The future of music

10 Best Metal Guitars

December 29, 2023
best metal guitars

Calling all wild things, our list of the best metal guitars beckons.

As a metal musician, you have your own unique ethos, stylistic conventions, and sonic reference points.

You stand apart from the mainstream, and you need an instrument that can transcend the status quo and speak to the curious, dark, and inscrutable forces within and without. 

Whether you want to thrash like a banshee, tear up some death metal, or dish out some mindbending, industrial doom chords, we’ve got the guitar for you.

Raise a little (or a lot) of hell with these hot numbers. 

Do you Need a Specific Guitar for Metal?

Besides food, oxygen, and water, do we really need anything?

Cheek aside, you can absolutely strum out some dark and electric metal tones on your traditional electric guitar, but why would you settle for second best?

Particularly when there is a whole marketplace chock-full of custom-made, bespoke guitars designed with the chords, philosophy, and stylistic tendencies of metal in mind.

Here’s a parallel for you: if you’re a calligrapher, you can use a pencil – but wouldn’t you rather use a fountain pen? 

To get the most out of your chosen craft, you want to be able to play the hair-raising highs and chill-inducing djents that a metal guitar makes possible.

You want something you can shred, yes, but also something that will support hearty, meaty riffs that leave an indelible impact.

An acoustic folk musician, you are not. 

Metal guitars typically feature high output pickups for strong, assertive tones and the ability to make light work of high gain.

Fast guitar necks enables razor-sharp riffing and complex, speed-of-sound chords.

And metal wouldn’t be what it is without the aesthetic component.

Who wants a subdued, nondescript guitar when you can have a glossy black number with silver hardware, neon accoutrements, and, dare we say, flames?

Best Budget Metal Guitars 2023

1. Harley Benton EX-84 Modern EMG

Harley Benton EX-84 Modern EMG

Specifications

  • Price: $489 USD
  • Scale: 24.72”
  • Frets: 22
  • Pickups: Active EMG81 (bridge) and EMG60 (neck)
  • Controls: 1 x master volume, 1 x master tone, 3-way pickup switch
  • Hardware: WSC Tune-O-Matic bridge, Jinho JN-03 machine heads
  • Left-handed: Yes

Words don’t really do this futuristic, outlandish model justice.

It was basically designed for theatrical, fearless hair metal renegades.

But beneath its flashy, striking silhouette, it is a sturdy classic model with a tried-and-true pickup configuration. 

We love the EMG81 bridge pickup, which offers well-articulated tones.

The EMG81 has graced countless metal tracks over its storied history.

The EMG61 in the neck position offers clean and crisp tones.

The crushing, dizzying low-end will have you playing riffs worthy of early nineties Metallica.  

The value is impressive, and offers features that will wow even the most intrepid musician.

The brand recognition and reputation should convince any fencesitters.

It is also an ideal model for you all lefties out there.

2. Ibanez Standard RGA42FM

Ibanez Standard RGA42FM

Specifications

  • Price: $429 USD
  • Scale: 25.5″
  • Frets: 24
  • Pickups: 2x Ibanez Quantum humbuckers (neck and bridge)
  • Controls: 1 x master volume, 1 x master tone, 5-way blade pickup switch
  • Hardware: F106 hard-tail bridge
  • Left-handed: Yes

First things first – look at that sleek, luxuriant steel finish.

The aesthetics are a marriage of industrial minimalism and unbothered futuristic audacity.

It is ergonomic as heck, making it a winner for long jam sessions and unruly gigs.

The long neck and well-appointed body contour raise its profile and establish it as one of the most incisively designed guitars on our list.

It is also compulsively comfortable for left-handed rockers.

The Wizard III maple neck, which is 19mm thick at the first fret, is a stunning thing to behold and offers unlimited playability.

The two-octave 24-fret fretboard allows for hefty tonal range and the 5-way blade selector allows for a broad swathe of humbucker and split-coil tones.

The F106 bridge enriches sustain, allowing your riffs to hang in the air for max impact. 

3. Schecter Omen-8

Schecter Omen-8

Specifications

  • Price: $549 USD
  • Scale: 26.5″
  • Frets: 24
  • Pickups: 2x Diamond Plus Ceramic Humbuckers
  • Controls: 1 x volume, 1 x tone, 3-way pickup selector
  • Hardware: 15:1 tuners, Custom-8 hardtail
  • Left-handed: No

One of the best eight-string numbers you’ll find on the market, this metal guitar doesn’t scream out for attention, but rather lets its robust functionality and supreme ergonomics speak for themselves.

