Hey guys, it’s Brian from World Music Supply again, bringing your usual dose of gear and guitar reviews. Today I get to bring you a few gems from our friends over at ESP, what I love about ESP and LTD guitars are just how lead friendly they are. As someone who grew up playing metal guitar, and even though I have transitioned away from that style of playing and into less labor intensive styles of music, I still love the feel of a guitar with a thin neck, and nearly flat radius, and when it comes to big, thick metal lead tones, ESP has always been my go to brand. So think of the theme of today, as guitars crafted for metal, but with enough stylistic wiggle room to fit in well enough almost anywhere.
First up on the list for today is the M103FM-STBK, which is part of their Mirage series of guitars, which are your rather typical Super Strat affair. Shred friendly necks, nice flattened radius, bold sounding pickups, and of course that perfectly setup Floyd Rose Special tremolo. The LH-150 humbucking bridge pickup had a wonderfully full sound, with a rather nice low end to it, which is something I always look for in a bridge pickup, the LS-120 middle and neck pickups had a nice clarity to them, but still had a very full sound, more so than you typically find in single coil pickups.
To play this guitar is a thing of beauty, the neck is lighting fast, and the combination of a maple fretboard and a trans black flamed maple top is a true thing of beauty. The feel of the neck is perfect for those who need to play fast, with big tall frets, and a nice flattened out radius, not to mention the delivering big bends with the Floyd Rose. Clean this translates to a guitar that has a all of the spank and sparkle that you expect of a strat, but when you crank up the distortion this guitar becomes a thing of power! With fiery rhythm tones, that have all of the weight and girth you could ever need, and with enough punchy lead sounds, or if you switch to the neck pickup, glassy lead sounds to keep your lead work sounding fresh for years.
so what is the M103FM-STBK? Well to put it briefly, it’s a workhorse. This guitar has all of the tones you could ever need, a Floyd Rose, and a neck that is perfect for shred friendly guitarists, all at a price point that is more than accessible to the beginning metal guitarist, and this is why the M103FM-STBK earns itself a solid 10 out of 10.
Next up is something a little less conventional than a super strat, a super LP, the EC1000FR-STBLK. This isn’t your average LP, this guitar comes armed to the teeth with all the appointments of a modern metal machine. Covered in a trans black flamed maple top, with plenty of abalone appointments, and not to mention the delicious black nickel hardware and the really cool Earvana Compensated Nut.
First off, this guitar does still carry a lot of the already amazing specifications of a standard LP, Mahogany body, Flamed Maple top, nice Thin U Mahogany Neck, but this guitar is definitely hotrodded. This all starts with the 24 fret neck, with 24 big XJ sized frets which are just great for lighting fast legato runs. You also get an amazing set of EMG pickups, with an 80 in the bridge, and a 60 in the neck. These pickups have a very big, full tone to them, with plenty of smooth clean signal, and enough output to drive even the heaviest of metal. Next you get the obvious addition of the black nickel Floyd Rose 1000 tremolo, with an Earvana compensated locking nut.
My understanding of the Earvana system is it slightly offsets the scale length of each string to help keep each string in tune better, and help eliminate the inherent intonation issues of the guitar. What this translated to, while subtle, was an ability to play in tune perfectly next to very unforgiving instruments. What I mean by this, is when you are a guitarist who only plays with other guitarists, if you’re slightly out of tune, its not too easy to notice, as it almost creates a chorusing or doubling effect, which your brain will translate as musical rather than an out of tune note. But, if you’re like me, and often play guitar next to a synthesizer, you know that if you are out of tune, you can’t try and hide it, because the keyboard can’t really be slightly sharp or flat, and your guitar can be.
With these kinds of appointments, you would expect this guitar to play like a dream, and you would not be disappointed. The neck was perfect, thin and quick enough for super fast lead work, but still with enough meat left on it that I didn’t feel weird playing chords on it. The Earvana nut was a subtle improvement, but it made playing chords sound just a little bit sweeter, and when I played next to a keyboard on a synth pad, I noticed my guitar sounded a little more “on” than usual, almost like there were more riffs that worked with the chord than usual. All of my lead work sounded a little more alive too, thanks to the EMGs distinctive sound, and I wanted to keep playing longer, just because this guitar is so cool to look at, I just didn’t want to put it down.
At the end of the day, what more could you ask for? This guitar is everything you love about a standard LP, but with a dozen or so amazing additions to it’s already genius design that make it so much more to cherish. For the simple fact that they took one of the greatest designs for a guitar in history, and turned it up to 11, the EC1000FR-STBLK earns itself a solid 10 out of 10.