Heavy metal guitars are designed to be striking, in both design and sound.
Some guitars have needle-sharp points, while others have bright, neon colors that make sure you see them from the back of the room.
However, not all metal guitars are so flashy, and prefer to just produce a striking sound rather than a striking visual.
Some guitars look like any other six-stringed guitar until you play them, and your mind is blown by the gains!
It may be surprising to hear that metal guitars come in many shapes and sizes.
From standard length to extra-long baritone instruments, guitars with a couple extra strings, floating tremolos, locking turns, reverse headstocks and more, no metal guitar is the same.
But they do have three crucial elements in common. They’re powerful, precise, and have excellent playability.
So with so many choices, how do you choose the best metal guitar for you?
Below, I’ve narrowed down the best metal guitars on the market right now to a top five, and a buyer’s guide that tells you everything you need to consider when buying your own metal guitar.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Our Best Metal Guitars Reviews
If you’re looking for an all-rounder metal guitar, ESP/LTD’s flagship single-cut guitar can perform metal of all eras, thanks to its Fishman’s Modern Fluence humbuckers.
The state-of-the-art switching has push/pull coil-split for singlecoil tones and enough power for your riffs to really pack a punch.
The tune-o-matic bridge means you can play with minimal fuss, thanks to the amount of sustain and a solid platform for your right-hand attack, but there is more to this guitar than just rhythm.
The thin-U neck is an excellent profile for lightning leads, and the extra-jumbo frets and 13.8” radius provides a smooth ride up to the top-end of the fretboard where a neatly sculpted heel resides.
Plus, the Violet Andromeda finish is fantastic, and can look blue or purple depending on how the light hits it.
- A truly well-balanced instrument.
- Fishman Modern Fluence humbuckers make for one versatile metal guitar.
- Plenty of sustain.
- Doesn’t have that traditional pointy shape that you may be after.
- Construction: Set-Thru
- Body: Mahogany; Neck: 3Pc Mahogany; Fingerboard: Macassar Ebony
- Bridge: Tonepros Locking TOM & Tailpiece
- Neck PU: Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker - Alnico; Bridge PU: Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker - Ceramic
- Strings: D'Addario XL110 (.010/.013/.017/.026/.036/.046)
Launched in 1987 with sharp horns, and considerate body contouring, the RG Series broke the mold with its super sleek Wizard neck profile and soon became the world’s favorite S-styles guitar.
The price point for the RG varies, but the pared-back model is definitely on the more budget-friendly side. It has a speedy Wizard III maple neck that measures just 19 mm thick at the first fret and 21 mm at the 12th.
It may not have a Floyd Rose tremolo, but the hard-tail format is a decent, stable platform that is great for aspiring shredders who don’t want to spend a lot of time adjusting their bridge. The 5-way blade selector provides a wide sweep of humbucker and split-coil tones.
- Iconic RG design with ergonomic cutaways.
- Excellent finishes.
- Would be great for modding.
- While there is nothing wrong with Jatoba, some might prefer rosewood.
Also Available At: The RG is also available at Walmart.
- Wizard III Maple neck Flamed Maple top Mahogany body Rosewood fretboard Off-set white dot inlay Jumbo frets Fixed bridge Quantum (H) neck pickup Quantum (H) bridge pickup Black Hardware Case sold separately
- If Ibanez can lay claim to the title of being the strongest name in Metal guitars, then the RGA is the model this reputation was built on
- Every inch of this classic screams speed, fury, and expression
- The RGA42FM is a hardtail 6-string electric built around a Mahogany body with stunning Flamed Maple top
- Its contoured top not only looks sleek—it creates a softer, more comfortable edge where the player’s right forearm rests
Over the years there have been many versions of Jackson’s ultra pointy Randy Rhoads V but this latest X Series Rhoads might just be the best one yet.
It has a breathtaking black-on-black finish and a reverse six-in-line headstock for added metal points. You can also pay a little extra for a model with neon green or neon pink bevels if you would like a splash of color. Its fierce silhouette is also iconic.
But what about the playability? Well, it isn’t the best when seated, but amazing when standing up. It’s as shreddable as you’d expect with Seymour Duncan’s dual active pickups providing a piping-hot, powerful performance. Plus, it has a Floyd!
- Excellent sustain.
- Totally built for metal.
- Searing tones for high-gain.
- While you do have the option of neon green or neon pink bevels, it might not be ideal for those who want a more colorful guitar.
- Body Body shape: V Body type: Solid body Body material: Solid wood Top wood: Not applicable Body wood: Basswood Body finish: Gloss Gloss Orientation: Right handed Neck Neck shape: Rhoads Neck wood: 1-piece Maple Joint: Neck-through Scale length: 25.5 in. Truss rod: Standard Neck finish: Painted Fretboard Material: Maple Radius: Compound Fret size: Jumbo Number of frets: 2
- "The Jackson X Series Rhoads models continue the metal legacy pioneered by the immortal Randy Rhoads
- Regal and proud, the RRX24M offers fantastic tone, ultra-fast playability and unbelievable value for 21st century guitarists
- Features a basswood body, one-piece through-body maple neck with graphite reinforcement and scarf joint, and a 12a-16a compound radius bound maple fingerboard with 24 jumbo frets
- Decked out for todayaTMs modern metaller, the RRX24M delivers searing tone from a pair of active Seymour DuncanA Blackout pickups that can be further shaped by two volume knobs, a master tone control and three-way blade switch
The evolution of the Gojira riff-master’s classic San Dimas Style 2 continues with, and this model is probably the most sophisticated one yet.
