First off let me say that I'm an active user of the bass forum and I know how annoying these types of threads can be, especially when you end up answering the same types of questions every week. So let me apologize if there's already a similar thread hanging around. That being said...

Looking for a new guitar, not necessarily a back-up but more of an addition to. I'm currently playing a newer model MIM tele. What I'm looking for is something a little ballsier but not quite aiming for the level of a metal guitar. More of like a traditional rock HH set-up. Looking to stay passive and aiming for a budget of $400-$550.

Two that I've been looking at are the higher level epi les pauls (standard plus top?) and the fender blacktop series (specifically the jazzmaster or telecaster). The big issue is none of my local fender dealers are stocking blacktops, so a purchase would be a blind one from musiciansfriens.

So some key questions:
Is the quality of the fender blacktops consistent enough to order from an online dealer?
Is the sound difference between MIM standards and blacktops enough to warrant owning both?
How do the blacktops stack up against the epiphones mentioned?
Is there another guitar that might be right up my alley?

Any other information would be greatly appreciated!
How do the fender blacktops and the epi les pails stand up?
Go for an Epi Les Paul Standard Plus Top, they're amazing, and you should be able to get a good deal on one if you try craigslist. It's always better to try before you buy and with craigslist you can arrange that with the seller.
Quote by genghisgandhi
make the bass more bassy

Quote by grohl1987
You really like input jacks, don't you?

My Gear
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top
Greg Bennett Acoustic
Epiphone G-1275
I'd go with a Michael Kelly Patriot. It's got a ballsy tone to it, and they're nice looking (and a bit different) and it's perfectly in your price range.