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The 11 best 7-string guitars 2020: budget-spanning picks for djent to nu-metal

The 11 best 7-string guitars 2020: budget-spanning picks for djent to nu-metal
(Image credit: Jackson/PRS/Ibanez/Cort)

If you’re the sort of player whose game is progressive shred, djent, extreme metal, nu-metal or some yet-to-be-conceived combination of nu-metal and bluegrass, a 7-string electric guitar might well be a nigh-on essential artistic tool – and we’ve rounded up 10 of the best 7-string guitars you can buy right now.

While we eagerly await extended-range revolution in country music, there is a 7-string guitar for all styles in this guide. The story of the 7-string is one of bold evolutionary leaps, and its Big Bang moment arrived in 1990 with the launch of Steve Vai’s signature Ibanez Universe. It took the Ibanez RG Series template and ran with it, introducing a seventh string that could be tuned to B in standard tuning, lower if you wanted to further poke your tone into your bassist’s domain.

The possibilities were huge, but it remained a niche instrument until the mid’-‘90s nu-metal boom and the later Meshuggah-inspired djent scene. Now, a 7-string is a ubiquitous presence in guitar stores and online, with the likes of Ibanez, Jackson, ESP/LTD and others offering some of the best 7-string guitars at all price points. Now, let’s see if we can find one that’s right for you…

Amazon Prime Day is just around the corner. If you're looking for a new 7-string guitar then it could be worth waiting until the Prime Day guitar deals start landing.

What is the best 7-string guitar right now?

If we are looking for a 7-string to cover a wide range of styles, one that is hugely playable, looks cool and takes the evolution of the instrument that bit further, we’d go for the Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK Modern Ash HT7. Introduced at NAMM 2020, it’s equipped with a pair of multi-voice Fishman Fluence humbucker electric guitar pickups that are truly devastating for low-end riffing, but also versatile enough to contest the notion that these are just guitars for metalheads. At $1,399.99, that’s a pretty decent price, too.

Alternatively, you could spend half that amount on a 7-string guitar that’s similarly state-of-the-art, the Cort KX500MS. It too has a swamp ash body, but with an eye-catching poplar top. Its multi-scale design offers the best of both worlds in terms of string tension, and a pair of active EMG 707 humbuckers seals the deal, making this guitar a low-end shred machine for not a lot of money.

Best 7-string guitars: everything you need to know

With the 7-string designed to accommodate low tunings, you want a guitar that has a nice and tight seventh string. Only then can you dig in with your riffs. To get around this, 7-string guitars will typically have a longer scale – the more distance between the nut and bridge the more tension there is in the string to bring it up to pick. Here, we would be looking at a Fender-esque 25.5” as a minimum.

Some guitar designs, such as that of the Cort KX500MS and Jackson’s X Series SLAT7, use multi-scale formats, where the high E string has a regular 25.5” scale and the low B string, where you want it to be tighter, has a longer 27” scale. These designs incorporate a slanted bridge with a sort of hybrid design of seven individual string saddles and fanned frets for enhanced intonation across the fretboard.

To further enhance your low-end adventures, high-output pickups can be a valuable asset. If you are playing a high-gain style, a set of active humbuckers can give you both the searing output and the all-important note clarity so your riffs need not turn to mush at the critical moment. You don’t necessarily need these, however, with 7-strings such as the PRS SE Mark Holcomb and the OG Ibanez Universe deploying passive Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio humbuckers respectively. Again, the 7-string need not be limited to the total-metal crew, and sometimes a more dynamic range will suit your playing style better. Dave Davidson of Revocation might agree there, too. His signature Jackson Warrior is pretty darn metal, but his signature DiMarzio’s are wound with dynamics in mind.

There are other ways in which the 7-string can subvert your expectations of them tonally. Some will feature coil-taps to offer singlecoil tones, others, such as Jackson’s DK Modern Ash HT7 and the LTD Stephen Carpenter SCT-607B, have multi-voiced pickups that let you toggle between voicings. And it’s not just premium instruments that can offer such range; the entry-level Ibanez Gio we have listed here has a smart five-way switching system that gets the most out of its humbucker pairing.

