In the world of heavy metal, few guitar manufacturers are more tied to the genre than Ibanez, Jackson and Schecter. But which brand is the best?
Let’s compare each of these brands and some of their most notable models to see if there is an answer to this question. If you're looking for a quick summary, here it goes.
Between Ibanez, Schecter and Jackson, Ibanez plays extremely fast and handles riffs of heavier genres like death metal really well. Jackson guitars work best for old school thrash metal of the 80s and 90s. Schecter guitars offers excellent playability and are tonally quite similar to Ibanez. Schecter also specializes in 7 & 8 string guitars.
Hoshino Gakki is a Japanese company and the musical instrument division of Hoshino Shoten, a chain of bookstores, that started producing Spanish style acoustic guitars in 1935, named after Spanish luthier Salvador Ibanez, later simplifying the name to Ibanez.
The modern era of Ibanez, however, didn’t start until 1957, when Ibanez started manufacturing Gibson, Fender and Rickenbacker copies, resulting in the so-called ‘lawsuit’ guitars.
Ibanez finally saw success with original designs in the 70s with the Iceman and Roadstar series of guitars. During the 1980s and 90s, the Ibanez name was truly cemented when the company partnered with Steve Vai and introduced the Ibanez JEM and Ibanez Universe.
This has helped Ibanez establish itself as one of the top guitar brands in the world, and a name synonymous with metal.
In 1978, Grover Jackson bought Charvel, obtaining the company and its name, after being a part owner throughout the 70s. It wasn’t until 1980, when Randy Rhoads approached the company to have a revamped design of the Flying V made.
This new guitar was so different from Charvel’s Stratocaster style guitars, that Jackson decided to put this new design under a different name, electing to go with his last name, thus establishing the Jackson brand.
The Jackson brand quickly gained recognition, resulting in it becoming a staple of heavy metal in the 80s, and today being closely associated with that era of the genre.
Fender bought the Jackson brand in 2002, and Jackson guitars are still made at Fender’s California and Mexico factories today.
David Schecter opened Schecter Guitar Research in Van Nuys, California in 1976. Originally only making replacement parts such as necks, pickguards, tuners, etc.
It wasn’t until 1979 that Schecter built its first custom guitar. By 1983, Schecter could no longer keep up with the demand for custom guitars. The company was bought by a group of investors from Texas, and in 1984, introduced the first series of mass-produced guitars and basses.
These guitars and basses were based on Fender designs, leading to lawsuits, and the company’s eventual closure in 1987. The company was bought by Japanese entrepreneur Hisatake Shibuya, who took Schecter back to building high-end custom guitars.
Mass production Schecter guitars have been built in South Korea since 1996, with US production recommencing in 2013, along with the company introducing its first amp.
Just because you’re a beginner, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on these three iconic brands. They all offer affordable guitars that are great for anyone starting on their shred journey.
Schecter has the Omen series of guitars, like the Omen 6. Made with quality tonewoods like basswood for the body, maple necks and rosewood fretboards, they offer excellent tone at a great price.
They also come with 24 jumbo frets, meaning they are comfortable, especially for beginners, and have an extended range.
The Jackson Dinky series, like the Dinky JS11, is ideal for beginners. They come in both 22 and 24 fret variations, and either a 2-point tremolo or Floyd Rose system to practice those divebombs.
Dinky guitars are made with basswood bodies and amaranth fretboards for great rhythm and lead playing.
The Monarkh series, like the Monarkh SC is also a great beginner guitar.
On the Ibanez side, there is a budget model in nearly all their series’. The RG series has the RG421PB. It has a mahogany body with a poplar top, and a 3-piece maple neck.
Probably the level that most people will look at for a good metal guitar.
These are excellent metal guitars, especially the RG with its high gain Fishman Fluence pickups.
The Jackson Pro Series Dinky has an ash body, 3-piece maple/wenge neck and ebony fretboard. It also has Fishman Fluence pickups, which are quickly becoming a staple for metal playing.
