LTD EC-256 Review

manufacturer: ESP date: 11/15/2012 category: Electric Guitars
ESP: LTD EC-256
It's sort of a stripped down version with a simpler satin finish, non-fancy pickups, and less extravagant styling cues than many of it's brethren, but with an interesting "aged" appearance.
 Sound: 9
 Overall Impression: 9.2
 Reliability & Durability: 9.4
 Action, Fit & Finish: 8.6
 Features: 9.2
 Overall rating:
 8.7 
 Reviewer rating:
 9.1 
 Users rating:
 8.3 
 Votes:
 84 
reviews (5) pictures (5) 38 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 8.8
LTD EC-256 Reviewed by: Kendall, on november 15, 2012
12 of 14 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 399

Purchased from: Local shop

Features: In a world chock-full of guitars that imitate other guitars, the EC-256 is certainly no standout. It should take any reasonably well informed guitarist about. 03 seconds to figure out exactly where this design comes from (certainly not Vietnam where it's manufactured). Fortunately for me I was looking for a blatant Les Paul ripoff, only one with a few distinct features to set it apart from the real thing. Now I realize there's a small army of ESP EC fans that like to claim that the EC's don't share as much with the LP's as some people would like to think, however these people are completely kidding themselves. The EC is an LP ripoff, end of story. The EC-256 is close to being a Brand New model. I think it officially released in late '08, however I didn't pick one up until February '09. It's sort of a stripped down version with a simpler satin finish, non-fancy pickups, and less extravagant styling cues than many of it's brethren, but with an interesting "aged" appearance. Personally, I've always been partial to satin finishes. They require less effort to keep up, and are generally a lot smoother to play as the back of the neck doesn't get sticky if your palm start sweating. In addition, the aged treatment makes it less of an issue if you start developing pick scratches or if you accidentally (or intentionally) bang the body up against something. Mine is a honey burst finish (should be familiar to all the LP junkies) that looks significantly better in person than it does in the stock photo on ESP's website. This finish is on top of a very traditional "maple top/mahogany back" body with a mahogany neck and a rosewood fretboard. As mentioned earlier, this is pretty much a blatant LP ripoff. It uses a Standard Tune-O-Matic bridge and a stopbar tailpiece, simple non-locking tuning machines, 2 passive humbuckers with modest output, a 3 way pickup selector Switch placed north of the neck, and a side mounted output jack. It's a 24.74" scale neck with 22 large (but not too large) frets. A couple of features that don't fall into the "LP ripoff" category is that both pickups share a single tone control, bringing the knob count on the lower body down to three. On a very nice note, the tone knob is a push/pull pot that actuates a coil split on both pickups and offers some interesting tonal options not present with a lot of other similar guitars. As far as the overall features rating I'm going to attach to this thing, I see absolutely nothing "special" here except for the coil split. It's goint to score a few extra points for having a narrow and thin (but not too thin) neck that's very comfortable to me to fool around with, and for weighing significantly less than any genuine LP on the market. 8 may be a bit on the generous side, but it really is a nice, well outfitted instrument. // 8

Sound: The first order of business I had when I got the 256 up to my studio was to plug it in. Fortunately this is very easy. Unfortunately, there are quite a few options to choose from. After staring at various corners of the room for 10 minutes or so, I settled on a Mesa/Boggie Mark I reissue head. There's really not a lot this amp can't do when supplemented with the help of a modest pedalboard so I ended up deciding it would be ideal for new guitar testing. The test rig ended up being a Boss Compressor/Sustainer, a Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive and a Zvex Box of Metal into the Mark I, and then an Avatar 2X12 cab loaded with Celestion Vintage 30's. At first I ran into Input 2 on the Mark I and dialed in my usual settings for Fender-like cleans with a touch of reverb. With both volumes and the tone control of the guitar at 10 and the selector Switch indicating the neck pickup I let loose a G major chord and I'm pleasantly surprised. It becomes fairly obvious after a few minutes that the stock ESP pickups lack a little bit of the high frequency sound reproduction I'm used to with many other guitars, but that's why they make amps with a "Presence" control. Messing around for a little while yielded some outstanding "kind of dirty" neck pickup tones with the aide of the Sparkle Drive. The pickups seem a little more sensitive to pick noise than some other guitars I've played with, but it's really not an issue. Switching to single coil mode continued a wave of great neck pickup tones. Going to the bridge pickup, I was also impressed. The overall tone of the guitar is quite pleasant, not shrill at all. Single coil mode on the bridge pickup was less impressive, but honestly I'm not going to fault ESP on this one. I've yet to hear a coil split bridge humbucker tone I thought was reasonable, so oh well. So on to Input 1 on the Mark I. Making things dirtier was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Based on the clean tone, I thought I was going to have some muddiness issues when I started cranking things up. There is a little bit of mud going on when playing complex chords with the neck pickup, but that's kind of expected (and I'm personally not big on riffing with the neck pickup). I didn't have any issues finding suitable lead tones on either pickup and again the coil split was rather useful with the neck pickup. On to the high gain. Cranking both input volumes on the amp to 10 and clicking on the Sparkle Drive had me worried for a little bit, and then I tried it and immediately let out a sigh of relief. The guitar is quite crisp and responded well to both boosting and scooping the mids though it seemed to prefer the mid boost. Backing back down to Input 2 and clicking on the Compressor and the Box of Metal yielded similar results. Overall it does an admirable job of ripping off the Les Paul Classic hanging on the studio wall, though the 256 is lacking a bit of sustain and a bit of high end when compared directly. The single coil tones out of it aren't going to make anyone sell their Strat, but having the option and being able to easily make the Switch definitely scores some points. This guitar would work really well as a workhorse axe for smaller gigs where the player needs a lot of tonal variety but only wants to bring one instrument. I was going to give this category a 7 for doing a good job of copying an LP, but it gets one extra point for the coil split and another extra point for having an amazing neck pickup lead tone. I'm subtracting one for the lack of natural presence in the pickups. // 8

