Price paid: £ 189
Purchased from: Secondhand
Features — 8
The LTD EX-50 features a Basswood body with a bolt-on Maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard, 22 extra jumbo frets and dot inlays. The scale is a standard 24.75 inches with a slim U-shaped neck profile. Nut width is 42mm. Electronics include master volume and tone controls and a three-way toggle switch and ESP LH-150 humbucker pickups in the bridge and neck position. Hardware is all in Black Nickel and includes Tune-o-matic Bridge with Stop Tailpiece and ESP branded tuners. Finish is Gloss Black. All fairly standard but nothing to complain about – the guitar's simplicity is all part of the charm!
Sound — 8
Despite the amount of reviews I have seen for this guitar bemoaning the lack of EMG pickups, I have to say that I was very impressed by the stock pickups installed. I will be honest, I have always preferred the sound of good quality passive humbuckers, such as Seymour Duncans, over active EMG pickups. This is purely personal taste I know, but have used guitars equipped with both over the years and the EMGs simply lack character and the clean tones are far too dull. I have always loved the warm clean tones produced by passive humbuckers and they also deliver plenty of bite where it counts when using high gain. The ESP LH-150 humbuckers that come installed may not be Seymour Duncan's but they certainly deliver the goods!
I play the guitar through a Marshall MG100DFX and whether using pedals or playing straight through the amp, the guitar sounds fantastic! Clean tones are warm and the note clarity is incredible, especially when you consider that this guitar falls into the Sub-£300 price range brand new. Metallica fans will not be disappointed by the clean tones available for songs such as "One," "Fade to Black," "Welcome Home" and "Nothing Else Matters." Equally for those not wanting to emulate James Hetfield, myself included, the clean tones available with this guitar will prove an effective contrast to any/all heavy-gain moments. Turn up the gain and this guitar will provide you with that thick distorted sound you are seeking without loss of clarity.
The guitar achieves a great classic rock tone paired with my Boss Super Overdrive pedal and really shines when partnered up with the Boss Distortion pedal when the humbuckers produce massive amounts of tone which works very well with high gain, maintaining clarity whilst never sounding flabby or muddy. The guitar also works well with the DigiTech Death Metal pedal, despite what I have seen written in other reviews, achieving a modern high-gain sound capable of piercing pinched harmonics and plenty of bite! You just have to play with the pedal settings to find your ideal balance, rather than depend purely on the generic/recommended settings in the pedal's manual.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
As I purchased this second-hand I am not really in a position to comment on the guitar's original factory set-up. The first thing I did after purchasing was to have the guitar professionally set-up by my local guitar tech. I do this with all my guitars, so this is no reflection on the guitar's action when purchased. The guitar has been set up with a nice low action for 10 gauge strings as I use it for both lead and rhythm and is free of fret buzz or choking. The finish is in almost immaculate condition considering I purchased this second-hand; the corners/points are chip free with only the slightest traces of previous use. The number of EX-50s you see second-hand, both in shops and online, with chipped corners is shocking and enough to put you off and buy new! The glossy black finish does quickly look dirty - e.g. visible fingerprints - after handing, but is very easy to clean. I would recommend the same model with the white finish to anyone who's a little OCD regarding visible fingerprints.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Reliability plays a huge factor for me as I both teach and perform on a regular basis. The LTD EX-50 is solid in construction and is likely to withstand the rigours of regular use. Any serious guitarist knows that you should always carry a back-up guitar when performing as one can never predict when a string is going to break, however having said that, I feel confident that I could rely on this guitar without the need for a back-up. The build quality is of a very high standard and it easily rivals the similarly priced Epiphone Gothic Explorer model.
The guitar proved itself both worthy and dependable as far as live performance was concerned in a recent gig in which the original members of a metal band I used to play in about 10 years ago reunited for a one-night-only performance to celebrate the drummers 40th birthday. The strap buttons are large and securely held my strap without the need for strap locks. I use a thick leather strap that was difficult to get over the strap buttons in the first place and I can't see it coming off again unless I unscrew the buttons completely, although I must acknowledge that strap locks are a beneficial addition to many guitars, especially if using light-weight straps. I previously used an ESP LTD EX-250 during my time in the band and the others thought it was the same guitar!
Overall Impression — 8
This is a lovely guitar for either a beginner wanting something that looks different to the standard guitar shapes or for those simply wanting an explorer shaped guitar on a budget. The LTD EX-50 may be ESP's entry level explorer shaped guitar but this little beauty really packs a punch - just don't expect it to turn you into James Hetfield overnight! I know that sounds obvious, but if I had a penny for every time I've known someone pick up an explorer shaped guitar and expect to instantly play like James Hetfield only to give up shortly after, I'd be a very rich man! ESP's revised design features sharper angles and bevelled edges compared to Gibson's original design from 1958, giving it a modern twist and even more hard rock credibility.
As I previously mentioned; I owned an ESP LTD EX-250, with Duncan Designed pickups, about ten years ago which I parted with roughly six years ago. I purchased this guitar whilst feeling nostalgic and I have to say that it does not disappoint! If it were lost or stolen I would definitely buy a new one as the quality is incredible for the price! I mostly use this guitar for practicing and band rehearsals, occasionally dragging it out for gigs or whilst teaching to amuse my students. This guitar may not have the upgraded EMG pickups found on the EX-360, but this little workhorse won't let you down!