Are Indio Guitars Good? (I own 2 so I’ll tell you straight up)

I know a lot of people wonder whether the budget Indio by Monoprice guitars are worth it. I’m here to tell you that the answer is, surprisingly, yes, Indio guitars are good, depending on what you’re looking for.

Why is it surprising that these cheap guitars are worth it? Well because they’re not just good affordable budget guitars. They are good ultra low priced guitars. The low end of the low end of cheap guitars.

How affordable are they? Well, I purchased my Retro Classic for just $63.80, including shipping (and a gig bag)!

Receipt for my Indio Retro Classic guitar
Karol’s Indio by Monoprice Retro Classic purchase receipt

To be fair, they’re usually not quite this cheap. The regular prices of Indio guitars vary between $100 and $250, although you can often find deals.

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You should know that my goal here is not to sell you an Indio guitar. Maybe after reading this article you’ll decide they’re not for you. My goal is to help you make an informed purchase decision, and if you use one of the links on this page to purchase a guitar I might get a small commission that helps support future unbiased guitar reviews. (Thank you for that!)

Indio Guitars We’ve Reviewed So Far

So far we’ve got two Indio guitars reviewed here at ArtOfShred.

I do need to point out that Indio sent me the Boardwalk for review after I contacted them about the Retro Classic review. Being unbiased is very important to me and they had no editorial input on that review.

Both of the above reviews include a video component with extensive sound demos if you want to hear what these cheap guitars sound like.

Are Indio Guitars Worth Buying?

Karol's Indio by Monoprice Retro Classic in red finish
Karol’s Indio by Monoprice Retro Classic

Well it depends on your goals. If you’re a beginner and looking for an affordable guitar then I think these are great guitars to learn on. But it’s not all potatoes and gravy. The Retro Classic came to me with some sharp frets which required more of a setup than what a beginning player should or would know how to do. The Boardwalk came to me playable out of the box. Fixing sharp frets isn’t a huge issue but it’s more than I would ask for a new player. Your local guitar shop might not charge a lot of fixing sharp frets so it might still be worth taking your chances since these guitars are so cheap. (And sharp frets can be a problem on a lot of budget and even higher end guitars.)

If you do want to take a stab at fixing sharp frets yourself I created this video to walk you through the process. It requires a few specialized (and affordable) tools, but it’s not terribly difficult!

That said, other than the sharp frets I really liked the Retro Classic. It felt good in my hands and it sound quite good for having such cheap electronics.

Which Indio Guitar Is Best?

This is always subjective, because what is best for you might not be best for me. The way I’d tackle this question is what are you looking for? What kind of music do you want to play? Does the body shape matter to you?

Because Indio has a variety of guitar shapes and styles and they cover the gamut from Telecaster style to Stratocaster style to Jazzmaster style. I’ll cover all the Indio guitar styles below and include info on specifically which guitars they are cloning.

OK, So Which Indio Guitar Should You Choose?

Personally, I’m going with the Retro Classic, but again maybe that’s not quite your style.

How and Why Are Indio Guitars So Affordable?

Two primary reasons make Indio guitars cheap. One is they’re made in China. Two is they sell direct instead of through retailers. When you combine those two things you can price your guitars at about half the price of a brand like Squier and still make the same amount of profit per guitar.

In addition, like every affordable guitar brand, they use lower quality components. So generally you’re getting the cheapest wood, the cheapest tuners, and the cheapest electronics. That’s not necessarily bad, though! I love cheap guitars and find many of them really fun to play. But if you’re looking for the best quality then Indio is not your brand. If you’re looking for a low priced instrument that is decent then Indio might be for you.

How Is The Quality Control on Indio by Monoprice Guitars?

