If you are reading this article, then it’s obvious that you are on a mission. There’s no way around it: 8-string guitars are beasts. If you are interested in getting one then your needs exceed the versatility and range needed in most traditional guitar based music.
Purchasing an 8-string guitar is a bit more involved than 6 or 7 string guitars. You want to make sure that you have all the specs needed to make tackling this instrument as easy as possible. Better to get a guitar that works for you, than for you to work for the guitar.
Whether this is your first 8 string purchase, or you are looking to trade up, you have come to the right place.
Snapshot: Top 5 Best 8 String Guitars
- Jackson X Series Dinky Arch Top DKAF8
- Schecter Banshee Elite-8
- Schecter Omen-8
- ESP LTD EC-258
- Ibanez RG8
Researching 8-String Guitars
Once that 8th string is added to the low end of a guitar, everything becomes more complex. The instrument begins to resemble a piano as much as it does a traditional guitar.
This is an appropriate analogy because it introduces the two most important interconnected factors when choosing an 8 string guitar: Scale length and string tension.
Scale Length is the distance from the bridge (the saddle, to be specific) to the nut. String tension is how tight the string feels when it’s tuned to the note you want. Low notes require strings that are longer in scale. If the scale is too short, the strings become flimsy. The opposite is true of higher notes. If the high strings are too long, they become too tight and thus more difficult to play.
Just as pianos address their extended range with longer bass strings and shorter treble strings, the best 8-string guitars add features that address scale length and string tension as well. These 8-string guitars also find ways to make playing on a wider neck manageable, include pickups for a wide frequency range, and have a high standard of building materials.
If all this can be done at an attainable price, then you have found yourself a great 8-string guitar. All the instruments on this list address at least one of the features listed above.
The Best 8 String Guitars In 2020
1. Jackson X Series Dinky Arch Top DKAF8 Review
- 8-string Multi-scale Solidbody Electric Guitar with Mahogany Body
- 2 Humbucking Pickups - Gloss Black
- Laurel Fingerboard
Of all the guitars on this list, the Jackson X Series takes the top spot because it addresses all the points I listed above, including a manageable price point. It’s a super Strat that may look like all the rest, but the devil is in the details with this one.
At first glance this guitar may seem stripped down, but it’s anything but. This thing is built for ergonomics and easy playability, starting with its most valuable spec: multiple scale lengths. This is the only 8 string on this list to feature longer scale lengths for the low strings and shorter scale lengths for the high strings. You can’t see it under the black paint, but the body is mahogany, giving you rich overtones.
The guitar is called “Dinky” for a reason. This body is small and can cause some balance issues with its larger neck; this issue is common in 8 string guitars. The maple neck is paired with a laurel fretboard and has 24 jumbo frets. It also features a compound radius of 12″ – 16″, making grabbing chords lower on the neck easy, and quick runs easy up higher.
This is a rarely seen feature on 8 Strings, which typically go for the flattest neck possible. Props to Jackson on that one.
Electronics and Hardware
The Jackson DKAF8 comes stock with a pair of Jackson Uncovered 8 String Blade Humbuckers. The Jackson DKAF8 accomplishes its multi scale design by using individual staggered bridge saddles. As a result the lower strings reach up to 28″ scales, while the higher strings are 26″, giving you better string tension and intonation. The nut is 2.165″ and can be a bit sharp at the first fret on the high strings, due to its slanted design. The tuners are Jackson sealed Die-Cast that can handle about any string size you thread through them.
The Blade Humbuckers manage to bring some brightness to the low end so as not to lose the extra low strings in the mix. They fall short in tone only to the Schecter Banshee Elite. Swapping out the pickups could help the mahogany body shine more, but pickup quality doesn’t mean much if your guitar falls out of tune and feels gross, which this doesn’t.
- Воdу Маtеrіаl: Маhоgаnу
- Nесk Маtеrіаl: Maple
- Fіngеrbоаrd Маtеrіаl: Laurel
- Рісkuрѕ: Jackson Uncovered 8 String Blade Humbuckers
- Bridge: Individual Staggered Bridge Saddles
Final Thoughts on the Jackson X Series Dinky Arch Top DKAF8
Building an 8-string guitar that feels, sounds, and looks great at an attainable price point is no easy task, but I have to say that Jackson pulled it off. The compromises they made are only going to be noticeable to the most critical listener. Yet, the upgrades they chose to focus on (like the multi scale and compound radius) are going to be noticed as soon as you start playing it.
