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5 Best Metal Guitars Under 500 in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Guitarist playing the best metal guitar under 500

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Best Overall – Schecter Omen Extreme-6

Sound
Playability
Quality
Value for Money
Versatility

Summary

My favorite under $500 axe for any type of metal.

You get:

-Mahogany body & neck (softer wood that provides thick and warm tones).

-Pickups are 2 Passive Diamond Plus Humbuckers, with coil-split. These offer full and thick tones that sound MEAN with distortion.

-Thin-C-shaped neck which is made for fast and heavy playing.

-Top-notch quality for this price.

If all this sounds good, click the button below to see the price, and then come back here to learn more!

4.4

How Omen Extreme-6 sounds:


The Next Best:

Best for Budget Riffing – ESP LTD EC-256


Our Overall Rating

Summary

This guitar is a good choice if you love heavy riffs.

It’s not the smoothest with shredding, but I have not felt that this guitar limits me too much when playing it (I don’t own this, but have played it multiple times).

But this axe sounds good. That’s why it’s here.

Especially with riffs. Really mean, thick and growling.

If this sounds good, check the price and let’s continue from there!

Wide Neck & Flat Fretboard – Ibanez RGA42FM


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Especially if you have large hands or just love wide necks…this axe is worth checking out!

The neck feels and is wider than with most of the other electric guitars(1.692” nut)

Super-flat (15.7”) fretboard makes fast playing smooth and comfortable .

If you want to shred/sweep/tap like Petrucci and Satriani check out this Ibanez!

Best Flying V/Shred Machine – Jackson JS32 Rhoads


Our Overall Rating

Summary

This is for you if:

  • Want to shred with easiest possible access to every corner of the fretboard.
  • You like Flying V’s
  • Want the best flying V under $500

Plus, this guitar comes with evils-sounding pickups…

and the axe feels so good that if you at some point grave for more, upgrading the pups is the best option.

Best under $500 axe for shredding.

Best HSS –Jackson JS34Q Dinky DKA-M


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Great for shredding, and for not so chugging and thick tones

Best for stuff like Iron Maiden…Power- and Speed metal type of metal…

but this can handle heavier riffs too.

But he best thing is the playability.

The speed-shaped neck(Jackson doesn’t want to use traditional neck shape names) is speedy.

This is made for fast playing.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s the entire article summarized in one image:

You don’t want to spend a fortune to get yourself a great metal guitar? You are at the right place. And YES…

…you can get a great metal guitar under 500. I have been playing dozens of guitars under the price of 500 and I could get a really mean distortion tones out of those. 

But at the same time, all guitars under $500 don’t chug. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest some of your time in reading this post.

And now, I’m about to reveal my 5 favorite metal guitars under $500 for you.

Let’s first look at these fine guitars, and at the end of the post, you can find the FAQ section that helps you to make the best choice possible.

In recommendations/reviews, our main focus is: Does this guitar provide great heavy metal sounds?

Other factors are:

  • Quality
  • Is it easy to play?/Can you play fast with it?

Let’s get started.

Who crafted this post:

photo reveals the Owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

Playing guitar since 2009. Mainly focused on electric guitars, although plays acoustics too. Started this blog in January 2020.

 Use the table of content to jump to the section you want:

Best Metal Guitar Under 500: 5 Different Options

Amp plays a huge role when aiming for metal tones… this artilce will help you out: 5 Best Metal Amps Under $500.

Best Overall – Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6

Sound:

Another sound demo for you:

Note: There is Floyd Rose and Tune-o-Matic- versions available. I would go with Tune-o-Matic, but choose the one you like the most!

My favorite.

Neck and body are both made of mahogany, so that’s a ‘’check’’ for warm and dark tone. But at the same time, sound has still enough brightness in it too.

So you get, thickness and warmth, but clarity too.

Pickups are 2 Passive Diamond Plus Humbuckers, with coil-split.

If you have played more expensive guitars for a long time, pickups can sound a bit average, as with any guitar under $500.

But if you just want to get a solid metal axe for under 500, pickups are excellent for the price.

Omen gives you great sounds for both, old-school and modern metal riffs. Plus, this guitar handles the distortion lead sounds really well.

For me, this is the swiss-army-knife of metal guitars under $500. If you want to play all sorts of metal, this is the safest bet in my opinion.

If you want some complaining about the sounds, here it comes…

The sound could be a little bit more detailed in my opinion. And when playing clean parts, especially high notes, I found the sound to be flat in some points. So this is not the best pick for clean soloing. But clean tones are definitely good enough for the price.

So clean intros will go just fine with this axe.

How easy it is to play?:

Out of the box action is really good. You can start shredding as soon as you open the box.

The neck shape is thin-C so it’s really easy the play, even with small hands.

