The basses from ESP’s affordable LTD range have always punched above their weight, from the cheapest models to the signature basses - and continuing this tradition, this glossy Indonesian beauty has a list of features that make its pricetag look positively humorous.
Our experiences in the past with other models from the range have been very positive, and the F-155’s spec sheet suggests there is much to like here - so let’s take a look.
The jagged body shape, derived from Slayer bassist Tom Araya’s signature LTD TA-200, won’t appeal to everyone, but this bass is very comfortable to wear, despite a noticeable headstock bias. As the F-155 comes with a sizeable three-over-two headstock and a 35” scale, it comes as no surprise that balance is an issue.
However, player comfort has been addressed, and the front and rear contouring, basswood body timber, elongated top horn and extensive cutaways all contribute towards making sure it feels good to play.
Don’t be afraid to get stuck in; ruggedly constructed, the bass is surprisingly slick in its presentation and playability. The bevelled body edge, flame maple timber figuring and high gloss lacquer are all attention-grabbing, while the twelfth-fret block marker, abalone front facing position markers, white dots on the side, and three-laminate matching headstock facing offer a touch of class.
The shallow D-shaped neck profile benefits this five-string beast; navigating the 24-fret rosewood fingerboard is a pleasure, as the neck, the setup and overall level of finishing have all been checked before this bass left the factory.
The setup is well worth mentioning, while the action, intonation and all-round playability belie the pricetag. If the 35” scale isn’t enough for you, should you wish to string the bass through the body, you can opt to do so for a tighter tone.
The black nickel hardware is of a fine standard, with all movable items operating smoothly and securely. The circuit and pickups are ESP LTD items, so they should be well matched. The control layout of volume, pickup pan, bass, middle and treble offers the standard tone-shaping options. Let’s see if it gets the most out of all five strings and the tonal benefits that a 35” scale can offer, especially applicable to the B string.
First impressions last, and the fact that this bass sounds impressive unplugged is a good sign. The F-155 sounds vibrant and defined, with a strong sustain from the off, and the added resonance offered by the increased scale is quite evident. Plugged in, the bass exhibits a seriously woody tone, and playing it for a period of time highlights a selection of throaty, organic tones that come across very well for a bass with a bolt-on neck. If you like a bass to have tonal character, this will appeal to you.
Panning between both pickups gives a fair indication of these units’ capabilities; they come across as forthright and powerful before any EQ is added. Both units offer the tones you would expect to hear based on their location on the body, but the rear pickup has a pleasing honk for tighter fingerstyle playing in front of the bridge.
Bringing the EQ into play, all three controls are centre-detented for reference, and thankfully, the circuit is very usable across all three bands - with no excessive boom or glass-shattering top end. The treble EQ in particular is well-voiced, providing extra clarity without being overly sharp. Slap tones stand out very well, and generally, there’s a pleasing tonal character.
The low B is very distinctive, and those low notes won’t get lost in the mix. Rock players, no doubt already inspired by the visuals, will be drawn to the sounds on offer and the benefits conferred by the extra scale length, especially if playing with a pick is your preferred style. The 18mm string spacing may make the bass feel slightly cramped at first - but this is overcome as you get used to the neck dimensions.
At £516, you’re getting a whole lotta bass for your money, with plenty of features and tones, and playability that will appeal to proponents of most genres.
Sure, the body styling may hinder its appeal for players who prefer a more traditional aesthetic, but there’s no denying that it’s a comfortable playing experience. Even if five-string basses are an occasional dabble for you, at this sort of price you can’t really go wrong. We suggest you visit your nearest ESP dealer - you may be as impressed as we are.