If you want to play heavy metal but are on of a budget, you should know it is definitely possible to find a great guitar for $500 or less. Good, “cheaper” guitars won’t feel like there has been a compromise on quality which is exactly what you want, a guitar that feels and sounds good!
It’s essential to have in mind that the tone is what matters the most about a guitar. Therefore, it would be best to choose a guitar made of mahogany or basswood, for instance. Keep in mind whether you want a whammy bar on your guitar or not, as this will massively influence which guitar is right for you.
Top Five Metal Guitars for Under $500
PRS SE Standard 24 – Best overall
The PRS SE Standard 24 has been recommended by many musicians and guitarists all over the world. If you want a guitar for metal that provides you with versatility, perhaps this choice may be the best for you.
There is no much difference between the PRS SE Standard 24 and the Violet Smoke Burst, for instance (both guitars are from the same brand).
Although it is a bit impossible to make this guitar compete with guitars with higher quality, such as the Epiphone Les Paul SL, it can still grant fantastic results. IT contains ceramic single-coils that allow you to play thicker sounds, which means there are little no-existent downsides.
It is important to note that this guitar’s response to vibrato is not what you would expect for a metal guitar, but you can quickly solve these issues by setting up the guitar with your touch.
Find more information about the PRS SE Standard 24 on the manufacturer’s page.
This guitar is one of the latest installments in Ibanez’s S Series. We are used to seeing high-quality tones in most Ibanez guitars, and this budget guitar is not the exception.
You should first know the most prominent features of this guitar include a two-octave fretboard made of rosewood. It also features a 24-jumbo fret. The guitar’s body is made of mahogany, and the burst is hugely appealing to the eye.
You cannot expect this guitar to excel at cleans, but the mid-ranges can be exceptional. Its tones are hugely solid, but these are just some of the few features that make it stand out from the Ibanez S521 from the rest of its higher-priced counterparts.
Find more information about the Ibanez S521 on the manufacturer’s page.
Jackson JS32 King V
Jackson guitars are one of the most known metal brands among guitarists. The King V is a top tier guitar from Jackson, with many famous guitars swearing by Jackson for their tone, feel and durability.
Still, the King V is part of their budget series, meant to be used by novices.
In general, you can expect this guitar to have anything you would like about a classic metal guitar. However, it has some modern aspects that make it a unique approach to the genre. Although it is more used by those who are just getting started, pro-guitarists also have some great things to say about it.
As it is made of basswood, you can expect it to work particularly great for heavy metal. This feature becomes more apparent whenever you tune the guitar down a few steps.
Additionally, please consider that you may want to change the pickup. Besides that, you can acquire a phenomenal guitar and still be able to “upgrade” it as much as you want for an affordable price.
If you want more information about this guitar, you can find the Jackson JS32 King V on the manufacturer’s page.
Gretsch G2622 Streamliner
If you know about Gretsch guitars, you also know that particular characteristics make this line unique. The Streamliner’s concept is all about bringing those specific aspects together in a budget guitar.
These features include:
- On the bass-side shoulder, you can find a switch with a three-way toggle selector.
- You can control the volume on the treble side horn.
Although we mentioned that Gretsch guitars have a characteristic sound, the Streamliner is far from that concept. The reason behind this fact is its construction, and it provides the guitarist with a distinct response and resonance if we compare it to other guitars from this same brand.
All of this results in a “softer” and “squashier” tone; it can have a solid character to counteract these aspects.
If you want this guitar to sound more like the usual Gretsch, it is not that hard to replace the standard pickups. However, please consider that these pickups hugely enhance the sound potential.
Find more information about this guitar from Gretsch on the manufacturer’s page.
This guitar’s price is under three-hundred dollars. It is mostly made of mahogany, although the fingerboard is made of Indian rosewood.
The Mitchell MD400 offers you everything you would get for a higher-priced guitar, including a unique design, quality, and even modernity. This guitar includes a 3+3 tuner setting that’s located on the headstock. Moreover, you can find a seamless in the conjoining point between the neck and the body.
You could only find most of the features included on the Mitchell MD400 on costlier guitars in the past. However, these are some of the features you can expect to enjoy:
- High-quality pickups, including the Alnico V mini-humbucker and the full-size version of that same pickup
- Tight bass and hugely versatile tonality provided by the coil-tap feature
Do you want to learn more or purchase it already? Find more information about this guitar on the manufacturer’s page.
What makes a guitar good for metal?
