Price paid: € 820
Purchased from: Jericho Musique
Sound — 8
This guitar looks and sounds like it's made for metal, which it is! At the moment I only have a Line 6 Spider IV at home, but I play it at a lot of places on different amps, and I can tell you it sounds pretty decent for a guitar in this pricerange. The 81 neck pickup gives a great sound for high-gain metal riffs, and when played clean it produces a beautiful warm sound. I do not know what to think of the 60 pickup on the other hand; it seems just a bit too bright for me. If you turn the tone down a tad and put the selector in the middle, you can make a somewhat fender-like sound, though nobody will believe you'll be playing on a telecaster. You can play anything from blues to heavy metal on this guitar, yet if you're more of a jazzy, bluesy kind of guy, I do not recommend it to you. The 60 pickup seems quite useless to me, and the 81 is just a tad too warm and lacking in treble to play clean jazz.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing guitar for 3.5 years now, mostly rock, metal, Indie and blues. And it seems to do more than well for all of those. It might not give a tyical blues or jazz sound, but the warmth of the low tones and the clear and bright beauty of the higher ones gives everything a pretty feeling of its own. The only thing that could improve this guitar, is replacing the floyd rose with a string thru body or other solid bridge, as I find the cons of having a tremolo heavliy outweighing the pros. Compared to other guitars of its class, I'd say this is somewhere in the upper levels, not the best thing you can buy for this price, but pretty damn close!
Reliability & Durability — 7
I have gigged with it a couple of times in the year that I've had it. And it withstood everything. I do not see anyone breaking this guitar in any way within at least 5 years of buying it without really trying. It feels really durable and well-built. I have had one or two strings break (because the floyd rose only locks about 5mm of string) and with this kind of bridge tuning or replacing strings takes about 5-10 minutes, so if you have a gig, I recommend having (a) backup guitar/strings. Unless you have time to replace the strings of course. The finish is really durable, I've bumped the pointy body into all kinds of walls, but I still can't see a single scratch!
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
As for the state I bought it in, I have no remarks whatsoever. The guitar was built properly and up to everything you might expect. The action is right for me, yet I can imagine that for some players it's a tad high. (I also have an Epiphone SG, and in comparison to that the ESP has the lowest action you'll ever see.) I like to think the action is about average. The only weird thing is that I got it with a set of hex keys, but neither of the two seemed to fit anywhere on the guitar, so if you want to unlock the locking tuners or adjust the bridge, you'll need another set of hex keys.
Features — 9
Built in Korea, yet the amazing quality barely differs from US-made guitars. The Black quilted maple top looks truly amazing (pretty much everybody who saw me play it said it's a very beautiful guitar), and the Mahogany body with set maple neck give it quite some sustain, not as much as a neck-thru guitar, but more than enough in my humble opinion. The Explorer shape is quite unhandy at some times, but a special 20 Explorer gig bag solves most of your problems. It has EMG 81 and 60 pickups, a volume and tone knob and a 3-way switch, and comes with a floyd rose special tremolo. Which leads me to the only real flaw of this guitar; it seems to go out of tune rather quickly. Though it has locking Grover tuners, it seems like I need to tune between every 1 or 2 songs when gigging or even practicing. Think twice before you buy a guitar with floating bridge kids!