Designed to “bridge the gap between ESP’s premium and more affordable LTD models,” the relatively new E-II range features high-spec Tokyo-built renderings of the Japanese brand’s rock and metal- flavoured favourites.
You shouldn’t need Lieutenant Columbo to help you figure out what guitar the model we have today takes inspiration from. The shadow cast by the single-cutaway body is a big clue. Figure in a mahogany back mated to a contoured maple top and you’re in classic Les Paul territory. Ditto, the anchored tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece (both sourced via Gotoh) and the twin humbucker format.
The trail only begins to go cold when we turn the guitar over. The Eclipse body is thinner than that of the 50s icon, which is reflected in its weight of just under eight pounds - a non-weight relieved Les Paul is usually 10 pounds or more.
It’s like ESP hot-rodded a Les Paul by stripping it of some body weight, re-profiling the cutaway, and dumping stuff like the pickguard and one of the tone controls. That hot-rod vibe is enhanced by the cool racing flag fingerboard inlays, matching truss rod cover and headstock profile.
The Eclipse DB features the same thin one-piece mahogany neck with a 305mm (12") fingerboard radius and 22 beautifully seated and crowned extra jumbo frets. Both necks come with locking Gotoh tuners with metal tulip buttons, a perfectly cut bone nut, and a volute at the point where the headstock begins to add some strength. Additional security is provided by a set of Schaller strap-locks and a tough oblong case with a fitted interior and accessories pocket.
The Eclipse DB features a Vintage Black finish, ebony ’board and gold metal parts, as well as a LP Custom-style double-bound body with a more traditional set-neck construction. The path to the upper fret isn’t quite as clear as the other, recently-reviewed, Eclipse but still that aged binding looks the absolute business set against the Vintage Black paintwork. We also love how the DB’s rear belly scoop cuts cleanly through the binding. It’s a beautifully executed touch of class.
The DB also features a nine-volt battery cover with a military spec aesthetic, not unlike the rear panel on a Casio G-Shock watch. The battery hatch on the DB is a clue to the most important difference between the latest Eclipse models: the engine room. The DB comes with the classic metal setup of active EMG 81 pick up in the bridge position and EMG 60 at the neck.
Straight from the case, the action on this guitar is so low a hapless microbe wandering across these fingerboards might bump its head on the bottom of the strings. This state of affairs is perfect for legato-lusting shredders with a light touch.
If, on the other hand, you like to thump your strings to jelly you’ll likely have to raise the action a bit to bump off any unwanted buzzes and rattles.
The old cliché that the EMG 81 and EMG 60 don’t do clean has its basis in truth. Those powerful ceramic magnets held within are at their happiest with a serious dose of distortion. We doubt that anyone has ever installed an EMG 81 bucker only to strum through Terry Jack’s Seasons In The Sun. Nope, these pups are better suited to much more vicious fare like Slayer’s Seasons In The Abyss. That’s why the 81 has become so important in metal, thanks to the likes of Zakk Wylde.
Yes, the EMG 81 is a beast with an impressive power output, but what makes it so enjoyable is its razor-sharp articulation. You can discern every note regardless of how miffed your gain section is, and it works great with the DB’s mahogany/maple carcass: there’s a huge amount of sustain.
Adding the ceramic-mag powered EMG 60 introduces a bit more bottom end grunt to the proceedings, and running it solo makes for a stellar, almost synthesizer-like, lead tone. Even in that position, there’s still plenty of clarity. Active EMGs don’t suffer from the muddiness inherent in many passive neck ’buckers.
ESP has long been typecast as a go-to make for metalheads and shredders, a situation happily perpetuated by the brand itself. So where does that leave the rest of guitar playing humanity who might otherwise dismiss ESP’s wares while looking for a new six-string squeeze?
Well, as its lines are informed by an all-time classic, the Eclipse is the least overtly ‘metal’ looking thing in the ESP catalogue. Sure, there’s a touch more aggression in the sharpened cutaway, and some Kustom Kulture vibe-age in the racing flag fingerboard inlays and headstock.
Yet, even if the EMGs alienate some, we can see both of these beautiful guitars looking the part in a classic rock, blues rock or even jazz setting. And since when was a wish list that includes an ultra comfortable neck shape, excellent upper fret access and a super low action solely the preserve of the metal fraternity?
If you’re on the sniff for a single-cutaway, mahogany/maple, twin-humbucker-loaded tone machine, you might just find this ESP ‘eclipses’ the charms of the competition from the likes of Gibson and PRS. In terms of fit and finish the Eclipse DB is as good as anything you’ll find for around £2,000.