Dave Mustaine’s Guitars and Gear

Dave Mustaine is best known as the lead guitarist and lead singer of the American thrash metal band Megadeth. Apart from that he was also the original lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Metallica and it’s co-founder. With Megadeth Dave sold over 50 million records worldwide, earned platinum certification in the United States for five of its fourteen studio albums, and received eleven Grammy nominations.

In the early days of his career Dave mostly played his B.C. Rich Bich guitar. In the mid 1980s he switched to Jackson guitars, more specifically the Jackson King V model, which eventually became one of his signature guitars. In 1991 the Jackson KV Pro model was officially introduced as Dave Mustaine signature model, and was the first guitar to feature Dave’s favorite set of pickups – Seymour Duncan TB-4 and SH-4. In 2003 he switched to ESP guitars, and 3 years later he made a final decision to switch to Dean guitars. Nowadays he’s mostly plating the Dean VMNT model

Dave Mustaine’s Electric Guitars:

Unknown Les Paul Copy

Dave Mustaine Les Paul This was one of the first electric guitars that Dave ever picked up. He played it in the very early days with his band “Panic”, before switching to a B.C. Rich Bich.

The guitar was finished in tobacco burst, and featured two white uncovered humbuckers.

B.C. Rich Bich Perfect 10 Natural Koa

BC Rich Bich This was the guitar that Dave played with Panic, during his short affair with Metallica, with Fallen Angels, and (most likely) on some of the early stuff with Megadeth.

First photos of Dave playing this particular guitar go back to around 1980, and based on them – the guitar had natural finish, neck-through body design, two white uncovered Seymour Duncan humbuckers (most likely – at least according to 2015 NAMM interview with Dave), and a fixed bridge. Also, Dave did not use the extra 4 strings that this guitar was built to support.

At some point in the early 80s Dave repainted the guitar black (more info on this below).

Ibanez Destroyer II D400

ibanez-destroyer 2 d400 According to an interview Dave gave at the 2015 NAMM, he played a Ibanez Destroyer at the time he joined Metallica in 1981.  Our guess is that the guitar was brand new, since the Destroyer model was in fact released that same year following a lawsuit form Gibson against Ibanez for copying the design of their Explorer guitar.

We only found one picture of Dave actually holding the guitar, and it seems that his model was finished in cherry sunburst, and had a maple top on mahogany body, maple neck with dot inlays, as well as Ibanez Super 58 humbucker in the neck, and Ibanez v2 in the bridge.

It’s unclear what happened to this guitar in the post-Metallica period – he might’ve used it on some early Megadeth stuff, but we have no information that could point in that direction.

B.C. Rich Bich Perfect 10 Black

Dave Mustaine BC Rich Bich Black 10 Dave played this guitar from around 1984, up until 1986/87 when he completely switched to Jacksons. This guitar started out as natural Koa Bich, but Dave decided to repaint the whole thing black.

This guitar was used in the very early years of Megadeth, and almost surely on at least some of the stuff on “Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!”. The two original pickups were replaced with Bill Lawrence humbuckers (most likely L500s), all of the gold-plated hardware was kept, and Dave continued played the guitar as a regular 6-string, even though it was built to support 10 strings.

Dave also had a couple of stickers on it: one featuring the logo of the Sex Pistols, a “FEAR” sticker, and another circular one just below the bridge with the word “whining” written on it.

Chris Poland supposedly sold the guitar without Dave’s knowledge around 1986, which eventually resulted in him being fired from the band. Current whereabouts of the guitar are unknown.

1980s Jackson King V

Jackson HSS V White Dave Mustaine This is one of the first Jacksons that Dave ever played, and it came around the same time Dave got the endorsement deal with Jackson.

The guitar was finished in white, and featured Humbucker-Single-Single pickup layout, Kahler 2300 Tremolo bridge, and it had a couple of stickers on it. A few photos also indicate that some work has been done on the neck, because they clearly show that the back of the neck was sanded down. This might mean that Dave prefered slimmer neck profile than the original, or he just wanted to sand down the “sticky” lacquer.

