So you’re looking for the best metal guitar? The heavy riffs and soaring solos call for something beyond the usual. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of the top guitars for metal.

The best metal guitars are their own breed of guitar. With most music genres, you can just pick up any guitar and start playing. But for metal, it doesn’t sound right, and you may not be able to play the things you want. You need pickups that distort well, and you probably want a good whammy bridge, and it has to look metal.

While there is no end-all-be-all ultimate metal guitar, there are ones that are better than the rest. It all depends on the sound you’re going for, the features you need, and how much you’re willing to spend. For example, the perfect guitar for shredding won’t be ideal for doom metal, and vice versa. Therefore, I’ve sifted through the guitar market to pick out the following varied selection of awesome metal guitars.

There’s something perfect for every metal guitarist on this list. I’ve included 7-string and 8-string options, retro shredders, and signature models.

This list presents the best metal guitars in no particular order. They all cater to different types of metal guitarists. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Fender Dave Murray Stratocaster

Designed for one of the foremost metal guitarists of all time, there’s no doubt that the Fender Dave Murray Stratocaster is one of the best metal guitars on the market. Iron Maiden is, to many people, the quintessential classic heavy metal band. What’s more, this formidable Strat can cover much more than nostalgic metal styles.

The core of its powerful metal tone is the set of pickup. Two Seymour Duncan Hot Rail ceramic humbuckers give a loud and rich signal. There’s also a JB Jr pickup in the middle for extra versatility. Despite their small size, these hum-free pickups pack a real punch.

In general, the build is like a typical Stratocaster with an alder body and a maple C-neck. However, it has a Floyd Rose 2-point locking tremolo, which lets you bend notes in both directions while maintaining a steady tuning. Furthermore, the rosewood fingerboard has a compound radius design.

Toward the nut, it has a rounded 9.5-inch radius, but it flattens out as you get closer to the body, all the way down to a 14-inch radius. This clever design optimizes the upper frets for note bends while keeping the lower frets chord-friendly. If you’re an Iron Maiden fan or just looking for the best metal guitars for classic stuff, this is a top choice.

Fender Dave Murray Stratocaster Electric Guitar, with 2-Year Warranty, 2-Color Sunburst, Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Endorsed by one of rock’s premier guitarist that have influenced and inspired millions of fans
  • Dial in a variety of ferocious ‘hum free’ tones via the 3 single coil sized hum-bucking Seymour...
  • Express yourself in extreme ways with confidence of stable tuning from the double locking Floyd Rose...

Ibanez RG550

Ibanez RG550 RG Genesis Collection Purple Neon

The Ibanez RG550 was among the first dedicated metal guitars available to the growing crowd of young metalheads in the mid-80s. It’s essentially an affordable adaptation of Steve Vai’s Ibanez JEM777. Production stopped in the mid-90s but picked up again in recent times due to popular demand. A few minor upgrades bring the revived Ibanez RG550 up to date.

The main reason for its popularity may be the extra-thin Wizard neck and the fast playability it offers. Another factor is the Floyd Rose tremolo. All that fast fretting and whammy action would be wasted on sub-par pickups, so you’ll be glad about the formidable set on the RG550. There’s a V7 humbucker by the bridge for biting riffs and a V8 neck humbucker for those thick, smooth tones. It also has an S1 single-coil in the middle for additional versatility.

A good metal performance isn’t only about how you play, you must also convey the right energy to the crowd. The light basswood body makes the Ibanez RG550 ideal for wild stage antics. The neck has jumbo frets and consists of five layers of maple and walnut for extra strength. That makes it good for dropped tunings and complex riffing. All in all, this is one of the best metal guitars for beginners with big ambitions.

Ibanez RG550 RG Genesis Collection Purple Neon
  • Ibanez RG Genesis Collection 6-String Electric Guitar: The Ibanez RG Genesis Collection 6-String...
  • Super Wizard 5pc Maple/Walnut Neck: The Super Wizard 5pc Maple/Walnut neck provides extra-smooth...
  • V7 / S1 / V8 Pickups: The RG can dial in any tone, from crystal clear to searing and nasty, thanks...

