Best Guitars For Metal For All Budgets

Are you ready to shred?

Have you heard the call of Metallica and Lamb of God and are finally ready to join the ranks? Perhaps you were raised on a strict diet of Black Sabbath or just recently discovered Cannibal Corpse, either way welcome to the heaviest, loudest corner of music.

Now let’s get you a metal guitar to match. 

Snapshot: Top 5 Best Metal Guitars

The Best Guitars For Metal

Metal is one of the most demanding genres on an instrument. From the down tuning to the 24th fret solos, metal guitars are pushed to the edge physically. Electrically, they’re run through more distortion than was ever thought possible and still expected to have good tone and clarity.

All of the heavy metal guitars here have been vetted for their ability to play low crunchy power chords, lightning fast solos, and look good while doing it. Every brand on this list produces quality instruments and are known for their fit and finish. All of them are built to last last and can handle the hardships of touring and the theatrics that go along with it.

So peruse our list, find the electric guitars that suit you best, and start shredding, or chugging, or djenting, or maybe even ambienting. I don’t know what your cup of tea is, but something here will help you do it.

1. Jackson Dinky JS32 Review

Jackson Dinky JS32 in white

This trusty electric guitar has been a staple of metal since the 80s. And while Jackson’s hockey stick headstock may be closely associated with hair metal, this beast is capable of anything. Currently Jackson’s are played in bands such as Children of Bodom, Iron Maiden, Megadeath, Lamb of God, and even Babymetal. Add a part of this legacy to your collection today.

Body & Neck

Heavy Metal guitars tend to have a unique body shape, but the Dinky sticks to a classic-ish double cutaway design. These cutaways are contoured to allow a little extra comfort when accessing the 24 frets, while the back of the guitar has a big contour to allow for a little bit of stomach. The maple neck is in Jackson’s “Speed Neck” profile. It flattens out as you go up the neck to allow for the fastest playing around. While there is a bit of a learning curve, it’s the only way to go if you live south of the 12th fret. While this guitar is currently only available in white, there is a special edition model in a Natural Oil finish with an Amaranth fretboard.

Electronics & Hardware

The pair of humbuckers is wired to a 3-way pickup selector, a tone knob, and a volume knob. This minimalist setup may not allow for perfect tone blending, but this no-frills setups is bulletproof on stage. Plus most of the time this guitar will be set to bridge pickup with both knobs maxed.

The most important part of this guitar is the Floyd Rose and locking nut. Being the star of this show, the Floyd Rose allows for the most insane of dive bombs and pulling up on the whammy bar leads to insane bends. The locking nut keeps everything in tune, while your right hand does its best Tony Iomi impersonation. This guitar is a steal at this price. A great chassis for a Floyd Rose. One thing to keep in mind: Floyd Roses need to be tensioned to your tuning. This is not the system for you if you plan on playing one song in drop C and the next in standard tuning.

Sound

JE10 Humbuckers: These pickups are bright and shiny. Almost single coil in nature, without the hum of course. Sans-distortion this guitar, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, sounds bluesy. However this is a metal guitar list, so how does it sound distorted? Bad ass. Power chords are crunchy and clear.

When metal players are going for solos these pickups cut through the noise and deliver piercing clarity that I was not expecting from a  guitar at this price point. Due to positioning the bridge pickup sounds a little thinner and shriller, with the neck being bassier and more rounded. The range of what this instrument can do is astounding, and it has completely won me over. A must try for metal guitarists in my opinion.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Basswood
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Maple
  • Pickups: JE10 Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Jackson Floyd Rose

A great chassis for a Floyd Rose

Final Thoughts on the Jackson Dinky JS32

A stellar guitar for either a metal head on a budget or someone who wants to try a Floyd Rose for the first time. Pick one up, try it out, and watch it win over your black, metal loving heart.

2. Ibanez RG450DX Review

Ibanez RG450DX

A long time staple of the industry, the Ibanez RG is most frequently photographed in the hands of a guitar god. Every feature of this guitar is specifically tailored for the most demanding of players, and it shows. This model has seen just as much time in front of stadiums as it has at basement shows, and for that reason it makes our list of metal guitars.

