Mitchell MS450 Modern guitar review – The best electric guitar under $300 (seriously!)

Updated January 4, 2024: Added this 1 year later video and comments. Also, Guitar Center / Musician’s Friend have mostly stopped selling the MS450 and replaced it with the Mitchell MS470, but you can still find the MS450 used. And for some reason it’s available new sometimes. Confusing, I know. Anyway, I will review the MS470 when I can!

This is the most complete unbiased review of the MS450 you will find, and includes an accompanying 12 minute video guitar review.

I won’t keep you waiting. For the price, this is the best guitar you can buy. For beginners. For intermediate players. For seasoned vets who want a decent 2nd or 14th guitar.

The Mitchell MS450 is the guitar all other cheap electric guitars should aspire to.

Karol Gajda holding a Mitchell MS450 and giving thumbs up

I know what you might be thinking. How is it possible that a cheap guitar — a Guitar Center / Musician’s Friend store brand, no less! — could be good? Well, it surprised me too! So let’s get into that.

But first, as always on ArtOfShred, this review is unbiased. I paid for this guitar with my own money and nobody sponsored it. I paid $199.99 + tax.

Mitchell MS450 Guitar Center receipt

You might be wondering how I got this guitar so cheap when the regular price is $399.99. Well, I have a knack for finding guitar deals, like this $150 LTD EC-10 or this $201 Yamaha PAC112V, and I’d be happy to let you know whenever I find good deals.

Just subscribe to the Riff City newsletter and you’ll be the first to know:

I promise only to email you with interesting guitar news, Art of Shred updates, and deals. No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

Why You Should Trust Us

Hey, I’m Karol (like Karl not Carol). I’ve been playing guitar for 20+ years, but I’m still an amateur and learning every day. In my younger years I played in a band, but nowadays it’s for fun.

Why should you listen to this Mitchell MS450 review? Because I don’t care about selling you anything and I want to help you make an informed choice about the guitar. I started Art Of Shred because I was unimpressed with the obviously biased paid for guitar and musical equipment reviews online. Keep in mind, of course, that these are just my views. I don’t know everything and my opinions are my opinions.

Mitchell MS450

9.2 out of 10
Michell MS450 photo of the full body and neck

Mitchell MS450 in Sunset Burst

Weight: 6.9lbs

Made in: Vietnam

9 out of 10
Setup (out of box)
10 out of 10
9 out of 10
8 out of 10
Price / Value
10 out of 10


Playable out of the box

Phenomenal price

Expensive features (TUSQ nut, locking tuners, coil taps)


Only available at Guitar Center / Musician's Friend

Not everybody likes Les Paul style guitars (I'm really nitpicking here)

Mitchell MS450 Video Review

Don’t want to read this review? No worries. This 12 minute review on ArtOfShred’s YouTube channel covers most of what you need to know, including an extensive sound demo. The sound demo includes a semi-produced track with drums as well as guitar-only segments with clean and dirty sounds using the various pickup options.

A few people on YouTube told me the MS450 would be trash after a year so I filmed a 1 year update:

Hey guess what? I still like it!

Unfortunately Guitar Center / Musician’s Friend seem to have stopped selling the MS450 and replaced it with the MS470. I’ll review the MS470 when I can!

The Basics of this Les Paul style guitar

The MS450’s body style is not exactly unique, but it’s tried, true, and tested. As you can tell it looks very similar to a Gibson / Epiphone Les Paul. That said, it’s not quite like a Les Paul. It has a thinner body, and therefore, a lighter weight. I’d say that’s better for beginners who can get more quickly fatigued with a heavy guitar.