2. Schecter Banshee Elite-8 Review
- Swamp Ash Body -Flamed Maple Top
- Maple/Walnut Multi-ply Neck w/ Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Rods
- Schecter USA SuperCharger Mach-8 Pickup set
The Schecter Banshee Elite 8 lives up to its name. This is a pristine made guitar. If you’re willing to spend the coin to get it, it’s of a build quality to last you a lifetime and of a sound to keep you inspired along the way.
A swamp ash body with flamed maple top is visible under the natural gloss finish, making this the most stunning of the guitars on the list. The neck is Maple/Walnut Multi-ply with carbon fiber reinforcement rods for added stability. The ebony fingerboard pops against the natural finish of the rest of the body. Possibly my favorite little detail about this instrument is the offset mother-of-pearl fret markers. They’re subtly beautiful and practical.
Electronics and Hardware
Two Schecter USA SuperCharger Mach-8 pickups come stock and are controlled with a Volume, Tone, and 5 Way megaswitch. The Hipshot hardtail bridge combined with Schecter locking tuners make for great tuning stability. The 28″ scale is a good middle ground, though the high strings may feel a bit tight. These specs are simple, but they look elegant and function well.
This is undoubtedly the best sounding guitar on the list. Much of that has to be from the Schecter USA SuperCharger Mach-8 pickups as they offer an organic and vocal tone to the guitar. Whether you are djenting on the low strings or playing clean, the pickups will voice your playing authentically. The five-way switch also offers ample flexibility for whatever style you choose to play.
- Воdу Маtеrіаl: Swamp Ash w/ Flamed Maple Top
- Nесk Маtеrіаl: Maple/Walnut Multi-ply w/ Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Rods
- Fіngеrbоаrd Маtеrіаl: Ebony
- Рісkuрѕ: Schecter USA SuperCharger Mach-8
- Bridge: Hipshot Hardtail (.125) w/ String Thru Body
Final Thoughts on the Schecter Banshee Elite 8
The Banshee Elite 8 would have taken the top spot on this list if it had a multi-scale design. It sounds amazing, looks gorgeous, and is masterfully crafted. If you are willing to pay close to double what the other guitars on this list cost, then you are getting yourself one hell of an instrument.
3. Schecter Omen-8 Review
- Basswood Body
- Maple Neck w/ Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Rods
- Schecter Custom Hardtail w/ String Thru Body
If the Banshee Elite-8 is out of your price range, but you still want a high quality guitar, then Schecter still has you covered. The Omen 8 is a top choice for many reasons. With some small compromises, the Omen-8 manages to deliver an 8 string guitar of comparable quality to its big brother at a fraction of the price.
Basswood for the body material is partially where Schecter saves you dollars, compared to the swamp ash found in the Banshee. The thin C shaped neck is maple and also features the carbon filter rods for added stability.
There’s a rosewood fingerboard underneath the 24 jumbo frets set at a constant 16″ radius. This guitar comes in three different finish options; I am fond of the Walnut Satin for its warm aesthetic and for the fact that the wood grain is visible. This model sports a 26.5″ radius.
While this is typical on a 7 string guitar, for an 8 string this may mean some floppy action on that extra 8th string.
Electronics and Hardware
There’s a Schecter Custom Hardtail bridge and Schecter tuners holding your 8 strings in place. While not as nice as locking tuners from Schecter, these manage to do the job well enough. A volume, tone and 3 way shape the tone of the two Schecter Diamond Plus pickups. These pickups are over wound and made for high gain. Your dynamics may be slightly lost, but if that is of no concern in your metal guitar playing, then these are a suitable fit for you.
Though not as organic sounding as the Banshee, the Omen 8 manages to give a tight and aggressive sound that is extremely satisfying, especially in high gain settings. The maple neck adds some high end clarity to compliment the basswood body. Compared to other 8-string guitars under $500, the Omen 8 is unbeatable.