Finally, and this is perhaps most important (after all, pickups and hardware can be upgraded), the 7-string has to be comfortable. There is a fair degree of fretboard geography to orienteer before you get comfortable moving from six strings to seven, and the neck and fretboard radius can help here. The best 7-string guitars featured here are all hugely playable, most offering fat frets and compound-radius fretboards for an easy ride.

The best 7-string guitars available today

Best 7-string guitars: Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK Modern Ash HT7

(Image credit: Jackson)

1. Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK Modern Ash HT7

Lightweight swamp ash body, heavyweight tone

Street price: $1,399 | Body: Swamp ash | Neck: Maple/wenge, three-piece, bolt-on | Scale: 26.5” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24, jumbo nickel | Pickups: 2x Fishman Fluence humbuckers (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone with push-pull coil-tap and voicings switch, 5-way selector | Hardware: Black, Floyd Rose 1000 Series 7-String Double-locking Recessed Tremolo | Left-handed: No | Finish: Baked Green, Baked Blue, Baked Red

Super-comfortable
Awesome pickups
Wide variety of tones
Finish is really cool, but might split opinion

Jackson went all-in at this year’s NAMM show and introduced all kinds of shreddables for your pleasure, but the updates to its Dinky Series really take the cake – not least this sand-blasted, 7-string Super Strat, which sees the ever-popular Dinky body shape housing a pair of active Fishman Fluence humbuckers.

Oh, sure, the finish is way cool (PRS introduced some limited edition SE models, proving great minds do often think alike), but we’ve got to start with those pickups. They’ll handle all those bass-heavy riffs the djent kids love, but with the multi-voice functionality, accessed via the tone control’s coil-tap in positions one and five, allied to the singlecoil tones in positions two through four inclusive, this Dinky is one versatile tone machine.

Oh, and it plays great, too, with a neck profile that’s begging for a shredding, fat frets, flat fingerboard radius… Holy Moly! And when you factor in the compact Dinky body, it makes for one accommodating guitar, perfect for taking your 7-string game further.

Best 7-string guitars: PRS SE Mark Holcomb 7-string

(Image credit: PRS)

2. PRS SE Mark Holcomb 7-string guitar

The best 7-string guitar for those who love the riffery of Periphery…

Street price: $1,029 | Body: Mahogany with maple top and quilted maple veneer | Neck: Maple, set | Scale: 26.5” | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 24 extra jumbo | Pickups: Seymour Duncan Alpha humbucker (neck), Seymour Duncan Omega humbucker (bridge) | Controls: Master volume, master tone (push/pull coil-split), 3-way blade pickup selector | Hardware: Chrome, PRS String-Through Plate style | Left-handed: No | Finish: Holcomb Burst, Satin Walnut (with maple top and walnut veneer)

Great organic tones
Typical PRS build quality
Nice choice of finishes
It’s at the upper band of PRS’s SE price range

Despite PRS Guitars dipping its quilted-maple toe into the 7-string market circa 2013 with a super-sized SE Custom model, it was never going to be the company’s bread and butter. Every now and then, however, there comes along a guitar such as this, for a guitarist such as Mark Holcomb, and then it makes perfect sense.

We love this because of the refinement. Holcomb plays metal, and this signature PRS most-capably supports this enterprise, and yet it is all curves and chamfering, with no sharp edges that call out ostentatiously to the black T-shirt dollar. 

There is a wealth of tone to be had here, with Holcomb’s smart pairing of Seymour Duncan’s passive Alpha and Omega humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions offering heaps of grunt, and a coil-tap on hand for some singlecoil sparkle. Excellent build, awesome tones, flawless finish… Another fine PRS. Hey, they should do this sort of thing more often.

Best 7-string guitars: Cort KX500MS 7-string guitar

(Image credit: Cort)

3. Cort KX500MS 7-string guitar

An affordable multi-scale shred machine with a cosmic poplar top

Street price: $705 | Body: Swamp ash with poplar burl top | Neck: Maple/amaranth, five-piece bolt-on | Scale: multi-scale 25.5"-27" | Fingerboard: Macassar ebony | Frets: 24 | Pickups: 2x EMG 707 (neck and bridge) | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Black nickel, individual hardtail bridge w/6 single saddles, Cort locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Star Dust Green, Star Dust Black

Great value
Thumping low-end tone
Excellent intonation
Multi-scale is not for everyone

The six-individual bridge design is not a feature peculiar to Cort but it’s nonetheless part of what makes the KX500MS such a good option for those looking for an accessibly priced 7-string that places intonation at the core of its appeal.