Body & Neck

The body is made of dark red meranti, also known as Phillipine mahogany (genus “Shorea”), which is more than tough enough to handle the most dramatic of stage theatrics or the most brutal of roadies. Carved into the signature RG double cutaway shape, the guitar body shape is contoured under the right arm and on the back to maximize comfortability. While comfort may not be a word you associate with metal, it is nice when you’re just jamming on the couch trying to come up with the next great riff.

The neck is Ibanez’s signature “Wizard III” neck. A disgustingly fast piece of maple with their almost rectangular thin profile. It’s a perfect partner to the jatoba fretboard. With this thin profile and 24 frets to use, nothing is impossible on this guitar. Bonus points must be given for the White on white paint scheme with black hardware. Even more points for the sharktooth inlays, I love those things so much.

Electronics & Hardware

With one tone knob and one volume knob you may think that tone selection is limited. You would be wrong however. This HSH pickup layout is wired in Ibanez’s preferred method. The 5-way switch allows for the normal three options, Neck humbucker, Mid single coil, and bridge humbucker. The other two are quite a different story. These modes split coil on the humbucker to act as a single coil and then add the mid pickup. This allows for a lot of tone options that can be changed quickly, allowing you to flick to a different setting right before a solo, or throwing to the neck pickup right before a rather djenty riff.

Now for the RG’s most important feature: The Ibanez Edge-Zero Tremolo. This Floyd Rose alternative is as good as the original. With locking nuts and tuners this guitar could be dropped down a staircase and stay in tune. The whammy bar is a vital part of the truly insane metal solo, and with the RG that power is in your hand.

Sound

HSH Quantum Pickups: The sound profile on this guitar is strange. The bass is clear, but not boomy, the mid is there but not warm, and the high is clear yet not sparkly. It’s a jack of all trades, master of none situation. But that’s a good thing, the best paintings are made on blank canvases. This guitar will take on the sound of whatever pedals and amps it is run through. Whether its an Orange Micro Dark or a Vintage Marshall Full-Stack, This guitar will accentuate the best parts on the sound. As mentioned in Electronics & Hardware this guitar is unusually wired, allowing for both single coil sounds and humbucker tones. Mix and match these until you find your sound.

 Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Dark Red Meranti
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Jatoba
  • Pickups: Quantum Pickups
  • Bridge: Edge-Zero Tremolo

A long time staple of the industry

Final Thoughts on the Ibanez RG450DX

A stunning piece of engineering, this guitar is an icon for a reason. From the neck to the bridge to the pickups there isn’t a bad feature on this electric guitar. The only other Ibanez I considered for this list is the Jem Jr. that made our 9 best Intermediate Guitars list. But I decided against it because if a signature guitar was going to make this list, it had to be a very metal signature guitar. Like our next one.

3. Dean Dimebag ML Slime Review

Dean Dimebag ML Slime

This is a heavy metal guitar that demands your RE (duh duh dada duh) SPECT. The axe of a god among men, Pantera’s own Dimebag Darrel. Through dozens of prototypes and countless hours of design refinement on Dean’s ML chassis, this guitar was forged to be the metal guitar. Of course this possiblly the best metal guitar on the list, keep reading to see why.

Body & Neck

First we have the X-shaped body. This is more than your normal X guitar, with an additional cutaway at the back this guitar is a “true X”, you can play it in either a relaxed position or in a classical position with X-treme comfort. To match this wild shape, we have the equally wild V-shaped headstock. Visible on the back of the body through clearcoat is the mahogany helps counteract the sustain loss from the bridge.

The front, however, is a different story. Finished in a wild slime green finish, this guitar looks the part. It’s outlandish in all the right ways. It also is available in a Flame Finish, and a more conservative Burst Finish. The neck is an aggressive V shape that takes some time to get used to, but is perfect for hard riffing, with the flexibility to do whatever else is needed. Get some seat time with this guitar and you might find it to be your new daily driver on the stage and in the studio.

Electronics & Hardware

With a mismatched pair of humbuckers, tone selection is important. Luckily this guitar has two volume knobs, a tone knob, and a 3-way pickup selector switch. In true Dime fashion, the volume knobs have notches burned into them to provide texture so you know what knob you are grabbing.

The bridge is a Floyd Rose for the most insane dive bombs possible, and the locking nut at the top of this guitar lets you wail on it with no fear of detuning. Normally with Floyd Rose guitars you lose sustain from the free floating bridge, however the mahogany body helps counteract this, allowing your sustain to come from the guitar and not a pedal.

