The 7-string electric guitar officially became a big deal in 1990 when Ibanez put Steve Vai’s Universe series into mass production. With the low seventh string tuned to B, it allowed guitarists to trespass into the bassist’s registers and explore different chord voicings.
These extended-range guitars had transformative potential, and the 7-string would enjoy a viral moment in the dial-up era of the mid-‘90s nu-metal scene, before lending more weight to djent a decade later. Jackson, Schecter, ESP/LTD and others happily obliged, and many of these heavyweights are featured here in our best 7-string guitars guide.
What is the best 7-string guitar?
The Jackson Pro Series Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT7FM is one of the most stacked signature models to offer change from a thousand bucks. The caramelized maple neck and fretboard looks good enough to eat but feels incredible and this dry-roasted maple contributes to the Juggernaut’s bright, expressive voice. The wider, flatter fingerboard is a shredder’s delight.
If you have a little more cash to splash, try the Schecter Reaper-7 MS. With its eye-popping poplar burl finish and fanned fret, multiscale configuration, it’s hard to miss. The multiscale fretboard runs from 27” on the low B string to 25.5” on the high E and makes for flawless intonation, while the Schecter Diamond Decimator humbuckers bring the thunder big-time.
7-string guitars: everything you need to know
The 7-string guitar is designed to be played in low tunings so it is imperative that its low seventh string feels tight and responsive. Crucially, the scale length needs to be longer than your regular electric to minimize tuning and intonation issues – a minimum of 25.5” should do the trick.
You don’t necessarily need a set of active EMG pickups to get the job done, and some of the best 7-strings we have played have passive humbuckers. Active or passive, however, your pickups must have the frequency response and output to articulate what you are doing with your chords and rhythm playing, and when they bring out the guitar’s natural midrange and highs, it all helps.
Thankfully, the popularity of extended-range guitars has translated into a high build standard at all price points. Even entry level models – often constructed in China and Indonesia – perform well. But as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. In our list we’ve featured a couple of entry-level models from Ibanez and Jackson that are super-playable, hold their tuning and sound convincing. Yet it’s when we get into the mid-priced market that things get really exciting.
Today’s metal player wants versatility, and that’s where a cornucopia of push/pull features in these guitars' electrics tease another layer of tone from the instrument. There are coil-taps for single coil action, tone bleed features, which via a push/pull control bypasses the tone circuit and brightens the guitar’s voice. These smart features take the 7-string out of the strictly-metal zone, with glassy cleans and all kinds of interesting tones that could be used in service to prog, jazz and funk. These are guitars made for experimenting.
The best 7-string guitars you can buy right now
1. Jackson Pro Series Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT7FM
The Periphery shredder’s signature is the best 7-string guitar
Launch price: $1,183 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Roasted maple | Scale: 26.5” | Fingerboard: Roasted maple | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Jackson MM-1 humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone (with push/pull feature) | Hardware: Jackson HT7 String-Through-Body Hardtail | Left-handed: No | Finish: Blue Sky Burst
The Indonesian-built Pro Series Juggernaut lacks some of the USA model’s boutique spec but retains the playability and feel, making it one of the best 7-string guitars around. The 20-inch neck radius makes for a wide, flat fingerboard – a gracious act of ergonomics that’ll add some pyro to your lead playing.
The Jackson MM-1 humbuckers are hot enough to satisfy the filthiest rhythm tones, but the switching options and push/pull feature make for a dynamic sound from which you can tease all kinds of harmonics. The Juggernaut cleans up well, too.
Other sweet features include locking tuners and a tidy hardtail bridge, and luminous side dots for playing in the dark.
2. Schecter Reaper-7 MS
The multiscale superstrat with the multiverse finish
Launch price: $1,349 | Body: Swamp ash with poplar burl top | Neck: Maple, walnut 5-ply with carbon reinforcement | Scale: 27”-25.5” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Pickups: Schecter Diamond Decimator humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Two volume, tone (with push/pull feature), three-way pickup selector | Hardware: Hipshot hardtail bridge | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Satin Inferno Burst, Satin Charcoal Burst
Sure, the fanned fretboard takes a little getting used to but it’s worth it. The multiscale configuration is becoming more popular – Jackson’s X Series Dinky DKAF7 offers a cheaper alternative here, retailing at $499 – but none have been as impressive as the Reaper-7 MS.
