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Best Guitars for Metal! (2019)

   What is it that makes a guitar good for the Metal Genre? Is it the style, shape, brand name, scale length, number of frets, or the type of pickups it has? I contend that all these things and more can factor into what makes a good "Metal Guitar". It's also important to look at what the popular guitarists in the Genre are using. They are some of the most talented guitarists in the world, and the gear they choose influences the market and overall opinion.   

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    When it comes to Metal Guitars several brands come to mind right away. Schecter, Ibanez, Jackson, ESP LTD, and Dean. These companies have become commonplace in metal and for good reason. They make what Metal Players want in a guitar again and again. Ultimately, you should make your choice based on what you like in a guitar. But these brands are a great starting point in your search for the perfect metal axe.

Things to Consider Before You Buy

    Before you narrow down your guitars, you need to know what type of sound you are going for. Most Metal guitars have humbuckers that are either Active or Passive.

-Passive Pickups: Consist of two magnets wrapped in coils of wire that pick up the electrical signal produced by the vibrating strings. Does not require power.

-Active Pickups: Very similar but with less coils of wire. In its place is an active built in preamp to boost the signal from the strings. Requires a power supply, usually in the form of a 9 volt battery.

 

Passive = No Battery

Active = 9 Volt Battery

Passive Pickups are much more natural sounding and are used in most guitars today. They come in a wide range of magnet types, output strength, and every type of EQ you can think of. They are much more versatile than than Active Pickups. 

The Seymour Duncan JB is an example of Passive Pickup design.

Pros:

  • Natural, Dynamic Tone

  • Do not require a power source

Cons:

  • Produce a weaker signal, so very long lengths of instrument cable can suck tone.

Active Pickups have a built in Pre Amp powered by a battery. Long lengths of guitar cable are not a problem for active pickups. They have a reputation for producing a consistent tone no matter what guitar you  put them in. They sound as good in cheap pawn shop guitar as they do in a high end Artist Model Ibanez. Because they require less magnetic power, they are less likely to dampen string vibration and sustain.

Pros:

  • Consistent Tone No Matter the Guitar

  • Quiet Operation, Because of Shielding

  • Less Pull on strings = Better Sustain

Cons:

  • Flat Tone

  • Battery Powered means your tone will weaken as the battery drains. (Why I removed my EMGs to go passive.)

The EMG 85/ EMG81 are examples of Active Pickup Design. Active pickups often have a "black-out" appearance.

Overall, I prefer passive for metal and every other genre. Active pickups just don't produce rich guitar tone IMO. Literally one hour after installing a new $10 9 volt my tone would change and go all weak. Passive pickups can achieve the same or better searing guitar tone without the hassle of a battery. 

Best Guitars for Metal

   This is one of the best selling metal guitars available today. They've been making this model for a long time. I personally own this guitar and have used it for years. It is as well made as guitars can come. The setup from the factory was spot on. The Floyd Rose is a great resource for metal music. Its capable of some crazy music.

 

    It does well with Extra Heavy Guage Strings for De-Tuning down to B. The way it looks is just stunning with the white body, black pickups, and mother of pearl outlining the body. The neck is a little fatter than my Schecter Blackjack, but you get used to that. I would prefer an unfinished neck rather than the gloss finished neck that it comes with. The push pull knobs add functionality and adds a plethora of tonal possibilities.

  • Controls: Volume (Push-Pull)/Volume (Push-Pull)/Tone/3-Way Switch

  • Bridge Pickup: EMG 81TW

  • Neck Pickup: EMG 89R

  • Tuners: Grover

  • Neck Material: Mahogany 3-pc

  • Inlays: Abalone Gothic Crosses

  • Scale: 25.5” (648mm)

  • Neck Shape: Thin ‘C’

  • Frets: 24 X-Jumbo

  • Nut: Floyd Rose

  • Truss Rod: 2-Way Adjustable Rod w/ 5/32” (4mm) Allen Nut

   The thing that really makes this Les Paul style guitar special is the 24 Jumbo Frets. How many Gibson/Epiphone Les Pauls have you seen with 24 frets? I can't recall ever seeing one. That feature alone makes this guitar worth it. The next time I buy a Les Paul, its going to be an ESP-LTD.