- Воdу Маtеrіаl: Basswood
- Nесk Маtеrіаl: Maple with Carbon Filter Reinforcement Rods
- Fіngеrbоаrd Маtеrіаl: Rosewood
- Рісkuрѕ: Schecter Diamond PlusВrіdgе:
- Bridge: Schecter Custom Hardtail
Final Thoughts on the Schecter Omen-8
Schecter knows how to do 8 string guitars. If your price range is keeping you closer to the $500 range, then this is a no-brainer. It manages to have necessary specs for good stability and tone while only having minor compromises. Go get one if you’re thinking of getting into 8 strings for the first time. Now!
4. ESP LTD EC-258 Review
- A great extended range guitar that doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg
- Affordable for just about any musician, and allow you to explore the depths of lower pitches for today’s modern sounds
- Feature excellent ESP Designed pickups, a comfortable mahogany body, and a three-piece mahogany necks
Its undeniable that 8 strings suffer from a unified look: Super Strat. The EZP LTD EC-258 brings a fresh approach to the 8 string design. It blends classic and modern designs in a way that is sure to get the old school players to come around to the potential of 8-string guitars.
Body and Neck
The obvious standout feature of the ESP LTD EC-258 is its body shape. Whereas most 8 strings go for the Strat shape, ESP has opted to go for a Les Paul body shape. It’s by far less aggressive looking, which may not be appealing to metal heads out there, but it gives a solid choice to musicians who want an aesthetic that is more approachable for other genres.
The mahogany body is also adaptable to any style of music. The scale is 26.5″, which normally would be too short for an 8 string, but considering that there are only 22 frets, this scale length is workable.
Another standout feature this guitar has is its setneck design. This gives the player more resonance and a sturdy feel. The neck is three-piece mahogany carved into a thin U shape for fast maneuvering over jatoba fretboard. There are only 22 frets on this bad boy, making it more like a classic electric guitar design.
Electronics and Hardware
This instrument comes stock with a pair of ESP Designed LH-308 passive pickups (even though they look active). Like most LP style guitars this has two volume controls giving you the ability to independently control the output of each of your pickups. There’s one universal tone control with coil splitting capability. Like most 8 strings this has a fixed bridge and the tuners are LTD standard tuners.
I have to admit that the pickups on this guitar are probably my least favorite on the list. They seem a bit sterile. The good news is that pickups can be swapped out and it would be well worth doing on this guitar, considering that the build is quite good and has a lot of potential for versatile voicings.
- Воdу Маtеrіаl: Mahogany
- Nесk Маtеrіаl: Mahogany
- Fіngеrbоаrd Маtеrіаl: Jatoba
- Рісkuрѕ: ESP Designed LH-308
- Bridge: LTD Fixed
Final Thoughts on the LTD EC-258
The LTD EC-258 is a great choice for anyone looking for a non cookie-cutter 8 string design. It’s a good choice for those who aren’t fans of S-style guitar shapes. While there’s room for improvement in the pickups department, the rest of the guitar is well worth the upgrades.
5. Ibanez RG8 Review
- 8-string model neck type Wizard II-8 5pc Maple/Walnut neck body Mahogany body fretboard Rosewood fretboard w/White dot inlay fret Jumbo frets bridge Fixed bridge neck pickup IBZ-8 (H) neck pickup...
- The RG8 Electric Guitar brings Ibanez 8-String research and design to a price point that's hard to resist
- It features all of the advantages of the Ibanez RG series including the famous slim, fast, and ultra-playable Wizard neck
Sometimes all you need is the bare bones, especially if you are getting started. Even the white finish makes this thing look like a skeleton. Don’t worry, you won’t have to shell out a lot of bones for the Ibanez RG8.
Too many skeleton puns? Let’s move onto the body and neck…
Body and Neck
The RG8 features an all meranti body and a five-piece maple/walnut neck. The neck features the signature Ibanez Wizard II-8 design for quick maneuverability and easy access to the higher frets. If you want to play fast, this guitar will let you do it. This guitar features a 27″ scale, making it sit right in the middle of the herd when it comes to scale length. Smart choice or safe bet? You be the judge.
