10 Best Electric Guitars for Metal
Are you looking for the best electric guitars for metal?
Well, you’re in the right place!
They’re sharp. They’re bright. And they can shred like no other.
There’s something very distinct about the look of electric guitars geared toward the heavy metal genre. But looks alone don’t make a guitar good for head-banging metal music.
These guitars need to have great playability and comfort, allowing hands to quickly travel up and down the neck and let out those high-squealing, distorted screams.
Of course, finding the perfect metal guitar is no easy task. The market is packed with plenty of great, capable guitars, potentially making your purchasing decision a tad overwhelming.
Luckily, I’ve done the legwork that, at the very least, gives you a starting point for your journey of buying a suitable guitar for heavy metal music. I’ve researched the top guitars for metal music across a wide price range, offering an option for everyone’s budget.
In this article, we’ll be comparing 10 of the best electric guitars for metal on the market. We’ll look at factors such as build quality, playability, electronics, price, and more to determine the best metal guitar for you.
Remember, even the highest-quality of guitars won’t sound good if you don’t practice. By perfecting your metal guitar skills, you can make a $300 used guitar sound as good as a $3,500 custom shop special.
The 10 Best Metal Guitars
- Best Metal Guitar for the Money – Epiphone Les Paul Custom
- Best Metal Guitar Under $1000 – PRS SE Mark Holcomb
- Best Metal Guitar Under $500 – PRS SE Standard 24
- Best Metal Guitar Under $300 – Jackson Dinky JS22
- Best Metal Guitar with Active Pickups – ESP LTD EC-1000
- Best Metal Guitar With Floyd Rose – Schecter Hellraiser C-1 FR
- Best Premium Metal Guitar – Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty
- Best Playability Metal Guitar – Ibanez RG550
- Best Thin Body Metal Guitar- Ibanez S Series S670QM
- Best Headless Guitar for Metal – Strandberg Boden 6
Epiphone Les Paul Custom – Best Metal Guitar for the Money
The Epiphone Les Paul Custom is one of the best guitars out there for the price. It captures the look and feel of an authentic Gibson Les Paul Custom at a fraction of the price.
It looks like an expensive Gibson Les Paul, but because Epiphone is inscribed on the headstock, it sells at a fraction of the price.
Combine that fact with a number of metal-friendly specifications, like hot pickups, the perfect tonewoods, and a fast neck — not to mention impeccable tuning — and the Epiphone Les Paul Custom is one of the best metal guitars for the money.
This Epiphone Les Paul Custom features a mahogany body, which is heavier than other guitars on our list, but that material allows the guitar to beautifully resonate for a long time.
There’s plenty of other great features that make this guitar great for metal music:
- Tonal control. With two volume and tone controls, you can really shape the sound and volume that comes out of this guitar.
- Slim neck. The SlimTaper neck is extremely fast, which, as metalheads understand, is critically important for metal guitars.
- ProBucker pickups. These pickups give this guitar that heavy, Les Paul sound. The tone is fat and chunky, yet responds very clearly, which allows metal artists to shred solos where each note is pronounced.
Metal guitars need to look cool, too. And there’s nothing much cooler than that classic ebony paint job.
You’ll love the price of this guitar and the tone it’s capable of producing.
Weighing in at 12lbs, you may not like the weight of this guitar — especially if you gig often. There are other metal guitars on the market that are considerably lighter, making those late-night gigs less of a physical workout.
- Great value for the price.
- Fast, comfortable neck.
- Classic heavy metal paint job.
- Heavy for longer live shows.
PRS SE Mark Holcomb – Best Metal Guitar Under $1,000
The PRS SE Mark Holcomb is an excellent value featuring Mark Holcomb's signature Seymour Duncan Alpha and Omega pickups that are ideal for high gain metal and hard rock music.
Read our full PRS SE Mark Holcomb Review
Periphery’s Mark Holcomb’s signature PRS model was designed from the ground up with metal players in mind. From the prog-metal tones to the haunting paint job, this electric guitar shreds like no other, making it one of the best metal guitars (designed by one of the top metal players!) on our list that’s priced under $1,000.
The PRS SE Mark Holcomb was designed specifically for Holcomb’s unique metal music needs. He not only plays fast —and the maple neck certainly delivers on that front — but also creates these single-note melodies that are powerful, yet distinct, especially when the gain is cranked.
The soul of that tone comes from Holcomb’s signature Seymour Duncan Alpha and Omega humbucking pickups.
The resonance of that tone is aided by the stunning Mahogany body, which features a chilling quilted maple top.