   A total crunch machine! Pick up the ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 Electric Guitar and you'll believe this lightweight beauty can do it all. Built to crunch with its mahogany body, set mahogany 24-3/4"-scale neck, and rosewood fretboard (ebony on vintage black). Abalone flags plus the model name at the 12th fret give it distinction.

   

The TonePros locking bridge and tailpiece keep tuning rock-solid. Features a flamed maple top and a pair of active EMG-81/60 pickups, except the amber sunburst model that sports a Seymour Duncan JB/59 passive pickup setup. See-thru colors all have quilted maple tops.

Features:

  • Mahogany body

  • Mahogany neck

  • 24-3/4" set neck

  • Thin U neck contour

  • Rosewood fretboard (ebony on vintage black)

  • Abalone flags plus the model name at the 12th fret

  • 42mm standard nut

  • 24 extra jumbo frets

  • TonePros locking Tune-o-matic bridge

  • Genuine EMG 81/60 pickups (Seymour Duncan JB/59 set on amber sunburst model)

  • ESP locking tuners

  • Black hardware (gold on black and vintage black, chrome on amber sunburst)

   I'm generally not a Dean guitar guy. They tend to specialize in the crazy body shape guitars, and that just never appealed to me. However, they did get my attention with this guitar. Dean only has a handful of artist models. Rusty Cooley is one of those Artists, and for good reason. He is well known for his impressive guitar feats and he would settle for nothing less than the best. If he designed this guitar, you can rest assured it is well suited to the metal genre.

   The Dean Rusty Cooley 7-String Exotic Electric Guitar will instantly breathe new life and depth into your playing. This signature 7-string features a mahogany body with a flame maple top and finish that lets the wood grain shine through. The bolt-on maple neck is custom shaped to Rusty's playing style and has an ebony fingerboard with 24 frets and Cooley inlays. Black hardware includes Grover tuners and a Floyd Rose FRTS2000 7-string bridge. Electronics consist of Dual EMG 707 humbuckers wired to a 3-way switch a single Volume control for ultra rapid sonic adjustments. 

Body Material: Mahogany

Neck Material: Maple

Scale Length: 25 1/2" (648mm)

Construction: Bolt-On Neck

Neck Shape: Rusty Cooley Spec. Slim D Shaped

Fretboard Material: Ebony

Inlays: Pearl Xenocide

# of Frets: 25 1/2 Jumbo

Fretboard Radius: 16" (406mm)

Bridge: Floyd Rose Pro 2000 7-String (Korean)

Pickup (Neck): EMG 707

Pickup (Bridge): EMG 707

Country of Origin: Republic of Korea

Truss Rod: Dual Action

Controls: One Volume / 3-Way Blade

Jackson Guitars have been a tradition in the heavy metal genre. They have a menacing look to them, and guitarists worldwide recognize their value when it comes to shredding. If you haven't considered a Jackson yet...perhaps its time you do?

Shred in comfort and style with the innovative Jackson Pro Soloist SL2Q MAH, the final word in high-tech guitar design. A high performance evolution of the electric guitar, this instrument opens up new horizons of playability, resetting the bar of what's possible in guitar design. Unlock your full potential as a player and realize your musical dreams.

Features:

Body

  • Body shape: Double cutaway

  • Body type: Solid body

  • Body material: Solid wood

  • Top wood: Quilted Maple

  • Body wood: Mahogany

  • Body finish: Gloss

  • Orientation: Right handed

Neck

  • Neck shape: Speed

  • Neck wood: 1-piece Maple with

         graphite reinforcement

  • Joint: Neck-through

  • Scale length: 25.5 in.

