Price paid: £ 450
Purchased from: Trevor Davies Music
Features: My Fret King Esprit III Is a 2008 Blue Label model, Made in Korea. It has a 22 fret mahogany set-neck with a very PRS-esque neck profile - Kind of thick but not too thick, just right for my hands, and a 25" scale length (between Fender and Gibson scale). I think the frets are medium jumbo, and the fretboard is rosewood with a 12" radius.
The body is thick mahogany and a very unusual shape which is somewhat difficult to describe - It has a raised-centre which widens towards the neck and somewhat resembles the "hood" of a sports car. Shape-wise, the body horn and cutaways resemble a Fender Jaguar to a certain extent while the lower half is modelled on a Gibson Explorer shape. As unusual as this sounds, it still somehow looks sleek, and is incredibly well balanced for such an unusually shaped instrument! Upper fret access is incredible, it honestly almost has a Gibson SG beat in terms of comfort at the higher frets, perhaps a little aided by the longer scale length? I guess this is a matter of preference.
It has a traditional looking tune-o-matic/stopbar bridge/tailpiece setup, providing a solid string anchoring point. One neat little feature I've noticed is that the tune-o-matic has little allen-key adjustments for height, making it more convenient should the action need to be raised. The bridge posts are sunk directly into the body.
The controls are simple - a master volume and tone and a Strat style 5 way Switch to toggle between the 3 P-90 pickups exactly how the Switch works on a Strat. The firebird-like reverse headstock is equipped with gotoh tuners which hold the guitar in tune very well. The headstock, incidentally, is very reminiscent of the late '60s Epiphone 6-a-side "batwing" headstock. A gig bag is included, as you'd probably expect at the very least with such an unusually shaped guitar - however, considering the guaranteed difficulty of finding a suitable hardshell case for it, I feel they should've included a hardshell case. // 9
Sound: This guitar suits everything that I play better than any other guitar I own. I'm still in awe of it's versatility and still finding wonderful tones i didn't know could possibly extracted out of this guitar. It's simply incredible. I play mostly classic rock and new wave, but this guitar can suit heavy rock, punk, you name it it'll do it, maybe unless it's metal - if you want an Esprit for metal I'd recommend the Esprit V (dual humbucker model) to be on the safe side as single coil P-90 pickups will screech and hum like mad if you push the gain too far, as they have a tendency to be a bit microphonic.
I use this guitar with a Laney VC30 and a wide array of FX, which give me ultimate versatility. The neck pickup gives a rich, smooth sound great for singing solos and clean chords, but the bridge pickup gives a bright, kind of twangy sound, but with a lot more depth than say, a Strat. And of course, the middle pickup will give you somewhere between, as will the bridge+middle and middle+neck combinations. Overall, the best way I can think to describe the sound is like a Strat, but with a lot more depth and less twang. It's almost completely middle ground between a Strat and a les paul, and will do a song played on either justice - I cannot put into words just how impressed I am with the versatility. And of course, the quality of the tone that comes out is also astonishing for the price, and will certainly give Gibson a run for their money. // 10
Action, Fit & Finish: The factory setup was fairly good, although the intonation was not quite there - it's a good thing I can do setups myself. I have seen many esprits with the action set so low out of the factory that there is a lot of fret buzz, too, however this is not a problem with mine. The pickups are setup to what seems to be a rough estimate which does the job well enough for my taste as I have not had the urge to go adjusting them yet.
One thing I will say is that I got this guitar at a reduced price due to some finish flaws - there are a few splodges in the finish, and some small air bubbles which may be prone to cracking later on, which is something I'm willing to Live with, especially as this was the best playing Esprit out of all the other seemingly identical guitars I played - although I do need to praise the consistency of these fret-kings - the individual guitars are more alike than any other brand I've seen, although of course there will always be slight variations, it's just the nature of.. Well nature. // 7
Reliability & Durability: This guitar will definitely withstand Live playing - It's one of the most solid, sturdy feeling guitars I've played. You can feel the quality and I feel it can definitely rival a Gibson (I keep saying it can rival Gibson due to the more Gibson like construction, not to be getting at Gibson!) for durability, although I'm a little concerned that the headstock may be a weak spot like many back-angled headstocks. The strap buttons and other hardware seem just as solid as the guitar itself.
I can depend on this guitar for sure. I haven't gigged with it yet but it's a lot more solid than a lot of the other guitars that I have gigged with in the past. It's not like me to gig without a backup but I would do so if I had to.
The finish will probably last, I'm a bit skeptical due to the blemishes on mine, but I think a better finished Esprit will keep it's finish for a very long time. // 9
Overall Impression: I play a lot of styles of music and this guitar fits them all in such a way I never thought possible. It's the perfect match for everything I play - astonishing.
I've been playing guitar seriously for about 5 years although I did start very young and had about 7 more years of simply playing around occasionally before which may have been beneficial. With said experience comes a lot of gear. Too much to list. I'm a hoarder, especially on the guitar side of things. Of all.. Well, I'd say 20-ish guitars that I own, nothing has come closer to providing me with "that tone that I hear in my head" that plagues us for our entire lives as guitarists, than this Esprit III. Normally I don't go for the odd shaped instruments but I couldn't say no to this! If this guitar was stolen I'd definitely get another one. Definitely. I seriously don't know how I lived without it since I've had it. I love the sound, the neck, the versatility, well everything about it that makes a guitar what it is from a players point of view. The one thing I'm not so keen on is the overall appearance, but I'm not one to judge a book by it's cover and now that I'm a little more used to it I've grown accustomed to the unusual appearance.
I compared this guitar with a Fret-King Eclat (A les paul special style guitar) and a Gibson Les Paul Studio Vintage mahogany, along with a few others. This was definitely the pick of the bunch, for me anyway, although I will admit, I paid a deposit on that Gibson the day I bought this guitar, too! I chose it over the Gibson mainly because of the lower price but almost equivalent quality, and the fact this has P-90s unlike any of my other guitars - I certainly do not regret the decision to get this guitar - no buyers remorse whatsoever. The only thing I could wish for is a Hardshell case for it as I want to take very good care of it - howvever, at the price, for the quality of the guitar you get, I think a hardshell case may be asking a little too much. // 10