Not every guitar’s made to handle the heaviest riffs, ultra-fast arpeggios or hottest licks. You can try to turn the gain to eleven on a Telecaster, but you know it doesn’t feel right… That’s when you need a metal guitar.
The calling cards of shred/ metal guitars are well-known and universal. Pickups are high output. Necks are thin, action low and fretboard radius flat. Aggressive, sleek and pointy body shapes and uninhibited playability rule the game here, littered with ergonomic features for the highest performance possible.
Modern shred guitars abandon many of the compromises associated with guitars of the past. High output pickups aren’t one-trick ponies anymore – cleans are just as important as overdriven tones. Compound radius fretboards start rounded at the top for comfortable chording and flatten out as you go higher up the frets for your solos.
Guitar builders like and Charvel and Jackson made their names during the shred guitar heydays of the 80s and early 90s. That reputation still holds true today. Modern technology and manufacturing improvements have made these guitars even better, and you don’t have to fork out a fortune to wield a quality shred axe.
We pick out seven shred powerhouse guitars from Jackson and Charvel, all under $1,500.
San Dimas, California – the likely birthplace of the shred guitar when Wayne Charvel moved his repair shop there. Charvel guitars that left the shop with the coveted “San Dimas” stamped neckplates are now the stuff of legend. Today, the name is back, and it still bears many of the high-quality features that made the original guitars so popular.
Although clearly targeted at shredders, the San Dimas is so much more versatile than it might first appear. Its alder body is topped with a beautiful quilted maple top. The fretboard’s rolled edges will please the most fleet-fingered player.
You’d expect Megadeth’s lead guitarist Chris Broderick to know what makes a lean and mean shred machine. And he proves assumptions right with his signature Jackson Soloist 6. The Pro Series is an affordable version of his main axe. There are a number of differences, most notably the stealthy, smooth, matte finish on the Pro Series. The pickups are different too, this one sporting DiMarzio’s CB 6 humbuckers. For a fraction of the cost, there are many similarities to its big brother – the same sleek body is made from mahogany, the same coil-splitting (master volume) and tone-bypass circuitry, and even a mini toggle kill switch.
It’s hard to do a list of shred guitars without an aggressive body shape guitar. Enter the Rhoads – one of the iconic metal guitar archetypes, Randy Rhoad’s legacy lives on in the many models that bear his namesake. A pair of high-output humbuckers gives the axe its grunt, and a double-locking tremolo system allows dive-bombing whammy action. For this price point, it’s a no brainer for those who really need to rock.
When Charvel first released the limited and now rare Model 88, it was a hit. Fast forward 30 odd years, Charvel has rehashed the Model 88 with the Limited Edition Super Stock Model 1888, this time with modern features, and a limited edition tag as well. The slanted humbucker remains, but now the DiMarzio Super Distortion is paired with its single-coil variant in the neck. Modern appointments include a compound radius fretboard with rolled edges.
A contoured neck heel, 1-piece maple neck through construction, compound radius fretboard – these are features you find on higher end guitars. The Jackson X Series Soloist is proof you can get the most for your money, ticking off all these high end specs on its list of features. Built for speed and aggressive tones, this Soloist makes for a perfect shred workhorse, in the studio or on the stage.
The other V-shaped guitar in Jackson’s lineup, the King V is the symmetrical version of the Jackson Rhoads, popularised by players like Dave Mustaine and Scott Ian. The X Series King V KVXT sports a pair of passive EMG HZ H4 humbuckers, a compound radius fretboard for running up the fretboard with ease, and a string-through body for rich sustain.
The Dinky has been a Jackson stalwart, and it’s the ultimate workhorse guitar. This Pro Series Dinky DK3 Okoume is an even more stripped-down, no-nonsense guitar built for unhindered performance. Made from an uncommon wood, okoume is known for its balanced tone similar to alder. Powered by a Seymour Duncan JB bridge pickup and SSL-6 single-coil pickups, you get a guitar that’s capable of so much more than metal tones. Other high-end features include a compound radius fretboard and a graphite-reinforced neck.
For those about to shred, we salute you! Check out our latest collection of Charvel and Jackson guitars on our online store here. You can head down to your nearest Swee Lee store to try these powerhouse guitars for yourself.