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

Updated on July 18, 2016
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Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

The Gibson Flying V is a classic, but if you are looking for an alternative there are a few awesome choices out there!
The Gibson Flying V is a classic, but if you are looking for an alternative there are a few awesome choices out there!

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, alternatives to the Gibson Flying V. As usual, if a Gibson is what you what 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 names 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 sixty years ago. There has been a lot of innovation over the past few years, some of which didn't set well with Gibson purists, this writer included.

Today, the Flying V 2016 T, walks the line between classic and modern. You'll see hot, open-coil humbuckers instead of the chrome-chrome covered design typical of many Gibson instruments. There's no pickguard, breaking with traditional design and giving the guitar a sleeker look. The body is slightly smaller than the traditional profile. It's also nice that this guitar is pretty affordable, at least as far as Gibson's go. .

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.

More on the Gibson Flying V

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 Two Awesome V-Style Guitars by Jackson

ESP LTD V-300

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.

Of course they have thrown their hats in the V guitar ring, or else why would we be talking about them here?

ESP LTD V-300
ESP LTD V-300

The ESP LTD V-300 has a great modern v-shape and some interesting appointments. It features a mahogany body with a set-thru maple neck and rosewood fingerboard, a pair of EMG 81 active pickups and string-thru design with Tune-o-matic bridge.

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

Unlike a set-neck design that involves gluing the neck into a pocket in the body, or a neck-thru design that usually means two body wings are glued onto a neck piece, this design involves deep-setting a neck piece into a solid body. Pretty cool!

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.

ESP LTD V Series V-300 Electric Guitar - Black
ESP LTD V Series V-300 Electric Guitar - Black

Some players need something a little hotter, and a little more modern. ESP LTD is known for building amazing metal guitars, and the V 300 is a sharp-looking instrument made for extreme music.

 

Dean VMNT Dave Mustaine Series

Dave Mustaine is a god in the world of heavy metal. As an 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.

Not everyone is a fan of signature guitars, but this one is something special. There are models with solid paint schemes, and others with some incredible graphics. These are amazing-looking guitars!

The Mustaine VMNT is made with a mahogany body, set mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard. This build and choice of tonewoods brings warmth, resonance and sustain, but a little bite from the ebony as well.

The pickups are a pair of active humbuckers, Mustaine’s signature Seymour Duncan LiveWires. Two volume knobs, one tone and 3-way switch make up the controls section. A Tone Pros bridge with string-thru design and Grover tuners are the highlights of the hardware compliment.

This is an instrument with a unique vibe about it, and worth checking out if you are looking for a cool v-shaped guitar.

Check out the Dean Dave Mustaine VMNT End Game

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.

The Jackson King V is a guitar that has built on the Gibson Flying V legacy, and established itself as a classic in its own right.
The Jackson King V is a guitar that has built on the Gibson Flying V legacy, and established itself as a classic in its own right. | Source

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 Custom is worth checking out. B.C. Rich produces a line of v-shaped guitars. Carvin, a company that builds custom-order guitars, has a model called the Ultra-V. 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?

Which V-style guitar do you like the best?

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    • profile image

      bk 

      7 months ago

      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...

    • profile image

      GCMel 

      11 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Roadking26 

      12 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Avery Grubbs 

      13 months ago

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

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