Action, Fit & Finish: Looking over the guitar thoroughly revealed a couple of very minor finish blemishes that honestly couldn't have been a part of the aging process. Fortunately both of these are on the side of the guitar and are hard to feel anyway so they present no playability issues what'soever. I was uncomfortable with the factory setup. The intonation up high was a little too sharp for my liking, the action was too high, and the strings were too thin. On the other hand, I'm very much of the opinion that every new guitar should be set up for the person Who will be playing it so I'm not going to deduct anything for it having a generic setup. A fresh setup took less than half an hour to get everything dialed in exactly where I needed it. Removing the back panels and taking out the pickups revealed quality construction. The top is excellent, the routing is excellent, and the soldering is excellent. I have no complaints regarding the build quality and was pleasantly surprised to find nothing loose and/or rattling around. For a $400 guitar I wasn't expecting a whole lot in this department, but I got it anyway. // 9

Reliability & Durability: Like most well constructed guitars made out of similar materials, I expect this one to last for as long as I still care to maintain it. There are still a good handful of LP's from the 50's that have survived and aged quite well, and this one is baked up from all the same ingredients. All the hardware seems solid as a rock so I'm convinced that unless I drop/throw it, this one should handle just about anything I'm willing to put it through. The only thing I can think of in this department that might pose an issue is the finish. As mentioned, it's an aged satin finish and as such it probably won't take a lot of abuse before I start wearing through it. On the other hand, if I wanted the finish to be pristine then I wouldn't have bought a guitar with an aged satin finish. No points deducted, this guitar is solid. // 10

Overall Impression: I put the 256 through the gauntlet with everything from jazz to metal and I'm still impressed. Honestly it doesn't do a legitimately incredible job at any one thing, but it is very good at everything. It seems that ESP's focus here was to try and offer an affordable, versatile workhorse guitar that captures most of the style of a road worn Les Paul. I suppose there's always room for improvement and as such the pickups could use a little bit of attention. Some more output and better high frequency response would do a lot for this guitar. Better to have the high frequencies and roll off the tone knob than to just not have them in the first place. Everything else, I guess, would be more of a subjective issue. A lot of people are going to hate the neck profile as it's narrow with a lot of contour and with a very flat fretboard. If you're interested in purchasing one I highly recommend checking out the neck thoroughly before dropping the cash. Fortunately it works very well for me. As far as an "overall impression" goes, I think it would be very hard to do better for $400 (it would probably be very hard to do better for $600). This guitar is a fantastic variation on the Les Paul with some nice features and not a lot with room for improvement. Naturally this guitar isn't going to realistically compete with a lot of things in the higher price categories. // 9

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overall: 9
LTD EC-256 Reviewed by: Riffanatic, on november 15, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: C$ 429