Sound

DMT Design BKCR and a Seymour Duncan SH13 Dimebucker: These pickups make this guitar all the more special. The bridge pickup is that classic Pantera tone. A lot of grit through most of the spectrum with some clear highs, this guitar is destined metal tones and for heavy distortion.

That’s good though, I doubt you were planning on taking the guitar to some chill coffee house gigs. This sound captures the fury and power found on those iconic albums. When played clean the guitar has an almost ghostly quality. It’s thin and haunting in the most beautiful way. The neck pickup is a little more balanced across the range and blending the two would be best unless you are chasing that 90s compressed metal tone. Overall I’m a fan and I think you would be too.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Pau Ferro
  • Pickups: DMT Design BKCR and a Seymour Duncan SH13 Dimebucker
  • Bridge: Floyd Rose Special

This guitar was forged to be the metal guitar

Final Thoughts on the Dean Dimebag ML Slime

This guitar was purpose built for metal. Designed for one of the greats, it is unashamedly specialized for metal and is a bit of a time capsule to the golden days of thrash. If your dream is to sound like Pantera, this could be the best metal guitar to try. It will blow you away and make sure that no one gets the wrong idea about what you play and what you sound like.

4. PRS SE 227 Baritone Review

PRS SE 227 Baritone

The Paul Reed Smith SE 227 is one of the most popular baritone guitars on the market, and honestly once you pick one up, you’ll see why. This is a guitar by one of the greatest names in music, and every note that comes out of it shows off it’s impressive pedigree, and fabulous design.

Body & Neck

Like most baritone guitars, the PRS SE 227 has a slightly larger body and a longer neck than a typical guitar. This allows you to get a deeper tone with standard string tension, making the standard tuning of a baritone guitar B-E-A-D-F#-B. The neck is made of maple and has a wide fat profile, and a scale length of 27.7” which may take some getting used to if you aren’t super familiar with a baritone or bass guitar, but you should find that everything is more or less where you’d expect.

The fretboard is a frankly gorgeous rosewood with the PRS standard bird inlay, and the solid body is maple backed with mahogany in a classic double cutaway profile. The Fire Red Burst finish has a very classic look to it, almost harkening to some of the late 60’s Gibson’s (the neck design seems to harken back to these surf-rock era guitars as well). The 27.7” scale really makes the popular B-B tuning for baritone guitars sound excellent, while remaining imminently playable.

Electronics & Hardware

You get a simple dual split coil humbucker pickup set, both the PRS designed 85/15 “S” models. These pickups give you that rich, warm, but very dark sound that you’re looking for in a baritone guitar for metal. These pickups give you a lovely balance of that retro 80’s sound, but with a lot of modern accoutrements that demanding players want and expect out of such a pricey instrument.

For controls you have a master volume and master tone knob, as well as a three-way pickup selector that gives you plenty of options to tune your sound to your specific style, or to the style of music you’re playing. Remember, there’s an awful lot of fine detail that goes into rock and metal music on the production side of things, so having these options available to tailor your sound is really great.

Sound

Like all baritones, you get a very twangy, dark sound that can come across as fairly mellow until you add some distortion, which you almost certainly will be. The single-coil pickups (one bass, one treble) make for a lively, hum-free guitar which is good because you’re going to want to play something fast and aggressive on this thing once you hear it. It feels like a classic sports car idling when you’re lazily strumming it. A power you can feel, but one that is crying out to be let loose.

Baritone guitars are a bit of a niche thing, but they really are essential to a lot of the metal sounds we all know and love. One of my favorite metalcore bands, Architects, actually makes heavy use of baritone guitars in their music, as do many other famous guitarists such as Brian Welch from Korn, and most notable James Hetfield on the St. Anger Metallica album, and this guitar really captures those tones.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Mahogany with a Maple top
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Dual 85/15 “S”
  • Bridge: PRS-designed, plate-style, string-through bridge

The perfect baritone guitar for playing all types of metal.

Final Thoughts on the PRS SE 227 Baritone

Overall, this is the best baritone guitar we’ve found for metal music, and between its super sweet low tones, and nice mid-range, it’s a great option for anyone looking to mix up their sound, or bands interested in having a baritone guitar doubling a bass line to get that super rich tone that you only get with this type of arrangement. On top of that, it’s a super smooth-playing guitar that will be great for experienced players and newbies alike.