The neck is made for fast playing, and it’s really comfortable. Some high notes with thicker strings are a little bit hard to reach, but not too bad.

This guitar is surprisingly light, and balance is also solid. The  Omen is definitely one of the easiest guitars to play on this list.

Quality:

I think that this offers the best quality from this list. Nothing to complain when I look at it. And I found no long time owners saying that the guitar broke in normal use either. This is always a good sign.

But for this price, some quality issues can always be present.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Pickups are excellent for the price
  • The body offers warm tones with enough brightness in it
  • Thin C- Neck makes this easy to play and made for fast playing
  • Out of the box action is great.
  • Handles every kind of metal well

Cons:

  • The sound could be more detailed
  • Upper fret access is not amazing. (Some high notes with thicker strings are hard to reach)

In my opinion, this is the best metal guitar under 500(which I know about). It has some minor flaws, but for the price, it’s hard to beat this one.

I would recommend this for any type of metal. But especially for modern metal with fast riffs and solos.

If I would be in search for metal for under 500, I would buy this one.

Check Price on:


Best for Budget Riffing – ESP LTD EC-256

Sound: Let’s hear how this one sounds. Check this video to find out:

Double humbuckers, mahogany body, and neck provide dark and warm tones. Plus maple top brightens the tone just a little bit.

The fretboard is rosewood and it feels great. This also ensures that the sound is warm and dark enough.

Pickups are 2 ESP LH-150 (B&N). When it comes to distortion, ESP has never dissapointed me. From their $200 to $1000 axes, pickups chug.

The tone can be muddy with some settings, but when I have played this, pretty amazing.

General opinion:

Some people find these pickups great, some want to replace them later on. If I would buy this guitar, I would start with the original pickups and hear how they sound in the long run.

Plus:

Coil-tap is a nice function, it makes this guitar versatile. Of course, it doesn’t sound like the guitar with a real single coil-pickups, but coil-tap is still nice to have and adds a ton of versatility.

How easy it is to play?:

My least favorite guitar of the 5 when it comes to playability.

U-shaped neck with a 13,5-inch fretboard radius feels good. In my opinion, U-shape is not the fastest, or easiest, but this neck is still really smooth. It felt really comfortable when playing crunchy riffs with this neck.

Frets are pretty easy to access, but as usual with single-cut guitars, upper-level access is a little bit limited. So some super-fast solos are a little bit harder to play with due to upper-level access and neck shape.

But the setup is super-important with this chugger(did I just invent something new?). Otherwise playing can be hard, but with a truss rod and bridge adjustments, you can make it smooth. Reeeaaally smooth.

And playability overall, it’s for riffs. Do you know James Hetfield? He is the singer and mainly rhythm/riff guitarist of Me…(just trying to be funny). Well, you get the point. This guitar shines with riffs. With both, playability and tones.

Quality:

This can compete with any other guitar at this price when it comes to quality. Everything is usually smooth and detailed. At least when I have gotten chance to riff with this.

And one thing surprised me when I was doing research for this guitar: there are almost zero people saying that some parts of the guitar broke in normal use after several years of playing. That’s an amazing plus when the price of the guitar is this affordable.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Pickups are great for beginner metalheads
  • Body materials ensure that this guitar is able to handle the metal
  • Neck feels good
  • Handles the cleaner parts well too
  • Quality for the prize is fantastic

Cons:

  • High notes on thicker strings are hard to reach (Poor upper fret access)
  • The U-shaped neck is not the best option for fast soloing.

This guitar is a good choice if you want to play heavy riffs but not super fast solos. But you can definitely shred with this if you got the skills.

For example, this guitar handles stuff like Metallica, Slipknot, and thrash metal overall really, really well. It can also be a solid budget option if you want to play a variety of metal music.

Check Price on:


Wide Neck & Flat Fretboard – Ibanez RGA42FM

Note: Just updating this post and crafting review about this Ibanez!

Hear how this axe sounds:

Most Ibanez artists are hard rockers, and that’s because these guitars pack a lot of punch. They’re fantastic for your heavier genres, from nu-metal to grindcore and on.

The Playability

Ibanez is the master of fast-playing fretboards, and the Wizard III they equipped on the RGA42FM is among the best in the business.

Measuring 1.692-inches wide, the Wizard III is a bit wider than average. 

But, it’s topped with a fingerboard with a whopping 15.7” radius, making the feel of this neck ultra-wide. It’s super flat and slim, giving you a huge amount of reach around the neck.

You’ve got great fretboard access thanks to sharp double cutaways.

