New to Audio Assemble?


Already have an account?

Best Metal Guitars Under $500 Review: Rock Hard, Spend Smart

Finding a great affordable metal guitar can be a challenge, especially if you’re looking for an ax for under $500. 

However, that’s not to say that this guitar doesn’t exist. In our experience, it’s all about balancing a heavy sound with reliability and playability. 

In this guide, we’ve collated a list of the 7 best metal guitars under $500. We’ll walk you through their specs, features, and give you our overall opinion. We’ll discuss what kind of sound you can expect from each of the guitars, as well as some of their strengths. 

Join us below as we take you through our top guitars for metal under $500.

Review of Top 7 Metal Guitars Under $500

1. Sterling SR30 Stealth Black

Sterling SR30 Stealth Black

Check Price on Amazon

Starting off our list is our overall pick for all-round metal performance. 

The Sterling StingRay SR30 is a great all-round guitar. Featuring dual humbucker pickups, the SR30 offers a hot sound, perfect for stacking with pedals or driving the front end of an amp.

Known primarily as the daughter company of the guitar manufacturer Music Man, Sterling continues in the tradition of great guitar making. The Sterling line is all about maximizing sound and performance while saving costs on materials. 

What makes the Sterling SR30 a great metal guitar? Well, for starters it looks killer. 

With its all-black finish, you’ll look ready for any genre of metal. 

Another aspect is its 12” radius and fulcrum tremolo system; the 12” radius allows for low action and fast playing, while its tremolo system lets you wail and divebomb to your heart’s content all while staying in tune. 

2. Ibanez GRGA

Ibanez GRGA

Check Price on Amazon

Ibanez is known for building guitars that suit any level of player, and the Ibanez GRCA meets this description. 

Featuring Ibanez’s Infinity pickups, this guitar offers a responsive feel and tonal clarity. 

One key feature of these pickups is that they continue to be clear even with heavy strings, making them perfect for low tunings. 

Featuring jumbo frets, the Purpleheart fretboard emphasizes the rich tonal character of the guitar while maintaining excellent playability. 

Furthermore, its output jack is reinforced to promote durability and prevent it from disconnecting while you’re playing. The tremolo system also offers tuning stability and large divebombs. 

Available in “black night” and “white”, this guitar certainly looks the part. With its low tuning capability, this guitar is a great option for guitarists playing doom and thrash metal. 

3. Ibanez GRG 7 String

Ibanez GRG 7 String

Check Price on Amazon

As metal guitar playing evolved throughout the 1980s, so too did the guitars. Extra strings were added to allow for an extended range and a heavier sound. 

The Ibanez GRG 7 String continues in the line of 7-string guitars; a quality 7-string guitar is an essential component of any modern metal player’s arsenal. 

Finding a quality 7-string guitar can be a challenge as many 7-string guitars have a muddy sound and are difficult to play. 

This guitar has no such faults. The Quantum Pickups allow for rhythmic clarity in the low end while maintaining a crushing mid-range, and Ibanez have utilized their specially designed Wizard Neck to enhance playability.

The GRG 7 string is a great option for players playing death metal, speed metal, or math metal. 

Its extended low range and playability make it perfectly suited for guitarists seeking to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

4. Jackson JS Warrior

Jackson JS Warrior

Check Price on Amazon

Those players who are fans of thrash metal will be familiar with modified explorer-shaped guitars. 

With its natural finish and warped shape, the Jackson JS Warrior is a guitar that makes its player stand out – both visually and musically. 

Reminiscent of the guitars played by bands like Pantera and Slayer, this guitar is a classic metal guitar.

The JS Warrior features a bolt-on speed neck and ceramic humbucker pickups. 

Its neck features a compound radius that creates the perfect playing surface for riffs and chords toward the nut while flattening further up the neck to allow for wide bends and lightning-fast solos. Meanwhile, its pickups give great sustain and dirt. 

