Price paid: $ 550
Purchased from: Music-Go-Round
Sound — 9
Well, I mostly play metal, but this guy can go back to Hard Rock, but I wouldn't push it as far back as the Beatles. It can imitate that LP sound, and that's about it. If you can play it on a Les Paul, you can play it on here. The various amps I've played it through give you different sounds, but the one most noticeable in all of them was the crunch and the high-powered screaming leads. Also, the tone really kicked my ass as well as the sustain, I would say it matches Dean's easily. I normally use a Kirk Hammet crybaby (awesome, awesome pedal), and a custom Mastonian pedal. They really make it scream, and have a nice crunch without going as too far as Metalcore or... Whatever these new wave hardcore bands play... It keeps it at the Mastodon/Melvins level, and it can even push it to Pantera/Electric Wizard. You can't always get that rich sound out of EMG's, but it does have quite a presence and it will reward you with just sustain and high output. I personally think that the Raven 100w amp I use is the perfect match for this, just pure Metal and nothing else. Although, I delve into Pentatonic blues, and it really just screams it, makes it come alive. But the MAIN feature is that Spalted Maple top. It just makes the guitar breathe and the sound jump out. It can almost be played acoustically without any abandon. I cannot stress how powerful it makes the guitar sound. On any custom guitar I will EVER order, I will ask for spalted maple.
Overall Impression — 9
I mostly play Mastodon and my originals, but I also do Rush covers. The guitar can't really deliver the latter to a tee, but I love the crunch. I've been playing for almost 5 years, and I've been around the block with notable guitar brands, I also own a Fender Tele with some Metal modifications, but this guitar is my main now. It outplays and outperforms the Ibanez, B.C. Rich, Jacksons, and Shecters that have the same body style.It is faster, and feels just better with that satin and Spalted Maple. I would even put this one up against an Explorer itself. I hate nothing asides the semi-limited sounds, but who wants to play country or Chuck Berry on this? It is a well crafted guitar, and easily a great standalone. I would buy this guitar again if it was stolen, I would even go ahead and buy the ESP model.If I could, I would go hunt the person that stole it and take it back. But this Ltd delivers without ifs, ands, or buts. I still wish it had that 4 knob control, though. I would say it would be perfect with that.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Having this guitar for nearly 7 months, I would say it is quite durable. The finish is still well there, the wood (surprisingly) is aging, just like an acoustic. The hardware is going to last, no objections, but I would replace it for higher end if you want to make the guitar REALLY worth it. The strap buttons are starting to get a little iffy, but that was because I haven't screwed them in that well. I replaced them with Black Schaller strap locks with the buttons, so no more worrying there. You can depend on this guitar, hands down. There is nothing to worry about, it's as solid as an ox. You just have to worry about the finish, since it is satin. I would gig with this guitar without a backup any old day, it holds up quite nicely when I do. Just make sure the electronics are all good, and you have it set to go.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I have played it at Guitar Center, new, so I can say the factory set it up quite well, ESP quality, as they say. Nothing was wrong asides the bridge and saddle adjustment, they were off a little, low enough to make a rattling sound on the fretboard. It needed to be adjusted up, but nothing major. The pickups were in place, Tuners screwed in tight, no rattling, the finish was quite impeccable and it played with pleasant feelings to my hands, the neck is satin, so it plays a lot faster than your regular gloss. The guitar I own has everything the same, asides for a few nicks worth on the jagged edges of the tips, and some minor pick marks across where a pick guard would be. (I placed a clear classical Acoustic pick guard on that was adhesive and cut that down to where it fit the body.)
Features — 10
Well, since this is a 360 model, I would be guessing that it is made in 2009. Where it was made, I'm not sure, it was used. I was told it was Korean-Made. FAST rosewood fingerboard, 22 XJ frets, the neck is a nice 5-piece mahogany-maple with either acrylic or abalone Dot inlays, I'm just going to go ahead and say acrylic (It's an LTD). Of course, it's solid top Spalted Maple glory. The body itself is Mahogany. It has a natural satin finish, and it lets the top breathe very well. It's a juiced up Explorer-style body, with a tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece. It has active electronics, Bridge is EMG 85 and the neck is a 60, gives you that screaming hot EMG tone, though it can be a tad muddy at some times... The guitar has a volume, tone, and a pickup selector, very down to earth and basic, 3 way selector(though I would prefer a set of 4 with coil tap, just my personal opinion). The tuners are ESP stock, chrome hardware, very durable. I replaced the tuners with locking Gotohs, but you can survive with the stock. There is/was no accessories, so you would would have to buy the ESP case or a case for an Explorer.