Price paid: $ 399
Purchased from: Rocktown Music
Features — 9
Nice looking guitar, I have the trans-green finish but I don't buy guitars based on looks alone. One volume, one tone with a 3-way switch but I've come to appreciate the less is more train of thought as far as that's concerned. I only like TOM bridges and this also has a string-thru body which is nice. It has 2 ESP active pickups and a mahogany body with a bolt-on maple neck. Nothing too overly fancy really but for me it's great. I'll give it a 9 because I can see how some people may want additional tone/vol control but this is what I like.
Sound — 10
Here is where this gets a bit interesting... I plugged this straight into a 5150 half-stack in the store and it slayed, as pretty much anything of quality through a 5150 will. Plugged it into my Bogner/effects board setup at home and it sounded weak and lifeless. What happened to my tone? Did I knock something loose inside the guitar somehow? Turned off my noise gate and there it was! The pickups in all my other guitars are WAY hotter (Duncan's and some stock ESP's). Now those sound airy, thin and fizzy to me in comparison to these. To be honest I almost didn't even try this axe out because I typically don't care for active pickups but the dude at the store said "trust me, they aren't what you're expecting" and he was right. They don't hit as hard as EMG's, instead they were going for a more organic/passive sound with the benefits of being active. They nailed it imo, nice full dynamic tone and super quiet when not playing. Very versatile, good sounding cleans all the way up to fat metal tones. You may need to retweak your current setup a bit like I did but its worth it. I rarely use my noise gate with this guitar, more often than not it doesn't need it and its only sparingly when it does. 10 - I'm very, very impressed with these pickups, especially for being stock.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Set-up was done by the store and they always do a really good job so I can't comment on how it would be if you ordered it online. I always let them do my set-ups because they know what I like and this guitar handles it well. Action can get pretty low, mine could be slightly lower but I play fairly aggressively so I have it adjusted accordingly to avoid buzzing. Light handed players could go lower though. I give it a 10 but most of that is coming from a tech I know and trust so your experience might be different.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is my 4th ESP/LTD guitar now and I have always been impressed with their quality. I would never gig without a back-up because that is just foolish but if it came down to it I wouldn't be too concerned I guess. I've owned Schecters, Jacksons, Washburns, Epiphones (good ones but I don't have Gibson $), Ibanez, BC Rich and Deans but I've always been more satisfied with my ESP/LTD purchases. I haven't had it for too overly long as far as life is concerned but I can't see there being a problem judging by my past experience with ESP/LTD. 9, just in case (knocks on wood).
Overall Impression — 10
I typically play rock/metal ('90s mostly) and this guitar is plenty capable of doing that. I also dabble in some modern metal/drop tuned stuff and this does that pretty well too, but it' nothing I've tested extensively. Standard E and Eb are my home bases and their subsequent drop D versions once in a while. I am trying to branch out a little though, which is why I bought a new axe in the first place. I've owned at least 12 different guitars at various points in time but they were all metal machines (I have 4 currently including this one, the others have all since been sold or traded out). I wanted to learn some more classic rock, jazz and blues type stuff to switch things up and this has been handling those quite well too. I'm very impressed with this guitar. I would be very sad if it was lost or stolen because I think they have been discontinued for some reason. 10 - Way to go ESP/LTD!