Price paid: £ 325
Purchased from: Thomann.de
Features — 10
This guitar is the first new guitar I have bought (2013). It features a cutaway body with quilted maple top, back and sides with and a rosewood bridge. The 25.5"-scale mahogany neck has a rosewood fretboard with 20 XJ frets and abalone/mother-of-pearl fretboard inlays. There is also abalone inlaid on the binding on the front of the body, as well as the rosette surrounding the soundhole. It's got a B-Band Electret film transducer pickup (NOT a piezo), and a built-in preamp with 3-band EQ, presence control and an onboard tuner, plus a phase control that lets you select any phase from 0 to 330 to combat feedback in a live setting. It's also got XLR as well as 1/4" jack outputs. It is available in 3 colours: See-through red, honey natural and dark brown sunburst. I bought the red one, since it was the only colour available at the shop, and other shops were considerably more expensive. Feature wise, a fantastic guitar for the price.
Sound — 9
The reason I bought this guitar was because listening to the sound samples on Thomann's website, the pickup on this was remarkably transparent compared to other guitars in its price range, which generally sounded a bit plasticky and soft. Taking it home, I certainly wasn't disappointed. The pickup in this guitar is very transparent, and captures the sharp attack of an acoustic guitar perfectly, unlike piezoelectric pickups, which tend to soften the attack somewhat. Pickup-wise, we're not just talking good for a £350 guitar. This actually sounds better than the expensive piezo-equipped guitars I've heard on professional recordings. That is pretty incredible for a guitar of this price. In terms of acoustic sound, it's got a nice biting attack with good sustain. However, the sound is not quite as deep as I might like. But then again, it does have an all-maple body, so perhaps that is to be expected. Really, the acoustic sound is what you would expect from a guitar of this price. It's good, but it's not incredible. Also, the onboard tuner, whilst easy to use, does lack in accuracy compared to a decent pedal or rack tuner. However, if you're looking for a guitar that you can plug in and play on recordings and live shows, this guitar is totally unbeatable for this price range. It gives you the sound of a miced-up guitar, without the mic!
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
As I say, this is the first time I've bought a new guitar. The action is set nice and low with little in the way of fret buzz, and the compensated saddle gives a decent intonation. What I wasn't so keen on was the fact that there were still a few stray wood shavings inside the guitar. Also, one of the cables is a bit loose, and if you shake the guitar, you can hear it knocking around. Finally, there were some minor imperfections on the finish. This is sadly what we have come to expect from LTD guitars of late. Their quality control has been going downhill in recent years. Not ideal if you're looking to break into the acoustic market, which of course requires a bit more work to create the body than an electric. There are no major issues though, just minor niggles.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Apart from the minor finish issues, this guitar seems pretty solid. The hardware is pretty much standard for LTD guitars of this price range, I personally have never heard someone complain about them being unreliable. The finish seems pretty solid as well. It's perhaps not as thick as ESP finishes of old, but it is an acoustic, so you don't want it to be too thick. It doesn't have a scratchplate (not so keen on the look anyway) so hopefully it will stand up to playing. I will probably want to get a bit of tape and stick that errant cable down though before taking it on a gig.
Overall Impression — 8
I play rock and metal music and this is a really great guitar for the price. The low action and thin neck means that someone who is used to playing an electric with heavy strings will not struggle too much to play this at all. By far the best thing about this guitar is the pickup sound. Other guitars of this price range and even ones that are considerably more expensive simply do not compare on that front. That is why I chose this guitar in the first place. What I'm not so keen on is the quality control. I really hope ESP see the error of their ways and start to up their game on this front again. I've been playing for 9 years now, and this is the first acoustic guitar I've bought, but I do have 4 electric guitars. I can't say I would definitely buy another one of these guitars if I felt the need for another acoustic. However, one thing I'm sure about is what I will NOT ever buy, and that is an electro-acoustic with a piezo pickup. Piezos are yesterday's news. Now you can have all the convenience of being able to plug in and play, without the horrible plastic sound of a piezo pickup.