I like the black guard, especially for those who have used a ‘50s Telecaster and want to tune down and do some head-banging.
The playability is nothing short of amazing.
Charvel is the original hot-rodder and the 12-16” fingerboard radius across its 2020 models is extremely comfortable, whether you’re fretting chords or sweeping up arpeggios.
The Charvel Speed Shape profile is also joined to the body with a four-bolt heel.
But it’s the pickups I’m really impressed with. Duplantier’s classic DiMarzio is the hotter of the two, ideal for articulating down-tuned riffs soaked in gain.
- An intelligent, sophisticated update to the T-style electric.
- Astounding pickups.
- Delightful playability that you would expect from Charvel.
- Might be too conservative for those who are into rivets.
Also Available At: You can also find the Charvel Pro-Mod Joe Duplantier San Dimas Style 2 at Walmart.
- Mahogany San Dimas Style 2 Body w/ Satin Finish & Natural Color
- 25.5" Scale Mahogany Neck w/ Ebony Fingerboard, Speed Neck Shape w/ Rolled Fingerboard Edges
- Joe Duplantier Signature DiMarzio Fortitude Bridge & DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary Neck Pickups
- Charvel Fully Adjustable Radius Compensated Bridge w/ Anchored Tailpiece & Charvel-Branded Die-Cast Locking Tuners
- Case Not Included
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly guitar and don’t want anything too necro and pointed, then the updated EVH Wolfgang Standard Series might be for you.
It’s suitable for a wide range of styles, but as Eddie Van Halen gave his approval to the guitar (indicated by his initials on the headstock), you’ll be unsurprised to hear it plays nice and fast.
The Wolfgang Standard has a basswood body and a bolt-on roasted maple neck. It also has a stylish 122-16” compound radius fingerboard to make an ergonomically light and comfortable guitar that you will want to pick up again and again.
Plus, The Wolfgang Standard has an EVH-branded Floyd Rose Special double-locking tremolo for hitting harmonics, and two pretty fierce Wolfgang humbuckers that should withstand some serious metal.
- Exciting new finishes.
- Amazing playability.
- Would be great for hot-rodding.
- While you could definitely play metal on this guitar, for some it might be lacking some features to be a true metal guitar.
Also Available At: The Wolfgang Standard is also available at Sweetwater Sound.
- Solidbody Electric Guitar with Basswood Body
- Floyd Rose Tremolo - Natural Ziricote
- Baked Maple Fingerboard
- 2 Humbucking Pickups
- Baked Maple Neck
Before parting with your hard-earned cash, an important question to ask yourself is: what kind of metal guitar do I want? This should be followed by, what features am I looking for?
Firstly, consider what type of metal you want to play, and which era of metal you want to emulate with your playing style.
Do you want to be tearing it up with fiery lead lines and powerful riffs, or do you want to tune straight down to Drop E on a guitar with extended range?
Once you’ve decided what sound you want to achieve, you can then get into the nitty-gritty and consider the following.
This may be a controversial opinion but pointy, sharp edges do not a good metal guitar make.
True, there are some incredible looking guitars out there that are so pointy you could wield them as a weapon, and those are definitely appealing, but the more traditional looking metal guitars are impressive too.
Again, it all depends on what type of metal you want to play and how you intend to play it. If you’ll mostly be playing your metal guitar at home, practicing, then it’s best to go for a guitar that is more comfortable to hold.
However, if you’re mostly going to be playing to crowds with your band and want to stand out, then you’ll probably want the most aggressive, sharpest guitar possible to really make an impact on stage.
If you’re a rhythm guitarist who needs a sturdy, reliable instrument then a hard-tail may be the bridge for you.
This is because with a hard-trail bridge the strings will be less likely to slip out of tune, unlike with a tremolo. A string-thru or tune-o-matic style bridge is better for this style of playing.
However, if you’re a lead player who likes challenging, out-there trem-based effects and dive-bombs, then you’d be better off with a bridge with a locking Floyd Rose-style tremolo system.
A locking trem also stops the strings from slipping out of tune by locking the strings at the nut.
A wide range of woods are used to build the main bulk of a guitar, including ash, mahogany, and maple.
These are the heaviest woods, and lighter woods used to construct guitars include alder, basswood, and poplar.
For the most sustain possible, a guitar that is made with a mixture of light and heavy wood is recommended.
If wood is too dense and bulky the vibrations needed to produce sound can be dampened. Meanwhile, wood that is too light may be too weak to sustain well.
Therefore, whatever wood is used in the neck and body of your guitar will have a major impact on the guitar’s overall resonance, sustain, and tone.
