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5 Best Metal Guitars Under 500 in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Guitarist playing the best metal guitar under 500

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Best Overall

Schecter Omen Extreme-6 FR

My Rating:

4.6/5

Runner-Up

PRS SE Standard 24

My Rating:

4.2/5

Best Budget

ESP LTD EC-256

My Rating:

4/5

You don’t want to spend a fortune to get yourself a great metal guitar? You are at the right place. I’ll have 5 great options for you, and I will also reveal my favorite pick.

And yes, you can get a great guitar under 500. Even if you want to play metal with it.  I have been playing dozens of guitars under the price of 500 and I could get a really nice distortion sound out of those. 

Picking the one best guitar for metal under 500 is a tough job because ”the metal” is a broad music genre. So, I tried to include different guitars which all have different strengths and weaknesses. That helps you to pick the right guitar for the metal you want to play.

For example, PRS SE Standard 24  is not necessary ”a metal guitar”, but it handles metal tones well and the price is spot on, so I included it here.

In this article, we’re going to look closer at these metal guitars:

Epiphone G-400 Pro Electric Guitar with Coil-Splitting, Right Handed,...
Epiphone G-400 Pro Electric Guitar with Coil-Splitting, Right Handed,…
  • Classic SG styling
  • Alnico Classic Pro Humbuckers with Coil-Tapping
  • Wilkinson Vintage Classic Machine Heads
  • 1960’s SlimTaper D profile neck
  • Mahogany body and neck

ESP LTD EC-256 Electric Guitar, Black
ESP LTD EC-256 Electric Guitar, Black
  • Offers a classic combination of a single-cutaway design…
  • An amazingly affordable way to get into the look and…
  • Features great-sounding ESP Designed LH-150 passive…
  • Even includes set-neck construction and body, a…
  • The controls are Vol/Vol/Tone(P/P) with a 3-way toggle…

PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Standard 24 Electric Guitar, Translucent Blue
PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Standard 24 Electric Guitar, Translucent Blue
  • Body wood: mahogany
  • Neck wood: Maple
  • Fretboard wood: rosewood
  • Bridge: PRS Patented Tremolo, molded
  • Pickups: 85/15 “S”

Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6 FR Electric Guitar - See-Thru...
Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6 FR Electric Guitar – See-Thru…
  • Floyd Rose Special Tremolo
  • Special Floyd Rose Locking Nut
  • Schecter Diamond Plus Pickups
  • Schecter Tuners
  • Limited Lifetime Guarantee

Jackson JS34Q Dinky DKA-M Transparent Red
Jackson JS34Q Dinky DKA-M Transparent Red
  • Body
  • Body shape: Double cutaway
  • Body type: Dinky
  • Body material: Solid wood
  • Top wood: Not applicable

Every one of these axes is here based on my 10-year experience and extensive research.

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.

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

Best Metal Guitar Under 500: 5 Different Options

Best for Oldschool Metal – Epiphone G-400 PRO

Sound: First, let’s hear how it sounds. This video gives you a great distortion sound demo(language is not English but this guy doesn’t talk much):

This guitar comes with a mahogany body and neck. The fretboard is rosewood. So guitar materials are solid for metal. You won’t have issues with these.

Alnico Classic Pro neck and bridge pickups give you a warm and dark tone. Great for riffing.

These mics include coil-split function, so you can make it sound a little bit more like a Fender Stratocaster. This makes the guitar a lot more versatile.

Clean tones of this are actually solid too, I was not expecting that. So those clean intro’s will go well with this one.

In my opinion, this guitar is best for old-school metal. If you like to play stuff which sounds like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, etc. this guitar is a great choice.

If you like hard rock, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, etc. this guitar will serve you well.

 

How easy it is to play?:

The neck shape is slim D. So the neck is slim but a little bit wider on the shoulders. This kind of neck shape makes things easy for your thumb. It is easy to hold it in the right place and that helps you to access every corner of the fretboard.

You can smoothly play heavy and fast riffs with this neck and guitar. Chords come out easily too. Old-school metal solos are the perfect fit for this neck. Some super-fast sweep, shred solos can be a little bit harder to do with this, but if you practice, you can do these solos with this SG as well. Even though the neck is not the fastest, frets are still easy to access.

