Purchased from: Thomann.de
Sound — 10
As you'd expect from active EMGs, they produce superb metal tones but the 60 in the neck really surprised with some of the cleans it can put out. One of my main worries about going for a guitar with stock EMGs was that I'd end up with something good for metal and nothing else. Happily I can report that this is not the case. The EMG is great for blues and passable on pretty much everything else. Granted, some of the benefits of the EMGs are lost when playing through a solid-state amp (although it still sounds great through my Microcube for practicing) but connect it to a decent tube amp and watch it Shine. Something else that really surprised me is how quiet the guitar is! I've just moved from a Mexican Strat and the EMGs are so quiet it's almost unnerving! No single-coil hum, no odd buzzing. Even compared to other humbuckers they're deathly silent. I've found that this really helps when playing Ultra high-gain metal (Black Metal in my case) as each note rings out clear and true and and no unwanted noise is picked up.
Overall Impression — 10
I mostly play metal of various sorts (Black, Folk, Power, Thrash, Death) as well as some blues, raggae and funk and this guitar is an excellent match for the metal and blues and does the job well enough on the other two. If I was a serious raggae or funk guitarist I'd probably opt for something else but as it is this guitar suits my needs perfectly. I've been playing on and off for about 5 years and this is my first foray into the world of what I'd consider 'expensive' instruments. If it were stolen or lost I can most certainly see myself buying the same guitar again, unless the cash was readily available for an ESP Explorer. My favourite things about this guitar are it's looks, tone and it's playability. It feels like such a massive step up from my old Strat. I suppose what I like the most is how unique it looks - as I mentioned ealier, the headstock and finish really make it stand out and these were the determining factors in my purchase really. I weighed up a Jackson DKMGT (dismissed because I didn't like the feel of it), a Schecter Hellraiser (incredibly difficult to get in Britain), an Ibanez VBT700 (decided I didn't want a V right now), various ESP LTD EC 400s and 500s (prefered the feel of the Explorer) and the ESP Viper 400/500 (the body shape looked weird with the the big lump on the Standard SG shape). I was about to go for an EX400 in black when I saw the FX400. I fell in love with it's looks instantly and knew I HAD to have it! Overall I am incredibly pleased with it and am looking forward to many years of playing with it. If there was one thing I'd ask for it's be an extra two frets, bringing it up to 24, but it really isn't that big a deal as I mostly play rythym guitar.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I'm very much looking forward to playing this guitar Live and I can see no reason why it wouldn't stand up to gig after gig. I would always come with a backup regardless of what my Live guitar was but in the event that no backup was available I'm sure the FX400 would handle the job admirably. The guitar is solid as hell and the finish doesn't seem like it will be too easily damaged by the odd knock or bump. The strap buttons are great and I'm confident enough in them not to buy strap-locks for now.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action needed to be slightly raised to get rid of some irritating fret buzz on the lower E string and the bridge pickup needed to be lowered ever-so slightly but these two jobs took less than a minute combined. The pick-up selector is a little too sensitive when in the neck position and a slight knock can center it or push it to the bridge but with care this doesn't happen. Apart from that, it was set up perfectly out of the box and the hardware and finish were flawless. I've seen a lot of complaints about Explorers in general that they tend to nosedive but so far I haven't seen any real evidence for this. Perhaps I'm compensating unconciously but I can't see the axe taking any dramatic dives for the floor any time soon.
Features — 10
This guitar is a 2007 Korean-made model and like all other ESP LTD models constructed in Korea the workmanship on this instrument is excellent. The guitar has 22 extra jumbo frets on a 24.75" scale neck. The neck itself is a five piece mahogany/maple set-in Thin-U and it's quite thin and very slick to play. It features an Earvana compensated nut which is an excellent piece of equipment that really helps the guitar stay in tune. The body is a Standard ESP Explorer shape and is made of mahogany with a spalted maple top. The headstock is similar to that of the ESP F-series and is made of the same wood as the body. It really stands out against the Standard Explorer head. It comes with Grover tuners which are of excellent quality and while not locking, they're still very good. The guitar's finish is natural satin and looks absolutely beautiful. Pictures really don't do this guitar's looks justice. The natural features of the wood really leap out at you and the darker staining on some areas of the guitar, particularly the two bands on either horn and on the top and bottom facings, gief it a degree of relief that highlights the area around the bridge and pick-ups. Again, the headstock finish matches that of the body. The bridge is a Tune-o-matic with a black chrome stop tailpiece. One comment I must make about the hardware is that it wasn't as dark as I was expecting and in bright light doesn't look that siginificantly different from Standard chrome hardware. Mind you, it still looks fantastic. The controls are fairly Standard - one volume, one tone and a three-way pick-up selector. Independent volume pots for each pickup would have been nice but it doesn't really make that big a difference. Speaking of the pick-ups, the FX400 features an EMG 81 in the bridge and a 60 in the neck. A In terms of accessories, the guitar only came with a couple of hex keys, which I found odd as most of the hardware seems to be adjusted by screwdrivers rather than hex keys. I'm not complaining in the least about the lack of accessories - for the price I paid, 250-300 less than from my local guitar store, I'm pretty delighted with the guitar itself. Once again I have to emphasise that this guitar is GORGEOUS. I've long had a soft spot for Explorers but this is easily one of the best looking of the bunch. The finish and the headstock really help it stand out from the crowd.