  • Truss rod: Standard

  • Neck finish: Oiled

Fretboard

  • Material: Ebony

  • Radius: Compound

  • Fret size: Jumbo

  • Number of frets: 24

  • Inlays: Piranha tooth

  • Nut width: 1.69 in. (43 mm)

Pickups

  • Configuration: HH

  • Neck: SH-6N Distortion

  • Middle: Not applicable

  • Bridge: TB-6 Distortion

  • Brand: Seymour Duncan

  • Active or passive pickups: Passive

   What does it take to make a legendary guitar player happy? What does this legend need in a guitar? I have the answer. Just look to the ESP-LTD KH-602. This axe has everything a guitarist needs in order to shred.

  Thru-body neck for more sustain and tone.

The ESP LTD KH-602 Kirk Hammett Signature Guitar is great for lightning fast leads. With the KH body style and Kirk's trademark skull-and-crossbones inlays, this ESP guitar steps up with an alder body, rock-solid maple neck-thru construction, a rosewood fingerboard, EMG-81/60 active humbuckers, and a Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo. Extra-jumbo frets. Black hardware. 2 volume, tone, and 3-way switching controls.

Features:

  • Neck-thru-body construction

  • Alder body

  • 3-piece maple neck

  • Extra-thin U-shaped neck contour

  • 25.5" scale

  • Rosewood fingerboard

  • design

  • 42mm nut width

  • 24 extra-jumbo frets

  • Dual EMG-81 bridge and EMG-60 neck active humbuckers

  • Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo bridge

  • Locking nut

  • ESP tuners

  • 2 volume, tone, and 3-way switching controls

  • Skull and bones inlays

  • Black hardware

   The ESP LTD Deluxe MH-1000 electric guitar features a set-thru 3-piece maple neck, mahogany body with gorgeous carved maple top, and a rosewood fretboard. The thin, U-shaped neck with 24 extra jumbo frets provides comfort and speed. An EMG-81 humbucker at the bridge and an 85 at the neck provide plenty of power and note definition.

 

   Grover tuners and an FR locking nut keep you tuned and intoned, so you'll sound your best. Volume, tone and a 3-way toggle give you options with simplicity. Genuine Floyd Rose bridge let you dive bomb the night away. Black hardware, offset abalone block inlays and white with abalone purfling finish off a great look.

Features:

  • Set-thru neck

  • 25.5" scale

  • Mahogany body

  • Quilted maple top

  • (See-Thru Blue and See-Thru Black)

  • Maple neck

  • Rosewood fingerboard

  • Locking nut

  • 42mm neck width

  • Thin U neck contour

  • 24 XJ frets

  • Black nickel hardware

  • Grover tuners

  • Floyd Rose 1000 Series bridge

  • EMG-81(bridge)/EMG-85 (neck) Active humbuckers

The LTD EC-1001FR Electric Guitar packs a lot of great features. It has a mahogany body with set-neck construction. The neck has a thin-U contour with rosewood fingerboard and 24 extra-jumbo frets. EMG Metalworks pickups offer terrific tones as well as a unique look. A Floyd Rose tremolo is onboard and ready to take you wherever your muse wants to go.

Features:

  • Set-neck construction 24.74" scale

  • Mahogany body

  • Rosewood fingerboard

  • Thin-U neck contour

  • Black nickel hardware

  • 24XJ frets

  • EMG Metalworks 81/60 P.U.

  • Floyd Rose bridge

  • Finish: see-thru black

   With seven strings and a long 26-1/2" scale length, the Schecter Hellraiser C-7 with Floyd Rose Sustaniac Electric Guitar is made to play heavy rock and metal music. Other heavy-rock essentials found on this beast include a set-neck with 24 extra-jumbo frets, solid mahogany body with quilted maple top (black cherry), EMG Active 81-7/Sustainiac active humbuckers with dual mini switches, and a Floyd Rose 1000 series tremolo bridge with a locking nut. You will never be happy with just six strings again after you experience the low end growl of the C-7 Sustainiac.

EMG Active 81-7/Sustainiac Pickups
Bridge:The 81 is at its best for high volume overdrive and amps giving it a razor sharp attack, and incredible sustain for brilliant soloing. Sustainiac: This Driver/Pickup produces beautiful Humbucker tones when Sustain switch is off, and works as the Sustainiac Driver when switched On. The Sustainiac Driver creates an infinite feedback sustain of string vibrations by electromagnetic feedback.