Dave played this guitar from around 1986 to 1989, and it was featured in the video for “No More Mr. Nice Guy” – although without the stickers. This King V might have been a prototype of some sort of Dave’s, and it was probably used so he can get a feel of what he wants on one of his custom guitars.

1986 Jackson King V Custom

Jackson King V Dave Mustaine Megadeth Dave ordered this guitar from Jackson with his own demands and ideas of how the guitar should look and play. It is basically a King V model painted completely black, with Kahler fixed bridge, Seymour Duncan JB pickup in the bridge position and a Bill Lawrence 500L in the neck.

The guitar also featured thin-profiled neck with 24 frets and JE-1200 active mid boost circuit. One of the main visual features of this guitar is a “Megadeth” logo imprinted on the body.

Dave played this guitar from the time he got it in 1986, up until 1991/92, when he started getting tons of new guitars from Jackson, as a result of a very successful Dave Mustaine Signature Series King V – which would become one of their best selling guitars. Some of the guitars he got looked almost exactly like this one, which brings a great deal of confusion into the subject of identifying and dating every single one of them.

This particular King V was modified a couple of times during the period Dave played it. This included changing of the pickups couple of times, complete repainting of the body, and neck replacement.

1980s Jackson King V “Number One”

Jackson King V Mustaine Number One This was according to Dave’s own words his main guitar, which he on almost all of the stuff since “Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?”. The guitar is allegedly the same guitar as the previously mentioned black King V, just repainted with sparkle silver finish – but there’s some dispute going on whether this is true or not.

As for spec wise differences, the silver guitar features a different neck pickup – probably a Seymour Duncan jazz, – while the rest of it seems to be pretty much the same.

It also is important to note that this was most likely not the only silver KV that Dave played in those early days, meaning he probably had this one which was his main, and a couple of more which he took on tours as a spare/backup.

In the 90s Dave used a couple of different custom King Vs. He had a King V made of korina wood with anarchy inlays, a cracked mirror-top King V, a string-thru King V, and probably a few more custom made guitars.

Jackson King V Doubleneck

Dave Mustaine King V Doubleneck Dave started using this guitar in 1988, during the tour that followed the release of “So Far, So Good… So What!” album. It was most often used for “Mary Jane” and “In My Darkest Hour” (Megadeth – 1988, Essen, Germany).

Dave’s Jackson doubleneck King V was set-up in the usual fashion with 12-string neck on the top with only a bridge pickup (Jackson J-92C), and a 6-string neck on the bottom with both bridge and neck pickups.

Jackson King V Pro

King V Pro Dave Mustaine This guitar was first released in 1993, and it was mostly based on the King V customs that Dave was using prior.

The guitar came in three colors – sparkle silver, black, and cherry sunburst, and featured Bill Lawrence L500XL humbucker in the neck, and Jackson J-92C in the bridge position. The neck on it was maple with ebony fingerboard, featuring 25.5 inch scale with 24 frets.

Dave used a couple of these guitars starting with the “Youthanasia” tour, and up until early 2000s.

Jackson KV1

Jackson KV1 In 1995 the King V Pro model was renamed to KV1 and released officially as a Dave Mustaine signature model. Most of the specs were carried over from Dave’s King V Customs, except for the pickups (Seymour Duncan TB-4 and SH-4), the tuners (LSR), and the body finish options (natural Korina wood finish replaced the cherry sunburst).

The KV1 line was produced from 1996 to 2001, and it was relatively big commercial success. Dave himself still prefered his old Customs over the KV1, but he did use a couple of them nonetheless.

Jackson Y2KV Prototype J6442

Jacskon Y2KV Prototype This guitar was one of the first Y2KV models ever made, and the first one approved prototype which Dave Mustaine used personally. The idea with the new model of King V was to create a less aggressive and vintage-looking flying V guitar, and perhaps to approach a wider scale of audience.

This particular guitar was finished in 1998, and was styled after the Gibson Flying V model, with rounded edges, and 3+3 headstock. The neck and the body were made of mahogany, and the fretboard itself was rosewood with dot inlay. The guitar had same pickups as the KV1, Schaller tuners, and Tune-o-matic bridge.

