Price paid: $ 718
Purchased from: Musician's Friend
Sound — 10
I generally play Rock ,Grunge, Metal and Alternative, and this guitar;s tone and sound satisfies all the genres. I've played this guitar through MG10CD, MG15CD, a Kustom, and a Line 6 Spider III 15W [Yes,haven't found a Vox tube amp to play it through yet] Clean There is no hum or any such noise at any volume, the guitar stays quiet all throughout. Using the bridge pickup, the 81 shows a characteristic crunchiness and bright sound which has more treble, however in Clean, I mostly use the neck pickup which adds some bass and gives it a rich and full sound, great for solos done in clean. When both the pickups are used, it's more like an intermediate of the two sounds, though the neck pickup's deep sound comes out profoundly still. There is no single coil twang, but you'd want a Stratocaster if you were looking for that. Pretty satisfied. Distortion: The 81s are really hot, high output pickups, and sound great with overdrive. The 81 in the Neck still retains its deeper tone,great for riffs in Drop C,however it's the 81 in the bridge that I end up using more.An extreme favourite of guitarists such as Kirk Hamett,James Hetfield,Kerry King,Zakk Wylde, Jeff Hanneman and more,the EMG 81 in the bridge is just excellent for Metal and Grunge.The pickup really hasn't much to prove. All this through the Mahagony body and Set-thru construction make the guitar sound heavenly.
Overall Impression — 10
Even though the guitar hasn't been set up like a dream and the finish of the bridge was nowhere near perfect, it still is overall an extremely gratifying guitar, and am very happy with this. It seems to be at the moment the best electric guitar I have, though I do miss the exclusion of a FR. But the TOM enables instantaneous change in tunings, which is welcome. The guitar suits my preferred genres well,and if stolen, I'd buy the exact same guitar again.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The hardware seems to be built to last, besides the finish of the Tune-o-Matic bridge, but as such there is no accumulation of rust or anything like that. As of now only the intonation saddles' chrome finish seems to wear off fast [But I guess no problems in other countries with cooler climates]. The rest of the guitar has no blemishes after withstanding 40C heat. The strap buttons are rock solid and will handle all of the abuse they'll be given. One can definitely depend on this, without the need of a backup [Well only tremolo users will need one, obviously].
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I've heard that ESP sets up its instruments really well,but that wouldn't be so true in my case.The pickup height was fine, much to my liking, but the B and High E string had slight buzz when picked open or in the early frets. An not pleasant sound came when bending the strings in the later frets. [Can't define the not pleasant sound, but it surely didn't make the bends sound too good]. String height seems to fine, but the high E string sounded a bit flat. The guitar otherwise has a flawless gleaming finish on the body, the black nickel grover tuners seem to be of great quality.No dings as such, as it came well protected.However 2 other small problems, the tune-o-matic bridge came with no chrome on one part of the bridge, and the saddles, after 3 months of purchase had started showing a copper-like colour on some areas. [Call it a natural "distressed" appearance, I guess after a few months it'll actually look even more worn, and maybe more desirable as well, after all people pay for distressed appearances] Note: My country has much more tropical climate than USA, so that has accelerated the wear. Secondly the guitar has no pickguard, so has developed a lot of light scratches visible only when really close to the guitar at certain angles, hopefully it'll gleam like new with a good polish. Still give it an 8 as ESP and most other manafacturers generally advise a set-up, so the only real flaws were in the bridge.
Features — 10
The price includes the guitar as well as the hardshell case ($599 + $119). It's a 2008 Model made in ESP's Korean assembly line. Set thru construction, 24 XJ Frets, Rosewood Fingerboard, 25 1/2 " scale. The body and neck is made of mahagony having a flamed maple finish. It has a Tune-O-Matic bridge with active EMG 81s in the Neck and the Bridge, with a 3 way selector, volume and tone knobs. Grover tuners. Along came the usual manual, and a great Dunlop strap.