Out of the box action is pretty bad. Frets below 7th fret are hard to play. You can easily adjust the action, but I would love to see good action out of the box.

This guitar is a little bit front-weighted. It doesn’t mean that the guitar is heavy, the neck is just heavier than usual. This annoys some people but I don’t see it as too big of a problem. I’ve played this guitar several times, but I don’t own this one, so I’m not sure if this starts to annoy when you play it for years and years.

I think that this is a small con, but you will get used to it(make sure that you don’t drop it when you hold it for the first time).

As a complete guitar, this is still lighter than Gibson SG’s.

Quality: Those Epiphone G-400 PRO’s which I have seen and played, I have nothing to complain about the finish. It’s great for the price. It also stays in tune well.

Sometimes this guitar has some fret buzz issues. Of course, frett buzz can almost always be fixed, but this is definitely a con. Thankfully, you usually don’t have any fret buzz issues out of the box

Some users(very few) also report that cable jack is sometimes loose. But you can easily tighten it up, so no big deal.

Some Epiphone Les Paul’s have problems with original mics when they age, but I found no one complaining about the Epiphone G-400 PRO’s mics breaking. So that’s a good sign.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Humbuckers, mahogany body and neck provide nice metal tones for you
  • Clean tones are solid
  • Easy to play riffs, chords, and old-school metal solos
  • Coil-split makes this one really versatile

Cons:

  • Front-weighted
  • Frett buzz sometimes
  • Not the best for fast shred solos
  • Out of the box action is high

Epiphone G-400 PRO is a great guitar for old-school metal. Nice warm tone, coil-split makes it versatile and it pretty easy to play(not the easiest). I would definitely recommend this to a friend, who is after the Gibson SG magic at an affordable price.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

 

 

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. Maple top in a body brightens the tone just a little bit. Otherwise, the sound could be too flat.

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). These are made by ESP for this guitar, so these are a good fit. But not amazing in my opinion. Tone can be muddy if you use really heavy distortion. Nothing too bad and if you are beginner or amateur(like me) I wouldn’t worry too much about this. 

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.

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.

How easy it is to play?:

U-shaped neck with a 13,5-inch fretboard radius feels great. 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 this due to upper-level access and neck shape.

The action was not so good in my opinion. It can be adjusted, but I just love guitars which you can play easily out of the box. High action was a problem for me especially when playing high notes with thicker strings. 

I think that if you adjust the action, this guitar has slightly better playability than Epiphone SG.

Quality: Finish is not so smooth and detailed than in some other guitars on this list, but again, for the price, quality is solid.

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:

  • You might want to replace pickups at some point
  • High out of the box action
  • High notes on thicker strings are hard to reach
  • The U-shaped neck is not the best option for fast soloing.

This one is not a cheap guitar, or beginner guitar. This is a great value for money guitar. Some minor issues can be found, but if you look at the price tag, you can accept those little issues.

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 Metallica, Black Sabbath, thrash metal, and hard rock sounds well. It can also be a solid budget option if you want to play a variety of metal music.

>>Check  Price on Amazon<<

 

 

Most Versatile – PRS SE Standard 24

Sound: Let’s hear how this beauty sounds:

The Mahogany body gives warmness and darkness to the sound. That’s a good sign for you.

Maple neck ensures that you can play lead parts with a clear tone. It also makes this guitar more versatile. The fretboard is made of rosewood, so the tone is definitely warm enough.

Pickups are 2 PRS 85/15 “S” Humbuckers. Pickups also include split-coil function, which adds some versatility.

These mics provide dark and warm tones, but this guitar usually doesn’t sound too dark or flat. Sometimes when you play with heavy distortion, the sound is dark enough, but it lacks some brightness in my opinion. And sometimes sound can be a little bit muddy. But overall, this guitar sounds really good.

How easy it is to play?:

The fretboard radius is 10 inches, so there is a slight curve on the fretboard. Easy for your fingers. PRS Guitars are not known by super fast necks, and this is no exception. It is fast and smooth enough, in my opinion, but there are better options for shredders available.

But even with ‘’not the fastest neck’’ this guitar is really fun and comfortable to play. Especially frets above 17th are really easy to access.