A body photo of the Mitchell MS450 electric guitar

The spec breakdown:

  • Locking tuners (nice!)
  • Graphtech TUSQ XL nut (nice!)
  • 2 humbucker pickups
  • 2 volume pots with push/pull coil taps for the pickups
  • 1 tone pot
  • Mahogany single-cutaway body with flame maple top
  • Mahogany set neck
  • Pau ferro fretboard
  • Shallow-C neck profile with slim-taper neck
  • 22 Jumbo frets
  • Sword slice fret inlays
  • Tune-o-matic (TOM) style bridge
  • String-thru body
  • 24.75″ scale length (like most Les Paul style guitars)
  • 6.9lbs (yours might differ slightly)
  • Made in Vietnam

First Impressions

I’m going to be honest with you, I did not have very high hopes for the Guitar Center store brand guitar. While I had played a few Mitchell guitars in store over the years I never gave them much thought.

“Oh, GC store brand. Cool. Not bad.” And then I’d move on to a name brand.

So if that’s anything like you, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Good company? Well, you’re in company. 🙂

The guitar arrived nicely double boxed, but my very first thought was, “why is there nothing else in this box?” No tags, no manual, no promotional materials, no allen wrenches. These are things you find with basically every other guitar brand.

I actually called Guitar Center customer service to find out if anything was missing!

But nope. My guess is they do away with every little extra to save money and bring you a great guitar at a low price. I’ve mentioned this before, but I wish more low cost guitar brands would do away with the extras and make their guitars a little better. Mitchell is that brand.

Once I put the guitar in my hands it felt really nice. Time to tune up and test …

Cons (what cons?)

This is tough to write. I pride myself on unbiased reviews and being open and honest about flaws is a good indicator that a review is honest.

But you know what? This guitar at this price has no cons.

Except, yes, I would like an allen wrench included in the box to be able to adjust the truss rod. (Well, I have a dozen truss allen keys, but if this is your first guitar you might not have one and might some day need it.)

That’s about the only real negative I can say about this guitar — it’s not that it’s a perfect guitar, of course — so let’s move on.


The most important pro for a beginning guitar player: this guitar was set up really well right out of the box.

Fret Guru string heigh gauge at the 12th fret of the MS450

Here is what I mean: the neck was straight, the string height at the 12th fret was just below 2mm (let’s just say it was 2mm), there was no fret buzz, and no sharp frets.

The only thing I eventually adjusted to my own personal liking is I dropped the string height to between 1.5mm and 1.75mm.

I’ve never had a cheap guitar — and I’ve reviewed a lot — come so well set up. Ever.

Other positives:

  • Sounds good both clean and dirty
  • The neck feels nice and is easy to play
  • The flame top finish looks really cool
  • The sword slice fret inlays are unique instead of the standard dots or blocks
  • A real Graphtech TUSQ XL nut!

It’s also a light guitar (mine weighed in at 6.9lbs / 3.1kg) with a fairly slim neck. This is great for people with small bodies and/or small hands. I am 6’5″ with big hands (and a bad back!), and it’s great for me too.

What Kind Of Setup Did I Do?

Again, out of the box this guitar did not need a setup. But every guitarist has their personal preferences. If you’re a beginner you won’t have any personal preferences yet so you don’t need to worry about this. Anyway …

I removed the strings, oiled the fretboard with lemon oil, restrung it, lowered the action (string height to 1.5 – 1.75mm) and set the intonation.

A word on intonation: although I said the guitar was set up well out of the box technically that is not true. Nearly any time you get a guitar shipped to you you’re going to need to set the intonation.

But fear not!

Setting intonation is easy. All you need is a guitar tuner.

Here’s a little secret: I didn’t know how to set my intonation for years! I used to take my guitars to a guitar tech every so often (not very often, haha) and spend money I didn’t need to spend for a setup.

So don’t worry if you don’t know how to set your guitar up. Take it slow. One thing at a time. Remember: you won’t break anyway, even if you feel like you might.

How Does The MS450 Sound?

If you haven’t watched the MS450 review video already I extracted just the intro demo track here:

That demo won’t give you the full picture of the sound, but it’ll give you an idea.

I will say this: this guitar sounds really good. The pickups aren’t the best but they are the best in this price range.

I didn’t have any issues coaxing whatever sounds I wanted out of this beast. If you play rock, metal, or indie I think you’ll get the sounds you want out of it too.

