I had luck with the 1958 Epiphone Explorer. The 1984 may be better if you're looking for EMGs. I like the Jackson Kelly shape, but the ones I've played have too thin a neck for me. The LTD EX series are pretty killer too, but I don't like the body shape as much. The 401's neck is awesome, though. Our local GC has a Gibson Explorer in stock but I didn't like it a whole lot. The neck was decent but the sound was off, hard to put my finger on it... the thing was also beat to hell (even missing a knob), so I don't want to judge every Gibson off that one.
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Uhh, if you can get a used Jackson Kelly, one of the higher up models obvs, then you should go for that. Epiphone Korina explorers are nice too, but the goth explorers are sin. I'd say the LTD is the way to go in my opinion.
From explorers I most prefer the Gibson Explorer. An Epiphone can be great for the money, but the Gibson is even better in terms of quality and sound.
But if you like to shred, there's probably nothing better than an used old Kelly from the 80-90s. Those were the good days.. Anyway, some might have these Kelly "Professionals" which are crafted in Japan and are very good guitars.
Ibanez Destroyers are also quite neat, check them out too.
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I'm totally diggin' the LTD's thin U neck. I don't know what it is about Jackson, but I had a RR3 and I hated the neck. It just felt wrong to my small hands. I'm thinking the 1984 Epi or the LTD (Pre-lawesuit if i can find one, I hate the pointyness of the new one) at the moment. &I had an Ibanez Destroyer I regret selling. :p
I would put in another vote for the Jackson Kelly, have had a couple over the years (one on loan to a friend right now). I love the looks and play nice as well. The one thing is they can be a bit neck heavy, if you move the strap button to the upper neck plate screw - if a bolt on - or just relocate the strap button to that general area on a set neck and the problem disappears and you are just left with the goodness. KE3s can be picked up pretty cheap on the used market.
try to find a ltd ex400, those are awesome.
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Epiphone explorers (any model), EX LTD-400 series, or a Jackson KE-3 will be the good bang for the buck options out there. All 3 will be somewhat different from one another (The Jackson especially).The Epiphone will have the traditional design with a bit thicker body and neck, and the Jackson will have the fastest neck of the 3. The LTD should be somewhere in between. I'm partial to the classic Gibson/Epiphone design myself. You should definitely try before you buy if possible, but it's hard to go wrong w/LTD stuff.