ESP LTD M-330R

Like most mainstream guitar companies, ESP constantly strives to identify gaps in both the market as a whole and within its own catalogue; after all, where there's opportunity, there's the chance to make a nice wedge.

Thanks to the endorsement of a number of A-list metal bands, not least Metallica, Slayer and Children Of Bodom, the vibe of many ESP and the firm's lower priced LTD guitars is intertwined with the dark art of high-octane rock - boasting active pickups, fast necks and a sturdy construction.

"The neck pickup possesses a surprisingly tuneful Strat-like quality and, when used totally clean, the toggle's central position is genuinely impressive for picked notes and cool chords."

This shiny new Indonesian-made LTD 330 Series subscribes wholeheartedly to the ideal. Aimed at players who are meagre of pocket but flush with ambition, it fits snugly between the cheaper end of the catalogue and those models suited to semi-pro players with a bigger budget. Each of the five incumbents feature a bolt-on neck, just one choice of finish per model and come loaded with the new ESP-branded active ALH-200 pickups.

"The new ALH-200 set features ceramic bar magnets to cover any string spacing and to give plenty of punch along with the moderate output coil windings," ESP tells us. "Although active, we wanted to keep more of an organic sound, so players will notice that our pickups do offer a moderate amount of gain, and we feel that players can actually use our active pickups with their existing amps and not feel like they are completely changing their sound."

Do these guitars offer yet more choice or further muddy the waters? We've been looking at four of the five new models - the M-330R, the Viper-330, the EC-330 and the H-330NT - to try to find out.

Wider and flatter

The M Series offers a more than reasonable compromise for Metallica fans who aspire to owning a full-on Kirk Hammett model but can't afford it - the M-330R is unique in the range in that it's the only one to feature a reverse headstock. Like the MH-330FR, it also offers a double-locking vibrato - a Floyd Rose Special - and a traditional three-way toggle selects the pickups.

The rosewood 'board is bound in white, and the maple neck itself is cut out from a spread of maple comprising several 19mm sections. It offers certainly the widest and flattest feel of all four guitars here and, as with all 330 models, it is a bolt-on.

The heel has been shaped to ease access to the higher frets, which leads to a trapezoid rather than rectangular four-screw neck plate, and the mahogany body has been finished in the only possible hue: gloss black.

Sounds

Active pickups are more versatile than many give them credit for - they have any number of uses outside of the metal tones they are often associated with. But that said, our first port of call for our sound test is to dial-in a scooped crunch.

Initially, the bridge pickup sounds too bright and provides less in the way of bass depth and girth. In addition, the middle seems overpowering at times, giving less of a Black album-style crunch and more of an unattractive bark.

More cleanly, the neck pickup possesses a surprisingly tuneful Strat-like quality and, when used totally clean, the toggle's central position is genuinely impressive for picked notes and cool chords.

MusicRadar Rating

3 / 5 stars
Pros

Looks good; simple layout; decent clean sounds.

Cons

The largely unconvincing metal tones.

Verdict

As a metal guitar it's disappointing, but clean tones are decent.

Country of Origin

Indonesia

Available Finish

Black

Bolt-on Neck

Yes

Fingerboard Material

Rosewood

Guitar Body Material

Mahogany

Hardware

Floyd Rose Special double-locking vibrato, ESP tuners - all black nickel-plated

Neck Material

Maple

No. of Frets

24

Scale Length (mm)

648

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.