What Would I Upgrade?

Listen, this thing already comes with a great TUSQ nut and decent no-name locking tuners.

And I like how it sounds.

So the only thing I would upgrade is replacing the strap buttons with strap locks:

If I was getting really nitpicky I’d replace all the pots and electronics. But you know what? I’m not nitpicky. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not top of the line. (Which you’ll rarely find on sub-$1000 guitars anyway.)

So, the answer is: nothing. This guitar does not need any upgrades.

Mitchell MS450 photo gallery

Final Thoughts on the Mitchell MS450

This is, by far, the best guitar you can buy in this price range.

If you insist on a Strat style body with a tremolo then okay, get my 2nd favorite the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V. But barring that? The MS450 is the best cheap guitar under $300. This might even be the best guitar under $500 (although don’t hold me to that just yet).

Overall: 9.2/10. You won’t regret buying this guitar.

Do you own a Mitchell MS450? Let me know what you think about it via email or the comments below.

22 thoughts on “Mitchell MS450 Modern guitar review – The best electric guitar under $300 (seriously!)”

    1. Hi Fred! I’d go with the Mitchell. Beyond the fact that it’s my favorite cheap guitar it doesn’t have a whammy bar / tremolo system (the bar that allows you to “shake” your notes) so it’s a little easier to maintain for a beginner. Some beginners really want it and that’s fine too. Congrats on getting started with a fun new hobby!

    2. I bought one used at Guitar Center a couple months ago for $200, and I have not yet found one mark or blemish on it, for for all intents and purposes, it’s new. I have the same thoughts about it as you do, except that I predict a future fret replacement, if nothing else. Maybe they can be dressed a little for now, but they seem to be made of soft, cheap material, and I can see nice, stainless steel ones going in sometime in the future. I’m still getting used to the output jack location, even though it makes sense. The one in mine is already a little wonky, but that’s an easy, cheap replacement using one of those new Pure Tone full-contact jacks. I am also tempted to add a middle pickup someday.

      1. Hey Ken! Thanks for sharing your experience. The frets will last for years, but of course refretting with stainless steel will make them last a lifetime. I hear you about the output jack. Mine is still fine but I can see needing to replace it at some point. (To anyone reading: output jack replacement is the easiest upgrade you can do that requires soldering.)

    3. I don’t know why you insist on calling this guitar for a beginner. I’ve been playing guitar since 1975. I bought two of these MS400’s (the previous LP cutaway. I loved them. They sounded great, loved the cutaway part of the body making it more comfortable to play. the thinner body because I’m almost 70 and a regular LP is too heavy. Locking tuners plus single/double humbucker pickup knobs. This is a well made guitar even if it cost $1000. I plan on buying another one.

  1. I bought one because it was on sale, I didn’t have a LP type, and my lady loved the purple one. My number 1 is a Fender lone star strat, also have a Gibson SGJ I scored used, a Japanese Jackson Kelly, and an EVH Wolfgang. I really enjoy playing the Mitchell and it is quickly becoming a favorite.

  2. Just purchase this guitar last Friday. It was between this and a Sterling SUB Axis.
    Played both in the store thru the same amp to compare tone. The sterling highs were slightly brighter but the MS450 tone is amazing. The sterling has a 5 tone selector switch but lacked a volume control for each pick up. The sterling has a vibrator bar which the MS 450 lacked. Overall the difference in tone was minimal. Decided to go with the MS 450 due to be better neck finish and materials. Also it was $180 cheaper. Have it home now and it is a great guitar. Love the tone and the playability. Very happy with my selection. I also own a Fender American Strat 2001.

    1. Nice. Thanks for sharing, Bob! Those Sterling Axis guitars look cool but I’ve never owned one, only played in store. I need to review one of them eventually. Anyway, happy you’re happy with the Mitchell. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for asking. Do you like the way the JB sounds? These are admittedly not the best pickups (even though I like them just fine) so the JB may be an improvement for you, but it depends. I know that’s kind of a non-answer, but tone is really subjective. But if you love JBs then I don’t see why you won’t love them in this guitar.