Overall, the Jackson JS Warrior is a great guitar for players playing thrash metal but is equally well suited to other genres. Its hardtail design gives a snappy response with a heavy sound. 

5. Dean Vendetta

Dean Vendetta

Check Price on Amazon

The Dean Vendetta is another great all-round metal guitar. Its hardtail system offers tuning stability and great intonation, while its pickups offer all of the dirt and width you could ever need.

With the Dean Vendetta, its simplicity makes it a no-nonsense guitar – one you can count on for reliability and durability.

With a 12” fretboard radius, the Vendetta is well set up for fast technical playing as well as heavy riffage. 

The Vendetta is another guitar that is great for all genres, but we especially recommend it for thrash metal.

6. Ibanez AZES40

Ibanez AZES40

Check Price on Amazon

Because the metal genre is often associated with dark themes and ideas, most metal guitars are in dark colors.

However, for those players wanting to keep a splash of color in their setup, the Ibanez AZES40 is a great choice.

Featuring a huge amount of tonal versatility, this guitar offers the ability to create ambient soundscapes and then destroy them with heavy riffing.

Featuring a dyna-MIX9 switching system, the AZES40 allows for a variety of switching combinations offering a wealth of sounds. 

This circuitry means you can drastically alter your tone, reducing the need for expensive pedals. Such tonal versatility makes the Ibanez AZES40 a great option for players playing contemporary metal or funk metal. 

7. Jackson Dinky Minion

Jackson Dinky Minion

Check Price on Amazon

Described as a “miniscule ax with a monstrous bite,” the Jackson Dinky Minion is a great metal guitar for younger players and players with small hands.

The Dinky Minion features a ⅔ scale length that makes those large intervals just that little bit more accessible. 

What’s more – it features a 12” radius fretboard that allows you to go for those high bends and blistering solos. 

Playing a great-sounding metal guitar is often decided by its ability to drive the signal of an amp or pedal. 

Because of this, the Dinky Minion features two Jackson High-Output Humbucking Pickups. The neck pickup delivers crisp highs, while the bridge pickup is designed to offer maximum sustain and distortion.

While this guitar is well-suited to all genres, players looking to indulge in the tonal nuances of 80s hair metal will find this guitar well-suited to their needs. 

What Makes a Great Metal Guitar?

When buying a metal guitar, there are a few key things to look for. 

Besides the normal qualities of a guitar – such as build quality, feel, and tone – there are a few specific elements to look for in a great metal guitar. 

However, it is always important to note that nothing beats playing a guitar in person and that your definition of the best metal guitar may be different from the next person’s.

That being said, here are a few key features to look for when purchasing a metal guitar online or in person:

  • Pickups: Ceramic pickups offer the most overdrive as they have the highest output. This will allow them to drive your amp or pedals, thus creating more distortion. However, Alnico IV pickups also do a great job
  • Neck radius: A flatter neck is indicated by a higher neck radius. A flatter neck will allow you to play more fluidly and faster, while allowing you to perform higher bends at the edge of the fretboard
  • Tremolo system: Depending on what time of metal you’ll be playing, you may or may not require a tremolo system. 

A Floyd-Rose tremolo will allow you to perform the most drastic dive bombs, but you may find a one-way trem or hardtail bridge may satisfy your needs. 

Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Metal Guitar on a Budget

The best advice when choosing which metal guitar to buy is to check out what your favorite players are using and try to find something similar in your price range. 

For example, players looking to sound like John Petrucci should consider trying the Sterling SR30, as it’s an affordable version of the model played by Petrucci. 

However, as a general rule of thumb, beginner players should prioritize playability and reliability, while more experienced players who own multiple guitars can afford to prioritize sound.

Final Words

We hope that this guide has helped make the process of buying your next metal guitar easier. 

Finding the right ax on a budget is always about finding a reliable instrument that balances sound, playability, and price. We can confidently say that the instruments on this list match this description.