And with 24 frets spaced over a huge 25.5” fretboard, you’ve got lots of room for accurate high-end shredding.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Wizard III neck is really comfortable
  • Features an astonishing 15.7” fretboard radius, this makes fast playing smooth
  • Neck width slightly exceeds average while being ultra-playable
  • Dual Quantum humbuckers offer roaring sound

Cons:

  • Thick tones are not really versatile
  • Sometimes issues with quality (mainly rought edges etc.)

This guitar packs a lot of punch. Fantastic for your heavier genres, from nu-metal to grindcore and on.

However, their super-hot humbuckers don’t really meld as well with softer styles like jazz and soul(though Steve Vai sure makes his guitars sing on some sultry tracks).

Plus quality control with this Ibanez is sometimes hit or miss.

At any rate, I’m sure the Ibanez RGA42FM can do plenty in the right hands, which could very well be yours considering its affordable price!

Check Price on:


Best Flying V/Shred Machine – Jackson JS32 Rhoads

Hear how this flyin’ axe sounds:

For metal, these pups are a match made in heaven. And for the price, these offer amazing value.

You really get those growling, mean and hot, distorted tones needed in metal.

With a crunch and clean, you get solid tones, but nothing amazing. Not bad by any means.

Evil tones…CHECK

Versatile enough…CHECK

But the playability is where this axe really shines.

The Jacksons speed neck feels smooth, fast, and like a neck of a more expensive axe.

Feel of the Speed neck is quite close with Wide Modern C or SlimTaper D. It enables great access to upper-frets, plus it’s super-smooth.

For me, barre chords are a little bit less comfortable with this neck shape than usually.

But there are 3 more reasons.

1. Compound radius.

The curve on the fretboard varies when you move around the neck. More curve closer to the nut and less when moving closer to the body.

This makes playing smoother when you want to riff near the nut and shred near the body. It’s amazing that compound radius can be found from the guitar at this price.

2. Flying V-shape

This gives you upper-fret access that is nothing less than amazing. Every corner of the fretboard is easy to access really. Made for shredding.

3. Jumbo frets plus low action

If you pair these 2, playing is really effortless. You don’t have to press a lot, just shred away.

Overall, this axe feels like an more expensive one. But sometimes quality control seems to take a coffee break while guitars still move down the assembly line.

This mainly results in finish issues and poor setup. Nothing terrible and can happen with any guitar, but still worth mentioning.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Ultra playable
  • Made for shredding
  • Chugs
  • Compounding radius at this price is amazing

Cons:

  • Neck feels alien with barre chords
  • Sometimes issues with finish quality
  • Clean and crunch tones are only ok

If you want to shred with mean tones and are ready to tame a Flying V, this is one of the best options under $500. Easily.

Check Price on:


Shred Machine – Jackson JS34Q Dinky DKA-M

Sound: This speedster sounds like this:

This guitar is different than others on this list.

The body is made of poplar(American tulipwood), it’s really similar to alder. Poplar provides a slightly brighter tone than basswood, and higher notes are more noticeable with this material. So fast shred solos are usually more clearer with this type of body.

Neck and fretboard are made of maple, so this add’s even more brightness to the tone and hides some bass tones. These body materials make the sound of this guitar brighter than the other guitars on this list.

Pickups are Black High Output Single-Coil’s in neck and middle. The bridge pickup is Jackson High-output Humbucker. Humbucker magnets are ceramic.

When these are used on cheaper guitars, the long term quality is a little bit questionable. But I found no complaints about this, so I guess that these are OK in the long run too.

The overall tone is clear and bright, best for soloing and fast power metal styled riffs.

There is enough darkness in tone, but some heavily distorted riffs lack warmness in tone.

Also, some heavy riffs just don’t sound like I want with this one, especially when playing power chords or multiple strings at the same time. The sound is just too light. So, in my opinion, this guitar is not ideal for heavy riffing. But for fast lead parts, the tones are solid.

Clean tones are a bit hard and spanky for me. But this is just my opinion, you might love these.

How easy it is to play?:

The neck is super fast. One of the fastest one in my opinion if you compared it to the others on this list. It’s made for shredding and sweeping.

Out of the box action is in most cases really good. The guitar is light and body balance is OK.

These qualities make this guitar really easy to play and frets are easy to access.

Playability plus lead tones are definitely the strongest side of this guitar.

Quality: For the price, quality is usually good or good enough. But, it could be better. The neck is the best thing in quality-wise too.

Jackson Floyd-Ross feels a little bit cheap. Long-time users of this guitar do admit that Floyd-rose feels a little bit loose, but I found no one saying that Floyd-rose broke in the long run. So this one might be OK. But…

If you want to use Floyd-rose effortlessly, you might need to add some springs to the back of the guitar, it’s probably too loose otherwise. There is already 3 springs, but it might need a 4th one.

Pickups are good quality for the price, usually playable for years and years.

