The race to make the best electric guitar for heavy metal doesn't seem to simmer down; and to be frank, we are not complaining. The competition has made brands like Gibson and Schester up their game regarding features, sounds, and finishes. The best metal guitars are notable for several reasons besides their easy playability and power. Some come with edges sharp enough to cut through steel, while others have many scary colors and shapes.
What you should really look for, however, though looks are cool too, is the construction of the guitar. Everything from the material used to make the body and the neck, the hardware, and the electronics need to be top-notch. From extreme death metal, thrash and even shred, we have a great metal guitar to make sure you succeed as a metal guitarist.
1.ESP LTD EC-1000
- Designed to offer the tone, feel, looks, and quality that professional musicians...
- Has all of the classy LTD Deluxe features that set it apart in this range of...
- Features abalone inlays and purfling, full body/neck/headstock binding, and...
- Includes LTD locking tuners, Tonepros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece, and the...
- Also offers set-thru construction with a mahogany body, 3 pc. mahogany neck, and...
We start with something classic, timeless, and comfortable for everyone because that is one of the makings of the best metal guitars. The ESP LTD EC-1000 is a single-cutaway that looks traditional and Les Paulish at first, except it's hotter and meaner than most electric guitars you have seen. The EC-1000 is made of mahogany, both body and neck, and boasts a 22-fret ebony fingerboard and Tonepros tune-o-Matic bridge, very familiar features for metal guitarists.
This beauty has a thin U-shape neck, and the pickups are a sizzling Seymour Duncan Jazz humbucker (EMG 81/60, making it an exceptional guitar for metal and hard rock. It feels fast and slick without compromising the power and aesthetics of a classical single-cut guitar. Its biggest selling point however is the fitted EverTine bridge that once set, it can’t move from there thanks to the tension calibrated springs and lever.
If you want a finely-tuned machine that's fast, accurate, and won’t go off-tune easily, this is the ultimate choice. It's great that you don't have to break the bank when purchasing one. The guitar is affordable, durable, and well-balanced.
2. Ibanez RGMS7
- Double cutaway RG-style Mahogany body
- Nitro Wizard III-7 Multiscale 5pc Maple/Bubinga neck
- Multi-scale layout rosewood fingerboard, Jumbo frets
- Array 7 MS pickups, Mono-rail bridge
- Case not included
The RG series from Ibanez has been the go-to option for metalheads for over two decades now for good reasons. This Ibanez RGMS7 features the classic pointy but not too sharp style that has inspired many models for years, and it's still a trendsetter to date. The impressive thing though is that the guitar has a multi-scale design ensuring that each string has that perfect tension for greater clarity and intonation.
The guitar sports a mahogany body that's heavily contoured for comfort, while its double-cutaway design with extra deep scoop ensures you easily access all 24 jumbo frets on the maple neck. The fanned frets take some practice to get used to, but you will quickly adapt to them since they follow the natural shape of your fretting hand.
Power-wise, Ibanez RGMS7 doesn't disappoint, thanks to the array-7 pickups with excellent precision and versatility. What's more, its mono-rail bridge delivers string to string isolation which means that each string vibrates optimally without influence from the other. This guitar is unlike any other we have seen in this price range, and it's a joy to play.
3. Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar
- Set-Neck w/ Ultra Access
- Quilted Maple Top
- EMG Active 81TW/89 pickups
- Mahogany Body
- Abalone Gothic Cross Inlays
Schecter may not be the biggest name in the metal guitar world, but they sure make some of the best metal guitars in the market right now. Over the years, the company has upped its game when it comes to features, sounds, and finishes, yet their prices remain as reasonable as ever. While there are more than enough options to choose from their line-up, the Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar is undoubtedly one of the best guitars for metal in the market.
It features a mahogany body with that classic C body shape, making it look good and sound even better. Combine that with the mahogany neck, and you have a full, deep, and exciting sound you expect from modern metal tracks. As for the pickups, you have an active EMG 81TW/89 set, which are hot, high output pickups with lots of fire and sizzle.
This is the best metal guitar if you don't want to make any modifications. However, we recommend you get it fine-tuned by a professional the first time because it has excellent sustain, so you won't need to do it again. That said, this is a beautiful masterpiece and worth a hundred times more than what it costs.
4. Jackson Pro Series King V Electric Guitar
- All Mahogany Construction
- 25.5" Scale Maple Neck with 24 Fret Ebony Fingerboard
- Seymour Duncan Pickups
- Floyd Rose FRT-O2000 Double-Locking Tremolo (Recessed)
- Case Not Included
When you think about the best metal guitars, Jackson is the brand that comes to mind. Their vast selection of world-class guitars is unmatched, and it's hard to pick just one. However, the Jackson Pro Series King V stands above the rest with its all-mahogany body and one-piece maple neck. Everything about this guitar screams metal and its 24 jumbo frets on an ebony fingerboard give you enough room to be creative. The Floyd Rose FTR-02000 tremolo bridge soars and dives effortlessly without compromising your tuning.
Our favorite feature however would have to be the pickups. Boasting Seymour Duncan JB/’59 humbucking pickups, this beast delivers head-banging, giant-crushing tones while retaining clarity and note definition. As a note, these are not super high output pickups, but it's the best combination if you want more accuracy and balance.
