Price paid: $ 415
Purchased from: Ebay (used)
Sound — 8
EMG 81's (and Vipers with EMG 81 sets) do what they're meant to do better than most anything else, but can't do anything else too well. EMGs sound about the same no matter which guitar you put them in, so there isn't much point spending much more on an active guitar. This axe has a great metal tone, but just about everything else would sound better with passive pickups. If you've ever used EMGs, you know they're dead freakin silent. Due to having 2 EMG 81's, this is a one trick pony. But it does that trick amazingly well.
Overall Impression — 9
I have played several Jacksons and Ibanezes in the 400 series' price range that can't stand up to this axe's sound, looks, or playability. I've even played a $2000 Gibson SG that doesn't play as well or feel as comfy on my lap. If this was stolen, I would buy it back as soon as I had enough money without a second thought. Before you buy this guitar, make sure you like the sound of EMGs and are comfortable with the relatively thin neck. Trying one (or 5) out is best. If those work for you, find a used one on Ebay, the are some amazing deals there. (NOT 401, those are made in China and not as wonderful as the older ones). All in all, wonderful guitar that I don't regret buying a bit, but it does have the flaws that I mentioned earlier.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I haven't ever gigged, but if I did, I would use this axe and not be too worried about bringing a backup. The strap buttons should be changed before gigging, but that's to be expected from any guitar. My Viper is 4 years old and it still shines like a bald guy's head. I've banged it's headstock against my walls and bed many times and I'm sure the previous owner did too, but the isn't a knick to be found. Unsafe strap locks.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I recieved this used, but it was set up amazingly. The high E string is about a millimeter off the 12th fret, and there is no buzz what'soever through my amp. The setup, routing, and build quality on this were something I would expect on a $1500 ESP Viper. 4 years old and it all looks like new, save for some "character" (knicks and scratches).
Features — 9
The beaut was made in 2004 in Korea, I came to own it 3 months ago. 24 extra jumbo frets, thin you contour mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, mahogany body, Vintage white finish, comfortable solidbody Viper shape, TOM bridge with stopbar tailpiece, active EMG 81 set, single volume and single tone controls with Gibson-style 3 way Switch, Grover 18:1 non-locking tuners, mine came used with a sturdy ESP Viper case. Great features, especially for a guitar of this price.