And the 25.5” scale allows metal players to gig at lower tunings that actually stay in tune. The guitar actually ships in drop C tuning.
For a guitar made of mahogany, this guitar is actually quite lightweight, which makes gigging a breeze. It comes with a gig bag.
One downside of this guitar could be the stock nut, which some players have said is not the best and can impact tuning. That’s an easy replacement, though, if it’s something that ultimately bothers you. Other players have said it’s not a problem.
If your budget is under $1,000, the PRS SE Mark Holcomb is a great buy that will last you a long time.
- Great clarity, even with heavy distortion.
- Beautiful quilted maple-top design.
- Pickups can switch to split coils.
- Stock nut could impact tuning after heavy use.
Read Also: 15 Best Electric Guitars Under $1,000
PRS SE Standard 24 – Best Metal Guitar Under $500
The PRS SE Standard 24 gives you the quality you would expect from a Paul Reed Smith guitar without the hefty price.
Read our full PRS SE Standard 24 Review
You may not think a guitar priced under $500 could deliver the tone and feel metal players crave, but I think the PRS SE Standard 24 is pretty close.
First, the iconic PRS look is present in the hardcore rocker. But as you look closer, at this beauty, the artistic binding is what really sets it apart. Combine that with the translucent blue finish, and you have one beautiful looking guitar. The guitar also comes in black, vintage cherry and tobacco sunburst.
Of course, looks aren’t everything, although they don’t hurt. This guitar features solid construction and high-end hardware that makes it a great option for the metal guitarist on a budget.
- Mahogany body delivers super-warm and detailed tones.
- Maple neck is smooth and quite fast.
- PRS 85/15 “S” pickups deliver on clarity for soloing.
- Low action makes for easy metal playing.
There are mixed reviews on the stock, PRS-designed tuners on this axe, with some players recommending swapping them out for locking tuners. This will likely come down to how aggressive you are with the tremolo bar.
- Awesome value for a top-performing metal guitar.
- Beautiful design with a handful of color options.
- Versatile, just in case you want to expand beyond metal.
- Stock tuners may not be the best depending how aggressively you play.
Jackson Dinky JS22 – Best Metal Guitar Under $300
The Jackson Dinky JS22 offers excellent build quality, playability, and tone at an affordable price. It's high output pickups are ideal for heavy metal and rock music.
When you think of heavy metal guitars, the axes you’re envisioning are likely Jackson guitars.
And the super-affordable Jackson Dinky JS22 certainly fits the bill as our best metal guitar priced under $300.
The Southern California-based guitar maker was born in the 1970s when the heavier rock-n-roll music was dominating the music scene. The company really got big in the 1980s when Randy Rhoads, who was touring with an L.A. metal band, joined former Black Sabbath lead singer Ozzy Osbourne’s new band. Rhoads needed a new guitar to fit Ozzy’s music style and personality and went to Jackson looking for help.
The crazy-sharp edges, sleek bodies, and neck-through-body designs are a result of Rhoads desire for something creative.
Today, Jackson offers a number of great guitars for metal music, including the Dinky JS22, a guitar that was really designed to shred.
- Body: Arched basswood body is the vehicle for this guitar’s massive tone.
- Pickups: Custom-built ceramic-magnet humbuckers are designed for high output and serious punch.
- Neck: A 12”-16” compound-radius fretboard is very fast, which is necessary for metal music.
Again, for this price this guitar is worth every penny. The tuning isn’t the best, but that can be forgiven for the price.
- Extremely affordable
- Awesome sustain
- Durable. This guitar can take a beating.
- Tone may be too basic for more-advanced players.
ESP LTD EC-1000 – Best Metal Guitar with Active Pickups
The ESP LTD EC-1000 is essentially a Les Paul designed for metal heads featuring a thinner neck and body and EMG active pickups.
Read our ESP LTD EC-1000 Review
The most serious of rockers have praised EMG active pickups for years. The pickups offer stellar tone and incredible response.
Because of that, the ESP LTD EC-1000, which features EMG 60 and EMG 81 humbucking pickups, is rated as the best metal guitar with active pickups.
Note, that there’s also a version of this guitar that uses passive pickups.
There’s plenty to like about this guitar:
- Body style. The single-cutaway design looks and feels like a heavy metal guitar, especially the sharp point that the body comes to on that cutaway.
- Sustain. Simply put, metal players need sustain. With a set-neck design, the ESP LTD EC-1000 can keep your screaming solos sustained for days.
- Neck. The U-shaped profile is designed for speed up and down the neck.
- Tuning. This guitar features a Tonepros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece, allowing you to play aggressively and stay in tune.
