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Reasons why I will never own a "metal" guitar

LTD V-50

In the computer world, whenever you see anything labeled "gamer", it's usually junk. You'll pay a high price for whatever the gamer thing is, and then get seriously ticked off when the gamer thing breaks less than 3 years later.

"Metal" guitars are exactly the same thing, if not worse. You pay a premium for what you're told will give you that hard-edged metal sound, only to discover that no matter how much you paid for it, it will bust in less than 3 years because it's junk.

Any time some metal guy blabs that you're "paying for quality" with a high-priced metal guitar is talking completely out of his ass, and I can prove it easily. Almost any Squier Stratocaster or Epiphone Les Paul made 10 years ago still plays fine today, assuming it was maintained properly. The majority of metal guitars made 10 years ago are now in landfills because they are simply not built to last.

Why is it that a "cheap" Squier or Epiphone guitar that sold new for under $200 ten years ago outlasted nearly all the metal guitars that sold for over $1,000? There are several reasons.

Gold-coated crap

Strats and Les Pauls use die cast or plastic tuners and plastic for knobs and switchgear. Many premium "metal" guitar have gold-coated hardware, and that gold-coated crap is well known to start pitting, wearing off and/or flaking very early on.

The cheapest Squier Strat with die cast tuners will outlast any gold-coated tuners on a premium metal guitar, guaranteed.

Tarnishing and rust of the tremolo system and bridge

There's good and bad tarnishing/rust when it comes to electric guitars.

When Strats and Les Pauls tarnish/rust over time, they still play the same, still keep their tune and actually look cool when they get used and abused.

Metal guitars on the other hand have the exact opposite effect. When a Floyd Rose tremolo system starts to get old where it tarnishes and rusts, it becomes almost unusable. When the locking nut rusts - which they do rather quickly - there is nothing that looks good about that and the tuning starts going completely batty on you.

When the time comes (and it will) where you have to outright replace the entire Floyd Rose system, there's a few hundred bucks in the toilet right there. Not only does the premium metal guitar cost you a ton of cash now but will again later. Who wants to deal with that crap?

Overcomplicated electronics

Many metal guitars come bundled with electronics that are complicated for the sake of being complicated to justify their high price. Lots of active electronics, sometimes crazy switches and knobs, and "custom designed" pickups that will only work in that guitar.

The more electronics crap that's in an electric guitar, there more there is to break. And when it breaks, it's almost impossible to troubleshoot where the problem actually is.

With simple passive electronics, a guitar's internal wiring can be repaired easily. That's almost never the case with complicated active crap. Once something breaks after 3 or 4 years, if what broke is somewhere on the inside, you basically have to gut the entire guitar just to figure out what went wrong, and that's annoying.

Basic Squier and Epiphone models have traditional passive electronics, and both are easy to work on and repair.

"Doesn't feel right"

This is most notorious thing metal guitars do. One day you pick it up to play it, and something just doesn't feel right. You've been maintaining the guitar as best you can, using the same size strings whenever you do a string change and even kept it in a room where the temperature and humidity is good so no damage can be done - but something is wrong. It just doesn't play the way it used to. For some reason it also sounds different in a bad way.

And you have no idea what the problem is or even how to fix it.

Strats and Les Pauls do not do this. Once either guitar is broken in, it will continue to provide many years of useful playing goodness.

A metal guitar on the other hand won't. Once it starts to do that doesn't-feel-right crap, it will never feel right to you ever again for as long as you own it.

Have you ever known a metal player who owns a few guitars, and happens to have a really expensive one that he used to play all the time but now all of a sudden doesn't? Believe me, he's not "preserving" that guitar. The doesn't-feel-right thing happened and now he can't play it anymore. And because he paid so much for it originally, he doesn't want to sell it even though he never plays the thing.

What causes the doesn't-feel-right factor over time? It could be anything, but it probably has something to do with the neck.

When super-jumbo frets wear down (which a lot of metal guitars have), there is no fix for this other than to re-fret the entire neck, and that's expensive. Guitars that have what's now known as medium-jumbo frets (again, Strats and Les Pauls) don't need re-fretting nearly as often.

Most metal guitars have a neck-through instead of a bolt-on neck, and repairs to a neck-through are next to impossible to get done. It's so expensive that it's actually cheaper just to replace the entire neck, new core and all.

Are premium metal guitars worth their price?

They never have been.

Your best option if you want something "metal" is to purposely buy a lower-cost guitar with a bolt-on neck and no crazy electronics. If you have to have the Floyd Rose tremolo, remember that they are high-maintenance.

What should you buy for a "metal" guitar?

For most metal players it's about the look more than anything else. For sound, just buy a low-cost guitar that has a good neck feel to it, then upgrade the hardware yourself. You'll save a ton of cash and the guitar will last a lot longer.

Here are my recommendations. All these guitars "look metal" and are inexpensive.

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