Karol's Indio by Monoprice Boardwalk semi-hollowbody guitar
Karol’s Indio by Monoprice Boardwalk semi-hollowbody guitar

As best as I can tell from my own experience and the experiences of people I know is the quality control is hit and miss, kind of like Squier’s quality control. It looks like the more expensive Indio guitars like the Boardwalk are set up before they’re shipped out whereas the cheaper guitars like the Retro Classic are not. Based on my own experience this seems to hold true and it’s something you should keep in mind before making your purchase.

Can You or Should You Mod / Upgrade Your Indio Guitar?

Yes! That’s part of the fun of buying a cheap guitar. Learning how to fix, modify, and upgrade your cheap instruments is a great way to get experience so if you ever purchase more expensive guitars you can feel confident with any potential work you might do.

The easiest thing to upgrade on a cheap guitar is the tuners. I suggest getting locking tuners because they make string changes quick and easy while also being an upgrade in tuning stability from cheap tuners.

From there I would start with upgrading the electronics. Bridge pickup at least. The pots are fine, but if you’re upgrading the pickups might as well upgrade the volume and tone pots and the output jack since those are cheap to upgrade to great quality. CTS pots are the industry standard or you can buy them directly from pickup manufacturers like DiMarzio.

If you’re doing all of that you might as well polish the frets and learn to do a basic guitar setup.

Guitar Setup Products I Use

🪛 FretGuru Ultimate Fret End File (I also own the FretGuru sanding beam, fret crowning file, and string gauge)
🏖️ Micromesh fret sanding pads – For polishing the frets to a mirror shine
💂 Fret guards – Lots of different options here, any will be suitable; I personally use blue painter’s tape to tape off the fretboard

What Should You Buy Instead of an Indio?

Well that’s a loaded question, isn’t it?! If your budget can swing it both Squier and Epiphone make great affordable guitars that are a little more expensive than Indio. You might also want to look at Firefly Guitars if you’re thinking about an off brand. But ultimately it’s your choice.

That is to say, you shouldn’t necessarily buy a different brand than Indio because there is nothing inherently wrong with these guitars.

A List of the Indio by Monoprice Guitars Models and what they’re cloning

Yes, Indio clones major brand well known guitar styles. They do put some of their own flair on them, of course, but they all look very similar to the brands they are copying. I personally don’t have an issue with that, but if you do then I completely understand.

  • Indio Offset OS40 DLX “Jazzmaster style” guitar – $139.99 or less
  • Indio Offset OS30 DLX “Jazzmaster style” guitar – $179.99 or less
  • Indio Cali Classic “Stratocaster style” guitar – $99.99 or less
  • Indio Cali Classic HSS “Stratocaster style” guitar – $109.99 or less
  • Indio Cali DLX Plus HSS “Stratocaster style” guitar – $229.99 or less
  • Indio Mini Cali short scale “Stratocaster style” guitar – $99.99 or less (generally these are for children)
  • Indio Boardwalk semi-hollowbody “Gibson ES-335 style” guitar – $249.99 or less
  • Indio Retro Classic “Telecaster style” guitar – $109.99 or less
  • Indio Retro DLX Plus “Telecaster style” guitar – $199.99 or less
  • Indio 66 Classic V2 “Les Paul style” guitar – $129.99 or less
  • Indio 66 DLX Plus “Les Paul style” guitar – $249.99 or less
  • Indio 66SB DLX Plus “Les Paul style” guitar with P-90 pickups – $249.99 or less
  • Indio Helix “Jackson style” guitar – $189.99 or less

So as you can see Indio makes a wide variety of guitars and I do plan to review more of them in the future. Be sure to subscribe to Riff City so you don’t miss those reviews!

Final Thoughts On Indio Guitars

It’s like this: Indio by Monoprice makes nice affordable guitars that sound and play well. Plus they all come with decent gig bags, which is a nice bonus. But that doesn’t mean these budget guitars are for everybody. If you’re a beginner or want to learn to mod or setup guitars I think you’ll have a lot of fun.

Own an Indio? I’d love to know your thoughts so please share them below!

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