Best Metal Guitar Under $500

Updated on February 19, 2017
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Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

ESP LTD EC-256: One of the best guitars for metal under $500
ESP LTD EC-256: One of the best guitars for metal under $500

Heavy Metal on a Budget

If you are a metal player with $500 to spend you can still find a great guitar. Some of the best gear manufacturers put out instruments that will probably be right up your alley. You don’t need to spend a fortune, and you don’t need to compromise on sound and quality if you are on a budget!

Schecter, Epiphone, Jackson, Ibanez, B.C. Rich and ESP are some of the biggest names in the metal guitar world. Below you’ll find thoughts on some of their best offering for the metal guitarist who doesn't have a ton of cash to spend.

Make sure you take your time shopping and choose the best guitar for you and your needs. Hopefully this article is only one of many pieces of information you’ll read when deciding on your new instrument.

Some guitars look metal, but sound weak and wimpy. Remember, it’s not the shape of the guitar that matters, but the tone. For metal, look for guitars made from mahogany or basswood, and consider skipping the whammy bar for a tailpiece that will give you good sustain and resonance. Pickups should be hot and have good low end. Bells and whistles aren’t important: You want a guitar that’s sonically impressive more than anything.

How to Choose the Right Guitar for Metal

You may find you need a whammy bar on your new guitar. You may find you need a 7-string. You may decide you hate all the big guitar manufacturers and want something offbeat.

The point is, whatever you decide has to be right for you. Consider the models mentioned below as suggestions (coming from a writer who has played metal guitar for almost 30 years by the way) but this list is by no means comprehensive.

There are basically three steps to finding the right guitar, no matter what style of music you play:

  • Research: Read every piece of information you can get your hands on. The internet makes this easy. Be sure to visit the websites of the different guitar manufacturers to get your info first-hand. Read reviews whenever you can, but keep in mind that most gear reviews are done by players who are really happy or really frustrated. Most people are somewhere in between.
  • Play: Get out to local music stores and try guitars you think you might like. Try different guitars of the same model, and similar guitars made by different manufactures. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the guitar shop employees, but always verify anything they tell you by doing your own research.
  • Choose: Once you’ve found out exactly what you want, it’s time to take the plunge. Whether you buy online or from a local store, always pick a reputable retailer with a good return policy. Ideally, you should be able to take the guitar home for a while and play it, and bring it back if you don’t like it.

Okay, enough preaching! Here are a few great metal guitars that should cost you less than $500.

Schecter Demon 6

Body: Basswood

Neck: Bolt-on maple with 24 Extra-jumbo Frets and Rosewood Fretboard

Pickups: Duncan Designed HB-105 Active Humbuckers

Bridge: Tune-o-matic with String-thru

I really like Schecter guitars, and I highly recommend them in this price range. They offer quality and performance in a package that always seems to cost less than it should.

Schecter Guitar Research was once considered an up-and-comer in the metal guitar market, but now they’ve etched their name among the elite guitar manufacturers for heavy music.

Schecter models like the Blackjack and Hellraiser are quickly becoming legends, but you won’t land one for under $500. But don’t worry; Schecter hasn’t forgotten about you!

The Demon 6 is a gorgeous guitar, build up from the C-shape body Schecter made famous. It may look pretty, but this guitar has some serious metal cred.

The active Duncan Designed pickups add some sizzle and bite to resonance of the basswood body, and combines well with the punch of a bolt-on maple neck. If you aren't going to go with a mahogany bodied guitar, this is the next best thing. The cross inlays on the fretboard look pretty awesome too!

It's worth noting that the Demon lineup features a few different models for different types of metalheads. You can get a version with Floyd Rose if you feel like you need it, and there are Demons with 7 and 8 strings if you feel like you need a little more range to create your mayhem.

Guitar Center Checks Out the Schecter Demon 6

Jackson Rhoads RRXT

Body: Basswood with neck-through design.