Purchased from: Steve's

Features: Single cut/Les Paul shape mahogany body, set neck, rosewood fingerboard, flamed maple top, aged honey burst satin finish, fixed Tune O - Matic bridge, ESP tuners, 22 extra jumbo frets, 24.75 Scale, two ESP LH150 passive humbuckers (Coil Tapped), 3 way pickup selector, two volume knobs and one tone knob (with push pull coil tap). Made in China. The coil tap is a feature that allows you to split the two humbuckers into single coil mode, which doubles the tonal options available. The neck has a thin U profile, which is thinner than a Les Paul neck. It has a satin finish that feels really smooth. There is a slight contour on the back of the body that makes the guitar feel more comfortable when you play sitting down. Regarding the finish of the guitar, it has an aged worn look with a satin finish. The aging does not look very authentic, but I expected this for the price. The factory aging consists of some wear marks in front and back of the body, and the headstock. Also, the neck biding has a worn appearance. The level of aging varies depending on the color version you choose. I have also seen the Aged Vintage Gold version, and the aging was a lot more intense, it had more and bigger wear marks, and the guitar looked a lot more beat up. I have not seen the Aged Vintage Black in person, so I cannot comment on that one. Another thing to consider is that the aged honey burst version has a maple top, while the other two versions do not have one. Keep this in mind if you care about the tonal differences caused by wood types. The guitar gives you great flexibility to adjust your sound using the available control layout, but a second tone knob would have been nice for even more possibilities. // 10

Sound: I play this guitar through a Roland Cube 20X. At first, I had doubts about the LH 150 pickups since ESP puts these in their entry level LTD models. But after playing for a little while, I was really impressed by the high quality of the pickups. What I like the most is that chords sound very defined when played with distortion, not muddy at all. I find the pickups slightly bright sounding. This guitar is very versatile, I play a little bit of everything but mostly metal and blues, and I can obtain a lot of tonal variety to play different musical genres. I like using the full humbuckers when playing metal and rock, and Switch to single coil mode to play blues or to play in the clean channel. ESP did a good job with the shielding and electronics on this model. My other guitar, a beginner Strat copy, gets really noisy when I connect my amp to my computer to play along with songs.However, the EC-256 is pretty quiet. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: I had this guitar set up professionally at the store so I don't know how the factory set up was. The action can be set low with no fret buzz. When I first took the guitar home, the pickup selector Switch had a problem; the middle position which selects both pickups at the same time was not working. I had to open the Switch cavity on the back, and then bend the two Switch contacts closer together, so the Switch could touch both contacts. Although it was an easy fix, I am deducting a couple of points since this is not something you are supposed to do with a new guitar. // 8

Reliability & Durability: I have had this guitar only for four months, thus, I cannot comment yet on its long term durability and reliability. Also, I play guitar as a hobby and I have not played any gigs with this guitar. However, it seems sturdy enough to withstand live playing. The bridge, tuners and especially the strap buttons look solid, and I imagine they will last a long time. One time, I hit the headstock against a desk, and the neck pickup came loose inside its cavity. I just pushed the pickup down until it was sitting tight again, and problem fixed. Also, the guitar fell once from its stand and no damage was done. Since the finish has a worn appearance from the factory, I would not worry about scratches and dents. They will likely blend with the factory wear marks and contribute to the aged worn look. // 9

Overall Impression: I have been playing for two years and this is my second guitar. I was looking for a guitar to play metal rhythm but that was versatile enough to play other genres such as blues and funk. When it comes to versatility, this guitar delivers. It handles a variety of musical genres well. And as I said before, the coil tap gives you additional tonal options. The EC-256 is an upgrade from my beginner Strat copy, so I am glad that I don't have to Switch guitars to get single coil sounds. I chose this guitar because I love the look of Les Paul guitars but do not like the heavy weight or the thick neck. This guitar has a thinner lighter body and a thinner neck than a Les Paul. It also has a sharper cutaway giving this guitar a more aggressive and modern styling, which I personally prefer. Therefore, this guitar was what I was looking for, and it also fit my budget. Access to the upper frets is decent, but not great. If you are a lead player that uses the high frets frequently, you should keep this in mind, and perhaps consider other guitars more suited to your playing style. The only fault I find with this guitar is that the neck edges are a bit sharp. I wish the neck edges were rounder and smoother. This guitar is a very good value for the money. You get nice features such as mahogany body, set neck, flamed maple top (If you get the Aged Honey Burst version), solid sounding stock pickups, and a coil tap. I would definitely buy it again if it got stolen. If you have a tight budget and you are looking for a versatile fixed bridge guitar, the LTD EC-256 is a great option. // 9

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overall: 9.2
LTD EC-256 Reviewed by: OlaEide, on november 15, 2012
1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 400

Purchased from: Sandvika, Norway

Features: - Set-neck - 24-3/4" scale - Mahogany body - Mahogany neck - Rosewood fingerboard - 42mm standard nut - Thin U neck contour - 22 extra-jumbo frets - Nickel hardware - ESP tuners - ESP LH-150 humbuckers // 9

Sound: I play metal and this guitar fits perfectly to the genre. I'm using my Fender Mustang III and my overdrive pedal from TC Electronic. The guitar makes a very bright sound. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: The action was good. The pickups were adjusted fine. The guitar lacked nothing. The wood was in good quality. Everything is just fine with this guitar. // 8

