ESP Horizon NT-II review

  • £1540
  • $1659
The Horizon NT-II's shape will be instantly recognisable to many shred conoisseurs.

MusicRadar Verdict

The NT-II has got to be the closest the Superstrat has got to evolutionary perfection.


  • +

    Unbeatable pickup pairing (plus a coil split), immaculate presentation and great neck profile.


  • -

    High-gloss finish doesn't mix too well with sweat.

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The ESP Horizon series has proved an enduring victory for guitar design.

Introduced in 1986, it has aged well. That dagger-shaped headstock casts an instantly recognisable silhouette, with a level of threat, too.

"Five minutes with the NT-II is long enough to recognise the appeal that it has with metal guitarists"

Yet the NT-II is clearly reaching for the gentrified shredder and wears its quilted maple livery and antique Dark Brown Sunburst well - an ebony fretboard with a minimum of pearloid fills out an enigmatic guitar that reeks of class.

The NT-II comes well-equipped with a Seymour Duncan SH-4 (Jeff Beck model) in the bridge, and SH-1 ('59) in the neck. It's a classic pairing.


The punch, attitude and expressive high-end of the SH-4 makes it one of the finest high-output passive humbuckers in the business. Even in high-gain scenarios, the SH-4 won't go shrill on you; it articulates your rhythm and lead work perfectly, complementing rather than compromising your playing.

The SH-1, as you'd expect, is channelling a vintage PAF tone. When selected, it provides log-fire levels of warmth with just the right amount of break-up, and is perfect for smooth, creamy overdrive. And where the SH-4 has the bite, an abundance of presence even in clean tones, the SH-1 is that bit more civilised.

Part of the raison d'être of the shred double-cut is versatility, and in the warm, spongy tones of the SH-1, the NT-II has an expressive range of cleans, aided and abetted with the coil-split for some single-coil subtlety.

Five minutes with the NT-II is long enough to recognise the appeal that it has with metal guitarists who want a guitar that has all the dynamics to handle clean, chimey arpeggios and ill-tempered, overdriven riffs alike.

The U-contoured neck, with a neck-through construction for added stability and tone, is slim without being so emaciated that your hand cramps after thirty minutes. The high-gloss finish does have a tendency to gum up with sweaty hands, but this is our only minor gripe.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.