not all electric guitars are the same size, so it’s a good idea to consider and compare the arm length and hand size of the prospective player to the scale length and neck profile of the guitar before making a purchase. The measurement from a guitar’s nut to its bridge is known as its scale length, with the most common electric guitar scale being 25.5 inches. Gibson and Epiphone guitars like the Les Paul Special-II have a 24.75-inch scale length, which makes them a little more compact and requires less reach while playing. Scale length differences are even more pronounced in electric bass guitars, where the most common length is 34 inches. For this list, we picked the Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass as the best bass guitar under $500 in part thanks to its shorter and easier-to-play 30-inch scale.

Do you need to purchase accessories?

Electric guitars require amplification to function properly, so you’ll need to factor in the extra cost of at least an amplifier and a cable when buying a guitar under $500. Some electric guitars, such as the Les Paul Special-II, come in a bundle with everything you need to get started. Opting for an electric guitar bundle can be a cost-effective way to stay within your budget but the quality and durability of the accessories usually pale in comparison to more expensive piecemeal items.

Related: Universal Audio guitar pedal comparison: Which amp emulator is right for you?

What style of music will you be playing?

Every type of electric guitar has its own unique sound. For most pop, rock, and R&B-based styles, a classic solid-body electric guitar like the Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster will cover nearly all the bases. If you’re aiming to play pop, folk, or country styles of music, an acoustic-electric guitar like the Little Martin LX1E may be a better choice thanks to its bright, shimmery tone that’s perfect for strumming. Electric bass guitars are arguably the most versatile option since they offer a sound that’s appropriate for almost every musical style, but they’re very different in function and musical role than a standard guitar.

FAQs Q: How much do electric guitars cost?

Electric guitars can cost anywhere from around $100 up to the tens of thousands of dollars for vintage and collector-grade instruments. Thanks to the reliability and quality of modern machining, low- to mid-tier instruments are much better today than they were even a couple of decades ago, so it’s not hard to find a guitar under $500 that will sound great and last for years.

Q: Do electric guitars need amps?

While you can certainly play an electric guitar unplugged, electric guitars need amps to be heard at any volume louder than human speech. Acoustic-electric guitars are the exception to this rule, since they’re usually designed to produce moderate sound levels without the need for an amplifier.

Q: Do acoustic-electric guitars sound different?

Apart from nontraditional designs, the vast majority of acoustic-electric guitars sound identical to normal acoustic guitars when unplugged. When amplified, acoustic-electric guitars have a unique sound that’s usually bright, clear, and somewhat compressed.

Q: Do electric guitars have batteries?

Most electric guitars don’t have batteries due to being equipped with passive pickups, which are powered by the guitar’s connection to an amplifier. However, the piezoelectric pickups found in most acoustic-electric guitars are active designs that require a battery to produce sufficient electrical signal.

Q: What are the three types of electric guitars?

The three types of electric guitar design are solid body, semi-hollow, and hollow body constructions. Solid-body guitars like the Fender Telecaster are the most commonly found type of electric guitar and offer good sustain with minimal potential for producing feedback. Semi-hollow guitars typically incorporate hollow chambers and solid inner blocks of wood to produce a warmer and rounder sound than a solid body guitar. Hollow body guitars are popular for traditional styles of music including jazz thanks to their unique and woody resonance.

Final thoughts on the best electric guitars under $500

For our money, the best electric guitar under $500 overall is the Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster, thanks to its vintage looks, timeless sound, and great build quality. The Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass is fantastic for the same reasons and it’s much smaller and easier to play than a standard-sized bass guitar. If folk music is more your thing, the Little Martin LX1E is one of the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500 due to its travel-sized frame and loud volume projection. To save money on accessories, consider an all-in-one beginner package like the Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Pack or the Donner Electric Guitar DST-100R, which both feature solid-body electric guitars bundled with an amplifier, cable, strap, and more.

Related: Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster review

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