The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Affordable Metal Guitars
If you are a metal guitar player with $300 to spend you might think your choices are limited. Like anything else, when it comes to guitars 300 bucks only goes so far.
But there are some great guitars out there that offer outstanding value for the money. They might not be the kind of the instruments you end up using on your first studio album, but if you are a beginner or intermediate player you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your options.
We’ll start with Jackson Guitars. If you know guitars and you know metal you’re aware that Jackson is about the biggest name on the planet. Their JS series has made some legendary Jackson models affordable to just about everyone.
But there are some other guitar brands out there that make some outstanding budget-friendly instruments. We’ll look at a couple of other instruments that’ll get you shredding and keep you under your spending limit.
I've written another article about some of the top electric guitars for under $300, which you may find helpful if you play rock, blues or other styles of music. However, this article you are looking at now deals exclusively with instruments built for metal. If that's what you need, read on.
Here is my list of the best affordable guitars for metal. Be sure to check out the manufacturer websites for the most up-to-date info on their gear.
Schecter C6 Deluxe
The Schecter Omen is one of my all-time favorites. Look, I’ve been playing guitar for a long, long time. I’ve played and owned some high-end instruments over the years. A few years back I was looking for a cheap guitar I could tune down and mess around with, and I came across the Schecter Omen. I can tell you it’s the best money I’ve ever spent on a guitar.
While I still recommend checking out the Omen, the cost of the guitar has risen just beyond our $300 budget. So, instead, I’m going to recommend the C6 Deluxe. It has a very similar C-shape style, same basswood body, same string-through bridge, and same 24-fret rosewood fingerboard. It even has the same Schecter Diamond Plus pickups.
The difference is the Omen has more ornate inlays on the fingerboard and somewhat prettier hardware and paint job.
Schecter guitars are always outstanding values, but when it comes to getting an incredible guitar for the money they are hard to beat. From hard rock to extreme metal, this is an instrument that sounds way better than it ought to for under $300.
The C6 Deluxe is the perfect choice for serious beginners who are into metal, or for intermediate players on a budget who need a solid guitar for a band situation.
No, it doesn’t have a nasty shape like the others, but it is a great-looking guitar. It’s got deep, dark tone and tons of sustain. The pickups are very hot and can be a little muddy in very high gain situations, but otherwise I wouldn’t change a thing about this guitar.
There are a few different versions of this guitar. If you need a Floyd Rose or a 7-string Schecter, though both will put you slightly over budget.
- What You’ll Like: Great tone and outstanding construction. The overall build feels very solid. Body contours comfortable to play. Pickups run hot and sound best with heavy distortion.
- What You Might Not Like: It doesn’t look as “metal” as the other guitars in this review. Do you care? You shouldn't. The C6 has the sound and attitude to get the job done in every style of metal.
Schecter C6 Deluxe FR
Jackson JS32 Rhoads
The Jackson Rhoads or “RR” design is based around a Jackson prototype design built for the late, great Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, Randy Rhoads. If you don’t know who Randy Rhoads was, his work is requisite listening in your development as a metal guitarist, so you better do some research.
The Rhoads shape went on to become possibly the most iconic Jackson metal guitar design ever, employed by metal masters from Scott Ian of Anthrax to Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom.
This Rhoads model is part of Jackson's JS32 Series. Like higher-end Rhoads models, it has the hot pickups and fast neck you need for shredding, but a price that will get you in under budget.
- What You’ll Like: A classic metal body style, and great sound to boot. Quality hardware and electronics. Slick pin-striping. The Rhoads design has become so iconic in the metal community, and this JS version carries on the tradition for beginner and intermediate players.
- What You Might Not Like: The design can feel a little unbalanced at first when standing, but you get used to it. Sitting and playing may be difficult for beginners and can result in some bad learned techniques. This can be avoided as long as you are aware of it!
Check out the Jackson JS32T Rhoads
The Ibanez RG has been a key player in the metal world for decades, and another one of my all-time favorite guitars. There are RGs at every price point, all the way up to those costing many thousands of dollars. The cool thing with Ibanez is that the affordable versions of the guitars still carry the key hallmarks of the expensive models.
In the case of the RG421, that means a Wizard III neck and Ibanez Quantum pickups. This brings me to another thing I really like about Ibanez: Their in-house branded hardware and electronics are always first-rate. For many budget guitars it seems like cutting a corner when they use their own pickups, but not Ibanez.
Like the Schecter, the RG is a fairly tame-looking guitar compared to the others listed here. But remember it’s not about the look. With a mahogany body, bolt-on neck with 24-fret rosewood fingerboard, fixed bridge, like all RGs this guitar is made for metal.
- What You’ll Like: It’s well made and sounds great. The double-cutaway design is easier to manage than most other guitars in this review.
- What You Might Not Like: The shape isn’t a striking as a V or Rhoads shaped guitar, but that’s okay. The RG delivers where it is important.