Electronics and Hardware
Though the pickups look like a set of active EMG’s, they are in fact a pair of passive IBZ-8 (H) Ceramic pickups. I think this was a smart move by Ibanez to keep with the theme of bare necessities by not introducing batteries into the equation. The pickups are controlled by universal volume and tone controls and a 3 way pickup selector. All the hardware, including the fixed bridge and tuners, are black. I think they pop on the white finished models.
Considering that this is the cheapest guitar on the list, the RG8 accomplishes pleasant and versatile tonal options. The pickups are surprisingly touch sensitive and will suit a beginner well. If the pickups aren’t giving you enough output, the guitar is still worth keeping; just swap out those stock pickups for whatever suits you. I think that the guitars at the top of this list have noticeably more character in their sound, but this is an undoubtedly good sounding guitar nonetheless.
- Воdу Маtеrіаl: Meranti
- Nесk Маtеrіаl: 5 Piece Maple/Walnut
- Fіngеrbоаrd Маtеrіаl: Jatoba
- Рісkuрѕ: IBZ-8 (H) Passive/Ceramic
- Bridge: Fixed
Final Thoughts on the Ibanez RG8
Ibanez is the king of creating affordable guitars that sound, feel, and play beyond their price point. While the design may not necessarily be the most inspiring or original, the RG8 accomplishes a stripped down design perfect for the beginner or the minimalist.
Do I need an 8 String Guitar?
It depends on the kind of music you want to create. 8 string guitars are utilized primarily in niche genres like Djent, Heavy Metal, and Prog. That in no way means that if you play in a style other than these genres that an 8 string isn’t for you.
If you are playing in a country cover band, classic rock, or traditional blues, a standard 6 string is going to work fine. However, if you are trying to be unique and are creating your own original music, go play an 8 string with chickin pickin technique and a country band behind you; you will stand out.
8-string guitars are fantastic for their extended low range, but they also give you extended range across the neck. This means you can play chords in a more efficient manner. It also means less tuning. It all depends on what interests you and what range you are trying to cover.
Who makes the best 8 string guitars?
As I said before in my article “The Best 7 String Guitars“, the ultimate 8-string guitars are going to be made by boutique builders. If you can afford a handmade, or at least small batch made, instrument then you are going to get the best sounding, feeling, and looking instrument possible.
In my research for guitars available on online, I was impressed by the build quality of Jackson and Schecter. For the money I think these are fantastic guitar companies that you can’t go wrong with.
Who plays 8-string guitars?
Tosin Abasi from the band Animals as Leaders is a phenomenal 8 string player. This is someone who truly utilizes the instrument to its potential. Not only does he play heavy stuff, but he composes excellent clean guitar parts as well. He has multiple videos on Youtube and Reverb that explain his approach to the instrument. If you are looking for some inspiration, go check out this video.
Charlie Hunter is another fantastic 8 string player. He plays everything from jazz to blues as he plays bass and harmony parts simultaneously. He is basically a one man band.
Other awesome artists that use 8 strings include Periphery, Meshuggah, Deftones, and Tesseract. These are all inspiring bands that need extended low range and push the envelope in metal music.
8 String Guitars Are Their Own Instrument
While I believe that 7 string guitars are rather approachable for just about anyone who is already familiar with the standard 6 string guitar, I have to admit that 8 string guitars are not the same way. I think they should have their own name that doesn’t even involve the word “guitar” in it. They are a niche instrument for a very specific kind of player. They even require a different kind of engineering so that they are playable. If you see someone walk on stage with an 8 string guitar, you know they mean business.
The good news is that if you made it all the way to the bottom of this article, then you are probably the kind of player that needs an 8 string guitar. The even better news is that there are quality options out there any budget and just about any kind of skill level. It was my goal to showcase a few of those options in this list, and I hope that I managed to do that.
8 strings allow us to explore the limits of the guitar. In the hands of someone with a great deal of imagination, they are an amazing tool. They are not meant for any one style of playing.
The 8 string guitar takes the already expansive potential of the 6 and 7 string guitars and takes it one step further.
They are not to be feared, but they command respect. In my opinion they are worth the time and effort to learn. Go forth and play!
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.