Metal and rock players have described the ESP LTD EC-1000 as a workhorse that sounds great the minute you pick it off the stand. It’s also lightweight, which makes it more comfortable for gigging.
This guitar is also quite versatile, offering pretty impressive clean tones, just in case you decide to switch up genres here and there.
- Incredible sustain thanks to set-neck design.
- Impressive build quality for the price.
- Doesn’t come with a case or gig bag.
Schecter Hellraiser C-1 FR – Best Metal Guitar With Floyd Rose
If you're someone who loves gut-wrenching dive bombs and face-melting heavy metal riffs, then definitely consider this guitar with its Floyd Rose tremolo, EMG bridge pickup and Sustainiac neck pickup
With a name like “Hellraiser,” it’s pretty obvious this guitar is designed for hardcore metal rockers.
Thankfully, the Schechter Hellraiser C-1 FR also delivers on everything that rockers need: tone, playability, and a dependable Floyd Rose tremolo system that offers flexible soloing while keeping everything in tune.
Schecter and metal music go hand-in-hand. The brand is best known for its hard-rocking guitars and consistently delivers high-quality axes with excellent attention to detail.
And while this guitar is certainly not priced as an entry-level guitar, it’s relatively affordable for what you get in return: a pro-level metal sound.
The Hellraiser features a mahogany body and a set mahogany neck with a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard.
This is a very attractive guitar, which I attribute to the slight arch in its C-shape body style. That slight arch also adds to the overall comfort.
If you’re looking for a guitar that can deliver modern metal music tones, the Hellraiser fits the bill. It features active EMG 81tw/89R pickups.
Of course, you’re probably most interested in knowing that this features the highly respected Floyd Rose tremolo system. The gbridge is a Floyd Rose 1000, but some earlier models might be using a Floyd Rose Original, just in case you decide to purchase this guitar used.
- Beautiful design, especially the Goth inlays on the fretboard
- Versatile EMG pickups
- Weak sustain
Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty – Best Premium Metal Guitar
The Music Man Majesty is John Petrucci's signature guitar featuring a modern shape designed for maximum playability and tone versatility with the piezo pickup.
Ernie Ball Music tends to be best known for the company’s popular lineup of guitar strings, but the company also makes so high-end guitars. That includes the John Petrucci Majesty, which is one of the highest-quality guitars on this list, but also the most expensive.
First, this guitar is a true piece of art. Designed by Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci, every aspect of this guitar has seen incredible attention to detail. This is a guitar that‘s durable to last a lifetime. And at the price, you’re going to want it to be a lifelong investment.
In terms of playability, Petrucci made sure this guitar, which features a set-neck design, features big-time sustain.
This guitar is powered by two DiMarzio humbuckers (Dreamcatcher on the bridge and Rainmaker on the neck), making it quite versatile. While this is an amazing guitar for high-output, mind-boggling shredding solos, it also offers this surprisingly clean tone.
And here’s the real kicker when it comes to versatility: It features a custom piezo floating vibrato bridge, offering up interesting acoustic tones.
Ernie Ball didn’t scrimp on tuners. The Majesty, which also comes in a seven-string version, features Schaller M6-IND locking tuners, which do an incredible job at keeping your strings in tune.
The features on this guitar could go on for days: There’s an active preamp with gain boost. Stainless steel frets add to its premium quality. And the custom-designed tremolo is quite reliable.
- Beautiful design
- Includes hardshell case
- Resonance and sustain are pro-level
Ibanez RG550 – Best Playability Metal Guitar
The Ibanez RG550 Genesis Collection is a reissue of the iconic Ibanez RG 550 from 1987. It's a high-quality Japanese made guitar that features a stunning neon finish, thin maple Wizard neck, and Ibanez V7/V8/S1 vintage pickups.
Read our Ibanez RG550 Genesis Review
The Ibanez RG550 has been a go-to weapon of choice for rock and metal players for more than 30 years — and rightly so. When it comes to speed and playability, few guitars surpass it.
And then, of course, there’s its eye-catching looks, sharp body edges and beautiful black hardware.
The playability of this metal guitar starts with its wicked fast Super Wizard neck. The five-piece maple and walnut neck might be one of the best in the business for shredding arpeggios and executing hammer-ons. It stretches to 24 jumbo-sized frets, making big bends a cinch.
Playability is not just about a fast neck. It also needs to be comfortable to fit a majority of players. Ibanez somehow figured out how to perfectly contour this guitar’s body so that it will fit your arms like a glove, while giving you unrestricted access all the way up the neck.