This drive for perfect pitch starts at the string’s journey at the six-individual saddles, arranged at an angle, and continues towards the nut across the fanned-fret fingerboard. This multi-scale idea is perfect for extended-range guitars, where you want a longer scale for the low B string to keep it tight for riffing while a Fender-esque 25.5” scale on the high E allows you to bend strings for leads. It’s the best of both worlds, so long as both those worlds are populated by chug-hungry metalheads, for the pair of super-hot active EMG-707 humbuckers are wound for the maximum destruction arising from high-gain and low-tunings. It’s fierce, but that’s the point, right?

Best 7-string guitars: Ibanez Gio GRG7221QA

(Image credit: Ibanez)

4. Ibanez Gio GRG7221QA

Quilted-maple finery and smart switching at an entry-level price point

Street price: $249.99 | Body: Poplar with quilted maple veneer | Neck: Maple, bolt-on | Scale: 26.5” | Fingerboard: Treated New Zealand pine | Frets: 24, jumbo | Pickups: 2x Infinity R humbuckers (neck and bridge) | Controls: Master volume, master tone, 5-way blade pickup selector | Hardware: F107 hard-tail bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Transparent Blue Burst, Transparent Black Burst

Accessible price
Great neck
Cool finish
It’s a coin-toss with the Jackson DS22-7

So you’re thinking about getting a 7-string guitar, and you’re on a strict budget? Well, there are options. You could go for a Jackson DS22-7 Dinky, which is pretty sweet, has a much nicer fingerboard, and plays great, but then the Gio’s GRG7 neck profile and its quilted maple veneer and transparent finishes just about edge it. 

7-string neophytes will find the neck an easy ride, and the F107 hard-tail is a tidy piece of engineering. 

This is one of the best 7-string guitars for beginners and would be worthwhile modding in time. Switching out the pickups for something a little hotter would be a fun project. As it is, though, you’ll find plenty of chug for the money.

Best 7-string guitars: Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Majesty

(Image credit: Ernie Ball Music Man)

5. Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Majesty

The best 7-string guitar if money is no object

Launch price: $3,399 | 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

It’s (possibly) the ultimate 7-string
Incredible variety of tones
A shredder’s delight
Oh goodness, it is expensive

OK, 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 its byzantine switching system offer a cornucopia of tones, metal and otherwise, while the built-in adjustable boost will help your solos cut through the mix.

The Piezo on is like the guitar equivalent of having monogrammed slippers and smoking jacket. It’s just classy. But it’s not just for show, and allows Petrucci some on-the-fly acoustic tones.

Best 7-string guitars: Jackson JS22-7 DKA Dinky HT

(Image credit: Jackson)

6. Jackson JS22-7 DKA Dinky HT

The best 7-string guitar for serious low-end at a seriously low price

Launch price: $199 | 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

Great value
Good rhythm tones
Pickups a little one-dimensional
Limited upper-fret access

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 whether 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 7th string taut. And for a guitar at this price, the Dinky holds its tune.

Best 7-string guitars: ESP LTD SCT-607B Stephen Carpenter Baritone

(Image credit: ESP)

7. ESP LTD SCT-607B Stephen Carpenter Baritone

A super-Deft T-style with the sparkly finish

Launch price: $1,299 | 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

Nice to see a T-style 7-string
Incredible baritone voicings
Great pickup choices
You might prefer Carpenter’s dope new S-style

We love the Green Sparkle finish and Tele vibe. 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. A nine-volt battery is hidden in the back and easily changed. The through-neck construction is another positive; this will sustain for days.

