Best Metal Guitars 2019 – Reviews and Top Picks

The Metal genre is pretty much exclusive to guitars. It’s pretty much synonymous to the guitar shredding and electronic sonic mayhem. Thus, it makes it both easy and difficult to choose a kick-ass Metal machine. On the one hand, you know what characteristics you are looking for (humbuckers, floating bridge, thin neck profile etc.). On the other, Metal is a very difficult genre to get a good grasp of. Those rocking lead solos need very complex electronic setup and it’s hard to find a guitar that won’t break your bank.

I, personally, can’t afford a $5,000 ESP Original, so I’ve tried a bunch of wallet-friendly options and, let me tell you – I focused on the Schecter, ESP and Jackson brands, and they all sound so sweet. These are the ones that I think are the best I have found.

  • Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Floyd Rose-S BCH
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: C
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck: Thin-‘C’
  • Neck material: Mahogany 3-pc
  • Pick up: EMG Active 81/Sustainiac Pick-up Set
  • Fretboard wood: Rosewood
  • Frets: 24 X-Jumbo
  • Bridge: Floyd Rose 1000 Series
  • Tuners: Grover
  • ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB Electric Guitar, Vintage Black
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: Eclipse
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck: Thin U
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Pick up: EMG 60/81 humbuckers
  • Fretboard wood: Ebony
  • Frets: 24, Extra-jumbo
  • Bridge: Tonepros locking Tune-O-Matic bridge/Tailpiece
  • Tuners: Locking tuners
  • ESP LTD Iron Cross James Hetfield Signature Electric Guitar
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: Iron Cross
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck: Thin U
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Pick up: Dual EMG JH Set Humbuckers
  • Fretboard wood: Ebony
  • Frets: 22 XJ
  • Bridge: TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge/Tailpiece
  • Tuners: LTD Locking
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
№1
Solid
C
Mahogany
Thin-‘C’
Mahogany 3-pc
№5
Solid
C
Basswood
Thin ‘C’ (Bold-on)
Maple
№6
Solid
Dinky
Basswood
Speed Neck
1-piece Maple (Bolt-on)
№7
Solid
King V
Poplar
1-piece Bold-on Speed Neck
Maple

‘Gotta raise a little hell’! But seriously, you can’t expect to not raise hell with the Schecter Hellraiser C-1 FR S BCH. Not only because it says so in its name; it is a real mean Metal beast with surreal hi-tech electronics, limitless sustain and a wicked lead-tone. It’s nearly impossible to find an axe this solid for just a grant.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
C
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
Thin-‘C’
Neck material:
Mahogany 3-pc
Pick up:
EMG Active 81/Sustainiac Pick-up Set
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
24 X-Jumbo
Bridge:
Floyd Rose 1000 Series
Tuners:
Grover
PROS

Rock-solid construction and details

Thin neck with Ultra Access hell carve

Sustainiac pickup and EMG 81 bridge humbuckers

Limitless sound sustain

FR 1000 Series Tremolo bridge

Cons

Not for beginners

A mean machine for the aggressive players that live on a budget. The ESP LTD guitars were created to bring affordable versions of classic Metal guitars, and EC-1000VB is not an exception. Despite the relatively low price, the axe is built with premium tonewood and uses quality tech. By the way, these ones are for tough guys: ESP Exhibition Limited Eclipse-CTM NakataniESP Exhibition Limited Snapper-CTM FR Sand-Blast Maziora Gold Leaf

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Eclipse
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
Thin U
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
EMG 60/81 humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Ebony
Frets:
24, Extra-jumbo
Bridge:
Tonepros locking Tune-O-Matic bridge/Tailpiece
Tuners:
Locking tuners
PROS

Super-sharp cutaway

Dual EMG pickups

TOM bridge/tailpiece

Cons

None

Calling all Metallica fans and those with a crush on James Hetfield! If you were looking for a guitar played by any of the members of Metallica, look no further! This one was specially designed for Metallica frontmen (and one of the best rhythm guitarists) James Hetfield. Naturally, this guitar is a classic among the best guitars for Metal, and is designed to deliver an ultra-fast feel and powerful sound assaults.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Iron Cross
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
Thin U
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
Dual EMG JH Set Humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Ebony
Frets:
22 XJ
Bridge:
TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge/Tailpiece
Tuners:
LTD Locking
PROS