Another component that differentiates the Ibanez RG550 from other metal guitars is its basswood body. Many metal guitars go with mahogany because of the dark, warm tones it can produce. Basswood can have a similar effect, but it all comes down to personal preference.
Now, remember this is a reissue of a classic 1987 RG550 with a few updates. So, if you’re in the market for one of these and have fond memories, it’s going to look and feel like the original, but things like the five-piece neck (the original had a one-piece maple neck) and the pickups have been updated (V7 humbucker on the neck; S1 single-coil in the middle; and a V8 humbucker on the bridge.)
- Super-fast neck
- Great, bright color options
- Jumbo frets for easy playability
- No gig bag or case included
Ibanez S Series S670QM – Best Metal Guitar for Small Hands
The Ibanez S670QM features and thin body and neck making it extremely comfortable to hold. Ideal for shredders or players with small hands.
As another fast-playing metal guitar, the Ibanez S Series S670QM stands out on a couple fronts. One, its incredibly-thin body adds to its overall playability, allowing you to comfortably play long late-night gigs. And two, Ibanez’ proprietary tremolo system is really in a class of its own.
Let’s start with the look and feel of this beautiful guitar. As one of the best thin-body metal guitars on the market, you’ll want to know how thin is the Ibanez S670QM. At the 24th fret, the guitar is about 58mm thick. That drops to 19mm at the first fret. In the middle at the 12th fret, it’s 21mm thick.
If you’re in the market for a metal guitar and you want the body as thin as possible, you can’t go wrong with the S670QM. If you’re a guitar player with small hands, then this guitar could be a great pick for you since it’s much easier to wrap your hands around it and maneuver the thin neck.
It’s affordable price tag is also a nice incentive to go in this direction.
But there are a lot of other aspects of this guitar that make it great for playing metal music.
- Jumbo frets. Ibanez typically includes these comfortable frets on their rocker guitars. You can bend notes for days on these frets.
- Fast neck. The Wizard III neck profile is about as fast as it gets.
- Quantum pickups. They look super intricate on the body and are packed with tone. The S670QM includes a pair of humbuckers and then a single-coil in the middle, giving you a big tone range.
As mentioned, the tremolo system on this guitar is fantastic. Ibanez designed it to give players ultimate control over their bends and flutters, all while keeping your strings in tune thanks to the stud lock function.
- Great tremolo system that keeps strings in tune
- Beautiful quilted maple top
- Strings can be tricky to replace
Read Also: 10 Best Guitars for Small Hands
Strandberg Boden 6 – Best Headless Guitar for Metal
The Strandberg Boden is one of the premier headless guitars that started to gain mainstream attention among metal guitar players. They offer excellent playability, build quality and specifications.
It’s expensive. It’s unique. And it doesn’t have a traditional head on it. And I think metal players are going to love it.
To start, though, if you’re looking for a metal guitar that doesn’t have a head, your options are obviously limited. Thankfully, the Strandberg delivers hardcore rockers a very useable option, albeit an expensive one.
Here’s what you need to know about the Strandberg Boden 6:
EndurNeck. The missing headstock isn’t the only thing unique about this guitar. Strandberg builds progressive rock guitars that the company thinks players will find comfortable and playable. The brand’s EndurNeck is shaped like a trapezoid and is reinforced with carbon fiber. That description may make it sound odd, but it works for a lot of players, allowing them to use a more relaxed grip as they travel the neck of the guitar.
Multiscale fingerboard. The frets may look smaller, but that’s because Strandberg uses multiscale frets, meaning each string as its own scale length. This allows often-out-of-tune lower strings to intonate better at higher tensions. Bending those screaming high notes on the lighter strings is also significantly easier. As a nice touch, the frets are made of more-premium stainless steel.
Pair of humbuckers. Many metal guitars will also throw in a single coil pickup in the middle, but Strandberg opted to go with two humbuckers that create some nice, heavy tones.
Is there really an advantage to buying a guitar without a headstock? The unique look of it certainly helps, and it’s going to be slightly lightweight, but it comes down to personal preference.
- Cool, unique design
- Stays in tune really well
- Neck allows for relaxed grip
Read Also: Best Headless Guitars: The Complete Guide
How to Choose The Best Shred Guitar – Buyer’s Guide
Materials & Build Quality
When it comes to materials and build quality for the best shred and metal guitars, you can’t go wrong with a mahogany body. It’s dark and heavy, which your tone will ultimately mimic.
Several guitars on the list above, like the PRS SE Standard 24, is made of mahogany. The Schechter Hellraiser C-1 FR features a mahogany body and neck. There’s just something about that wood that resonates with metal music.