This guitar was sold on an auction on ebay in 2013 for $10,000.

Please note that Dave used a couple of more prototypes before the Y2KV was fully shaped and completed. Most of them were completely black, and shared most of the specs with the previously mentioned prototype – only notable differences were in the body shape.

Jackson Y2KV

jackson y2kv final The Y2KV model was finished and went mass production in 2000, and Dave himself used it as a main touring guitar for “Risk” and “The World Needs a Hero”.

The guitar kept most of the specs from the prototype – Saymour Duncan TB-4 and SH-4 pickups, Jackson JT390 Tune O Matic Bridge, Schaller tuners, and mahogany body and neck with 24 frets.

Dave usually played custom painted guitars styling American flag designs, and one black one with Floyd Rose tremolo and “Shut Up” sticker between the two humbuckers.

All of the guitars were sold after Dave’s deal with Jackson came to an end. Some of them were sold on ebay, but most of the guitars went on auction through Andy Brauer’s shop.

Jackson Y2KV Double-neck

jackson-y2kv doubleneck Dave played this guitar for a short period of time around 2001, but it was later auctioned of together with rest of his Jacksons.

In 2003 Dave stopped using Jackson guitar completely, and signed a new deal with ESP guitars.

ESP DV8

ESP DV8 Dave Mustaine This was the first guitar that came out the endorsement deal between ESP Guitars and Dave Mustaine in 2003. The guitar was mostly based on the Jackson models Dave was using prior, and featured Seymour Duncan TB-4/SH-4 set, TonePros locking bridge with string-thru-body design, Mahogany V-shaped body and maple/ebony neck with 25.5” scale and 24 frets.

Dave played this guitar from 2003 to 2006, when he left ESP and signed up a new deal with Dean Guitars.

ESP Axxion

ESP Axxion This ESP model was introduced in 2004 to commemorate Megadeth’s 20th Anniversary. It features a custom body shape which was designed by Dave himself. Supposedly Dave pitched this design long time ago to Jackson, but for some reason for he was not successful in pursuing them to start making this model.

The ESP Axxion (pronounced Action) featured mahogany body, rosewood fretboard with 24 frets, Saymour Duncan TB-4/SH-4 humbucker set, Sperzel locking tuners, and TonePros locking bridge.

On December 6, 2006, Dave Mustaine announced that he was leaving ESP guitars and shifting his endorsement to Dean Guitars.
“I have decided to leave ESP guitars. This was a business decision and had nothing to do with the guitars or the manufacturing of the guitars, and I wish the staff of ESP, both in the USA and in Japan and Korea the very best of health and prosperity”.

Dean VMNT

Dean VMNT Mustaine’s first signature model from Dean was revealed during NAMM Show on January 19, 2007. The guitar is heavily based on the Jackson King V model, but features some significant differences.

Main thing that separates this guitar from the King V sound-wise are the pickups. Dave has been pretty much using Seymour Duncan humbuckers since the late ’80s, so he ended up signing a deal with them, and helped them design his own signature set called Live Wire pickups. The pickups have the exact same resonant peak and sound of the SH-4 JB humbucker (bridge) and an SH-2N Jazz Model (neck), and they feature built-in 9-volt-powered preamp which allows higher gain and more output.

Dave plays various different VMNT guitars with different body finish/design. They mostly share the same specs – mahogany body and neck, 24 frets, Tune-O-Matic bridge, and Mini Grover tuners.

Dean Zero

Dean Zero Mustaine This guitar was introduced in 2010 as a second Dave Mustaine Signature model from Dean. Visually – the Dean Zero is based on the Gibson Explorer model, but features sharper edges and more aggressive design overall. Spec-wise, this guitar is pretty much identical to the VMNT model.

Dean V Dave Mustaine Doubleneck

Dean VMNT doubleneck Since Dave’s no longer using his Jackson guitars (at least not publicly) Dean decided to build him a new doubleneck model. The Dean V doubleneck features almost identical design as the first King V doubleneck, and hold two Seymour Duncan Live Wire pickups on the bottom portion of the body, and one on the top.

