Purchased from: Musicians Friend
Features — 9
Mine is a 2014 made in Japan, Amber Cherry Sunburst, specs here. It included a hard case and wrenches. The flame maple is flawless and tight, the paint job top quality. Its finish quality looks stunning. The spec of abalone dot inlays vs. Mother of pearl logo on headstock and 12 fret seems a little odd to me. I would've picked MoP for all. Especially with the white binding. But they both look great.
Sound — 9
IMO the 2 EMG 81s make this a one trick pony, they are very aggressive and ideally suited for rock-metal distortion. I have a Marshall Tube amp with MXR fx. - distortion, delay, chorus, phaser, flanger.
I would've preferred a pickup spec that offered a greater variation in tone. That's the nice thing about EMGs though, plug-n-play wire connectors, I am planning on ordering a single coil HA (in hb size) to swap out, no solder gun needed. There is no tone pot, that doesn't bother me one bit on this guitar. It will spend the majority of its life at the 81 in the bridge playing aggressive sounds so I wouldn't touch the tone knob much at all anyway. I would just like a single coil tone for the occasional switch flip.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The factory set up was spot on, but it came with 9s. I run 11s on my fixed bridge and floating Parker guitars. The tech at GC advised against 11s on the Floyd Rose, too many springs to balance putting a lot of load on the system, is what he told me. So I split the difference by putting a 10-52 set on it. I didn't have to add a spring or adjust the neck. Just re-balance the spring tension. I think it really improved the feel and didn't require a check to the tech.
The ebony fretboard plays really smooth and fast. Better than rosewood imho. I love the 3-ply mahogany body which allows for the neck joint to have a smooth machined transition. I think the 2 tone color on the back side makes for a cool appearance also. I would've preferred locking tuners to speed up string changes. I know, over-kill with the lock nut. That's a very minor nit-pick, but still would be nicer.
The Floyd is an Original model. The first I've owned. I've had other cheaper guitars with Chinese Floyd's. This original holds tuning so much better. Worth the money. I can hear the springs in the cavity resonating when I play unplugged on the couch watching TV. I've heard a small foam block stuck behind them elevates that. Might be I'll try it if it annoys me. Honestly, I haven't found a manufacturing, assembly, or wood quality flaw. It's a real Japan made ESP.
One drawback I would prefer be changed is how close the Volume knob is to the bridge. When palm muting the bottom strings, my bottom of my hand jams against the knob making it hard to hit the strings just right. It's really easy to accidentally touch and turn the knob also. I would prefer it a little further away. I'll just need to train myself to accommodate.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The tuners, tremolo, and pickups are top name quality and I expect them to last. The clear coat appears durable and I don't think it will wear away. I've only owned it a short time though. The neck has a thin dimension to it so that might be the weakest link in the chain. I'm not in a band and don't gig. I put Schaller strap lock buttons on it. One drawback, the latches on the case are riveted a little loose. When the case appears latched shut with all 3, you can cause a gap to open and close in the case. About 1/16 of an inch.
Overall Impression — 9
I've played 80s' rock and modern metal for decades. Being a fan of Kirk and Lynch I've bought and sold LTDs on Ebay over the years. Finally, I've hoarded enough cabbage to get my hands on a real ESP. A note on that, I am speculating here, but it seems to me the E-II line is a way to get Japan ESPs to a ~$1600 price point. To balance that the marketing pukes took the ESP logo off the headstock on the E-II line and now charges you much more to get it back on. That to me is the biggest disappointment with this guitar purchase. But there is ESP on the 12th fret and you can get and ESP logo'd truss rod cover simply enough.
I've pointed out some drawbacks and mentioned things I would change cause I wanted to give an intelligent review and not a love fest, but don't get me wrong. This guitar's finish is outstanding, it sounds growly, angry, and it plays smooth and fast. I really like it, and expect to keep it for the long term. Maybe only selling to trade up for an nicer ESP growler years from now.