There are so many electric guitars on the market.
Having so many options is great, but it also makes it difficult to choose the right one.
If you’re a metal guitarist, we’ve made it easy for you.
We’ve found the best metal guitars in every budget, so you can skip hours and hours of research.
All of the metal guitars below give you the great sound and the creative freedom you need to play metal.
Obviously, the budget models don’t do this quite as well as the more expensive ones. But if you’re just starting out, keeping costs down is often more important.
Whatever your need and budget, you’ll find the perfect guitar for you among the instruments below. Let’s take a look.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Metal Guitars Compared
- 2 Top Guitars For Metal Reviewed
- 2.1 Best Metal Guitar Overall: Schecter Synyster Gates Custom-S
- 2.2 Highest Quality Metal Guitar: Ibanez RG5120M Prestige
- 2.3 Best Budget Metal Guitar: Ibanez Gio GRX70
- 2.4 Best Metal Guitar for Beginners: Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
- 2.5 Best Value Metal Guitar: Sterling By Music Man John Petrucci Majesty MAJ100
- 2.6 Best Metal Guitar Under $1000: ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256
- 3 Metal Guitar Buying Guide
- 4 Best Guitars For Metal: Common Questions
- 5 Best Metal Guitars: Final Thoughts
Best Metal Guitars Compared
Top Guitars For Metal Reviewed
The following 6 guitars are all great for metal guitarists, but obviously the budget models won’t quite give you the sound and creative freedom that the more expensive models do.
If you’re just starting out, that’s not generally an issue, though. The budget models still made it onto this list of the best metal guitars, because we took value for money into account.
Best Metal Guitar Overall: Schecter Synyster Gates Custom-S
- Very well-made
- Innovative design
- Great and versatile tone
- Floyd Rose 1500 Series bridge
- Comes with carbon-fiber neck reinforcement
- Sustainiac neck pickup for those "infinite" sustained notes
- High price (but still a great bargain, given the quality)
- Avenged Sevenfold theme won't appeal to everyone
Although metal is a relatively old genre by now, it continues to evolve. And the electric guitar has evolved right along with it. Schecter’s wonderful Synyster Gates signature model, the Custom-S version, is the perfect example.
Not long after Avenged Sevenfold’s rise to fame, the lead guitarist Brian Haner, also known as Synyster Gates, got in touch with Schecter and the company came up with his signature model.
There have been a few versions over the years, all featuring a somewhat unusual “twisted Super-Strat” shape. The version that stands out the most is the Custom-S.
Aside from the recognizable body shape and the headstock design, there are a few important aesthetic traits that we would like to point out. First, it features a glossy finish with a unique-looking color pattern.
There are 3 versions to choose from – black with golden stripes, black with silver stripes and satin goldburst. All versions have specially designed inlays. On the 12th fret, you have Avenged Sevenfold’s famous Deathbat mascot logo, with its wings spreading on two frets up and down.
The choice of hardware, with its color matching the stripes, is pretty interesting as well. For the bridge, you have the Floyd Rose 1500, which ensures stable operation and very precise fine-tuning, as well as precise intonation and string action.
On the headstock, you have Grover Rotomatic tuners, accompanied with a quality Floyd Rose 1500 Series locking nut.
Going over to pickups and electronics, it’s more than just a simple guitar with two humbuckers. It has a Schecter USA Synyster Gates Signature bridge pickup, and the unusual but amazing Sustainiac pickup on the neck.
Aside from being an active pickup, Sustainiac offers the “infinite” sustain mode, letting you leave a note ringing out for as long as you want (or as long as the battery lasts). It also has a separate on and off switch and a toggle switch with three modes of operation.
We could go on for days about the specifications, so we’ll just point out that Syn Gates Custom-S model is the ultimate metal machine from top to bottom. It’s not only about its great tone and exciting features but also about how great it feels in your hands.
You won’t find another electric guitar that’s this versatile, this easy to play and sounds this good. As expected, all of these features do result in a higher price, but it’s worth it for one of the best metal guitars you can find.