Metal requires a beefy, dark, well-sustainable tone, and guitars made of basswood or mahogany usually achieve this. The pickups also need to be searing enough to deliver a powerful signal to your amp.
To achieve a heavy metal tone, high-output or ‘hot’ pickups are crucial. There are two types of pickups and these are active, and passive.
Active pickups create a larger sound with greater tone variation. While this sounds great, they can be hard to correctly set. They’re also not great for attenuating when transitioning from high to low volumes, when compared to passive pickups.
The humbucker is arguably the most popular hot pickup, as it produces a famously aggressive and powerful sound.
You can play metal with a single coil pickup, but without a good humbucker, one crucial element of the hardware will be missing and without it, you won’t be able to create truly sonic metal sounds.
To play technical riffs with accuracy, the thinner and flatter your guitar’s neck, the better. The neck should also have low action for speedy sweep picking, otherwise known as shredding.
As well as accuracy, neck build also influences stability and tone.
For more stability, a guitar with a three-piece or reinforced neck might be a worthwhile investment over a one-piece or neck-through design, where the neck is glued through the entire length of the guitar.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that one-piece necks do sustain for longer than bolt-on or set-in necks as they are a single piece of wood. This means they resonate sound vibrations more consistently.
There is endless variation between pickups and tone knobs. Now that I’ve covered the best types of general pickup for metal sounds, let’s move on to more components that make a great metal guitar.
A guitar with bass, middle, and treble knobs as well as pickup selectors gives you a lot more control over your sound.
Pedals also assist in creating cool effects, and most metal guitarists make use of delay, distortion, phasers, and reverb.
If you’ve never heard of scale length, it basically refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut.
Guitars have different scale lengths, for example the 25.75” scale of a Les Paul and its replicas lets you achieve deeper low-end tones and has an easier playability.
Meanwhile, the 25.5” scales of a Telecaster or Strat give you a bright, chime-like sound that is more responsive.
Most modern metal guitarists use 7-string or 8-string guitars to achieve a greater range of notes, and the extra low-end provides a heavy, deep bass sound. Baritone guitars, on the other hand, are very popular and have a longer scale length than most models.
Bear in mind that the more strings and extended ranges a guitar has, the wider neck and longer scale lengths it will have, which makes it more difficult to play, especially for those with smaller hands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need A Specific Guitar To Play Metal?
It may come as a surprise to read that no, you don’t need a specific metal guitar to play metal. Of course, a guitar that is designed to play metal helps you achieve the crazy gain tones all metal players want, but this isn’t solely accomplished with a metal guitar.
In fact, single-coil pickups sound fantastic when playing metal. The key is experimenting with tones and finding ones that appeal to you.
However, for tones that are extra heavy and saturated in gain, a high-quality metal guitar is crucial as they have been designed specifically to make achieving these tones a lot easier.
Everything from the bodies, electronics, fingerboards, hardware and necks are designed specifically to bring out the best metal tones possible.
Which Pickups Are Best For A Metal Guitar?
As previously mentioned, high-output humbuckers will do a fine job, because to achieve those insane tones, you’re going to need a lot of gain and harmonic energy.
Pickup manufacturers like EMG specialize in active pickups that are powered by one or more 9V batteries in your guitar, meaning that they have a towering output.
Their tone is also razor sharp and precise, making them ideal pickups for metal.
Meanwhile, companies like Bare Knuckle, DiMarzio, and Seymour Duncan specialize in passive pickups with an output that’s a tad lower and don’t need extra power to operate.
These produce a more classic and natural sound, but are still packed with plenty of sound. Most of the best metal guitars are equipped with some components made by these manufacturers.
What Is The Difference Between 7, 8, And 9-String Guitars?
Number of strings aside, there are a few differences between extended range guitars. Namely, their tunings.
A 7-string guitar has the same tuning of a standard 6-string guitar, but it has an extra low B string.
Meanwhile, an 8-string guitar has the standard tuning of a 7-string guitar but with an even lower F string, this puts it within striking distance of a standard-tuned bass guitar.
Finally, a 9-string guitar has the same tuning configuration of an 8-string guitar but with a powerfully low extra C string. This gives a 9-string guitar a tuning below that of your standard 4-string bass.
However, the scale lengths of 7, 8, and 9-string guitars can vary.
Many 7-string guitars will follow the standard 25.5” scale of a 6-string guitar, but may also stretch to a 26.5” so they can give more tension to their low B strings and avoid producing a muddy sound.
Virtually all 8-string guitars will have scale lengths over 26.5”, and can extend to as much as 28”.
As their strings are tuned even lower than those on a 7-string guitar, this extra tension is crucial, and the same goes for 9-string guitars.
I hope that in my above picks for the best metal guitar you have found your next super-shredding machine! Or at least, given you an idea of what you need to look out for when buying a metal guitar.
Depending on what sound you want to achieve there is a lot to consider, but with all the factors in mind I’m sure you will find the guitar that fulfills all your wildest metal dreams. Happy shredding!