  3. Pingback: Squier Affinity Stratocaster electric guitar review (FINALLY reviewing this iconic budget guitar!) – Art Of Shred Guitar & Gear Reviews

  4. Hi Karol and all. I bought the MS450 in the honey burst color, buying it in 2022.
    Agree that for the bucks, it is about as good a guitar as you can get for the price (I got it for $199.00 also.) More on this later.
    Regarding you getting the guitar without the tags, box, wrench etc…. that sort of hits on the one caveat that can make or break the MS450 buying experience.
    Mine came with everything, the Mitchell box, QC tags and such. I had heard previously, and indeed actually saw this happen myself to a customer, that sometimes GC will take units off the floor or returned open box, and use a generic box and wrapping and send it out. You can see such complaints by customers even on GC’s site where the model is reviewed.
    There’s also a lot of complaints by buyers of the guitars having numerous issues. My opinion based on experience with this model… you either get a glorious guitar, or an instrument suitable for kinder wood, not guitar playing.
    Great review, Karol. Just thought I’d add the extra info to help others sitting on the fence with this make/model.

    1. Hi Joe, thanks so much for sharing that! Considering GC’s easy return policy and how good this guitar is I think it’s worth a shot for any guitarist who is thinking about it. I’m going to film a “1 year later” video about the guitar soon because it’s still my favorite guitar for under $300.

      1. Ok, Karol. Will keep my eyes open for it!
        And 100% agree that the abilty to be able to return without a major hassle does make it worth considering.

  5. Karol…recently received my MS450 on a super sale from Musician’s Friend…thx for the tip! Mine MS450 was setup perfectly, but there were some cosmetic issues. Glue on the fretboard, a bent tuning screw, some minor blemishes. The sound is quite good and it definitely like a Les Paul.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Ben! Honestly, a bent tuner should be cause for a refund/exchange. Glue on the fretboard is easy enough to fix. Minor blemishes can sometimes get a pass, depending what they are and how minor.

  6. i dont know much about guitars, but hypothetically if i purchased this guitar and wanted to upgrade the pickups down the line, what pickups would fit?

    1. Great question. Humbucker pickups with a passive mount (the 2 little pieces of metal with a screw hole extending from the sides of the pickup) would fit without issues. Any of these, for example (and hundreds of others):

      The EMG passive pickups are nice because they have a solderless installation system included, but soldering is pretty easy if you want to learn to do that.

  7. Picked up an MS450 a couple of years ago after I wandered into a GC near me . I was farting around in there for a few hours, driving the sales kids nuts and I just happened to grab this one off the rack and started playing. I like the action so I plugged into one of there random test amps and I really couldn’t believe the sound and tone I was getting out of this thing. I thought it might be the amp so I tried a few other units on the floor and it still sounded great. I had never heard of Mitchell so I harangued the sales kids with all sorts of questions about the brand where I leaned it was a the GC house brand. So I said to myself, “what the heck” whipped out the VISA and took it home. I cleaned and polished it up nice, swapped out the strings and plugged it in my Positive Grid Spark and still can’t get over nice it plays and sounds. Now I have been playing guitar for 54 years but I have never bought into the guitar “snobbery” that is so prevalent in our PR and promotion driven culture. My favorite guitar over all those years is a 1960’s Saturn 63 of which I rebuilt from scratch (twice) using updated electrics and components. My favorite acoustic is a 1980’s Yamaha FG-365SE and I still have my 1987 Squier (Fender) strat. Now there is now doubt that the Martin, Taylor and Gibson et. al. make truly amazing instruments. And there is nothing quite like having a a McPherson MG-4x in your hands (Santa are you listening?) but for me, owning an instrument that feels and plays “very close” of a quality brand, at a fraction of the price has always had a special appeal to me. But as us old timers say……what ever floats your boat.

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