Summary:

Pros:

  • The neck is super fast
  • Easy to play
  • Distorted lead sounds are great
  • Comfortable guitar overall
  • Fast, power metal-style riffs sound good

Cons:

  • Floyd Rose is a little bit cheap and loose
  • Overall quality is sometimes only good-enough
  • Clean tones are quite hard and spanky
  • Some heavy riffs sound too light or too sharp

This guitar is not the most versatile, it has some quality issues and heavy riffs sound sometimes too light or sharp. But if you want to play fast shred solos and are looking for a budget guitar, this might be a good option.

This guitar handles speed metal, power metal, hard rock, and lead sounds well.


Verdict

My favorite is the Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6. All the aspects of it are really solid. Sound, playability, quality, etc. Some minor issues with sound(could be more detailed) and frett buzz bother some users. These small flaws can be expected when the price is under 500.

But still, in my opinion, Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6 is good as it gets for under 500 dollars. It can do anything, but it’s made for modern metal and fast playing.  It gets 4,4/5 stars from me.

I would but the rest in the following order:

  • ESP LTD EC-256, great value for money guitar made for metal, really good playability for heavy riffing. For the price, it’s a beast. 4.3/5 stars from me.
  • Ibanez RGA42FM, a thick toned shred-machine. 4/5 stars from me.
  •  Jackson JS32 Rhoads, best fit for shredding. Really easy to play plus sounds killer. 4/5 stars from me.
  • Jackson JS34Q Dinky DKA-M. Fast neck. The sound and quality could be better. Best for fast lead parts. 3,6/5 stars from me.

All of these are good guitars, especially for the price. 

If you think that this post didn’t have the right axe for you, check our favorite thrash metal guitars out.

Buyer’s Guide – FAQ

What Makes a Great Metal Guitar?

You probably already know what is the most important thing…Yes. It’s the sound. Can the guitar provide nice heavy distortion sounds?

When you are looking for a guitar to play metal with, go to the music store and test how different guitars sound. Watch sound demos from Youtube, read, and watch reviews.

So, the sound is key. But, many things affect the sound. Body material, pickups, etc.

What kind of specs do you need from a metal guitar? Let’s find out.

Body:

If you want to play heavy riffs with heavy distortion, Mahogany is a great option for you. It provides a warm and full sound. The mahogany body is often used in Les Paul type guitars.

If you want to play super-fast lead and solo sections, Basswood offers a little bit brighter sound, but the tones still has some nice warmness in it, so heavy riffs sound good too.

These are my two favorite body materials for heavier playing. Some people also prefer Adler, it provides a really similar tone to Basswood, but it’s just a little bit brighter.

If I had to pick one, I would get a mahogany bodied guitar for me, cause every kind of riff sounds good with it.

Neck:

Usually metal guitars necks are made of mahogany or maple. Mahogany provides warmer sound, so it’s great for heavy riffing. Maple is at the other end with a bright sound, it’s great for fast playing and solos.

My personal neck choice would be maple, I don’t want the tone to be too warm, thick and dark. And leads parts just sound really good with some maple flavor.

Fretboard:

Usually made of rosewood at this price range, it gives a warm and rich sound, great for metal.

Second most common is maple, I prefer it in fretboard material too. It gives the tone more brightness for the lead parts.

Pickups, Active vs Passive:

Guitars under 500 dollars usually come with passive pickups(active pickups are more expensive). So there is almost no other options. But don’t worry, passive pickups can provide nice heavy distortion sounds for you.

Of course, you can upgrade to active pickups later. Active pickups handle high-gain easier and give you more output, but sound can be a little bit too compressed sometimes(IMO).

This doesn’t mean that active pickups are better or worse than passive pups. That’s more of personal preference. Which one you like more.

My personal opinion is this: if you have a 500 dollar budget, you can be happy with passive pickups, absolutely. And you can always upgrade for active pickups later if you want.

Pickups, Humbucker or Single-coil:

I only have one pickup type to recommend for you: get a guitar with a humbucker-pickups. Humbuckers can provide that dark, warm, and powerful sound needed in metal. Great for distortion, but handles clean parts well too.

HSS can handle some metal too, but if you really want to chug, humbuckers would be my pick.

These were the main things that affect the sound of the guitar. Of course, you should make sure that your amp can handle the heavy distortion and that you are using a good-quality cable.

I have specific guides for guitar cables, choose your budget and make the best choice possible.

Conclusion

Choosing a new guitar is always exciting and I hope that this post helped you to pick the right metal axe for you.

If you have any questions about these guitars, just ask, leave a comment down below. Also, if you find this post helpful, share it on social to help others! (Thanks!)

I wish you all the best and keep rocking!

Teemu Suomala

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