Like Queen, we want it all and we want it now. That's where the HSS concept comes in. In case you haven't cracked that code yet, it denotes the fusion of one bridge humbucker (H) with a pair of single coils (SS), all in a standalone electric that's theoretically able to cover your ass in any tonal situation.
Propping up the 'M' family of doublecuts and priced at a thrifty £259, the LTD M-53 isn't expected to be firework-inducing, but we were pleasantly surprised when we started rocking it. Only available in black, it's your classic understated metal axe, with a rib-contoured basswood body that hangs really light, sleek and contoured on the strap, complemented by a neck whose wide-and-flat unfinished profile makes it a ripper for flashy licks.
The volume pot gets in the way when picking near the bridge and the vibrato will disappoint dive-bombers with its polite wobble; but, otherwise, it's strong stuff.
There's a crackle of excitement when you spot the ESP logo on budget-axe pickups, and for the most part, the hallowed reputation of LTD's parent firm is justified. Five minutes on the clean channel with those single coils proves this isn't just a bone-headed metal axe, and combining middle and neck can draw out a Strat-worthy twang that shimmers beautifully with a dash of reverb. Flick the filth and that clarity is retained.
However, while the humbucker has a wide, fat bark when you're hitting it hard, we feel it lacks a bit of clarity and character. That's us being fussy, of course.