Sustainiac Functions
The 'Secret Weapon' for controlled feedback and infinite sustain. First, the pickup signal is processed by the Sustainiac circuit, and then connected to the Sustainiac Driver. The Driver turns the amplified note into vibrational energy. This vibrational energy is then fed back into the strings for infinite sustain. This string vibration is similar to playing in front of a loud Amp.

Sustainiac Mini Switches
On/Off & Normal/Mix/Harmonic Mini Switch Functions
On/Off Switch: This turns on/off the Sustainiac driver. Normal/Mix/Harmonic Switch: Normal Mode- String vibration will continue to ring natural fundamental note. Mix Mode- Some frets yield fundamentals, while others yield harmonics. Notes below the 12th fret will mostly morph into 2nd or 3rd harmonics. Harmonic Mode- Sustained notes morph into a high 5th or 7th harmonic vibration.

   The ESP LTD James Hetfield Signature Iron Cross Electric Guitar is designed to the meet the performance demands of its namesake. It features a mahogany body with a maple top, distinctive graphics and set-neck construction. The mahogany neck has a thin U-shape profile and smooth ebony fretboard. Black hardware is used throughout, including the TonePros tune-o-matic bridge and LTD locking tuners. A JH signature set of EMG humbuckers provides all the killer tones that metal players seek. 

Features:

  • Set-neck construction

  • 24.75" scale

  • Mahogan body

  • Maple top

  • Mahogany neck

  • Ebony fretboard

  • 42mm standard nut

  • Thin U neck contour

  • 22 XJ frets

  • EMG JH Signature set (B & N) active pickups

  • Vol/Vol/Tone/Toggle Switch

  • Black hardware

  • LTD locking tuners

  • TonePros tune-o-matic bridge & tailpiece

There are 2 things I really like about this axe. 1. It is a Munky Signature Ibanez. 2. It has Dimarzio Blaze Pickups, and I love Dimarzio. 

James Munky Shaffer has been associated both with Ibanez and 7-string guitars for 20 years. One of the many young players who found themselves transfixed by Steve Vais 7-string virtuosity, Munky's first 7-string was a Universe. But it was only a matter of time before Munky, along with the band mates who would become Korn, found his own earth churning style of 7-string play.

As the band gained artistic and commercial momentum, Munky and Ibanez began a guitar-designing collaboration for the ages, and now its latest fruit is the APEX20. The Basswood, the 3pc Maple neck and Rosewood fingerboard comprise the foundation for the APEX20, delivering the combination of musicality and durability that Munky needs.

The Gibraltar Standard II-7 bridge provides the picking hand enormous freedom. Whole step down factory tuning and the DiMarzio Blaze pickups emphasize treble and bass, and are particularly designed to articulate the 7th string with notable clarity.

   One of the best features on this guitar is the Dimarzio Titan Pickups. I searched for weeks before I found these pickups. I needed a set of decent pickups for an Active to Passive conversion on one of my guitars. These Titans fit the bill, and I'm super impressed with their power.   

   The Ibanez JBM10FX solidbody electric guitar is a more affordable version of Periphery guitarist Jake Bowen's cutting-edge 6-string signature model. Though it carries a lower price tag, the JBM10FX cuts no corners. It offers a powerful, cutting duet of Bowen's signature DiMarzio Titan humbucking pickups. The nyatoh body is outfitted with a Gibraltar Standard II bridge for maximum sustain and spot-on intonation. And the maple neck is carved to Ibanez's sleek Wizard III profile. The JBM10FX is a devastating instrument without a devastating price.