Neck: Maple with 24 Jumbo Frets and Rosewood Fretboard

Pickups: Duncan Design humbuckers: Alnico HB102N (neck), high-output ceramic HB102B (bridge)

Bridge: TonePros with Strings-thru Body

Jackson guitars are known in the heavy metal word as the ultimate weapons, and the Rhoads may be the best-known guitar in the Jackson metal arsenal. Back to the 1980’s, Jackson instruments were played by just about every influential metal band out there. As metal has evolved so has Jackson.

The Jackson Roads is a classic metal guitar with some modern attitude. Here Jackson brings us a great, budget-friendly version of the Rhoads that will meet the needs of intermediate and pro metal guitarists alike. Jackson still puts out the same great shredder guitars like the Soloist and Dinky, but if you are into extreme metal you want this bad boy slug over your shoulders.

Basswood is a great tonewood for heavy metal, especially if you tune your guitar down a step or more. The through-body neck construction and String-thru body bridge offer tremendous sustain and resonance. And, you know, it’s a Jackson!

Some players may wish to upgrade the pickups eventually, but otherwise the Rhoads RRXT is a metalheads dream. At such a reasonable price you can make whatever upgrades you want, or maybe none at all!

Note: The Jackson Rhoads RRXT Series saw a bump in price putting it a bit over the $500 mark. I still recommend checking it out for intermediate-level guitarists.

Guitar World Reviews Jackson X Series Guitars

ESP LTD EC-256

Body: Mahogany

Neck: Mahogany set neck with 22-Extra Jumbo Frets and Rosewood Fretboard.

Pickups: ESP Designed LH-150

Bridge: Tune-o-matic with stopbar tailpiece.

ESP LTD is a brand that excels in the world of heavy metal. The EC-256 has a classic look with great appointments, making it one of the best choices out there for metal guitar players on a budget. It looks awesome and sounds even better.

When it comes to metal guitars some players like pointy shapes that look like medieval weaponry while others prefer a more subdued vibe. The ESP LTD EC-256 has a classic look, but don't let that fool you. It might look slick and shiny, but it reeks of modern metal tone.

The EC-256 has metal roots. The ESP LTD EC-1000 has become a classic in the metal community, known for its great tone and beautiful design.

The EC-1000 itself is based off of the ESP Eclipse guitar. Unfortunately, both of those guitars will put you over your $500 spending limit. But the EC-1000 has a little brother in the EC-256. This guitar will give you a lot of the good stuff you find in the EC-1000, and still get you in under your budget.

The mahogany body and mahogany neck make for great resonance, typical of Les Paul-type instruments. Think deep resonance and solid, chunky chords. Next to Epiphone, this is probably the best alternative to the Les Paul you're going to see in this price range.

Plus, the EC-256 looks amazing! In addition to the classy black finish (which is, of course, the preferred option for metal) it comes in sharp yellows and greens and a cool dark-brown sunburst.

Hear the ESP LTD EC-256!

Ibanez RG and S Series Guitars

The Ibanez RG Series and S Series are some of the most amazing metal guitars out there. They range in skill level from guitars intended for beginners, to instruments more suited for professionals. There are several models in the $500 range, and they are outstanding metal guitars for intermediate players. It’s hard to pick one Ibanez guitars as best under $500, but here are a couple to start with:

  • The RG450 has the traditional basswood body that the Ibanez RG Series is known for, along with a Wizard III neck and Edge II tremolo.
  • The S520 is a mahogany-body shred machine with a Wizard III neck and a pair of Infinity Humbuckers.

Ibanez guitars are always fast, and even in the intermediate price ranges you can expect excellent quality and sound. This is why Ibanez is the first choice of many guitars players who play heavy metal music.

Ibanez RG7421 7-String

Body: Basswood

Neck: Wizard II-7 3-piece Maple neck with 24 Jumbo Frets, Rosewood Fretboard

Pickups: Ibanez Quantum

Bridge: Fixed

Need a 7-string?

