Purchased from: Pawnshop
Features — 6
- 2005 MIC Explorer-style guitar
- Black gloss finish
- Basswood body
- Maple neck
- Rosewood fretboard
- 2 ESP passive humbuckers
- Chrome ESP hardware, Tune-o-matic bridge
- 1 vol, 1 tone, 3-way switch
- Came with gig bag
All this has pretty much been covered in the other reviews - it's the bottom-of-the-line EX model from ESP with all the base electronics and equipment. Aimed at entry-level guitarists to do the job. I would have liked to see the other two knobs, and the hardware could be a little higher quality, but it holds it's tune and does the job, so no complaints.
Sound — 7
"Explorer" apparently equals "metal," which is probably what 98% of buyers use it for. The pickups are very hot, although to be fair my main frame of reference is a '71 Les Paul and a mutant Strat/RG thing I made out of a few guitars that had a high-speed collision with the road and a beer bottle, respectively, so I'm not exactly obsessed with high gain.
These pickups are quite bright and have a decent midrange, particularly on bridge. The neck pickup on mine was dead on arrival, I tinkered around and got it running before the wiring died permanently, so it's for all intents and purposes a single-pickup guitar. The bridge pickup is bright without being harsh, and gives off a good enough bass response without getting too muddy on the low strings, from memory of my 20-minute jam on the neck pickup, it handled soloing well, and cleans okay, but I wouldn't head down there for any rhythm playing for fear of drowning in mud. Response to the tone knob is pretty brutal, you wind it down and it kills literally all of the treble frequencies.
This guitar has been used in band practice playing some old-school blues derived hard rock, and in the studio playing alt-stuff, and handles both with equal aplomb. Running through a Dual Rectifier, it becomes evident just how hot this thing is, but to its credit, it manages to not get noisy or hissy and just gets the job done. This isn't exactly vintage Les Paul sounding, it's an entry-level metal axe and so for that it does the job.
For the alt-rock stuff we were running it into an Orange RV50 and Fender Deluxe Twin, and running on low gain and smothered in delay it sounds great. Definitely my preferred use for this thing, since the amp serves up most of the tonal colour and the guitar just gets a bright, humless signal to the amp. Versatile, and does what it says on the box.
Action, Fit & Finish — 4
Can't comment on factory setup since I bought it secondhand for $80 NZD which equates to like, $65 US or something, but I can confirm that the previous owner didn't know jack about setting up guitars, since the action was wonky as hell, with the low strings rattling up until 5th fret and the high strings up high enough that soloing is actually legitimately hard. One pickup screw was gone and it was hanging out of the guitar, and the wiring was gone. Based on that, I'll assume it was set up terribly.
8 hours of tools, cloths, oils, and new screws later, I have a functioning guitar on my hand which sounds great, and plays smoothly. So, the potential is there but you really have to wring it out.
Reliability & Durability — 5
This guitar seems tough enough to handle live playing, but I would never, ever gig without a backup. The hardware has been, as I mentioned, extremely problematic to begin with, but having got it sorted now I think it will be there to stay. That said, I wouldn't put money on that, so I'll have to wait a little longer than a month to properly comment on this. This guitar is apparently 5 years old and it has 9 or ten bits of paint chipped off, and the dude that I bought it from claims to have not gigged, so I guess that the finish isn't particularly tough. Basically, like the rest of this guitar, it's sufficient and does the job, but is far from stellar.
Overall Impression — 6
For an $80 piece of scrap that I picked up, this guitar has done a great job of rising above my expectations. Unfortunately my expectations were low. So. I've been playing for about 5 years, and am in a gigging rock band and a non-gigging alt-rock band. It handles both of these things reasonably well without really excelling at anything. I certainly wouldn't actively recommend it to anyone, but I wouldn't discourage them from buying one as long as they were able to set up a guitar on their own.
The best feature about this guitar is either the neck or the way it handles mid-gain chordal stuff, it's smooth and tight and makes everything sound crisp. Overall this is pretty good for an entry-level ESP.