Reliability & Durability: The guitar works awesome good to play live with. Today my band played "Transylvania" by Iron Maiden live without any problem. The hardware will last a long time. The strap buttons are solid, and I never have to worry that it will fall off. I depend on the guitar on a gig, but it's always wise to have a backup guitar in case something happens. // 10

Overall Impression: I play metal and it works well to play metal with. I've played since I was eight years old, I had a Morgan Stratocaster for many years, but I felt that I needed a guitar that worked to play metal with so I bought this. If it had been stolen I would probably buy a similar or a Gibson guitar. I love the shape of the guitar and appearance. I compare the guitar for most of the Gibson Les Paul Standard. I chose this guitar because it suited me and it looks awesome. I wish the guitar had EMG pickups. // 9

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overall: 8.8
LTD EC-256 Reviewed by: unregistered, on november 15, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 425

Purchased from: Local Shop

Features: This guitar is basically a toned-down version of the ESP eclipse. It has the same basic shape as a les paul but with a sharper cut-away. It has Standard tune-o-matic bridge and 2 passive humbuckers, it has a 3 way toggle, and 3 volume knobs. One of which can be pulled out to split the coils and try to give the sound of a single coil guitar. The tuners are Standard non locking tuners. All around the average package for a 400 dollar guitar. // 9

Sound: Personally I like to play hard rock, and as far as that goes, this guitar suit's it pretty well. The coil tap gives the guitar a couple more sound options than most, and all around it has a pretty nice sound.The neck pickup has an almost "dirty" sound to it. Pickups aren't amazing, but I'd keep them if you're not looking for something to sound like it was in the thousand dollar price range. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: Coming from the factory the action was almost perfect, i had to lower it a bit but thats just for personal preference. Everything was in its place and it was in good condition, however there were a few nicks in the finish that obviously werent part or the factory "worn" look. // 8

Reliability & Durability: This guitar definately looks like it will last me a long time. I've had to tighten the strap buttons twice but other than that nothing wears off easily and it looks like it could take a good beating without damage to the sound. I'd gig it around without a backup. The finish doesn't look like it would wear out, but either way it will only add to the look. // 9

Overall Impression: All around its a pretty solid guitar for its price range. you can always swap the pickups, which is on my list of things to do, because this guitars too good to be replaced. I love the look and my only complaint would be the pickups. But you can't expect a mind blowing sound from a guitar in this price range. // 9

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overall: 9.6
LTD EC-256 Reviewed by: unregistered, on november 15, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: A$ 900

Purchased from: Chinatown Music

Features: Is a 24-fret, double humbucker, push-pull-coil-tap, babe of a guitar that was made in Indonesia 2009 and I've purchased it recently (Nov 2009). 24-3/4 in. Scale length, Tune-o-matic bridge with a stop tailpiece and two EMG-HZ humbuckers (passives). Black hardware, agathis les paul influenced body, 3-piece mahogany set-neck with a rosewood fingerboard (XJ frets) and neck binding. Has volume control, selector Switch and two tone controls (will coil tap). Oh and the finish on it is awesome, a jet black with a grey pearl pattern. Google it. // 10

Sound: I've got a very varied music taste and play everything from metal to stuff like third eye blind, Kings Of Leon (alternative), Bloc Party and Rise Against. The pickups are effectively noiseless and the three way selector switch and the tone controls can be adjusted to achieve virtually any sound from a hardcore metal (bridge pickup using DigiTech Grunge Distortion) to a full clean sound. Playing it through a Peavey Vypyr 75 and the sound is awesome, very versatile guitar tone-wise which allows me to get the mostout of my amp. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: Guitar arrived in box ready to play, had to only tune E and A strings. Pickups and action were in suitable playing positions and the finish I've mentioned above was untouched and pure awesomeness. Action, Fit & Finish = the pure sweet nectar of awesomeness. // 10

Reliability & Durability: Is a very solid well balanced guitar and although I haven't dropped it yet (don't plan to) I know that it'd stay in one piece and at worst mark its finish :(. The strap buttons it came with are virtually strap locks and theres no chance of the strap coming off provided its a half decent one. I wouldn't take it to a gig without backup as its much easier if i break a string to grab my other guitar but I would leave that in the car as this is one well made guitar. // 9

Overall Impression: I have been playing a year and a half and purchased this as an upgrade from the guitar I started out on (A Monterey msg-1) ick. So far the tonal quality and build of this guitar have by far excelled my expetations. My favourite bits about it are the finish (yes, said it again) and ergonomics of it and the tonal control available with the push pull coil tap and tonal knobs. If I were head of ESP I'd be charging alot more for their LTD guitars. // 10

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