The ceramic Diamond Decimator humbuckers are beastly, with the push-pull feature offering two voices for each - one fat and thick, the other sharper, with more presence. And what about that neck? A similar profile to the Juggernaut, it’s satin-smooth. 7-strings such as this exemplify the sort of quality you get for a little more cash.
3. Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Majesty
Dream a little bigger with the ultimate 7-string
Launch price: $3,699 | Body: Mahogany with flame maple top | Neck: Mahogany, neck-through | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: DiMarzio Rainmaker-7 humbucker (neck) and DiMarzio Sonic-7 humbucker (Bridge) | Controls: Magnetic volume (push/push)/Magnetic Tone/Piezo Volume 3-Way Output Switch (Magnetic/both/Piezo)/3-Way Pickup Switch (Magnetic Pickups) | Hardware: Schaller locking tuners, Piezo-equipped floating vibrato, chrome | Left-handed: No | Finish: Enchanted Forest
OK, so maybe the one percent need only apply, but what a guitar! This may well be the acme of 7-string superstrat design. Where do you start? Well, the construction, fit and feel is incredible.
The DiMarzio Rainmaker humbuckers, coupled with a byzantine switching system, offer a cornucopia of tones – metal and otherwise – while a built-in adjustable boost will help your solos cut through the mix.
And then there's the Piezo feature: the guitar equivalent of having monogrammed slippers and smoking jacket. It’s just classy. But it is not just for show; it allows Petrucci to access some acoustic tones without changing guitar.
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4. Ibanez GRG722QA GRG Series
Quilted maple adds some class to the best 7-string guitar at the entry-level
Launch price: $249 | Body: Poplar with quilted maple veneer | Neck: Maple | Fingerboard: Treated white pine | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Ibanez Infinity R7 humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone, three-way pickup selector | Hardware: 7-saddle string through body bridge, black | Left-handed: No | Finish: Transparent Black Sunburst
It’s only a veneer but we’ll gladly take Ibanez’s gilding of the solid poplar body with some quilted maple luxury. Like Jackson’s Dinky, the GRG7221M is priced and spec’d to be the best 7-string guitar for beginners.
But in doing so Ibanez similarly aren't discharged of their mission to deliver a playable, convincing 7-string. The neck is classic Ibanez – a satin-smooth size zero – and what elevates it above the Jackson is the upper-fret access, courtesy of the sort of heel more often seen on more expensive models.
The string-through-body hardtail is a tidy piece of hardware, while the 25.5” scale is forgiving to 7-string novices.
5. Jackson JS22-7 DKA Dinky HT
The best 7-string guitar for players seeking low-end on a budget
Launch price: $273 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Maple | Scale: 26.5” | Fingerboard: Amaranth | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Jackson High-Output 7-String humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone, three-way pickup selector | Hardware: Jackson HT7 hardtail, black | Left-handed: No | Finish: Satin Black
This entry-level Jackson might be a spartan instrument, but as a gateway drug for the 7-string curious this is hard to beat. The jumbo frets reward a light touch while the Dinky’s body is always comfortable played seated or standing.
The JS22-7 would make a great fixer-upper – the most obvious mod would be a pickups upgrade. That said, the stock Jackson humbuckers deal well with thick distortion and won’t make a meal of your riffs.
The scale length helps keep that seventh string taut. And for a guitar at this price, the Dinky holds its tune.
6. Ibanez RG2027XL Prestige
A shred classic that’s always in style
Launch price: $1,799 | Body: Basswood | Neck: 5-piece maple/wenge | Scale: 27” | Fingerboard: Macassar ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: DiMarzio Fusion Edge-7 humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone, five-way pickup selector | Hardware: Ibanez Lo-Pro Edge-7 double locking vibrato, Gotoh tuners, cosmo black | Left-handed: No | Finish: Dark Tide Blue
We expect pro-quality shred machines from Ibanez’s Japanese-built Prestige line, and the RH20127XL does not disappoint. The bolt-on five-piece Wizard neck is a skinny speed machine. The heel is unobtrusive. The finish is, of course, immaculate.
