Dean ZX is the best Explorer guitar for under $400
This is not an easy body shape to get, and there's really only one choice if you want this shape for cheap.
Certain guitars just say "rock guitar" more than others, and the Gibson Explorer is one of them. I personally think an Explorer close to being the best out there is the Epiphone "1984" Explorer, because where the look is concerned, that guitar totally nails it. But while less expensive than the Gibson, it's still not cheap, and finding one new is difficult at best.
There is literally only one guitar in the Explorer shape that's available, built reasonably well and cheap. And that's the Dean ZX.
Depending on which model you get, the ZX runs anywhere from $269 to just a tick under $400 at the time of this writing...
...and it literally is your only choice if you want this electric guitar body shape for less. Dean is one of the few companies that even bothers releasing a guitar in the Explorer style shape.
When it comes to other classic Gibson guitar shapes, yes you can go super-cheap. For example, with the SG shape, Epiphone has you covered with the SG Special or LTD Viper-10 (which is under $200!) And with the Les Paul, the same applies as Epiphone has the Les Paul Special-II.
But with the Explorer shape, you can't look to Epiphone if you want a "full" Explorer with two humbuckers. You've gotta go Dean.
What is the absolute best Explorer style guitar when you're willing to spend a little more?
The Dean ZX is what you get is you want an Explorer shape guitar cheap.
But when you want the higher end stuff, I don't look to Epiphone or even Gibson.
I look to Schecter.
I personally consider the Schecter E-1 Standard to be the Explorer standard. It's over $400 but still well under $1,000. This thing is so, so good in so many ways.
The E-1 is a guitar I've mentioned here before a few times. It is the best Explorer style guitar money can buy. Looks right, sounds right, feels right, plays right. Everything is just right. It's what an Explorer guitar is supposed to be.
Believe me when I say that Schecter's E-1 outperforms any Explorer that Gibson or Epiphone could build, does it better, and cheaper. But even with the lower price tag, the guitar is absolutely good. You won't be disappointed if you order up one of these.
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