Quality: This guitar is not the cheapest of this list, but it still has some issues. One reason for this is the tremolo arm (whammy bar) and the tuners. Tremolo arm can make a guitar out of tune really fast, especially during a couple of first months. But, gladly I got a really good tip from the long-time owner of his guitar (this seems to work):

After you get this guitar or change the strings, make sure that you stretch the strings and play with the whammy bar for several days. This stretches the springs at the back of the guitar. And it also stretches the strings of the guitar. Give the guitar a couple of weeks and after that, it stays in tune better.

Otherwise, the quality is good. Some users have found some issues with painting(especially in the corners) and with frett buzz, but these are rare.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Can do almost everything(versatile)
  • Fun and comfortable to play
  • Clear tone
  • Dark and warm tone…

Cons:

  • …but the tone could be a little bit brighter and less muddy in my opinion.
  • Some out of the box tuning issues, usually these go away with spring and string stretching
  • Not the fastest neck

If you look at all the guitars in this post, this is, in my opinion, the most versatile one. If I was searching for a new guitar on a budget, I would be interested in this. Because it can do almost anything, and it’s fun the play

I would recommend this to a person who wants to play progressive metal(Dream Theater), hard rock, and lighter metal.

>>Check  Price on Amazon<<

 

 

Best Overall – Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6

Sound: The Omen sounds like this:

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

The fretboard is rosewood, it adds some detail to the sound and makes it warmer.

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

If you have played more expensive guitars for a long time, pickups can sound really average. 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 old-school and modern metal riffs. And this guitar handles the distortion lead sounds really well. I would say that it’s made for fast riffs and solos, sound-wise.

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.

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. In my opinion, the neck is also 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 it’s not perfect. Some frett buzz can be noticeable at some point, it can be fixed, but it’s still a con.

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:

  • Sometimes frett buzz in a long run
  • The sound could be more detailed
  • Some high notes with thicker strings are hard to reach(not too bad)

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 not already own ESP LTD MH-400 and were searching for a new guitar for under 500, I would probably buy this one.

>>Check  Price on Amazon<<

 

 

Best for Budget Shredding – 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.

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. And 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. 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 too hard and spanky for me. So this is not best for clean parts either.

How easy it is to play?:

The neck is super fast. 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 is 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 in quality-wise too.

Jackson Floyd-Ross feels a little bit cheap. And when you get a lower-priced guitar with a Floyd-rose, it’s always a little bit risky in my opinion. 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.

Some fret buzz can be expected at some point with this one (to be honest, frett buzz can be expected almost with any guitar at some point). It can be fixed, but still, annoying.

Summary:

Pros:

  • The neck is super fast
  • Easy to play
  • Distorted lead sounds are great
  • Action is spot-on
  • Fast, power metal-style riffs sound good

Cons:

  • Floyd Rose is a little bit cheap and loose
  • Frett buzz in a long run(sometimes out of the box too)
  • Overall quality is sometimes only good-enough
  • Clean tones are too 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.

>>Check  Price on Amazon<<

 

Verdict

I would recommend Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6 for you or for my friend. 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 4,5/5 stars from me.

I would but the rest in the following order:

  • PRS SE Standard 24, a great all-around guitar that can produce nice metal tones, playability is great but not the best. 4,2/5 stars from me.
  • ESP LTD EC-256, great value for money guitar made for metal, loses quality-wise to the more expensive guitar on this list. For the price, it’s a beast. 4/5 stars from me.
  • Epiphone G-400 PRO, best fit for old-school metal. Not the easiest to play, but not too bad either. 3,8/5 stars from me.
  • Jackson JS34Q Dinky DKA-M, maybe the fastest neck from this list. Sound and quality could be better. Best for fast lead parts. 3,2/5 stars from me.

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

FAQ

What Makes a Great Metal Guitar?

Guitarist playing metal with 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: is usually made of rosewood, 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 provide a cleaner sound and handle high-gain distortions easier. But that doesn’t mean that active pickups are better or worse than passive mics. 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 humbucker-pickups. Humbuckers can provide that dark, warm, and powerful sound needed in metal. Great for distortion, but handles clean parts well too.

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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