You’ll get clear, organic tones, and a healthy range, with a well-designed neck and transportable weight.

It is one of Schecter’s more affordable models and offers all the playability and integrity you would expect from a one-stop shop guitar.

It doesn’t offer any active pickups, which might turn off some, but this does not significantly impact the sonic output, in our opinion.

The model features a passive numbucker which more than balances the scales, delivering meaty, unwavering tones.

The satiny, lush walnut body feel decidedly grown-up and highbrow, for the more serious among us.

Best Mid-Range Metal Guitars 2023

4. Charvel Pro-Mod Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2

Charvel Pro-Mod Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2

Specifications 

  • Price: $699 USD
  • Scale: 25.5″
  • Frets: 22
  • Pickups: DiMarzio Joe Duplantier Signature Fortitude humbucker (bridge), DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary humbucker (neck)
  • Controls: 1 x master volume, 3-way toggle pickup switch
  • Left-handed: No

The reigning tonal dynamo of the metal guitar world, don’t let its pared-down, sophisticated body fool you.

This can throw down some vicious tones with the rest of them.

It offers a range of hard-working, top-shelf pickups for consistent sound and headache-inducing power.

The storied DiMarzio pickup is ideal for bashing out riffs with saturated gain and contoured dynamism.

The PAF 36th Anniversary pickup will call to mind the glory days of early metal. 

It offers an approachable, enticing tune-down from your classic electric guitar, making it a stellar option for crossover rock musicians or the newly metal-curious.

The 12-16 inch fingerboard radius is player-friendly and makes for comfy practice sessions and seamless gigs.

You want your ears hurting, but not your shoulders and back, right?

5. EVH Wolfgang Standard

EVH Wolfgang Standard

Specifications

  • Price: $700 USD
  • Scale: 25.5″
  • Frets: 22
  • Pickups: 2x Direct Mount Wolfgang humbuckers (neck and bridge)
  • Hardware: master volume, master tone, 3-way toggle pickup switch
  • Left-handed: No

Punchy lipstick red body?

Check.

Roasted maple toned neck and fingerboard?

Check.

A wide range of animated, aesthtically elevated finishes?

Check.

Meet the groovy and resplendent Wolfgang Standard.

Silhouette aside, this model brings it back to basics, with enjoyable, comfortable playability and an affordable price point. 

It allows for complex shredding, and the 12-16 inch radius fingerboard allows you to dance across the strings without pulling a muscle.

We won’t bury the lede here, but you can count on the Standard to dish up dizzying riffs.

Why?

It is named after the one and only Eddie Van Halen.

Wear earplugs, we say. 

It also offers a Floyd Rose Special double-locking tremolo for consistent, nuanced harmonics and two Wolfgang humbuckers for bulletproof output.

6. Epiphone Prophecy Flying V

Epiphone Prophecy Flying V

Specifications

  • Price: $899 USD
  • Scale: 24.72″
  • Frets: 22
  • Pickups: 2x Fluence custom voiced humbuckers
  • Controls: 1 x volume w/ push-pull, 1 x master tone w/ push-pull, 3-way toggle
  • Hardware: LockTone Tune-O-Matic Bridge with LockTone stop bar, Grover Rotomatic locking tuners
  • Left-handed: No

For lovers of all things tried, true, and classic, this will be a winning choice.

The quality is top-notch and the build is so sturdy you could probably pull a Paul Simonon and whack it against the stage, London Calling style.

Don’t quote us on that, though. 

It works swiftly and reliably with any type of metal, from speed to thrash to death.

The neck profile is eminently player-friendly, and offers a perfect merging of comfort and manual flexibility. 

The Fishman Fluence humbuckers are gold, and offer up some compelling versatility.

The Flying V allows you to toggle between a modern humbucker and classic Burstbucker/PAF-style voicing.

It is packed to the rafters with glitzy specs and a stunning design.

While some musicians don’t love active pickups, we think they offer peak sound control and streamline your output. 

