Hi guys, its Brian from World Music Supply here again, to bring you another healthy dose of guitar and gear reviews, and today I have a few guitars from our friends at ESP. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, ESP, which means Electric Sound Products, was founded by one Hisatake Shibuya in Tokyo in the mid 70’s making replacement parts for guitar. They eventually relocated to the US in the early 80’s and quickly made a name for themselves by making custom guitars for the likes of Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and George Lynch. Since the early days ESP has prided itself on making beautifully crafted instruments at reasonable prices, and they keep this mind set in all of their products. Today I’m going to cover a few models from their LTD line, mainly their more aggressive and out there models, specifically the AX50, and the F100FM.
These guitars are designed, and built from the ground up to play hardcore, low down, metal. This aspect is reflected not only in their tones, but also in their modern styling. First up on the chopping block today is the AX50-BK, which is their most oddly shaped guitar to date, and looking at it, with its X shape, with plenty of rounded curves and macho vibe, it’s clear that this guitar was designed with the modern shredder in mind. The guitars circular back cut out strangely reminds me of a sci-fi flick, or a battle axe from a horror movie, and its tones match that description pretty well. Plugging into a Randall RT503H, this guitar was rather impressive, its clean tones were smooth and soulful, which I wasn’t expecting out of a guitar that looks like you could slay demons with it. The bridge pickup is gritty and biting, but it isn’t so trebly that it stings when you slam into it on a clean setting, the middle position was warm and airy, with an almost acoustic flavor, and the neck pickup was round, and rather jazzy…another happy yet unexpected sound.
But, lets be honest, this guitar will probably never run through a clean amp on purpose, guitars that are shapes like this are meant to do two things, play metal, and look awesome, and this guitar does those two things well. Playing on a slightly overdriven setting this guitar had a nice classic rock vibe, with plenty of warmth, and some old school punk style bite. Cranking the gain stage some more, this guitar started to really get into its element, and after dropping the tuning a whole step, and really letting this guitar take off, it becomes readily apparent that this guitar is capable of some serious grind. The two octave range of the thin neck, with its flatter fingerboard radius, and jumbo frets meant that I could really climb up the neck, and pull out some serious shred tones, but still have all of the girth and chunk available at the other end of the board, where the real ferocity of this beast lives. This guitar has a pure, aggressive tone, with some shimmer and sparkle on tap, if the need for it ever arises, and its that kind of jack of all trades ability that I love when it comes to guitars, however, this guitar does look like a giant battle axe, and that mark alone will keep it out of the hands of many guitarists who would need that kind of versatility. So at the end of the day, the AX50-BK earns itself an 8 out of 10 for many guitarists, but if metal is your forte, the AX50-BK easily snags a 10 out of 10.
Next up to bat, is the F100FM-STBK, which is a part of the now infamous ESP F series of guitars, which are like Stratocasters, if the Strat had been designed by a Transylvanian warlock rather than a radio repairman from southern California. The heavily beveled body, and roaring tones of the F series have been a trademark of everyone from big touring metal acts, to local shredders who are just starting to cut their teeth in the music biz. It’s that kind of universal reliance that has made the F series so well known, and after plugging this bad boy in, it’s clear the rumors are true.
Clean tones are sparkly and spanky, just like you would expect from an instrument that bares even a passing resemblance to a Strat. However, this is a double humbucking guitar, meaning it has a much beefier foot print than its three single coil equipped cousin, which means that its snappy tones are fatter, and its round tones are rounder still. However, like the AX50, this is a guitar that thrives on distorted settings, and after a few minutes playing this guitar clean, I decided I had waited long enough, and switched to the Overdrive one stage of the RT503H, and turned the gain up to what I would consider an obnoxious setting, and just let this guitar loose. The shear power that this guitar exhibits is astonishing, there is some real muscle behind this thing, with plenty of punch, but a nice round low end, even with all of the blistering distortion that was caking up around it. This guitar just has tone for days, and the comfortable shape of the neck, with the 24 jumbo frets, all made for one amazingly playable, amazing sounding guitar. The F100FM has a far more mainstream shape than the AX50, however it still falls squarely in metal guitar territory, meaning even though it sounds so good, with tons of tone on tap, the F100FM-STBK can only score a 9 out of 10, because even though it sounds almost perfect, it doesn’t seem like something you would see on stage with say, a country act. However, as with the AX50, if you are a shredder, or metal is your area of expertise, than the F100Fm-STBK than this guitar easily gets itself a 10 out of 10.