Dave Mustaine’s Acoustic Guitars:

Dave rarely if ever plays an acoustic, so tracking some of the early guitar he used is nearly impossible. We’ve found one video of Megadeth unplugged gig from 1998, but we were unable to identify the guitars Dave was playing.
If you feel you’re up for the task, watch this video – Megadeth – Unplugged In Buenos Aires 1998, and let us know if you figure out anything.

Ovation Tangent T357

Ovation Tangent T357 Dave started using this guitar circa 2001. It was painted completely black, had solid spruce top, ebony bridge, rosewood fingerboard, and OP-30 preamp built-in.

Dean Mustaine Mako Acoustic

Dean Dave Mustaine Mako Acoustic This is practically the only acoustic guitar that Dave plays nowadays. It features spruce top, mahogany back and sides, 25-1/4″ scale mahogany neck with ebony fretboard, Grover Tuners, and B-Band A3TY Preamp.

Dave used two different models – one in black, and other one with American flag painted over the top.

Dave Mustaine Guitar Amps:

–  Marshall JCM800
Although it’s hard to say for sure, but Dave most likely used a lot of different JCM800s during the Megadeth’s first three-four albums. He was playing them through DeCuir Cabinets with Celestion speakers.

– VHT 2150 Power Amp
First used used in the early 90s, most likely as early as 1990 on Rust in Peace album. For next couple of years he would stick to this power amp, but would go through couple of different preamps (as listed bellow)

– Bogner Triple Giant Preamp
Used most likely as a preamp for the most part of Rust in Peace, since the Bogner Fish which is usually mentioned in relation to RIP wasn’t released until some time later after the album was finished.

– Bogner Fish Preamp
Used from around 1991 to 1992, although it is possible that Dave had access to an early prototype of the Bogner Fish and used it at least partially on Rust in Peace.

– Custom Audio Electronics 3+SE Preamp
Used during Countdown and Youthanasia era.

– Marshall EL34 100/100 Dual MonoBloc Power Amp
Dave switched away from VHT to Marshall power amp sometime in the mid 90s, – in time for the 1997 album Cryptic Writings.

– Marshall JMP-1 Preamp
A change to his preamp setup introduced at the same time as the previously mentioned Marshall EL34 power amp.

– Rocktron Prophesy Preamp
Dave got rid of the JMP-1 in time the for the 1999 album Risk, and started using a Rocktron Prophesy instead. This preamp would remain in his rig until around 2007.

– Line 6 Custom-made
This amp was designed and made specifically for Dave, and was used on the album 2007 “United Abominations”. By 2008 Dave abandoned this amp and went back to the Marshall.

– Digitech GSP1101 Preamp
Replaced the Rocktron Pophesy in 2008, and used until around 2012.

– Fractal AxeFx II Preamp
Used since 2012.

– Marshall JVM410
Dave started using this amp circa 2008. 

Dave Mustaine’s Guitar Effects:

Dave likes really simple setups, and all of his effects are controlled by the rack units.

– Rockman Sustainor
Used in the early days, coupled with Marshall JMP800

– Rocktron All Access Controller
All-in-one pedalboard that controls all of his effects on-stage.

– Shure UHF-R Wireless Guitar System

– Zoom G2.1DM.
This is perhaps the only pedal directly associated with Dave. It was design following Mustaine’s own personal style and taste, and it was made to simulate Megadeth’s sound.

Dave Mustaine’s Guitar Strings:

– D’Addario EXL140 (used in the early days)

– GHS Dave Mustaine Signature Set .010 – .052 (used until recently)

– Cleartone Monster Dave Mustaine Signature Series .010 – .052 (used since 2012) [Dave Mustaine on Twitter]

Dave Mustaine’s Guitar Picks:

– Dave’s favorite picks are Dunlop Tortex .73mm Yellow, although he’s been seen using various other types – including Dunlop .88 greens and Jazz picks, as well as some others.

Contributors: punchlinecharlie63, michaelteisener, mkarrs, rgx612a, Josh, a@a