When it comes to playing heavy metal, having the right guitar is crucial. The genre’s aggressive sound and fast-paced nature demand a guitar with the right specs to help you achieve this.
However, many aspiring metal guitarists can be deterred by the high price tags attached to some of the top-tier instruments. But fear not! This article will introduce you to the best metal guitars that won’t break the bank.
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Things to Consider When Choosing a Metal Guitar
Before diving into the world of affordable metal guitars, it’s essential to understand the key factors to consider when selecting one.
The first and most obvious factor is the sound.
Metal guitars are known for their aggressive tone to match their appearance, so you’ll want to look for models that can deliver that signature heavy sound. Additionally, the guitar’s playability is crucial for metal music, as fast and precise fretwork is a staple of the genre.
A few things to look out for are:
- High-output humbucking guitar pickups
- Comfortable and fast-playing necks
- Solid wood bodies
- A sleek or sharp aesthetic
Many guitar brands are known to produce great budget-friendly instruments that are suited for various metal styles. Some of the best metal guitar brands around are Jackson, Charvel, Kramer, Ibanez, Schecter, ESP, and Ernie Ball.
Luckily, you won’t have to look very far here, as I’ve compiled some of the top choices for metal guitars, many of which you can get for under $500. Keep reading to see them and learn more!
Quite possibly, the most iconic metal guitar design to ever be produced is the Jackson Rhoads model, named after Randy Rhoads, who played with Ozzy Osbourne in the early-80s.
Although it started as a signature model back in the day, this guitar’s body shape has been adopted in a variety of colors and price points to suit guitarists of all levels. For those looking for the best budget Rhoads guitar, the JS32 model is the one you’re looking for.
Perfect for beginners who want a sharp-looking axe, the JS32 Series Rhoads has features you’ll love, such as:
- Poplar body
- 25.5” scale length bolt-on maple neck
- 24-fret amaranth fretboard with a 12”-16” compound radius
- Jackson humbuckers
- Licensed Jackson Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo
At this affordable price, this Jackson Rhoads has a lot going for it, but if you’re looking for a different shape, such as a traditional superstrat like the Dinky or perhaps something wilder like the Kelly or Warrior, you can find those in the JS32 line too. Click here to find more Jackson guitars for under $500.
Due to their thin necks and powerful pickups, Ibanez makes amazing instruments that are certainly geared toward shredders!
With so many different models produced within it, the Ibanez RG line is easily one of the most popular superstrat designs out there and has been a popular choice for metal guitarists for a few decades now. The RG450DX is no exception.
Whether you’re just starting out or an intermediate player, this RG is a very accessible guitar that you won’t have to worry about growing out of it anytime soon. Here are its features:
- Meranti body
- 25.5” scale length bolt-on Wizard III maple neck
- 24-fret jatoba fretboard
- Ibanez Quantum pickups (HSH configuration)
- Ibanez double-locking tremolo
Like most Ibanez guitars, especially the RGs, this one is built for comfort and speed. That’s not to say that the other guitars here aren’t meant for that, but Ibanez’s Wizard necks are some of the best around when it comes to playing fast!
While on the topic of superstrats, Kramer is an awesome guitar brand that’s associated with traditional 80s metal and hair metal.
You may have heard of them already if you’re a fan of Eddie Van Halen since he was sponsored by them back in the day, as were several other guitarists from that time period, like Mick Mars and Vivian Campbell.
Although Kramer is best known for its Baretta model, the Striker model has its own history and has been reintroduced with these specs:
- Mahogany body
- 25.5” scale length bolt-on maple neck
- 24-fret maple fingerboard
- Kramer Alnico pickups (HSS configuration)
- Licensed Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo
If you’ve never played a Kramer before, these are definitely guitars that are made for high performance. After all, it’s a brand that’s almost synonymous with flashy 80s guitarists, much like Charvel, so expect the same with the Kramer Striker!
Now that we’ve covered some classics, how about something a little bit more modern?