Jackson JS32 King V
There is a reason Jackson has such a legendary reputation in the metal community, and the King V is a good example. This is a design made famous by Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine in the early ‘90s.
The JS version of this classic metal monster has a fast 24-fret maple neck, hot humbuckers, and a Jackson double-locking tremolo. Poplar is a less expensive tonewood, but it gives us the warmth and resonance we need to get a dark tone suitable for metal.
For young players, the King V is a great-looking Jackson design, but for us older players it takes us back to the glory days of American thrash metal. With a little research, you ought to be able to find one of these metal monsters for under $300.
- What You’ll Like: Great sound, great looks, and total metal vibe. For many metal guitarists, the King V sits at the top of the mountain as one of the best metal guitars ever made. Getting one for such an affordable price is mind-boggling!
- What You Might Not Like: If you’re still taking lessons the V shape is less than ideal for sitting and practicing. If you are not taking lessons, this guitar is hard to beat.
Jackson JS32 Kelly
Another wicked metal design from Jackson, though a bit less well-known than either listed above. Still, with the Kelly model Jackson proves they known what a metal guitar ought to look like.
If you sit down a lot while, as when taking guitar lessons, this could be a better choice than either of the V designs above. Plus you’ll stand out amongst your buddies with a unique guitar.
Like the King V and Rhoads this guitar is built for heavy tone and shred. Jackson pickups and a strings-through-body design will get you some good sustain, and a 24-fret fingerboard gives you all the space you need for soloing.
- What You’ll Like: Same great sound as the other Jackson models, but a very unique shape. Quality Jackson hardware and electronics. Good-looking color schemes.
- What You Might Not Like: Yeah, the shape is unique, but there may be good reason it’s less popular than the other models. Still, if you like it, go for it.
Jackson JS32 Kelly
Jackson JS32T Warrior
We may as well throw one more classic Jackson model on the list of best metal guitars under $300. The Warrior may not be as well-known as the Rhoads, Kelly or King V, but it's a very metal-looking guitar with all the right stuff under the hood.
The JS32 Warrior has the same great appointments seen in other Jackson JS models. There's the basswood body, bolt-on speed neck with 24-fret fingerboard and sharkfin inlays, high-output Jackson humbuckers and string-thru bridge.
The JS series is really an incredible way for beginners and intermediate guitarists to get into a Jackson metal machine for way less than you ever thought possible.
- What You'll Like: Same as all the other Jackson JS models. It all pretty much boils down to: It's a Jackson, and it's made for metal. Body contours look really good with contrasting color designs. There is also a red model that looks really good.
- What You Might Not Like: You're either going to love the Warrior body style or hate it.
Why Buy Such an Inexpensive Guitar for Metal?
If you are shopping for a guitar in the $300 price range you are not likely looking for a metal guitar for beginners, nor are you advanced enough to justify dropping a grand or more on a high-end guitar. You might be asking yourself if you should even bother with a less expensive guitar, or just bite the bullet and spend $500-$700 on something a bit higher in quality.
It’s a tough question, and there are definitely both pros and cons to guitars in the three-hundred-dollar price range. Of course, the bad part is you may outgrow it soon, and decide you need a more serious instrument within the next year. That’s always a possibility.
But the good part is this: It’s a $300 guitar. If you do decide you need to upgrade pickups, hardware, electronics, or even if you want to hack it up and swap out the bridge, you won’t feel so bad. In many cases, a cheap guitar with some upgraded appointments can outperform a more expensive model, and you can save yourself a bunch of cash.
Never get too hung up on the cost of a guitar. Price is just one thing to think about when choosing a guitar for metal. Find an instrument with solid construction and a design you like. You can swap out parts later if you need to.
Remember that the tone, and the skill, comes from the player, not the instrument. A good musician can make an inexpensive guitar sound like a million bucks.
These are my personal picks for great guitars at low price points, but there are others out there. Do your homework and you can find some outstanding deals. Jackson is by far the biggest guitar name in metal, but also check out Ibanez, Washburn, Schecter, and ESP LTD guitars. They all make models aimed at the beginner/intermediate market.
Good luck on your search for the best heavy metal guitar under $300
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
John Fox from Richmond, VA on February 12, 2014:
Yeah the retail for a new one I believe is like $450. I've played the prestige series like the RG1550 and while they are nice I'd rather play mine because its more broken in. I feel with used guitars they just feel more broken in and worn. Makes it easier to play and feel the brand new ones a lot of times have that "Dry" "sandpaper" feeling to me. They don't feel good.
Guitar Gopher (author) on February 12, 2014:
Awesome! IMO, the lower and moderate-level RGs are great values, and of course perfect for metal.
John Fox from Richmond, VA on February 11, 2014:
I'm really happy with my Ibanez RG370DX I got for $200 it was used though!