Jackson Pro Series King V is an excellent guitar for experienced players, and its price will make you love it even more. It is designed for highly technical light-speed playing and will serve you faithfully for a long time.
5. Gibson Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar
Since it showed up 25 years ago as a guitar for studio musicians, the Les Brown Studio has been a dream for many thanks to its tremendous sonic capabilities. It is a traditional piece with a modern, no-frills twist and has all the elements of a great metal guitar. The Studio has a solid body mahogany and carved maple top, not to mention genuine Gibson humbucker pickups.
This guitar gives you everything you get from the Gibson Les Paul Standard without the crazy price point and flashiness. What it lacks in frills and flair, it makes up in performance. The mahogany allows for a deep, rich sound perfect for high-gain metal and bone-crushing tones. It is also very light on your hands and looks much better than most Les Pauls if you are not into flashy things.
If you have always wanted a Gibson Les Paul but couldn't afford one, this Studio is almost half the price of a Standard, and it’s worth every penny. It has a slimmer maple neck with 22 jumbo frets, but it's still incredibly comfortable to play. The finish is also outstanding, and it's available in various colors, from red to ebony, all with that gloss nitrocellulose lacquer.
What Makes a Good Heavy Metal Guitar?
Before jumping into some of the features you should expect to see in the best metal guitars, it's important to note that the best metal guitar doesn't have to be expensive. Sure it's nice if you can afford to buy a Les Paul Standard like rock stars, but you really don't have to.
The best metal guitars don't have to be V-style either, though that look sure looks cool. Classic single cut and double-cut guitars like the Studio are also just as good if looks are not such a big deal to you. What you need is a comfortable and powerful guitar that will make metal rocking even more fun than it already is.
So, what features are we looking for?
Pickups in a guitar are what creates the sound you hear, and different pickups make different sounds. You have to choose between single coils and humbuckers. Single coils have a thinner tone and are great for various tones from blues, reggae, country, and even rock. They sound great for clean and lightly driven tones but not for metal. On the other hand, Humbuckers give a thicker, punchier tone which is the best for metal, and they don't have that hum you get from single-coil pickups.
It’s not enough that a guitar has humbucker pickups because you must also decide between active and passive pickups. The screaming active pickups are great for concerts and bringing the house down because they push the amp harder. However, passive pickups, which are lower output and found in most Les Pauls and Duncan JB have a warmth and clarity you can't get with active pickups. All you need is a high-gain amp, and you can rock the house off its roof.
Do you need a Floyd Rose to play metal? This is a century-old question that no one has answered yet. For metal, you only need to choose between Floyd Rose Tremolo and a fixed bridge. The bridge you choose determines what kind of music you can play. Do you like playing solos, or you prefer riffs and rhythm parts?
A guitar with a fixed bridge is easier to set up and use, so if you don't play solos often, just go with a fixed bridge. If you are the lead in your band though, or you play solos a lot, the tremolo bar will come in handy to change the vibrato and dive bombs.
3. Number of strings
Today, some of the best metal guitars are 7 or 8 strings. The number of strings, like the bridge, also impacts what you can play on the guitar and how it feels like playing it. The main idea here is that a 7 or 8 string guitar opens more doors for you because there is some music you can't hack with a typical 6 string guitar. Take a look at the music you regularly listen to or play and see if it can be played with a 6 string guitar or not so you can make the right choice.
4. Scale Length
The scale length is the length from the nut to the bridge, and it's an essential feature for metal. The length affects string tension and tuning stability. Since you want better tension with metal, you should consider a guitar with a longer scale length.
As you may have noticed, the guitars we have listed here are mahogany. This is because mahogany as a material provides warm, deep-sounding tones that really bring out the low end. If you can get an all-mahogany guitar, you have quality on your hands. That said, Alder is a better material if you want to play hard rock or shred because it’s brighter and lighter.
The metal genre is highly demanding on its players, so you must have the right tools on hand. As you consider some of the options we have given here, keep in mind the kind of music you play and the sonic prowess you desire from a guitar. That will help you get the best metal guitar seeing that this genre has several sub-genres in it. Consider also your level of experience playing metal guitars and your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions on Metal Guitars
1. Which type of guitar is great for beginners?
Most people recommend for beginners to start with an acoustic guitar because it's easier. However, because you are learning for the first time, any guitar is fine as long as it matches the music you want to play. For example, if you like playing metal and you are learning with an acoustic guitar, something will feel off because it's not matching what your brain and fingers want to do. The choice of music you will be playing should be the most significant factor when buying a guitar.
2. How much is a metal guitar?
Metal guitars range anywhere from $300 to $1500. While the best metal guitars don't have to cost a fortune, you also don't want to go to the extremely low side. A good range is between $400 and $600 unless you want a Gibson. When comparing prices, note that some guitars are expensive simply because of the brand selling them and not because of anything special. Compare features, construction, and read reviews of different metal guitars and let price be the last consideration.
3. Can you play metal on any guitar?
You can try, but it is better to get a metal guitar instead. Classical music guitars are hollow and acoustic, making it hard for them to produce that hard metal sound you are looking for. In contrast, metal guitars are made with solid wood and other special features that make it possible to make that sound.