Price paid: $ 450
Purchased from: Local seller
Sound — 10
I'm running this through an Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff, which then plugs into a Peavey ValveKing 112. Now, I'm not playing sellout shows in Madison Square Garden, but I do gig a bit and I also like to tweak my tone settings at my house in between shows. I play a pretty broad range of music, but mostly play hard rock and metal. This thing has what I was looking for...that metal "chug" for palm-mutes. Think how the guitar sounded in Metallica's classic "Ride the Lightning" album. I've nailed that tone perfectly. My Slash Les Paul came close, but it was missing that "bite". The EMGs seem to add more distortion. I had my Metal Muff's distortion knob at around 3 o'clock with my LP, but I can have it at noon with this and have the same heavy sound. This guitar is ideal for metal. It's got great cleans too. Nice glassy cleans. Add a chorus pedal (can you tell I like Metallica?), and it sounds beautiful.
Overall Impression — 10
Being a metal-head, this is the best guitar I've played for that Metallica sound. The EMGs just sing, and make hammer-ons and pull-offs as simple as they can be. Tapping even sounds good with this beast. If this were stolen, would I buy another? Absolutely. I'd even say I'd Rush out to buy one as soon as I got the word it was stolen. It's just an unbelievable deal, and it sounds like guitars that cost over $1000. For the first time in my entire career as a guitar player, I'm satisfied on every level. I should have known ESP would make a guitar that would blow me away when Metallica stayed with them instead of moving on to Gibson. Buy one...or at least try it. You won't be disappointed. You might even be head-banging before long.
Reliability & Durability — 10
If I could give this field an 11 I would. It's built like an absolute tank. The wood is strong and pretty much every portion of this guitar is like it's made of steel. The strap buttons are pretty tough, too. They don't unscrew and loosen like the all 4 of my other guitars do. Even my "pride and joy" Les Paul has a problem in this aspect, and the ESP doesn't. I've played around 5 shows with this guitar, since I just got it, and I'm surprised how well it's taking the abuse. No paint chips, so scratches... Nothing. It's sturdy, and I'm glad I got it. I plan to tour with it much, much more in the future.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I bought this guitar used, so I've got no idea how it was set up from the factory. The guy I bought it from had it professionally set-up, so it sang from the get go. All I really needed to do was replace the battery for the pickups. The thing is sturdy, and it has that "thick" feel to it. I could bump it against something (chances are you WILL bump the large horn on something) and not worry about it cracking. Something I really appreciate about this guitar is the tuning pegs. They're tough as nails. A bump won't send your guitar out of tune, which is a godsend to me. I'm a clumsy guy, so I needed that extra security. It's the only guitar I've seen that has me covered in that field.
Features — 10
As with the other ESP LTD EX-400s, mine comes equipped with an EMG-81 in the bridge and an EMG-60 in the neck. They're active pickups, which means you're going to have to change batteries after a while. The battery compartment is on the back of the guitar, which you need a screwdriver to get into. Takes 9v batteries. I got the black guitar. It's a neck-thru guitar with a 3-way selector switch and two control knobs (volume and tone) that are universal to both pickups. The Explorer body is amazing, and ESP did a great job of making it their own. The finish is mirror-like. Very gorgeous guitar.