Best 7-string guitars: Jackson Pro Series Dave Davidson Signature Warrior WR7

(Image credit: Jackson)

8. Jackson Pro Series Dave Davidson Signature Warrior WR7

A weaponized 7-string signature model for Revocation’s shredder-in-chief

Street price: $1,299.99 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Maple, through-neck | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Ebony with Alumiloid Piranha Teeth inlay | Frets: 24 jumbo nickel | Pickups: 2x DiMarzio Dave Davidson Imperium 7 humbuckers (bridge and neck) | Controls: master volume (push/pull coil-split), master tone, 3-way toggle pickup switch | Hardware: Black, Floyd Rose 1000 Series 7 Double-locking Recessed Tremolo | Left-handed: No | Finish: Natural Walnut

A premium shred machine
Warm, thick tones, plus singlecoil snap on tap
Floyd Rose for whammy bar stunt guitar
Poop brown finish at odds with über-metal silhouette

You could take someone’s eye out with Dave Davidson’s new signature 7-string, but maybe if you play death metal in a band named Revocation that is kind of the point. But seriously, the Warrior is one of Jackson’s most slept-on body shapes, and should be mentioned in the same conversation as the BC Rich Warlock or Jackson’s Rhoads asymmetric V bodies.

Here, Davidson has gone for a mahogany body and resisted the urge to overwhelm it with active pickups, preferring instead his signature Imperium humbuckers from DiMarzio. With a frequency output that emphasises the guitar’s midrange, they are pretty classically voiced, and offer a dynamic playing experience.

A Floyd Rose 1000 Series vibrato is on hand for saucing your lead playing with harmonic squeals and dive-bombs, and it’s a mighty fine unit.

Best 7-string guitars: Charvel Vivaldi DK24 7 NOVA

(Image credit: Charvel)

9. Charvel Vivaldi DK24 7 NOVA 7-string guitar

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

Great pickups, versatile switching options
Immaculate build
Excellent value given the quality
Not the most metal guitar around

Now available in a very tasteful Satin Black, (the original was finished in Satin Sage Green as chosen by Angel Vivaldi’s fans), the NOVA is pretty much everything you’d look for in a hot-rodded Super Strat.

When Charvel draws up plans for a new guitar with an artist, nothing is off the table. There are some really cool signature flourishes here. Note the tilt-back headstock – this is the only Charvel to have one, and it is to enhance consistency in string tension.

A set of locking tuners does the job nicely in keeping everything in order, while the Gotoh vibrato is super-stable. Little touches such as the rolled edges on the fretboard just make for a supremely playable instrument. 

Elsewhere, the Nova has a Charvel-branded reverse Stratocaster headstock and a modified Jackson Dinky body. Exactly the sort of inventive, witty guitar design that Charvel made its name in. 

Best 7-string guitars: Ibanez Premium Steve Vai Universe UV70P

(Image credit: Ibanez)

10. Ibanez Premium Steve Vai Universe UV70P

The guitar that started all this off…

Street price: $1,499.99 | Body: American basswood | Neck: Maple/walnut five-piece Wizard-7, bolt-on with KTS Titanium rods | Scale: multiscale 25.5" | Fingerboard: Bound Panga Panga with green dot inlay | Frets: 24 jumbo, Premium fret edge treatment | Pickups: 2x DiMarzio Blaze humbuckers (neck and bridge), DiMarzio Blaze singlecoil (middle) | Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: Cosmo black, Edge-Zero II-7 tremolo | Left-handed: No | Finish: Black

Cool retro look, Vai vibes and versatile tones
Excellent price
Premium fret edge treatment
You need more super-powered output from the pickups

The Universe was definitely the guitar that started the extended-range craze, even if it took a while to catch on. Developed with Steve Vai, it was launched in 1990 and would become a game changer, an avant-garde Super Strat – and yet now much of its appeal lies in its retro cache.

The HSH pickup configuration and five-way switching offers such a wide variety of tones. This reissue is a great option for those who might feel the 7-string’s evolution was perfected first time out. It has DiMarzio Blaze pickups, which are passive but are pretty darn hot – after all, Vai loves a lot of gain and bringing it to heel is a big part of his style. The Wizard-7 neck profile is flat and wide, a solid bedrock for exploring the panga panga fretboard. Panga panga? Also known as wenge, a rosewood substitute and performs similarly.

Best 7-string guitars: ESP LTD EC-1007 EverTune

(Image credit: ESP)

11. ESP LTD EC-1007 EverTune

This is one deep singlecut 7-string beast

Launch price: $1,199 | 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

Active EMG humbuckers = no-brainer
Solid build
It’s pretty darn heavy
Clean tones lack character

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.