ESP LTD KH-602 Kirk Hammet

ESP LTD KH-602 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar with Case, Black

Many of the best metal guitars are signature models, although they can be gimmicky at times. Metallica helped define a sound and style that echoes in all modern metal, so you can rest assured that the LTD KH-602 is no niche novelty.

An alder body with a maple neck is pretty standard, but the ultra-thin U-profile neck has 24 extra-jumbo frets. If you struggle to fit your fingers on standard frets, this is an ideal choice. An EMG 81 by the bridge and an EMG 60 in the neck position give you that meaty thrash tone. Let’s not forget the Floyd Rose tremolo, which is a big part of Hammett’s style.

While the KH-2 is a higher-end version, I think the more approachable price makes the KH-602 a better pick for the best metal guitars. It still has all the features you need to play and sound like Kirk. Just plug it into a good wah pedal and start shredding.

ESP LTD KH-602 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar with Case, Black
  • Offers nearly everything of its higher-end cousin, the ESP KH-2, at a price that more musicians can...
  • Features neck-thru-body construction, a comfortable alder body, and a 3 pc. extra-thin U-shaped...
  • The pau ferro fingerboard features 24 extra-jumbo frets and Kirk Hammett's skull-and-bones inlays

Jackson JS32 Rhoads

Jackson JS Series Rhoads JS32 - Ivory

A true godfather of shred, Randy Rhoads set a higher bar for metal with classics like Crazy Train. He also became the face of Jackson’s JS32 model, and he had his own special edition. This iconic guitar has appeared in the hands of later stars like Metallica’s Kirk Hammet and Children of Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho.

The sound mirrors the looks, aggressive yet smooth. It lends itself well to wild leads and technical riff work. It achieves this balanced tone with two Jackson high-output ceramic humbuckers on a basswood body. The bolt-on maple neck has a satin finish that enables lightning-fast playability across the 24 frets.

Thanks to the signature double locking bridge, you can use very low string action and drop divebombs without losing your tuning. V-shaped guitars are a staple of metal, and this one beats most in terms of both style and pricing. That makes it one of the best metal guitars in this price range.

Jackson JS Series Rhoads JS32 - Ivory
  • Solidbody Electric Guitar with Poplar Body
  • Vibrato Tailpiece - Ivory
  • Amaranth Fingerboard

Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FR

Schecter Hellraiser C-7 with Floyd Rose and Sustainiac - Black Cherry

There’s always a place for Schecter on a list of the best metal guitars. They offer several metal axes that often perform above their price range. This 7-string version of their popular Hellraiser is no exception.

The Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FR is an all-mahogany build with a thin-C profile set neck. Together with two loud EMG 70TW pickups, this produces a thick, heavy sound. The FR part of the name refers to the Floyd Rose bridge.

Overall, it’s a high-quality 7-stringer with impressive specs and a massive, sizzling tone. This is probably the best guitar for djent and death metal for the price.

Schecter Hellraiser C-7 with Floyd Rose and Sustainiac - Black Cherry
  • 7-string Solidbody Electric Guitar with Mahogany Body
  • Floyd Rose Tremolo - Black Cherry
  • 1 Active EMG Humbucking Pickup

Dean Dimebag ML

Dean Dimebag ML Body Electric Guitar, Dime-O-Flame

Few guitarists have had as much lasting impact on the best metal guitars as Dimebag Darrell. He won his first Dean ML in a guitar contest, and that particular axe has a story of its own.

Many Dimebag ML models have appeared over the years, but they all have all the core concepts in common. They’re pointy, they have Floyd Rose tremolos, and they have cool paint jobs like this Dime-O-Flame design.

With its 24.75-inch scale length, it’s somewhat smaller than average. It has a fast-playing 22-fret neck with a rosewood fretboard, mounted on a mahogany body. A signature Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker in the bridge position gives you that familiar, growling tone.

By the neck, you find a Dean humbucker with a piece of tape that prevents the strings from getting stuck when you divebomb, just like on Darrell’s original. It sounds and plays how you’d expect if you’ve seen Dimebag at play. If you’d like to play fast runs and pinched squeals like the man himself, this is the best metal guitar for you.