The DiMarzio Fusion Edge-7 humbuckers are designed and manufactured on behalf of Ibanez, but come out sounding not unlike DiMarzio’s own Titan humbuckers; they are hot, balanced, with a distinct bias towards punchy midrange and bright harmonics.
The double-locking Lo-Pro Edge-7 vibrato unit is a tidy, precision-engineered unit, and will withstand all kinds of whammy abuse without throwing the guitar out of tune.
7. ESP LTD SCT-607B Stephen Carpenter Baritone
Enjoy deft tones with a disco finish
Launch price: $1,712 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple, through neck | Scale: 27” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: Fishman Fluence SRC Signature humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume (with push/pull feature), tone, three-way pickup selector | Hardware: LTD locking tuners, Tonepros Locking TOM bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Green Sparkle
We love the Green Sparkle finish and Tele vibe of this Steph Carpenter signature. But make no mistake; this, too, is geared towards metal, or at least situations when the gain is on high. The full baritone scale is a beast, but tuning this down a whole step or a step-and-a-half won’t throw it out of whack.
The Fishman humbuckers are active but have a push/pull feature to toggle between their ‘modern passive’ and ‘modern active’ voicings. These are powered by a nine-volt battery, which is easily changed.
The through-neck construction is another positive; ring an open-string chord and this will sustain for days.
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8. Chapman Ghost Fret Pro
Symmetry is dead. Long live the Ghost Fret
Launch price: $1,249 | Body: Mahogany with maple top | Neck: Maple, through neck | Scale: 26.5” | Fingerboard: Indian ebony | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Chapman Primordial 7 humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone (with coil-tap), three-way pickup selector | Hardware: Hipshot locking Grip-Lock Open, string-through hardtail bridge, black | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Lunar
So who’s down for some Explorer vibes, a big old lump of mahogany with a solid piece of AAA flamed Canadian maple on top, two high-output humbuckers – a coil-tap because, please, this is 2019 – and a fuss-free string-through bridge and some locking Hipshot tuners? Nice one. Step right up. Chapman’s got you covered with the Ghost Fret Pro, which slips seamlessly into our best 7-string guitars top ten.
We love the details; the binding, quality components such as the GraphTech Black Tusq XL nut, Chapman strap locks, rolled edges on the fretboard and contours on the body’s rear, not to mention luminous side-dot markers.
Sold yet? OK, well it sounds great and plays quick, too.
9. ESP LTD EC-1007 EverTune
This is one deep singlecut 7-string beast
Launch price: $1,712.86 | Body: Mahogany with maple cap | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: EMG 60-7H humbucker (neck) and EMG 81-7H humbucker (bridge) | Controls: Two volume, tone, three-way pickup selector | Hardware: EverTune bridge, black | Left-handed: No | Finish: Black
Notable for being the only singlecut in our lineup, the EC-1007 is the Frankenstein offspring of ESP/LTD’s Eclipse series. The EverTune bridge is the sort of quality hardware the best 7-string guitars needs to maintain stable tuning.
With the slightly shorter 25.5” scale, the Eclipse brings some regular six-string feel to the extended range game.
Is there a more classic paring than an EMG 60 in the neck and EMG 81 in the bridge? These high-output active pickups will handle anything you throw at them, but they excel in high gain situations, delivering lethal metal rhythm tones imbued with an ever-so-slightly compressed quality.
10. Charvel Vivaldi DK24 7 NOVA
The four seasons of shred serves up a feast
Launch price: $1,768 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 24 | Pickups: DiMarzio Air Norton humbucker (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone, five-way pickup selector | Hardware: Custom 7-String 510 vibrato, gold | Left-handed: No | Finish: Satin Sage Green
The Satin Sage Green finish was chosen by Angel Vivaldi’s fans. Everything else he workshopped with Charvel. You’ll notice this has a tilt-back headstock – the only Charvel to feature one – to keep string tension consistent.
Why no locking nut? Well, that can be a pain, especially if you want to change tunings on the fly. A set of locking tuners does the job nicely here. The Gotoh vibrato is super-stable.
The Nova has a Charvel-branded Stratocaster headstock and a modified Jackson Dinky body. This is the sort of inventive, witty guitar design that Charvel made their name from.
About the author
Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005 and is a regular contributor to Total Guitar and MusicRadar.