Read our Schecter Synyster Gates Custom-S review for much more on this electric guitar.
Highest Quality Metal Guitar: Ibanez RG5120M Prestige
- Fishman Fluence pickups offer a lot of dynamic control and great tones
- Amazing build quality and choice of materials
- Great-looking finish and color patterns
- Very ergonomic neck
- Neck and body joint offers easy access to higher frets
- Very expensive
- Ocean-blue top is not very metal
Ibanez is one of the best metal guitar brands and has been pumping out quality instruments for decades, with each new series surprising us with a great combination of price and quality.
But nothing can ever surpass the company’s famous Prestige series of guitars.
There are a lot of them, but you can’t really go wrong with any of these great Ibanez guitars. That said, the one that stands out to us is the Ibanez RG5120M – a revolutionary Super-Strat-type guitar with an amazing tone, build quality, and overall performance.
It is not just the best Ibanez guitar for metal, it is the highest quality metal guitar, period. We even don’t know where to start here.
First, the body is made of African mahogany, with ash on top. Then we have the company’s special Super Wizard HP neck, which features a 5-piece construction of maple and wenge. It’s all accompanied by a Bound Birdseye Maple fretboard and stylish Pearl-dot inlays.
Looking at its fretboard radius and 24 frets, it’s pretty obvious that this is a mean shredding machine. It’s not just the choice of materials and their individual construction, but also how they fit together that makes this instrument so great.
Although a bolt-on neck and body configuration, the access to higher frets is pretty smooth due to the very clever and simple ergonomic design. And the entire body is designed with ergonomic qualities in mind.
Moving on to the electronics, we have two humbucker pickups made by Fishman. Named Fluence Modern Humbuckers, these are the stars of the show and are unlike your conventional pickups.
What’s really interesting is that these pickups are able to pull off both the high-gain and clean stuff very well. They have a standard 3-way selector switch and an additional voicing switch for more tone-shaping options.
And let’s not forget the tremolo system: the Lo-Pro Edge bridge. In combination with the locking nut and great tuners, you can rock it all day long and barely notice any changes in tuning. It can all be corrected with the guitar’s very precise fine tuners.
As already stated, this is a full-on shred machine, and it’s capable of doing any kind of metal subgenre, plus many other genres outside of metal.
Yes, it’s an expensive guitar, but you can’t expect such an amazing and beautiful instrument to come cheap. It is the best metal guitar you can get.
Check out our full Ibanez Prestige RG5120M review for more.
Best Budget Metal Guitar: Ibanez Gio GRX70
- Cheap and works great for the price
- Quality hardware
- Good-looking design
- Pickups could be better
The last two models are amazing, but not everyone can afford them. Many of us are on more of a budget.
The problem is that it’s not easy to find a great guitar in the low-price categories. But it’s not impossible either.
Ibanez had our favorite high-quality guitar and they also have our favorite at the opposite end of the price spectrum: their GRX70, which is a stripped-down version of those modern super-Strat guitars.
Of course, it’s obvious from the first glance that this is not an expensive guitar, but it’s still a very reliable and aesthetically pleasing instrument that can handle even some serious gigs. It’s one of the best metal guitars, once you take value for money into account.
Let’s first look into the guitar’s construction and basic features. It is a simple yet slick-looking super-Strat guitar with some nice ergonomic features. The body is made from basswood with a bolt-on maple neck.
Of course, it’s a simple one-piece neck with a rosewood fretboard on top. There are 22 frets in total on this rosewood fingerboard, which is just about the average for cheaper or mid-priced guitars.
But what’s really important is that this guitar feels pretty decent when played. Although far from the feel of the Prestige series, higher frets are also easy to access due to the body and neck joint design.
As far as the aesthetics go, the GRX70 comes in a few variants. And to be fair, each of these looks pretty decent. Nothing too flashy, but you can still get some real metal vibes going on in this department as well.