Dean Dimebag ML Body Electric Guitar, Dime-O-Flame
  • Mahogany body with "Dime-o-Flame" fire graphics
  • 24-3/4-inch scale, 22-fret set mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard and dot inlays
  • Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker and Dean humbuckers with two volume controls, tone, and three-way toggle

ESP LTD EC-1000

ESP LTD EC-1000 Electric Guitar, Black

If you love the look and feel of a Les Paul but wish for more metal-oriented specs, the LTD EC-1000 is an excellent pick. It’s an all-mahogany build with an ebony fingerboard, an Evertune bridge, and active pickups.

It rocks the same general neck design as the KH-602. As for the electronics, it has a Seymour Duncan JB at the neck and a Seymour Duncan Jazz by the bridge. These are passive humbuckers. Each one has its own volume knob, and they share a tone knob. Overall, it’s a sleek and simplistic design that focuses on quality and performance. It sounds like a more aggressive Les Paul, which makes it one of the best metal guitars for all-rounder guitarists who dabble in multiple genres.

The standout feature is the Evertune bridge. This tension-calibrated set of springs and levers can keep your guitar in tune for a remarkable time, even if you play huge bends, pops, and wild tapping solos.

ESP LTD EC-1000 Electric Guitar, Black
  • Designed to offer the tone, feel, looks, and quality that professional musicians need, while still...
  • Has all of the classy LTD Deluxe features that set it apart in this range of guitars
  • Features abalone inlays and purfling, full body/neck/headstock binding, and premier components

Schecter Omen-8

Schecter Omen-8 - Walnut Satin

A list of the best metal guitars should include an excellent 8-string guitar. The Schecter Omen-8 offers an incredible bang for your buck. With its 26.5-inch scale length, it’s an inch longer than typical electric guitars.

You won’t notice this difference when you play, nor should the neck width be an issue. Although the string tension is somewhat higher and thereby stays in tune better, it’s still a fast-playing guitar.

The neck consists of maple reinforced with carbon fiber rods. Basswood makes up the body, where you’ll find a tune-o-matic bridge and two Schecter Diamond Plus humbuckers. They’re no EMGs, but the body provides a meaty tone with a thick sustain which they transmit well.

The Schecter Omen-8 has a natural mid-scoop tone that’ll drive your distortion just right. It’s the best 8-string guitar in its price range, and one of the best metal guitars to date.

Schecter Omen-8 - Walnut Satin
  • 8-string Solidbody Electric Guitar with Basswood Body
  • 2 Humbucking Pickups - Walnut Stain
  • Rosewood Fingerboard

Epiphone SG

Epiphone SG Special Satin E1 Vintage Worn, Ebony

When thinking of old-school heavy metal and hard rock, one of the first guitars that come to mind is the diabolic-looking Gibson SG. It became the symbol of AC/DC and remains popular among rockers and metalheads more than 50 years after its inception. In typical Gibson fashion, the SG is too expensive for common guitarists, but there are official budget-friendly editions. The Epiphone SG is a prime example

.It has a mahogany body and a mahogany SlimTaper D-profile neck with a rosewood fretboard. All 21 frets are within easy access. The Epiphone SG has a classy ebony look with vintage-style hardware for excellent metal aesthetics.

Regarding the pickups, they’re both Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers. This gives you a crunchy, meaty metal sound. Coil tapping lets you switch into single-coil mode for shrill solo tones and such. If you think the best metal guitars are those that look and sound like the classics with some modern touches and come at a reasonable price, you’ll love the Epiphone SG.

Epiphone SG Special Satin E1 Vintage Worn, Ebony
  • Poplar Body with a Satin Finish
  • Fretboard Material: Okoume
  • 60s SlimTaper D Neck

Strings & Pedals for the Best Sound

That’s my selection for the best metal guitars. There’s an excellent pick for every style and budget. Most are all-around superb shredders that’ll suit any metal guitarist.

Finally, a quick note about strings. When you buy a guitar, it usually comes with strings that aren’t good for metal, unless you’re buying a high-quality metal guitar. A good metal tone requires thick strings, especially if you’re tuning down. While the guitars on this list should all have metal-friendly strings, it’s wise to get a string set that meets your specific needs. This guide to electric guitar strings will help you.

Also, no matter what guitar you play, metal is all about heavy distortion. If you want high-quality distortion that does the best metal guitars justice, you can find excellent options in my distortion pedal guide.

Last update on 2024-03-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API