5. Schecter C-8 Deluxe Review

Schecter C-8 Deluxe

We can’t make a list of best guitars for playing metal music without including an 8 string, and while this particular model narrowly missed out on our Best 8 String Guitars list, it is an affordable entry into the world of 8 strings. While rarer than 6 or even 7 String Guitars, the classic 8 string is a staple of heavier rock and metal music, and is a must-own for anyone looking to branch out into music more niche metal sounds.

The Schecter C-8 is more of an entry model, so it’s not quite on the level of what I would call “the best of the best”, but it is however an absolutely perfect first 8-string for a new guitarist, or just someone who wants to experiment with something different without breaking the bank.

Body & Neck

This is a more budget-friendly 8 string, so costs have been saved with a basswood body, and a bolted-on maple neck that has been reinforced with carbon fiber inserts. The double-cutaway design gives it a fairly classic but understated look, and the 16” radius on the neck makes for a very playable guitar. The fretboard is rosewood with a dot inlay, and there are white, blue, and red body finishes available.

The “Thin C” shaped neck is very, very smooth to play, even when you start moving up the neck for some wild solos in a weird tuning, and make blasting out otherwise-difficult passages from bands like Meshuggah and other Djent bands a breeze.

Electronics & Hardware

Dual humbucking pickups (Schecters own Diamond Plus variety) give a nice clean intonation that stays bright even in lower registers, giving the guitar that quintessential snappy sound we all love in our speed and thrash metal. The Tune-o-Matic bridge will be familiar to most Gibson players and the string-through body is of course very Telecaster-like, so you’re liable to find a lot of familiar things in this guitar no matter what your background is.

For controls you get master volume and tone knobs, and a pretty standard 3-way pickup selector. The chrome color here is all classic styling, which anchors what could otherwise be a guitar that is very “extra” in many ways. Overall, the choices here seem to have one foot firmly in the world of the old, while still stepping eagerly into the new and the now.

Sound

This is one of the most angry, irritable, and upset sounding guitars I’ve ever held in my hands, and that’s a good thing. This thing sounds pissed off even when you’re playing light and happy melodies that would evoke images of frolicking bunnies in a Disney film on any other guitar. On this thing they just sound righteously furious…pretty much perfect for heavier music basically.

The H-H pickup arrangement gives you an incredibly distinct tone, and of course the weird, wacky, and wonderful non-traditional tunings you can pull off with an 8 string mean that you can do some truly unique things with this guitar if you’re willing to do a bit of fiddling and learning.  For anyone bored of a standard 6 string, this is a great way to get a lot of cool new sounds out of a very easy to play guitar, and of course the range on a 8 string is unmatched in most heavy music.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Basswood
  • Neck Material: Maples
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Diamond Plus Dual Humbuckers by Schecter
  • Bridge: Tune-o-Matic

The perfect 8 string for people who’ve never owned one.

Final Thoughts on the Schecter C-8 Deluxe

If you’re looking to explore some of the more “out there” tunings for various metal songs and styles, and you want an 8 string that’s a good jumping-off point from your 6 and 7 strings, the C-8 is an excellent choice. The aggressive tone, the affordable price, and the solid design and configuration make it a worthwhile choice for any musician, but especially for anyone who is looking to get into some new metal sounds. If you’re into the high-gain, super-distorted, low-pitch sounds of Prog and Djent, this guitar is essential.

Final Thoughts on the Best Metal Guitars

If you’re looking to play metal, maybe you just discovered Dio, you’re head banging to newer bands like Dragged Under, or the latest Poppy album just really inspired you, then you need one of these guitars. Metal as an overall genre has more emphasis on metal tones and style than almost any other, and to get that perfect sound to emulate your favorite bands, you really do need the right guitar or it’s all going to sound just a little bit off.

There’s so many sub-genres and even sub-sub-genres of this style of music that your choice in guitar can make a huge difference to how your music gets categorized.

Now, any guitar can be used to play any kind of music, but if you really want that metal sound, these are the guitars you should be looking at first. Especially if you want to make sure you get a quality axe in the right price range that’s ready to go right out of the box.

Further Reading:
About Tim Grgas

I am a freelance writer and musician, currently based out of New York. I love making music and all the tools involved in the process. I love sharing my knowledge in a way that helps other musicians on their own journey, and helps build and improve their craft.