The Schecter C-7 Deluxe is an affordable 7-string guitar that’s incredibly versatile in terms of tones and appearance. However, if you love low-tuned music like death metal, metalcore, and other styles that utilize the extra B-string, this is as good as it gets at this price!
Despite having a wider neck to accommodate the extra low-B string, this 7-string guitar is really comfortable to play on because of its thinner neck profile, so you’ll have no issues getting around the fretboard; plus, it has other features that make this a modern metal machine. Here’s an overview:
- Basswood body
- 26.5” scale length bolt-on maple neck
- 24-fret rosewood fretboard
- Schecter Diamond Plus humbuckers
- Tune-O-Matic bridge
The Schecter C-7 Deluxe is easily one of the most accessible 7-string guitars on the market and certainly one of the most popular ones you can get for under $500. However, if you’re interested in seeing what else is out there, be sure to check out my other guide for the best affordable 7-string guitars, where you can find some that are even cheaper and may fit your budget better!
Last up on the list of affordable metal guitars; we have a modern take on an iconic guitar design – the ESP LTD EC-256 is one of the best Les Paul-style guitars you can pick up at a great price.
Plus, like other Les Pauls, the LTD Eclipse is excellent for just about anything, and with its sleek and classy appearance, you can rock this anywhere. When it comes to playing metal, though, this guitar definitely stacks up against the other guitars we went over up until this point.
Take a look and see what it’s made of to see why this guitar sounds big!
- Mahogany body
- 24.75” scale length mahogany set neck
- 22-fret roasted jatoba fretboard
- ESP Designed LH humbuckers
- Tune-O-Matic bridge
If you’re familiar with Les Pauls, you can see that this highly-versatile guitar boasts many specs typical of the originals, including the set-neck construction, which is a nice change of pace from the bolt-on necks seen here. That said, either neck joint has its merits, so find a guitar that resonates with you the most. It’s also worth noting that you can find this model in 7 and 8-string guitar versions, called the EC-257 and EC-258, respectively.
Fans of progressive metal might have already got a glimpse of Ernie Ball MusicMan guitars at some point, and when it comes to guitars that are suitable for this genre, this is easily one of the top ones.
After all, this budget version of the Ernie Ball models is a signature design of the king of progressive metal – John Petrucci of Dream Theater fame, hence the name of the design being called the JP. Jason Richardson, one of the best guitarists of this generation, is also known to use Music Man JP models too, so these guitars definitely rip!
While this is a more affordable version of the guitars they use, these don’t skimp out on quality. Here’s what it brings to the table:
- Nyatoh body
- 25.5″ scale length maple neck
- 24-fret rosewood fingerboard
- Sterling by Music Man humbucking pickups
- Modern tremolo
Sure, this type of guitar is well-regarded in the prog-metal world, but it’s powerful and flexible enough for any subgenre, really. I think the guitar’s overall aesthetic is a testament to its versatility, too; it looks super cool, in my opinion, but not totally imposing or old-school like some of the other metal guitars out there, which is welcome to many guitarists who want a more modern design.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get your hands on a high-quality metal guitar! Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, there are affordable options available that you’ll enjoy shredding and riffing on.
In the $500 and under price range, these are my top choices, and to give you a quick recap, we had the following:
- Jackson JS32 Rhoads
- Ibanez RG450DX
- Kramer Striker
- Schecter C-7 Deluxe
- ESP LTD EC-256
- Sterling by MusicMan JP60
No matter the subgenre you prefer – from glam metal to death metal- there is something for you here. So give them all a good look, and hopefully, one of these axes will serve you and your metal needs.
While these guitars are fantastic for their price, you might consider swapping your guitar pickups at some point! Pickups are one of the first upgrades that people make to their guitars and can help them fine-tune their tone. For metal, I’ve made a list of some of the best pickups for metal – be sure to check those out if you can see yourself upgrading your guitar down the line.