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Flying V Guitar Review: Gibson vs Jackson vs Dean vs ESP LTD

The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.

The Gibson Flying V is the forerunner of all modern V-shaped guitars.

The Gibson Flying V is the forerunner of all modern V-shaped guitars.

V-Shaped Guitars

The Gibson Flying V is one of the most recognizable guitar shapes in the world and has become an icon of rock and metal music. But, despite its hard-rocking reputation, this guitar has been employed in just about every genre. Guitarists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Kirk Hammett, Lenny Kravitz, K.K. Downing, and Michael Schenker have relied on the Gibson Flying V for their sound, look, and attitude.

The Flying V debuted back in 1958, and it was a stunning design at the time. Since then the V shape has been copped in one way or another by countless guitar builders. But it’s important to realize that the Gibson Flying V is not only the original Flying V, but the Flying V.

Gibson is the only guitar company out there, besides its little brother Epiphone, which can rightfully call its v-shaped guitars by that name. The term tends to get thrown around to describe any v-style guitar, but when you’re talking about the Flying V, you’re talking about a Gibson classic.

But there are other v-shaped guitars out there that are alternatives to the Gibson Flying V. As usual, if a Gibson is what you want, it isn't likely anything else will do. However, you do have some impressive options, particularly if you are looking for a guitar that's slightly edgier and more modern.

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the best alternatives to the Gibson Flying V from some of the top guitar brands in the industry, as well as the masterpiece itself. There is a reason this shape has caught the attention of metal and hard rock guitarists for decades, and if you play a v-shaped guitar, you are making a statement.

Let's get to the gear!

Gibson Flying V

Today’s Gibson Flying Vs are built with mahogany bodies and necks, but back in the day, they were made from Korina. Like mahogany, Korina is warm, fat, and resonant, and Gibson’s original Korina guitars are worth a pretty penny today.

But mahogany is a great modern choice, and along with Gibson’s legendary humbucking pickups gives the Flying V its thick, rich tone. Gibson uses a classic rosewood fingerboard, and a Tune-o-Matic bridge means solid tuning stability and sustain.

Despite decades of progress in the rock guitar world, the Gibson Flying V remains the simple but effective rock machine that first knocked people out almost 60 years ago. There has been a lot of innovation over the past few years, some of which didn't sit well with Gibson purists, this writer included.

Today, the Flying V walks the line between classic and modern. In Gibson's lineup, you'll find the traditional Flying V, with chrome-covered humbuckers and that iconic pickguard. But there is also the B-2 version, with open-coil humbuckers, a black satin finish and all-black appointments.

The Gibson Flying V is a classic. In fact, it has been so successful that any trip to a guitar shop will reveal a bunch of v-shaped guitars from major brands that have carved their own niches in the rock world. Some give the original Flying V a run for its money, and all have put their own spin on this classic design.

The Gibson Flying V B-2

The Jackson King V

Jackson is the only brand worth mentioning for many metal guitar players. Since the early ‘80s, they’ve carved out a reputation for epic sound and incredible looks. The King V is a guitar that came on the heels of the Jackson Rhoads.

Early models resembled Rhoads guitars with two long points instead of one long and one short, but in later years the King V was tapered back to what we see today. The result is a sleeker, sharper instrument compared to the Gibson Flying V design.

But make no mistake: Without Gibson, the rest of the guitars in this article likely wouldn’t exist!

There are a bunch of King V models in the Jackson lineup, from the affordable JS series to custom shop models. The King V KVXMG is a great middle option that will serve experienced guitarists well without busting their wallets.

The KVXMG features a neck-through body design with a basswood body and maple neck. Basswood is warm and resonant, similar to mahogany but a bit muddier, where maple is brighter and snappier.

These two tonewoods work well together, and the addition of the rosewood fingerboard rounds out this classic profile. An active EMG pickup set is controlled via one volume and one tone knob, plus a three-way switch. The bridge is a Floyd Rose Special.

The King V is a metal monster, and a great choice if you’re looking for a v-shaped guitar.

Guitar World Reviews Jackson V-Style Guitars

ESP LTD Arrow 401

ESP guitars once seemed out of reach for most musicians. It feels like not all that long ago that they made their mark with custom guitars for big-name players, but now with the LTD line, ESP guitars are accessible for almost every level of guitarist.

ESP LTD has also become one of the top guitar brands for metal. And, of course, they have thrown their hats in the V guitar ring, or else why would we be talking about them here?

The ESP LTD Arrow 401 has a great modern v-shape and some interesting appointments. It features a mahogany body with a pau ferro fingerboard, a pair of EMG 81/85 active pickups and Floyd Rose Special bridge.

One of the coolest things about this guitar is the neck-thru build. That might seem like a typo, but no. It’s a relatively unusual way of putting a V-style guitar together that results in excellent tone, sustain, and stability.

Unlike bolt-on necks like we typically see in V guitars or a set-neck design that involves gluing the neck into a pocket in the body, a neck-thru design involves two body wings that are glued onto a neck piece.