All three these brands have their premium flagship guitars as well for the professional shredder.
Schecter’s C-1 is a true beast when it comes to heavy riffs and scorching leads. Made with an ash body, maple/walnut/padauk neck with ebony fretboard.
The C-1 also uses Fishman Fluence pickups to produce a modern high-gain tone.
Jackson has its Pro Series of guitars to offer as flagships. Like the Mick Thomson Signature Soloist, endorsed and played by Slipknot guitarist, Mick Thomson, you know these guitars are true metal machines.
Ibanez’s answer to Schecter and Jackson comes in the form of the Prestige line of guitars. The RG652AHM is just one example of the high-quality guitars in the Prestige line.
Another ash body guitar, the RG652AHM has a 5-piece walnut/maple neck, using DiMarzio Air Norton and Tone Zone pickups instead of the Fishman Fluence’s favored by other modern metal focused guitars.
There’s of course also the Ibanez JEM that helped propel the company to its modern success.
7 and 8-string Guitars
With metal’s constant push to become heavier, 7 and 8-string guitars have become more and more popular due to the extended lower range they offer.
As a result, these companies also offer 7 and 8-string models, and even 7 and 8-string redesigns of older models.
What Makes a Good Metal Guitar?
With the right gear and settings, practically any guitar can be used to play metal. Iron Maiden has recorded some of the most iconic metal songs with Fender Strats.
There are a few things that can give your guitar the upper hand to make it the best metal axe.
The most important thing I think would be the pickups. Your best option is to get a guitar with high output, humbucker style pickups. EMG, Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, Fishman, these are a few of the most popular and well-respected brands of pickups.
If you want even more power, go with active pickups. Just make sure to keep fresh batteries in them along with spares at hand.
Tonewoods & Neck
For tonewoods, warmer ones are better to emphasize the bottom end that is usually more of a focus in metal than the high end. Mahogany and rosewood would be the top choices for both the body and neck.
For a lot of attack and sustain, an ebony fretboard is the way to go. Ebony fretboards sound especially great on long scale guitars, which metal guitars usually are.
I would also recommend getting a guitar with either a C or even D shape neck. Their thinner than U shapes, making them ideal for faster playing.
Nut & Tremolo
A locking nut or locking tremolo system is a must. You’re going to be picking hard and likely fast which is going to make the strings go out of tune faster. A locking system is going to keep your strings in tune.
USP's of Each Brand for Metal
While each of these brands has guitars that are excellent for metal, they also have their own elements that make them unique.
Ibanez has, in my opinion, the widest variety of guitars. From their S and SA series, to the RG series that itself comes in different flavors, chances are there’s an Ibanez for everyone.
Although Ibanez guitars are probably the most popular among heavier metal genres like death metal and also progressive metal.
If you’re looking for a guitar that can play the heaviest riffs as well as the fastest solos, Ibanez is probably going to have the guitar for you.
Jackson guitars are an icon of 80s and 90s metal. They have refined the sound of this era of metal down to a science.
If you’re a thrasher or just into the old school 80s metal sound in general, you’re going to want to check out Jackson guitars.
I don’t think any other brand does the harsh, aggressive thrash sound better than Jackson. The harsher sound of Jackson guitars also makes them perfect for black metal.
Schecter guitars are a bit similar to Ibanez. They are excellent guitars for heavier subgenres like death metal, or the Korn and Deftones style of alternative and nu metal.
Overall, Schecter guitars combine amazing playability with a very good value for money.
So, which brand is the best for metal? Honestly, I think that is an argument that will rage on forever. Some guitarists trust only Jackson, while others prefer Schecter, and some swear by Ibanez.
The truth is, there is no right answer. It all comes down to your personal preferences and how a particular guitar feels in your hand. Specs can never overpower the in-hand feel and connection that you build with a guitar.
Hopefully this article has helped you find the metal guitar that appeals to you.