Custom James Hatfield design

Ultra-fast feel and powerful sound

Special dual EGM JH active humbuckers

Cons

Fret & String Buzz

Another sweet axe created by the Metallica member is the Kirk Hammet. The KH-602 is based on Kirk’s go-to ESP Custom he’s been using for years. The axe is built in the high-end LTD factory in Korea using high-end materials. It has a smooth playability, uses sweet hardware with exceptional sustain. It’s an axe that’s ready to shred.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Signature
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
Extra thin U
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
EMG Bone Breaker Active Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Pau Ferro
Frets:
24 XJ
Bridge:
Floyd Rose 1000 Vibrato
Tuners:
ESP
PROS

Neck-thru body construction

Deeply contoured alder body

Improved sustain

Active EMG Bone Breaker humbucking pickups

Cons

Extra-thin profile (but is it bad?)

FR floating bridge is challenging to setup

Hands down the best Metal axe in term of price and quality. The guitar is suitable for both beginners and intermediate Metal players. Omen-6 might not use premium materials and has basswood body, but it has no negative effects on its playability and sound. On the contrary, basswood is used not because it’s cheap, but because it’s thick and resonant – ideal for the heavy Metal. Together with exceptional Schecter hardware you get a solid Metal guitar.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
C
Body wood:
Basswood
Neck:
Thin ‘C’ (Bold-on)
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Dual Schecter Diamond Plus humbucking pickups
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
24 X-Jumbo
Bridge:
Tune-O-Matic w/thru body bridge
Tuners:
Schecter
PROS

Affordable

Highly reflective, warm tones, solid focus

Schecter Dimond Plus Humbuckers

Maximum tension and sustain through TOM bridge/tailpiece

High-quality tuners (15:1 gear ratio)

Cons

Not premium materials

It is a surprisingly powerful and affordable axe for Metal beginners. Despite the low price, this guitar checks all the boxes of a good Metal guitar: power, speed, playability and upper-playability, sound sustain and stability. You might need to upgrade some parts (especially if you are not a fan of double-locking tremolo bridge), but overall, it’s a great guitar to use to dive into the world of Metal.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Dinky
Body wood:
Basswood
Neck:
Speed Neck
Neck material:
1-piece Maple (Bolt-on)
Pick up:
Jackson JE10 Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
24 Jumbo
Bridge:
Floyd Rose Licensed Jackson Bridge with Double-Locking Tremolo
Tuners:
Die-Cast Tuners
PROS

Affordable

Jackson high-output pickups

12”16” compound-radius

Exceptional control, stability and power

Cons

Expect to do some modifications (replace brass frets, plastic tuners, bridge etc)

FR 1000 is hard to setup

This is another affordable, but deadly axe. Its outlook speaks for itself. This is a guitar ready for serious sound abuse and aggressive sound assaults. The hardware supports it with the hot Jackson pickups, easy-to-use controls and all-around explosive sound. This axe is perfect for shredding and jamming, but expect issues with the FR bridge. Overall, best pick for ultimate beginners looking for the heavy rock and Metal vibes.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
King V
Body wood:
Poplar
Neck:
1-piece Bold-on Speed Neck
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Jackson High Output Zebra Humbucking
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
24 Jumbo
Bridge:
Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo
Tuners:
Jackson Sealed Die-Cast
PROS

High-performance for low-price

Dual high-output Jackson custom humbuckers

12”-16” compound-radius fretboard

Cons

Floyd Rose does not hold tune

Most basic features

Buyer’s Guide – What Should I Look for in a Metal Guitar?

Metal guitars are significantly different from other electric guitars. It’s ridiculous to say that a Metal guitar must be electric and has pickups. It’s not about the wicked pointy shapes either. There are several key elements that guitars for Metal should have and you must pay attention to: tonewood; humbuckers; neck profile; bridge and hardware.