ESP always makes great stuff, so if you are looking for one of the top V-shaped guitars out there this one should be high on your list. The Arrow 401 is impressive and stands out even among other Vs.

The ESP LTD Arrow 401

Dean Dave Mustaine VMNT and V Select

Dean is another strong contender in the v-guitar arena and has been since the ‘70s. Some of the best Dean Vs are Dave Mustaine's signature instruments. Mustaine is a god in the world of heavy metal, and a huge influence in the world of thrash metal guitar. As a former member of Metallica who went on to blaze his own trail with the legendary Megadeth, he knows a thing or two about what makes a great metal guitar.

From his early days playing B.C. Rich guitars, to the glory days with Jackson, and now with his own signature Dean V guitars, Mustaine has left his mark on the guitar world.

I really like the Mustaine VMNT lineup, but I know not everyone is a fan of signature guitars. Fortunately, there are many other amazing instruments to consider in Dean’s lineup. If I were thinking about getting a V, and if I were considering Dean, I’d probably go with the Dean V Select.

The V Select features a mahogany body and neck along with a 22-fret ebony fingerboard with attractive pearl inlays. A pair of Seymour Duncan pickups and a Tune-o-Matic bridge round out the appointments. I especially like the Dean v-style headstock, which looks really cool on all of their guitars, but especially the V designs.

The V Select also comes in a 7-string model for those who need a little more range and/or low end.

The Mustain DVMTs are instruments with a unique vibe about them. They are worth checking out if you are looking for a cool v-shaped guitar, and especially if you are into Megadeth. If not, I suggest checking out the V Select.

The Dean V Select

The Shape of Rock

The Gibson Flying V has a legacy behind it that guarantees its place in music history. If a Flying V is what you want, nothing else will do. But if for whatever reason, you decide to side-step Gibson, these three guitars are great choices.

There are other names out there as well. Of course, Epiphone comes to mind. Epiphone is owned by Gibson and authorized to make guitars to Gibson specs. They cost less but have much of the same great look and vibe as Gibson guitars.

Schecter is an outstanding brand name in the guitar world, especially for metal and hard rock, and their V1 is worth checking out. Kiesel a company that builds custom-order guitars has a model called the V220 (which I remember well from the '80s). Washburn has a v-shape in its Parallaxe Series. And there is always the Jackson Randy Rhoads model too. It’s a take on the original V design that has become a classic in its own right.

If you’re looking for a v-shaped guitar you have a lot of options. As for me, I’d go for the original, legendary, classic, epic Gibson Flying V.

Which is the best Flying V Guitar?


Guitar Gopher (author) on February 18, 2020:

@Steven - Not sure what you mean. There are several options mentioned in this article.

Steven on February 17, 2020:

Obviously the writer only wanted you to consider Gibson products. But we live in a world of choice. Get what you want.

Tony on December 09, 2019:

Schecter evil twin V1 Is a monster V

Dan on November 17, 2019:

I like jackson 9ver any gibson guitars gibson blows and is stuck in the 50's jackson.esp and dean are the new way

bk on April 13, 2018:

My 1983 Tokai Flying V flat out spanks the epiphone...tone wise, is as good if not better then any Jackson I have played. paid 232 bucks for it...

the Gibson Killer for sure...

GCMel on December 07, 2017:

You guys forgot the ESP-Alexi (Alexi Laiho's [Children of Bodom] signature guitar), which IMO, is some 10% better than the Rhoads.

The Rhoads is more iconic, alright, and has the compound-radius fretboards that Jackson is known for (I had a Jackson Soloist, which I traded for my Alexi I currently have now), but the Alexi feels more right in the shredding as I felt its neck is a few millimeters thinner, and somehow, ESP's designs of their necks (even the MH-models for example) are made for heavy metal. The Alexi also has a slightly bigger body that makes it feel a bit whole than the Rhoads' steeper shape, thus it's more of a comfortable, niche experience.

Roadking26 on November 15, 2017:

I know this is an old thread, but I had to comment.

Since I was a kid I wanted a white Gibson V (Big Michael Schenker fan)

I have since owned 3, and have sold every one due to poor quality control.

2 2012 standard model. 1 black, 1 white, and 1 200 anniversary in white.

I purchased a Dean, and it played, and sounded so much better once I put some Dimarzio's in it. Super Distortion in the bridge, and PAF pro in the neck.

I just purchased a Hamer Vector V, and it blows them all away. The stock pickups are outstanding. If you are looking for an alternative to a Gibson I highly recommend the Hamer. They make an Explorer also. I also purchased a Les Paul jr Hamer copy with the single p-90, and it is a beautiful guitar. Gibson has really gone to hell. Artist are dropping them, and QC is almost non existent.

Now if I could get my hands on a 70's Gibson V I would jump on it.

Avery Grubbs on October 12, 2017:

Not surprisingly, Jackson dominated. Like you said, when it comes to flying V guitars, Jackson is the only one worth mentioning for metal players