7. Jackson X Series Rhoads RRX24

Jackson X Series Rhoads RRX24

Specifications

  • Price: $900 USD
  • Scale: 25.5″
  • Frets: 24Pickups: 2x Seymour Duncan Blackout AHB-1 humbuckers (neck and bridge)
  • Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x master tone, 3-way blade pickup switch
  • Hardware: Floyd Rose Special Double-locking Tremolo, Jackson die-cast tuners
  • Left-handed: No

When you think of the guitar a leather-clad, eyeliner-donning doom rocker would gravitate towards, you think of the Rhoads RRX24.

Is there anything that screams This is Spinal Tap more than this bold, luciferian little number? 

With sharp angles, a matte black body, and unexpected asymmetry, it demands attention.

Super on-brand for all the metal purists out there.

If you’re feeling particularly theatrical, you can get a model with neon green or pink bevels, or even red with black bevels.

Pick your poison. 

But it ain’t just eye candy – it doles out scathing, lacerating metal tones, epic sustain, and elevated high-gain potential.

It makes light work of even the most aggressive shredding, and allows for speedy, manic riffs.

It features a dual active pickup from Seymour Duncan and a state-of-the-art Floyd Rose Special Double-locking Tremolo.

Best Premium Metal Guitars 2023

8. ESP LTD EC-1000

ESP LTD EC-1000

Specifications

  • Price: $1,100 USD
  • Scale: 24.75″
  • Frets: 24
  • Pickups: 2x Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers in bridge and neck
  • Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x master tone (push/pull coil-split), 3-way toggle pickup switch
  • Hardware: TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Left-handed: No

With more sustain than you can shake a stick at, this model has mind-bending switching capacities, with push/pull coil-split for powerful, bold tones.

It has Fishman’s Modern Fluence humbuckers, so you can be rest assured you are getting legendary tonal quality and a make that won’t quit, no matter how hard you push it.

The thin-U neck makes for rapid-fire riffs, and the large frets allow you to hop, skip, and jump  across the fretboard, shredding eardrums and tearing up niceties.

The 13.8” radius makes this a veritable monster, albeit one with well-established functionality.

With a certain patina of retro glamour, it will impress even the most discerning of metal musicians.

Get saving! 

9. Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK2 Ash

Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK2 Ash

Specifications

  • Price: $1,299 USD
  • Scale: 25.5″
  • Frets: 24
  • Pickups: Seymour Duncan JB (bridge), Seymour Duncan ’59 (neck)
  • Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way selector
  • Hardware: Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking tremolo
  • Left-handed: No


Welcome to the Jungle right?

The proof is in the visual pudding with this one, but it is certainly not for the faint of heart.

But would you really be a metal musician if you faded into the wallpaper?

Its shape was modeled after the Charvel, and is smaller and lighter than you might imagine at first glance.

The 12-16 inch compound radius fingerboard makes low riffing a breeze, while the 5-way switching allows you to chart some strange new heights.

Despite its flamboyant silhouette, it retains all the charm and robust functionality of a classic heavyweight.

With its classic humbucker pairing and six-in-line Jackson headstock, it was designed with speed and electric shredding in mind. 

The result is a high-powered energizer bunny that takes no prisoners when it comes to dishing out dizzying flurries of complex chords. 

10. Fender Jim Root Jazzmaster V4  

Fender Jim Root Jazzmaster V4

Specifications

  • Price: $1,799 USD
  • Scale: 25.5″
  • Frets: 24
  • Pickups: 2x EMG Jim Root Signature Daemonum Open-coil Active Humbuckers (neck and bridge)
  • Controls: 1 x master volume, 3-way blade pickup switch
  • Hardware: 6-saddle string-through hard-tail
  • Left-handed: No

Ear drums have just met their match.

The Jazzmaster is a high-throttle wonderworker and a geniously crafted blend of vintage aesthetics and postmodern vitality.

While it is a heavy lifter, it is not by any means an unnecessarily complex model.

It is pared down and finely crafted, with nothing out of place or extraneous.

The three-way blade switch and master pickups make this a natural choice for professionals.

The Jazzmaster V4 offers up a robust low-end and bright and gregarious mid-range and highs.

While it is a heavier make than some of the others, this is not necessarily a turn-off.

It feels sophisticated, hearty, and unapologetic.

The dazzling hot white body will turn heads and convert the skeptics.

Alluring, enticing, and darkly romantic, it will elegantly elevate your riotous, unruly riffs.  

Six-String or Eight-String Metal Guitar?

Anything goes.

A six-string guitar will serve you well for traditional, old-school metal subgenres like thrash, power, and hair metal.