We were kind of surprised by the quality of hardware, which is not common for this particular price level. Even the FAT 6 tremolo bridge works well and is capable of handling even heavy use.
On the other hand, we weren’t really impressed by the quality of the guitar’s pickups. Of course, you cannot expect this to be perfect with a budget guitar, but this is the first thing we’d change about it. The humbucker-single-humbucker configuration is great though, since you have more options at your disposal.
The GRX series, which are part of the now-famous Gio line, are pretty well-known for their low prices and overall simple features. Although you can’t really find a perfect metal guitar in this category, Ibanez’s GRX70 will be a helpful and reliable companion, even if you’re a gigging musician.
If you want to use it for the long run, you can swap the pickups and have yourself a great instrument. Other than that, it’s a surprisingly great instrument for the price, landing it a spot on this list of the best metal guitars.
Our detailed Ibanez Gio GRX70 review has much more.
Best Metal Guitar for Beginners: Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
- Great deal for the price
- Good build quality
- Decent humbucker pickups
- Great choice for beginners
- Not a very versatile instrument
When you’re just starting out on an electric guitar, you need to bear in mind that the instrument can get a bit complicated. This is why we believe a simpler guitar without any crazy additions, is a better choice for entry-level players. It also saves you money.
At the same time, the basic qualities should be up to a desirable level, and it’s always a good idea to have an instrument that will grow with you, even during your intermediate phase. And this is exactly what you’ll get with the Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT.
Drawing all the basic features from Gibson’s Les Paul Studio signature guitar models, this instrument has all the essentials – two humbucker passive pickups, a 3-way switch, two volume and two tone pots, as well as a classic tune-o-matic bridge. It’s just a simple classic Les Paul guitar with all the bare essentials.
At the same time, it manages to keep most of the other qualities in check for this price level. And this was the whole idea behind this guitar: get rid of some “luxurious” features and aesthetic traits for the sake of low cost, great tone and good performance. This is something that you want to see on a good beginner guitar.
The use of materials is pretty similar to some cheaper Gibson Les Paul guitars. You have a mahogany body, along with a maple top. It comes with an Okoume neck, which is not that common in the world of electric guitars, but provides a nice feel.
Even when you advance past the beginner skill level, you’ll still be able to use this instrument for both live and studio work.
Although they are stock pickups made by Epiphone, the guitar’s two humbuckers work pretty great. The overall tone and performance are a good start for anyone who’s just entering the world of hard rock and classic old school heavy metal music.
Later on, you can even swap the pickups, which will take this instrument pretty close to the performance capabilities of Gibsons.
All this said, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT is not a very versatile instrument. It’s one of the more affordable metal guitars and a great deal for the price, but you won’t be able to do some stuff that more expensive guitars would be able to pull off.
However, this is not something that should bother a beginning guitar player. This is one of the best metal guitars for all those metal fans who are just starting out in playing metal, be it modern metal or classic metal.
Learn more in our complete Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT review.
Best Value Metal Guitar: Sterling By Music Man John Petrucci Majesty MAJ100
- Great value for the price
- Amazing tone
- Very ergonomic and easy to play
- It could use coil-spit or coil-tap features at this price level
The greatness of John Petrucci is well-known, both inside and outside of metal circles. Knowing about his musicianship, it was only a matter of time before he would make his ultimate weapon in collaboration with Ernie Ball Music Man.
The company’s now-famous Majesty series is pretty expensive. Luckily, their subsidiary Sterling managed to pull off a cheaper version called MAJ100 that still retains some of the great qualities while selling just above the $1000 mark.
Although it costs less than a third of to the Music Man Majesty, we can say one thing – this is one of the best guitars that you can find today.
You can see instantly that the main design features are all there, including the ergonomic shape and the overall color pattern.
The body’s backside and the neck joint are designed in such a way to give you full easy access to even the 24th fret. Both the body and the neck are made of mahogany.
Overall, it’s really easy to play and its specially designed thin neck feels great. Although a downgraded version of the Music Man Majesty, the guitar’s bridge is still pretty great and allows stable operation.