Features:

  • neck type: Wizard III Maple neck

  • top/back/body: Maple topNyatoh body

  • fretboard: Bound Jatoba fretboardJBM special inlay on 12th fret inlay

  • frets: Jumbo frets

  • number of frets: 24

  • bridge: Gibraltar Standard II bridge

  • string space: 10.8mm

  • neck pickup: DiMarzio® Titan™ (H) neck pickupPassive/Ceramic

  • bridge pickup: DiMarzio® Titan™ (H) bridge pickupPassive/Ceramic

  • factory tuning: 1D,2A,3F,4C,5G,6C

  • string gauge: .011/.014/.019/.032/.044/.056

  • nut: Plastic

  • hardware color: Black (Gold machine heads)

   This is a special guitar! Brian Head Welch from KORN designed this axe. If I could have one guitar from this list it would be this one, the ESP LTD SH-7 Evertune Signature Series Brian "Head" Welch. This axe has all the bells and whistles. Like the James Hetfield signature series, this axe sports a very specialized set of pickups. They offer the best of passive pickups and active pickups...combined but you can switch between the two distinct voices. This is a truly purpose built metal guitar!

   

   The ESP SH-7ET Brian "Sir Headly" Welch Head-7 solidbody electric guitar is a unique seven-string guitar designed for a unique guitarist. At its core, you have a resonant basswood body, a three-piece maple neck with Thin U profile, and a sleek ebony fretboard with 24 extra-jumbo frets. But what really sets this guitar apart is a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucking pickups, offering two distinct voicings for massive humbucker tone with extreme fidelity. Finally, the Evertune bridge maintains seemingly-impossible tuning stability, no matter how aggressively you play the ESP SH-7ET Brian "Sir Headly" Welch Head-7

Features:

  • Signature 7-string guitar with premium appointments

  • Gorgeous flame maple atop a resonant basswood body

  • EverTune bridge for amazing tuning stability even after aggressive playing

  • Fishman Fluence Modern humbucking pickups offer two distinct voicings for a huge range of tone

  • Extra Thin U neck profile plays fast and smooth

  • 24 extra-jumbo frets

  • LTD locking tunings for tuning stability

   One of my absolute favorite metal bands OF ALL TIME is August Burns Red. They have created some of the most uniquely brutal music in the metal genre. I have yet to find another band that sounds anything like them. When I found out their guitarist JB Brubaker had a signature guitar, I had to include it in this list. How could I not?

August Burns Red:

Since their formation in 2003, August Burns Red, the local upstart from Lancaster, PA has evolved into one of the biggest names worldwide in the modern metal scene, continually growing and connecting fiercely with a colossal legion of fans. 

Ibanez JBBM20 GR JB Brubaker Signature Electric Guitar

   EMG pickups effectively produce a distinctive tone with quick, complex distortion and plenty of depth to ensure a lasting impression. The Gibraltar Standard II is a simple fixed bridge that was designed to unify with the guitar's body and provide optimal transfer of each string's vibration. Smooth surface is designed to maximize playing comfort.

Features:

  • neck type: JBBM 3pc Maple/Purpleheart

  • body: Mahogany body

  • fretboard: Ebony fretboard w/White dot inlay

  • fret: Jumbo frets

  • bridge: Gibraltar Standard II bridge

  • neck pickup: EMG 85 (H) neck pickup (Active/Alnico)

  • bridge pickup: EMG 81 (H) bridge pickup (Active/Ceramic)

  • factory tuning: 1D, 2A, 3F, 4C, 5G, 6C

  • string gauge: .010/.013/.017/.030/.042/.052

  • hardware color: Cosmo black

  • Weight: 6.6 lbs

Conclusion:

   Well, I hope this has been of some help to you. This list is a collection of the best selling and highest rated metal guitars I could find. I recommend these guitars based on my hands on experiences. The Metal Genre is incredibly demanding on it's guitar players.Therefore, you must have the right tool for the job. The competition among players is astounding to me at times. You have to be at the top of your game to get noticed. 

   These guitars can be excellent foundations on which you can build your speed, agility, and stamina. Half the battle in this genre is being able to play quickly and accurately. You can't expect a Gretsch Hollow Body to facilitate your sweep picking skills. Your axe needs to be purpose built for metal. If you have any questions or comments, please use the comment section below. You can also contact me personally at Kelsey@AxeDr.com if you need to.

   I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of tone.

Sincerely,

The Axe Dr.

Kelsey@AxeDr.com

https://www.AxeDr.com

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