For seven string guitars, also consider ash wood.
In terms of build quality, you want to invest in a metal guitar with solid tuners. Metal is all about speed, tremolo and bending strings — all of which can throw your guitar out of tune.
The high-end Ernie Ball John Petrucci Majesty features Schaller M6-IND locking tuners, which are about as premium as it gets.
If you’re playing metal music, you want an electric guitar with pickups that offer high-output tone that’s straight out of the box and into the amp — no effects pedals required.
The style of metal you play, though, can dictate which direction you go with pickups. For those who desire tones reminiscent of Megadeath and Alice in Chains, a passive humbucking pickup, like the Seymour Duncan JB SH-4 should do the trick.
If you need something more modern, that can give you the fat distorted tone, but also clearly define notes across quick solos, check out the more modern Fishman Fluence Modern Set.
Remember, if you like the feel of your guitar, but aren’t crazy about its tone, you could potentially get away with swapping out the pickups for something more to your liking — and save yourself a bunch of money in the process.
Playability is another word for comfort. You’re going to be looking at things like body shape, weight, and neck profiles.
The Ibanez S670QM, for instance, is one of the best thin body metal guitars out there. Players rave about its playability because that thin body contours to their playing style really well.
Speed is another thing that comes to mind for playability. Metal players are notoriously known for quickly running up and down the fretboard to create incredible solos. Look for a neck that’s super fast and ergonomic.
Number of Frets
When it comes to metal music, the higher-pitched your distorted runs and screams are, the better.
That’s why you see the top guitars for metal music come with 24 frets, as opposed to 22.
Obviously, you can play more notes with 24 frets, but you can also easily find higher harmonics, which, when combined with the right amp and distortion effect, can create some masterful tone.
Some players prefer that classic Fender Stratocaster look, while others want to go more in a Gibson Les Paul direction.
In the end, it comes down to personal preference.
You tend to see more metal guitars in the Stratocaster-style, likely because that style offers easier access to a 24-fret neck.
But the more solid Les Paul-style bodies are typically made of darker woods that offer warmer, darker tones that are desired in metal music.
Everyone needs to go into their guitar purchase with a budget in mind. If not, you’ll be constantly disappointed as you take higher-end guitars that you can’t afford for test rides.
Before buying any guitar, have a price in mind and allow yourself $150-$200 worth of wiggle room in any direction.
Remember, guitars are meant to be enjoyable. Don’t let emptying out our savings account or expensive monthly payments take that joy away.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Metal Guitar?
I wish there was an easy answer to which hell-raising electric axe performs best on the metal stage, but that’s going to ultimately come down to personal preference, which also includes what you can afford in your budget.
What Type of Guitar is Used in Heavy Metal
With the exceptions of jazz archtops and traditional acoustics (to a certain extent) you can play metal music on any type of guitar. Of course, you likely want it to be an electric guitar because attempting to play metal on an acoustic wouldn’t be any fun.
What Makes a Good Metal Guitar?
A good metal guitar comes down to three factors. 1) Playability, and this includes speed. You need something that you can comfortably play fast without getting hung up in the middle of a solo. 2) Versatile tone. Metal players need a guitar with pickups that deliver that intense, distorted power-chord sound, in addition to the ultimate clarity when delivering a screaming solo. 3) Design. Metal payers want something that looks cool. Either really bright and sharp, or something super dark and ominous looking.
Is a Les Paul Good For Metal?
In terms of tone, you can’t go wrong with a Gibson Les Paul. Thanks to Les Paul’s mahogany body, sustain is incredible and the tones are nice and warm. One downside of the Les Paul is its weight. If you gig a lot, hauling around a Les Paul on stage can turn into quite the workout.
Recap of the 10 Best Electric Guitars for Metal
|Best Metal Guitar||Best For|
|Epiphone Les Paul Custom||Best Metal Guitar for the Money|
|PRS SE Mark Holcomb||Best Metal Guitar Under $1000|
|PRS SE Standard 24||Best Metal Guitar Under $500|
|Jackson Dinky JS22||Best Metal Guitar Under $300|
|ESP LTD EC-1000||Best Metal Guitar with Active Pickups|
|Schecter Hellraiser C-1 FR||Best Metal Guitar With Floyd Rose|
|Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty||Best Premium Metal Guitar|
|Ibanez RG550||Best Playability Metal Guitar|
|Ibanez S Series S670QM||Best Metal Guitar for Small Hands|
|Strandberg Boden 6||Best Headless Guitar for Metal|