The Sterling MAJ100 has two simple humbucker pickups. While the passive pickups are awesome, there’s only one standard 3-way switch without any kind of coil-splitting or coil-tapping added.
Although not mandatory, you’d still kind of expect this feature on a guitar that’s just a bit over the $1000 mark. This means that the MAJ100 is nowhere near as versatile as the Music Man Majesty models.
On the other hand, the passive pickups work well and are capable of delivering some great tones, so we can’t really complain that much about it. In addition, this guitar still comes with a +12 dB gain boost switch on the master volume knob.
The full Sterling By Music Man John Petrucci Majesty MAJ100 review has more on one of the best metal guitars out there, in terms of value for money.
Best Metal Guitar Under $1000: ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256
- Outperforms its price range
- Coil-tap control
- Great-looking and ergonomic design
- Extremely versatile
- The guitar could use a tremolo bridge, but it's still not much of a downside
A subsidiary of ESP, LTD makes amazing guitars that are pretty famous in the world of metal. The best part is that they manage to pull off great instruments even in the cheaper categories.
If you’re looking for a great metal guitar just under the $600 mark, then the ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256 is by far the best option. It is even the best under $1000 and made our list of the best electric guitar for the money.
Looking at this instrument, it’s pretty clear that it’s inspired by the well-known Les Paul body shape. But it has a few of its own distinctions when it comes to the overall design.
And it’s more than just skin-deep, meaning that these are more than just aesthetic differences but rather ergonomic ones.
The single-cutaway design is enhanced not only with a sharper look (that fits the metal aesthetic) but also a nicely-done indent on the backside that helps you grip all of the higher frets.
It’s also really exciting to see that the guitar features a set-neck design, which can impact its overall design and performance.
The list of great design features continues with the guitar’s satin finish that makes it super modern-looking. The headstock design puts a completely different twist on the classic Les Paul headstock shape. You also have very interesting “wave” inlays on the fretboard and perfectly-fitting binding on the body.
It’s also worth noting that it has a mahogany neck and body, which is also another trait that replicates classic Les Pauls.
Combined with the two ESP LH-150 humbucker pickups in the bridge and neck positions, you’ll be able to cover anything from heavy riffing to some smoother and mellower lead sections.
Yes, the pickups are “hotter” ones, but mahogany as the main material definitely impacts that tone and makes it sound slightly darker.
And although we have a standard 3-way switch for the guitar pickups, it’s also possible to do coil-tapping with the push and pull action of the master tone knob. You have plenty of options to make your tone brighter and “twangier.”
It does not come with locking tuners, but it does not matter. The tuners stay in tune far better than anything else I have seen at this price level. You usually don’t see tuning stability like this on budget guitars
Overall, the Eclipse EC-256 is a very potent tool. It’s incredibly versatile and it manages to go way past the boundaries of just a heavy metal sound. We’re surprised that you can actually find such a great lead guitar under $600.
Its inclusion in our best metal guitars list is a no-brainer. Read our complete ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256 review to learn more about this metal guitar.
Metal Guitar Buying Guide
There are a few important things to look at when buying a guitar for metal. After all, the genre is pretty broad and you’ll need to know what fits your needs and the price level. So, let’s dig in.
Although there are exceptions to this rule, we always recommend a guitar that has a humbucker in the bridge position, if you’re planning to play death metal music, hard rock tones, etc.
It’s not impossible to make some chugging tones with single-coil pickups, but you’ll have a hard time setting up a good tone, especially with standard Fender or Squier Stratocasters and Telecasters.
At the same time, we also recommend that you go with “hotter” pickups if you can. Most metal-oriented guitars come with high-output pickups that can help you pronounce the much-needed mid-section of the audible spectrum.
If you need more versatility in there, we’d recommend a guitar with a humbucker-single-single or humbucker-single-humbucker configuration.
Coil-splitting and coil-tapping are also pretty useful for those who also need some clean tones and the occasional “twang” in there. Active pickups are also an option.
