The Best Budget Gear for New Guitarists
For those who aspire to become a guitarist (either for their own pleasure or in a band), here is a list of three essential items every guitarist should possess – a guitar, an amp, and a pedal. However, this list is mainly meant for beginners and people who can't spend big on gear, and therefore you will find cheap but great pieces of equipment.
Guitar – Squier by Fender Affinity Telecaster
Naturally, I’ll start with the guitar, being the most important item on this list (and it should be the most expensive one as well). There are many fantastic guitars to choose from, but here I'll try and pick the most appropriate one considering the price, performance, and reliability.
And when talking about such qualities, one name always comes on top – the Squier by Fender, in this case, the Affinity Telecaster. It's probably the simplest guitar in the world and there's not much to say. A classic Telecaster and that’s it.
Alder body, maple neck, and fingerboard maple, two single coils (ceramics), ordinary tuners, plastic nut. The neck is fantastically done and the sills are set perfectly, and the processing of the sills itself is at a surprisingly good level (usually, on such cheap guitars they just drank off the excess, but here it's okay).
So, everything is cheap but the finish is just as perfect as all the other Affinity bodies – the Squier offered fantastic workmanship for little money in this guitar.
Now there are flaws regarding electronics. Potentiometers are full size but can somehow get somewhat ‘rotten’ and the same might happen with the switch. It all works well and doesn’t create problems but the aesthetics might bother somebody.
As with all Telecasters, you can get an awfully large range of sound, especially on a versatile amplifier. Take off the Gain on the amplifier, pull in the middle, and here's the metal sound, just like that! Classic rock sound? Of course. Soft, rounded, and a bit fuzzy Jazzy? Of course! Telecaster is the guitar that is by far the best in the band's mix - there's just no way you can't hear it.
Personally, I am a huge fan of Fender and Telecaster is a guitar that has a special charm to me precisely because it is an ordinary piece of board with a bit of hardware and pickups. This is a great guitar for beginners and people who can’t spend too much. Start with Telecaster and improve your rig after a few gigs.
Amp - Carvin Vintage 16
Carvin is a company that manufactures quality guitar amplifiers, audio systems, sound systems, and guitars (Carvin Kiesel). Some say that Carvin is a "boutique" company, but I wouldn't really agree, although the production is of really high quality, and, more importantly, goes perfectly with Fender Telecaster.
It is a purebred tube Combo amplifier of small dimensions and relatively lightweight. There are no chips, transistors, or anything like that in it, just a clean pipe signal. Everything is made in Vintage style as the name suggests and they did it very nicely. The amp is perfectly lined with Tweed fabric and no matter how much I looked at it I couldn’t find a bad word.
There are three 12AX7 in the preamplifier, the first of which is the input lamp, the second serves for Spring Reverb while the third is a phase reversal. Classic design and there is nothing to add. In the output part of the power amplifier, we have two EL84, and the total power is declared at 16W in pentode mode while in triode mode the power is 5W (on the back panel we have Switch to select the mode of operation "pentode/triode"). Speaking of the back panel, we also have a speaker output at 8 Ohms.
The amplifier comes with Sovtek lamps, which are a terrible choice for me and with which the amplifier sounds a bit dull. Sovtek used to be good and those who had their lamps twenty years ago know what I'm talking about. Today it's just one "big name" that messed up. They should have put JJ lamps that are basically a bit cheaper and the amp works much healthier and cleaner with them.
From the controls, we have Soak (the equivalent of Gain), Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, and Reverb.
The only effect in the amplifier is the lamp-powered Spring Reverb and it works fantastically. The voicing of the Reverb itself is very nicely affected and no matter how much you unscrew it, it will not give the guitar a swim in reverb but always a clean tone. Of course, it can also be extremely unscrewed.
As its name ‘Vintage’ suggests, the tone is very clean, big, and very warm. The amplifier is quite ‘emphasized’ in low mids, so it doesn't lack any depth, and thanks to such Voicing, it accepts Drive pedals very well, which is a very big plus. EQ controls are very effective and a very wide range of sounds can be obtained.
This amp does not come with a huge price and for a little money, you can get an extremely nice and warm tone. It sounds great quietly and works perfectly in the role of a home amplifier. At no volume does it sound decayed and unusable. A very nice tone in the direction of Keith Richards is obtained with Telecaster but it also works very nicely with Humbuckers.
Pedal - BOSS DS-1
The DS-1 pedal is compact, the size of two boxes of cigars, tucked in an orange metal case. A very durable, robust pedal, which will withstand various treads, falls, kicking on stage, intended for classic to moderately heavy metal.
At the top, there are 3 controls, which determine the level of distortion: Tone, Dist, and Level. In practice, the Dist is most commonly used, while Tone and Level are mostly in the "12 o'clock" position or weigh more towards "afternoon," depending on the style you nurture. Most of the lower part of the pedal is occupied by a silent switch to turn the effect on or off. The pedal has 1 input and 1 output, but can be easily put in series with other pedals.
Thanks to analog controls, the user can set the individual setting that suits him best. With potted magnets on a quality guitar, they won't "whistle" when they shouldn't, and solo sections under distortion easily sound nice, clean, and with a lot of sustainability. The Dist control should be used wisely because excessive distortion shifts the sound too much into "inaudible distortion”. You will get a finely distorted sound from amps with only a Clean channel, and even better, full-fat sound from lamps.
Beneath the switch, which also serves as the battery case cover, is a 9V battery, which has a nice long life. On the side of the front of the case, there is an entrance for a mini-adapter, if you don't quite like the battery betraying you on stage.
The electronics circuit changes the instrument signal from a mild characteristic to a strong (distorted) distortion. This is a pedal that on the scale of other Boss pedals with any form of distortion belongs to the middle area of distortion, which certainly makes it very suitable for playing old school rock and slightly fewer metal things.
It is so suitable for playing things from Nirvana, Satriani, Red Hot Chili Peppers and it can pass a solid number of things from Metallica and similar.
The combination of the three will give you a fine and high-quality sound for an incredibly low price. Naturally, there are many other guitars, amps, and pedals of similar or maybe better quality in this price range, and adding a few more bucks can get you something better.
But this trio is proved to work flawlessly, the sound produced is fantastic, and the variety of uses is enormous! You don’t have to spend big to enjoy a nice sound.