It’s common to believe that metal is playable on any guitar if it has pickups and is electric. Although this can be true, and many musicians have been playing metal with guitars that were not made for that specific purpose – like Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, it’s not always like that.
Before purchasing your dream guitar, it would be best if you considered the factors that make a guitar good for metal. Once you understand these key elements, you’ll know the standards that every guitar should meet for you to play your favorite genre smoothly.
We’ll be explaining these factors in-depth:
- Neck Profile
- Bridge and Hardware
Let’s start with one of the essential aspects – the humbuckers. Although single-coil pickups excel at being precise, their width isn’t the best, to be honest. Furthermore, single-coils get “overwhelmed” promptly whenever the signal becomes saturated with high-grain distortion.
What are the results?
All that accuracy we mentioned before will disappear, and the tonality will result hugely “muddy” and “shallow.”
Therefore, it is necessary to think thoroughly about the humbuckers as they can solve this problem quickly. Not only can they solve this issue, but they also will take care of the pickup’s “hum” that is so characteristic of single coils.
You should know that there are two humbuckers types, actives, and passives.
“Passive” humbuckers are widely used in less costly guitars, but they add more expressiveness to the tone. On the other hand, Active humbuckers are deficient in clarity, but they do have a stronger output. We can’t say what the better option is – that is subjective to each guitarist, but it is crucial for any guitar dedicated to metal to have a minimum of one humbucker.
A good neck profile should be thinner and slim, but that’s the standard nowadays, especially when it comes to metal guitars.
People often relate metal music with quick solos and a ton of shredding, and you can achieve that easily by using a slim neck. Although this is not a crucial requisite, it can help a lot whenever you’re trying to do a solo section.
Bridge and Hardware
If it is a guitar destined for metal, you should know that the bride will be any specific type of tremolo.
“Floyd Rose” has become a usual standard nowadays, although many other manufacturers have made an individual version of this bridge.
Tremolo bridges excel at providing you with flexibility, and that allows you to achieve crazier and better vibratos. It’s not rare to see widely-known names within the metal industry using tremolo bridges, but if you want alternatives, then Tune-O-Matic bridges may be the best solution.
As for the hardware, it’s very likely that you’ll find heavy-duty versions most of the time, especially when it comes to tuners. It’s always useful to have some locking tuners that will help you maintain a particular tuning for long periods while allowing you to precisely tune your guitar.
Last but not least, tonewood is another essential factor to take into account. If you want to use your guitar for heavy metal, you should go for mahogany as it provides you with excellent resonance and has enough depth to achieve excellent riffs.
However, mahogany can add a few bucks to the total cost of your guitar. If you can’t afford it, there are options. For instance, basswood provides you with a similar tonal quality, although it is more fragile.
How to choose the best budget metal guitar for you?
There are too many metal guitars on the market, and that’s going to make it hard for you to choose. If you’re interested in playing this genre, it is crucial to consider some factors that can be subjective most of the time for you to get the right guitar for you.
These factors should be taken into consideration when purchasing a metal guitar:
Pickups – As we mentioned above, there are single-coil and humbucker pickups. Although humbucker is more suitable for metal, single-coils can provide great results with some adjustments. It would be best if you chose a guitar with two humbucker pickups, for instance.
Bridge – Bridges have a huge impact on how and what you can play. We already explained some of this above – and we mentioned tremolo bridges as the common standard, but fixed fridges are easier to adjust. This part is easy: choose a guitar without a tremolo if you don’t plan to play too many solos, and vice versa.
Strings number – The number of strings you want your guitar to have should be based on the music you want to play or usually listen to, so this factor is subjective. However, keep in mind that it’s possible to play songs that use six strings with 7-string guitars.
Scale length – Shorter and longer guitars feel different. If you want lower tunings, go for a longer scale.
Brand – We mentioned some excellent brands above, although there are more out there you can choose. Some of the most significant names within the guitars industry are Ibanez, Jackson, and Schecter. Most brands nowadays have been launching new models for the guitarist on budget, and they maintain a similar quality to that of more expensive guitars.
It’s possible to play metal music on a budget. There are some excellent deals out there, but before purchasing a guitar, you should take into account the factors mentioned above if you want to get the right instrument for you.
Although two guitarists may have a similar style, they may have different preferences. Due to this reason, it is crucial to examine and explore each option thoroughly until you find the best guitar for you.
In conclusion, you don’t have to spend a fortune to start playing heavy metal music – or any metal sub-genre, in general.