  • Tonewood – when it comes to the guitar construction, wood is the key, as it provides the base for the tone, sound resonance and sustain. The best you can get is, hands down, mahogany – highly resonant and adds depth and darkness to the tones. A cheaper but another solid options is basswood which is exceptionally resonant and reflective.
  • Humbuckers – with pickups the answer is simple: single-coil pickups won’t do. Period. They are solid and add accuracy and precision, but they lack width and get quickly overwhelmed during aggressive solos. Humbuckers, both passive and active, give the versatility of the tones and completely eliminate the hum. Active are probably better, as they give stronger output and better control.
  • Neck profile – alrighty, neck must be thin. Yeah, sure, you can play Metal on a normal-width neck, but the thinner the neck, the easier it is to deal with hard solos, shredding and complex rhythmic sections. Potentially best necks have a compound-radius profile, with slimming and flattening towards the heel. Another important thing here is the neck construction. Prioritise neck-thru-body construction – it means that neck and body are the same piece of wood, which provides surreal playability.
  • Bridge and hardware – Metal is a style that requires exceptional flexibility of bridge and hardware. Best bridges for Metal are Tremolo or Tune-O-Matic. Most Metal heads will tell you that the classic and rock-solid option is the Floyd Rose, but unless you know how to deal with it – it’s extremely hard to deal with. However, this legendary bridge gives crazy vibratos and flexibility. As for the hardware (tuners), prioritise locking tuners as the heaviest duty version, which is essential to keep the axe in tune during aggressive sound assaults.

Which guitar should I buy?

As with guitars of any genre, you should always choose the one that best fits you, your personal style and the level of your technique. If you are a complete newbie, go for more affordable options such as any of the Jacksons, it’s the safest option for you. They cost almost nothing and they will give you enough roaring and shredding to understand what Metal is. However, they have a very basic setup and won’t give you a lot of versatility, but in this early stage, you don’t need too much. Also, I do not recommend the Floyd Rose bridge – it would be pretty hard to use for you at this point.

If you are more advanced you have more options. Best ones are ESP and Schecter. They both use premium materials and, most importantly, high-end electronics. Feel free to choose the ones with the Floyd Rose bridges and hot active humbuckers (such as the Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Floyd Rose-S BCH or ESP LTD KH-602), they will give you the flexibility, sound sustain and punch a Metal guitar needs.

Does it have to be expensive?

Absolutely not!

Of course, a guitar is a serious investment. But even if you are a pro, it’s possible to buy a mean Metal beast for under $1000 (yes, I’m talking about the ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB and Schecter OMEN-6). You should only look at the expensive options (above $1,000) if you are a Metal head and a pro – that’s the only time when such a high price would make sense. For everyone else, who is learning Metal or simply can’t afford higher options, go for the two options mentioned above – it has the same quality, power, versatility and those dark Metal undertones you need to play on any stage. There are also super cheap options for under $400, yet I would only recommend them for complete newbies.

Who makes the best guitars for Metal?

The market for Metal guitars is a pretty solid market with some serious and well established players. While Fender and Gibson are the kings of the general guitar world, slightly smaller players that create a fine instrument of mind-blowing quality produce Metal guitars. Top three players are ESP, Schecter and Jackson. Japanese ESP is an ultimate Metallica favourite, which does not only provide them with guitars, but partnered with the players to create customs for them and by them. Thus, both James Hetfield and Kirk Hammit have a number of guitars by their own custom designs for any wallet. The Schecter is the new kid on the block and they specialise on high-quality Metal guitars. They produce their own electronics, which they only use for cheaper options. They do have high-end produts, but they use more exquisite EMG electronics and hardware (and amen to that). American Jackson is, probably, the most popular choice of Metal players. Even the most affordable guitars are decent, powerful and versatile. This is the safest and most affordable option.

Conclusion

Choosing the best guitar for Metal is easier than it looks, simply because the market is smaller. There are also fewer brands and more precise characterises that you are looking for. Thus, when choosing a guitar look for highly resonant tonewood; with active/passive humbuckers which give versatility of tones; floating or tremolo bridge, for the punch and fire of the sound; and thin neck, for ultimate comfort and playability. The exquisite guitar is, hands down, Schecter Hellraiser C-1 FR S BCH, which I recommend to the Metal heads and pros. However, in terms of all the characteristics mentioned above, the best option in the list is ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB. Among budget options, the best one is Schecter OMEN-6.

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By Max Hudson
    about author

    My name is Max Hudson, born and raised in Chicago. I'm 30 years old and like many other people, I discovered guitar in my teens and have never looked back since. It has quickly evolved into a passion and has given me a creative outlet, something to redirect my time and unlimited energy toward. I want this website to be a handbook for players of all skill levels. It can become a starting point for your new hobby, where you can find the right instrument, get tips for playing effortlessly or anything else music related.

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