Ibanez is known for making great shred guitars like the S and the RG series, but this beast is something else altogether. You might not realize it, but Ibanez was also the pioneer of 7-string guitars for heavy metal.

The Ibanez RG7421 is the most cost-effective way to land a 7-string guitar today. Why tune your six-string down until the strings are sagging when you can add a low B? Or, maybe you want to tune the 7-string down too!

Whatever. From death metal to modern thrash, grindcore, power metal and even progressive metal, more and more guitar players are switching to a 7-string to get he sound they want.

If you're going to make the switch you may as well start with the biggest name in the 7-string metal guitar world: Ibanez. It's an RG, with an extra string, and one of the best metal guitars under $500.

Geared up for metal mayhem and great for extreme, detuned metal. Ibanez hardware and electronics are always first class.

Definitely not for everyone. Traditional metal players may still not get the 7-string thing. As for me, I eventually came around.

The Ibanez RG7421

Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Body: Mahogany

Neck: Set Mahogany with 22-fret Rosewood Fretboard

Pickups: Alnico Classic Humbuckers

Bridge: Tune-o-matic with stopbar tailpiece

Why is there an Epiphone Les Paul in the list of best guitars for metal? Because in the minds of many it’s hard to beat that deep, rich Les Paul sound when it comes to heavy music.

Gibson Les Pauls have been used in heavy metal since the genre was invented, and their tone is unmatched. Of course a Gibson is way out of the budget, but an Epi Les Paul will get you under $500 with a few bucks to spare.

Solid construction, mahogany all around, built for resonance and sustain. Sounds great with a high-gain amplifier.

Pickups can be a little dull. Depending on how much distortion you use, this could be an issue.

Good Luck!

Remember, only you can choose the right guitar for your style and needs. Take your time, do your research and shop around before making your purchase. You’ll be glad you did.

So which would I choose?

Personally, I'd go with the EC-256 over the Schecter Demon, but only by a narrow margin. I love mahogany bodies and set mahogany necks for metal, and the EC-256 gives me that in a very affordable way. I do like the Schecter though, so if you prefer a guitar with a bit more punch don't let my opinion sway you.

The Jackson is just plain awesome. I played a Rhoads-shaped guitar for a long time in the '80s and I loved it. It's a mean-looking guitar that sounds great.

Of course if you want a 7-string Ibanez is a no-brainer. They are the leaders of the pack in the 7 and 8- string guitar world.

One more thing worth noting: Even though you may purchase a less expensive guitar now, you still may choose to upgrade it later. There are many, many guitars out there, even some used by professional musicians, that started out as “pretty good” but with a few upgraded components became metal tone machines.

If you choose a guitar made from good tonewood, and with a solid structure, you can always modify everything else down the road. Of course these guitars are good enough leave them as-is if you wish too.

Good luck! With a little patience you can definitely find a great metal guitar for under $500!

Ibanez RG7421
Ibanez RG7421

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      • profile image

        Carly 10 months ago

        I think I am quite disappointed to not see a mention of the Antoria Custom Les Paul copy, or indeed the brand Antoria. I had a black left hander Les Paul back in the late 80`s, and it was so smooth & precise on the neck & frets and the sound was amazing.

      • profile image

        Anton 2 years ago

        Hey! Just wanted to give you a heads up about the Jackson JS22-7 - it seriously rivals the RG7421 for like... half the price! It's an absolute steal and I love mine immensely.

      • Guitar Gopher profile image
        Author

        Guitar Gopher 4 years ago

        Go for it, Raymond! :-)

      • raymondphilippe profile image

        Raymond Philippe 4 years ago from The Netherlands

        I wish i could make some noise with these guitars. Good info btw.

      • Guitar Gopher profile image
        Author

        Guitar Gopher 4 years ago

        Thanks My Cook Book. I've been trying to get better at cooking lately, so maybe you should try to learn guitar! :-)

      • My Cook Book profile image

        Dil Vil 4 years ago from India

        I don't know how to play, good information anyway. Thank you for sharing sharing this informative hub.

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