You can always change pickups later, too. If you buy a cheaper guitar with low-cost pickups, you can simply swap them out for higher quality ones by a brand like Seymour Duncan. Seymour Duncan is world famous for making some of the best pickups available.
Neck And Body Construction
Knowing that metal is a technically demanding genre, it’s important that the best metal guitars have an overall ergonomic neck and body construction. It starts with a thinner neck profile and a larger neck radius.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and some metal guitarists even use blues-oriented vintage-style guitars. But an appropriate neck profile will make things a lot smoother. Scale length could play a role, but most of the best metal guitars have a standard scale length.
The same goes for a body design that makes it easier to access higher frets and that allows your picking hand to do all the necessary hard work without troubles.
Speaking of frets, how many frets do you want on your guitar? Most players are fine with 22, but many metal guitarists like to have 24, primarily for the versatility and the coolness factor, though there are some songs that might require the two higher half-tones.
Although not a top priority, a great-looking design also has its importance in the best guitars for metal. After all, you’ll be playing in front of metal fans, and they expect the full package. Super-Strat or any modern and sharper-looking guitars with darker colors usually earn you bonus points.
When buying a guitar for any genre, one of the first things to look into is a bridge type. In metal music, most guitar players are keen on using a whammy bar.
However, we would advise that you go with a Floyd Rose tremolo only with more expensive guitars. Cheaper instruments are already stripped-down of some important costs, and a flimsy floating bridge can easily go out of tune.
Some metal players prefer fixed bridges, like tune-o-matic (as we can see on Les Paul and SG guitars) or hardtail. They’re much simpler to set up, maintain, and keep in tune.
However, you won’t be able to do those “dive bombs” or other virtuosic tricks, and you won’t have some other features like fine-tuners.
If you decide to go with a higher-priced guitar, then a floating tremolo won’t hurt. You can always keep it in a fixed position and play it like any other guitar.
Best Guitars For Metal: Common Questions
The following are some of the most common questions we get. Many have already been answered above, but we wanted to add a separate FAQ section so you can find the answers you need more quickly.
What makes an electric guitar good for metal?
The first thing a good metal guitar has are humbucking pickups, ideally from a quality brand like Seymour Duncan. Humbuckers just give you a fuller tone.
Active pickups are even better, but they mean battery changes. Passive pickups are generally fine, but active do give you a more powerful metal sound, which is ideal for any metal genre.
A resonant basswood body (or other type of warm, resonant wood) is also sought after to give a naturally chunky tone, like a Gibson guitar. But an alder body is fine for playing riffs too.
A thin neck profile (like the thin u shape) is important for shredding and many metal players like to have 24 frets. They also like a guitar bridges with a floating vibrato, like a Floyd Rose tremolo, to perform those dive bombs. Locking tuners are also good, especially if you hit the strings hard.
One thing you don’t need is a crazy shape or style (like a flame maple top), but it can help you stand out, if that’s your thing. Crazy guitar shapes are obviously common in the metal guitar world.
Can you play metal on a fender?
Fender guitars are known for their twangier sound, making them ideal for jazz or blues. You can certainly play metal on a Fender, though. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest both used them. There are also Fender guitars available with humbucking pickups.
Can you play metal on any guitar?
Yes, you can certainly play metal on any guitar. But some guitars are simply better suited to the metal genre than others, just like some amps are better for metal than others.
Best Metal Guitars: Final Thoughts
We realize many players who are just starting out won’t want to spend a ton of money on an instrument right off the bat. What if you end up not continuing with the guitar? Then that money is wasted.
That’s why we included several lower priced beginner models, along with a couple of higher priced dream guitars. We made sure to include great instruments in every budget range, so that you’ll be able to find the right one for you, no matter what your current needs and financial situation.
All of the best metal guitars listed above will give you a great sound, but the more expensive models allow you much more freedom to get creative with your sound. They are generally more versatile and capable of doing more things.
Leave a Reply