Price paid: £ 389
Purchased from: Tuba Talk, Watford
Sound — 10
I play mostly hard punk and metal. Metallica, Megadeth, Therapy? Are three favourites to play along to. This guitar suits all varieties of these genres perfectly, even with the stock pickups. Clean it is a bit thin, but still has a nice sound. Distorted it comes alive, sounding rich and full. With different amp and pedal settings I've made a good range of useable sounds, from light overdrive to heavy distortion. It sounds great clean with a bit of chorus too. I'm using it with a Marshall AVT150 amp, clean channel, with a Boss MT-2, CE-2, and ME-70 effects units.
Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing 16 years now, and own this along with an Epiphone Les Paul, Dean VMNT Mustaine, Ibanez bass and acoustics. I've also owned an Epiphone SG Gothic, Gibson SG, and my very first guitar was an Encore Strat. Until I got the VMNT a month ago, this Explorer was my favourite guitar. The weight is evenly balanced when sitting or standing, the sound is perfect for my playing, it feels solid with 10-46 strings (my Les Paul feelsflimsy with the same strings), and is fun for both solid rhythm and lead parts. Besides fantastic playability, it also looks amazing, especially when slung low. If it were stolen I wouldn't replace it, but only because THIS one is MINE. No other will ever be the same to me.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've had this guitar for almost 7 years (bought it 2nd Jan 2004) so I can safely say yes, it lasts. I gigged with it for the first couple of years, and since then I've regularly used it at home for practice and recording. The strap buttons have been mentioned in other reviews, and I'll repeat - the top one is in a bad place on top of the body, which means the strap is pulled off the pin over time. I tried some Schaller straplocks, which are too thin to fit the holes left by the stock strap pins, so you'll want to find an alternative. I see no reason why you couldn't (with some careful drilling) relocate the strap pin to below the neck, on the back of the guitar, SG style. The finish is super strong - its been knocked, bashed, scraped, and shows no sign of damage. I do polish mine regularly which must help, but still, its tough.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I bought it from a local shop, and enjoyed playing it whilst still there, however when I got it home and had a good play the action was way too high for my liking. I took it back and they sorted it, and since then it has been fantastic. The action is nice and low, allowing for fast playing, and I've since learned to do a set up myself, but this guitar hasn't needed any further adjustment. The bridge pickup was well adjusted for its sweet spot, but the neck pickup was too high, and therefore a lot louder than the bridge one. Everything else about the finish is brilliant for the price. The bridge and nut are a good fit, the frets well polished with no sharp edges. The tone pot was a little loose, but easily fixed. The only real indications of the low price range are the cheaply done fret markers, and the ebony finish, which with the light at the right angle shows it isn't as smooth as could be.
Features — 8
2003, Korea, 22 Frets. I believe it to be Mahogany all over. Ebony finish. Tune-O-Matic bridge with solid tailpiece. Passive Epiphone pickups. Two Volume, one Tone. Two humbuckers, neck and bridge position. Grover tuners. No accessories. Pretty Standard throughout.