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LTD EC-330FM review

Can this affordable axe nail metal?

  • £389
  • €515
  • $570
There's a mahogany body with flame maple top, plus two ESP ALH-200 active humbuckers

MusicRadar Verdict

In this dog-eat-dog world, the EC-330FM doesn't have enough bark to be heard.

Pros

  • +

    Well balanced. Very playable. Decent spec.

Cons

  • -

    Quality control issues. Tones lack power.

You could never accuse ESP of failing to understand its customer base. The vast majority of its endorsees are high-profile metal guitarists - such as Metallica and, erm, Alex Wade - whose signature models read like a who's-who of the genre.

Reeling off the spec for this handsome single-cutaway electric from the Japanese manufacturer's LTD line sounds like a shameless come-hither to anyone who has ever worn a black t-shirt and devoted their waking hours to trying to shred loose the Kraken.

There's a mahogany body with flame maple top, ergonomically brisk thin U-profile neck with 24 extra-jumbo frets, plus the coup de grace: two ESP ALH-200 active humbuckers in the bridge and neck. Woof!

"This is a guitar aimed at intermediary players and those with tight budgets"

The EC-330FM takes design cues from the ESP Eclipse (which took its cues from the Gibson Les Paul), but this is a guitar aimed at intermediary players and those with tight budgets, and as such, there are some concessions on spec.

The neck is bolted on; we've got some ESP tuners, rather than the pricier Gotoh; and the pickup choice is clearly a cheaper in-house alternative to the EMG sets we're used to seeing elsewhere in the ESP/LTD stable.

The EC-330FM is handsome, though - the flame maple is a nice touch, while the pearloid flag fret markers are redolent of ESP's top marques. But this guitar is built to play.

While the EC-330FM looks as if it'd give you sciatica within the week, some smart contouring on the body leavens the load, and with the incredibly comfortable fat fret/skinny neck combo, it makes for a well-balanced guitar that's a lot of fun to play.

The big question is whether ESP's ALH-200 pickups deliver on a similar level to EMGs. Tonally, the EC-330FM is a mixed bag. It's not helped by niggling QC issues on the electrics - TG's test model had a scratchy master volume pot for the bridge pickup. It's no big deal, though: these issues should be picked up before you get your hands on one.

The ALH-200s sound great: thick and warm for cleans and solid hard-rock crunch, with a brightness that helps to add nuance and harmonic response to your lead. The problem is they don't imbue the EC-330FM with great power. And that's what you need when playing some high-gain rough 'n' tumble.

An unconvincing high-gain voice means that the LTD's biggest problem is the competition. It's a very crowded market for high-spec'd metal guitars under £500 - a little extra cash will get you a Schecter Damien 6, with a set of active EMG pickups and a flame maple top.

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.