Price paid: $ 1300
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 9
I play metal. Like just about everyone, I probably play more Metallica songs then anything else and you can definitely get a great crunch out of the guitar. The EMG81 in the bridge is really only suited for rock and doesn't have a large bandwidth for anything else. It's a pure lead/soloing pickup. I rate the P60 in the neck so highly, it balances out the 81 so when the pickup selector is in the middle, both pickups compliment each other for that clean rhythm section. This really does allow the guitar to be more versatile rather than just a metal guitar. When the P60 runs alone, the bright tone that comes out is a surprise and this opens up the playing field. You can play almost anything with this combination of pickups. I'm running this through a Marshall MG250DFX and an DigiTech RP6 board. I rated this a 9 because if you play this side by side with a Les Paul, you can see it doesn't have the same depth of tone and this is most likely a combination of pickups and an alder body.
Overall Impression — 10
Let go of the idea of Metallica, ignore the graphics and listen to the guitar. It's so versatile and you really can play almost anything. The more I play this the more I find a little feature I like, e.g. There's just the right amount of pressure on the trem so you can palm mute and not push the bridge down like on some other floyds. I have Jacksons, Deans and Ibanez guitars as well as other ESP's but this thing kills them all. If you're an avid Metallica fan you will always look at the guitar more like a piece of ART than just a shred machine. For those that wonder what the difference is between this and the ESP custom shop version, it's about $6000. The ESP gets the Ebony fret board, upgraded Floyd Rose and tuners. That's about it. Yes, some of you will say the grade of the Alder is better etc. But Alder is light weight wood and doesn't cost a whole lot between grades. If you can get a hold of one of these buy it. Don't think about it.
Reliability & Durability — 9
If it's good enough for Kirk, it's good enough for you. You need to invest in locking strap nuts if playing live. This guitar will last a lifetime if you take care of it. I'm very protective of it so I leave it in the case at all times and I polish it back after each use. If you play mainly metal then I can't see why you would need another guitar. De-tuning, like all guitars with a Floyd Rose, will be a nightmare. If you play about with tunings a lot, this won't make life easy.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Guitar was factory set but as it's built in Korea, it was flown to the states and then I flew it back to the UK. The action went awry on the plane (yes I did loosen the strings) so I spent a bit of time setting it up. When complete, the action is super low with no fret buzz. The finish is of a high quality gloss. Everything was perfectly done, no thin paint areas on the body or the neck. All the hardware was set correctly so I didn't have to do anything. I will say that I'm not sure if the guitar can handle drop tunings past Eb. When the strings were lax, about 1 1/2 steps down, the bridge couldn't handle it, even with a spring taken out and the neck bowed out quickly. The paint job and the fret decals is what you pay the extra for. The paint job is not glow in the dark, it's a silvery kind of colour and it will last a while. The paint might come off over time depending on how much you play. There's no area on this guitar where you won't be resting you hand/arm on the paint job. If you're old school, Korean made has generally equated with rubbish but this one makes you wonder if they'll start competing with the US made equipment similar to what Ibanez and Tokai Japan did post war.
Features — 10
This was made in 2009. Only 550 LTD's were made, all in black. Alder body Neck-thru-body construction 25-1/2" scale Extra thin U-shaped contour maple neck Rosewood fingerboard 24 XJ frets Crescent moon and star inlays 13.77" fretboard radius 1.65" neck width Locking nut Black hardware ESP tuners Floyd Rose 1000 bridge EMG-81 (bridge)/EMG-60 (neck) active pickups Ouija graphics Includes plush case