You can always down-tune your guitar for darker, grittier tones. If it aint broken, you don’t need to fix it. 

If you are something of a postmodern metal musician, veering towards djent, nu, progressive, or metalcore you might want the extended range that a seven- or eight-string guitar offers.

They offer the coveted low end, in addition to the standard range you can expect from an electric guitar.

There is a bit of a learning curve if you learned how to play with a standard six-string or acoustic guitar, but the heightened flexibility and trenchant sonic possibilities make it worth the effort.   

Which Pickups Do You Need in a Metal Guitar?

Refresher for the kids at the back of the class: a pickup is the heart and soul of your electric guitar.

They convert string vibrations into electricity, using coils. 

You may notice that most of the entries in this list feature a humbucker.

Why?

They offer tons of gain and allow for a dizzying range of harmonic possibilities not to mention consistent, heavy-hitting tones.

Beyond that you might want to seek out a metal guitar that has both active and passive pickups.

The choice is yours, as some guitars offer simply a passive or active pickup.  

Active pickups, which are powered by batteries, offer exuberant output and bold, unapologetic tones.

They offer articulation and precision and add a degree of compression.

They are often associated with metal because of their full-throttle, high-gain tones.

They sound absolutely killer with speedy, untamed riffs.

Active pickups tend to retain the same frequencies throughout the entire volume range.

Passive pickups have lower output, with a more organic, less “bolstered” sound.

They don’t require any extra power to operate and do the devil’s work.

They will give you a warmer, less jolting tone, and offer up less overdrive.

DiMarzio, Bare Knuckle, and Seymour Duncan are stars in the passive pickup game.

What is the Ideal Tuning for Metal Guitars?

Tons of metal, from all subgenres, feature down-tuning.

Regular tuning is E-E, but some musicians prefer to down-tune one, or even all six, of their strings.

A longer scale length can help with stable, consistent tuning, particularly if you are tuning down to a C or B.

Seven- and eight-string guitars offer a wider frequency range, which allow you to get down low and muck about in the sonic cellar. 

Hardtail or Locking Trem?

Rhythm metal guitarists may prefer a hardtail because the strings won’t slip out of tune as easily as they can with a tremolo.

A string-thru or tune-o-matic bridge setup would be ideal in this case.

Wild and experimental guitarists who love thrilling, unexpected effects and tones may prefer a tremolo system.

May we suggest the locking Floyd-Rose?

A locking trem prevents your strings from slipping out of tune, so you get reliability in addition to enhanced experimental capacities.

How to Choose the Best Metal Guitar

Price

The price range when it comes to metal guitars is pretty eye-opening.

A high-quality electric guitar is always going to be an investment, but you don’t want to overstep yourself if it’ll cause undue stress.

If you’re a touring professional it makes sense to buy a premium model but if you’re a new musician or hobbyist, you don’t need to dish out cash just to prove something to yourself. 

Design

Metal guitars are a veritable hotbed of playful, audacious, and defiant designs.

If you prefer to hang back in the aesthetic shadows, go for a matte black or lush walnut satin finish.

If you want peak theatricality, get yourself some flames or neon bevels.

Pickups

Some guitars have both passive and active pickups, while some models only feature the former.

It is worth familiarizing yourself with your preference.

Passive pickups create a weaker electric signal than active pickups, making your amplifier work harder, and putting the onus on the amp to project and boost your sound.

Active pickups have a higher output than passive pickups because they rely on a power source.

They give your sound more power and tonal consistency.

An extra “kick”, if you will.

How We Chose the Best Metal Guitars

We wanted to feature a wide range of prices from manufacturers with firm, well-established reputations.

We focused on aesthetics, prioritizing models that have a distinct, original “metal” silhouette.

We focused on models that offer simply a passive and active pickup, or both, to appeal to every musicians’ preference.

We also featured both six- and eight-string guitars, so you can get your traditional fix or down-tune like it is nobody’s business.


We focused on commercial reviews and popular reviews from musicians on Youtube, forums, and trusted magazines.

While there are thousands of amazing metal guitars on the market, the ten we have featured today should cover all bases. 

Raise Eyebrows, Raise Hell

Raise some hell, or raise a lot.

We trust that you’ll make your heavy metal mark with one of our contenders for best metal guitar.

Thrash, slash, and tear the eardrums off of your neighbors, we grant you permission.

Not that you needed it, you disobedient iconoclast, you.   

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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