LTD EX Black Metal review

A stripped-down electric for metal and not the chart-topping kind neither

  • £869
  • €999
  • $1049
LTD EX Black Metal
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

A specialist musical style often requires a specialist’s instrument, and the EX Black Metal is just that, offering a stripped-down platform for high-gain riffing, ripping leads, and the honourable business of making an unholy noise.


  • +

    It's a super-aggressive shape.

  • +

    Speedy performance.

  • +

    Locking tuners.

  • +

    Plenty of power in that active bridge humbucker.

  • +

    All-black finish is mighty cool.


  • -

    Not for mellow styles.

  • -

    Format might be too stripped down for some players.

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LTD EX Black Metal: What is it?

Many people will tell you that the best metal guitars are the ones that you can impale yourself on if you are not careful. We’re talking electric guitars with edges so sharp you might have trouble getting them through customs – and we’re not talking CITES regulations.

In other words, guitars such as the LTD EX Black Metal. Like the others in ESP/LTD’s EX series it looks like it was an Explorer once upon a time, just as Anakin Skywalker was an aspiring Jedi once upon a time. This, too, has strayed far into the dark side. 

Indeed, the finish is so black, that no light can escape from it. We’ve got that black satin stealth vibe all over with matching hardware. Even its sole pickup – an active EMG-81 humbucker – is observant of the dress code.

But as metal guitars go, this is one minimalist six-string, and ESP/LTD is clearly banking on the maxim that says ‘the best designs are the simplest to make the EX Black Metal a hit with the black t-shirt demographic.

LTD EX Black Metal

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Let’s look at the fundamentals. The EX Black Metal has a solid mahogany body. To note that it is ever-so-slightly offset feels like a luxury observation when you are looking at a guitar that spreads its weight across quite a range – just be careful that rear fin doesn’t go knocking over a vase or something.

The neck is a three-piece set-through maple affair carved into a house special Thin-U profile. Those looking for a vintage Explorer feel here are in for a shock; this is a speedy number, though the 24.75” scale length feels once more a reference to the inspiration. The Macassar ebony fingerboard has 22 extra-jumbo stainless steel frets.

Everything is geared towards performance and high-gain musical styles. On the headstock you’ll find a set of LTD-branded locking tuners, and the bridge is a stable TonePros TOM-style. Now, all that’s needed is to find a suitably monstrous guitar amp to play it through.

LTD EX Black Metal: Performance and verdict

You’ll want something powerful to put the EX Black Metal through. That EMG-81 at the bridge is actually quite capable of giving you some nice cleans, particularly if there is some chorus and a short delay in the signal chain. And yet ESP/LTD has limited our options here in doing away with the master tone control. All we have is a volume pot.

Also consider...

Epiphone Prophecy Flying V

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Epiphone Prophecy Flying V
A high-performance electric guitar that is exceptional for metal but with enough range to make it a quite thrilling update to a classic design. 

 • Jackson JS32T Rhoads
If the EX Black Metal is a little steep for your budget, the JS Series Rhoads is a superlative entry-level metal guitar, with an aggressive shape that's now become a modern classic.

The EMG-81 might not be the most dynamic humbucker in the world – it’s a flamethrower by trade, and something of a riled bullock by temperament – but rolling back the volume can work as a handy attenuator of your gain. On 10, well? It’s most thunderous, with a naturally hostile sound that calls to mind reference metal rhythm guitar tones such as …And Justice For All and the discography of Lamb Of God. 

When used in the operationally appropriate environment of maximal gain, harmonics are easy to come by, and the low-end response of the EMG makes it an excellent candidate for tuning down. 

Of course, a lot of the black metal guitar players don’t bother tuning down lest it take some of the necro bite out of that trebly sound but knock the EX Black Metal into D or even C standard and that EMG-81 holds itself together. 

Little wonder it became the industry standard for such a long time, its preeminence only challenged in recent years by active alternatives from big-hitters such as DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan, not to mention the rise of Bare Knuckle and those multi-voiced Fishman Fluence humbucker that have formed the vanguard of the more progressive wing of contemporary metal.

This is not a guitar for those people. Progressive? Sure, it’s a high-performance guitar, with that neck carve on-brand for ESP/LTD, and so you can get with the polyrhythmic programme and offer safe passage for lead guitar expression. But it’s for the raw-meat and goat skull set, the sonic extremist with the indecipherable band logo and an ear for dissonance.

MusicRadar verdict: A specialist musical style often requires a specialist’s instrument, and the EX Black Metal is just that, offering a stripped-down platform for high-gain riffing, ripping leads, and the honourable business of making an unholy noise.

LTD EX Black Metal: The web says

"While this guitar delivers a striking silhouette, all the blackness feels like it’s not too showy. The look is further complemented by the lack of inlays on the fretboard, although handy glow-in-the-dark dots adorn the side of the neck. 

"Don’t be fooled by the supposed lack of features when compared to the price. This guitar is designed to shorten the distance between your riffs and the gain channel, making sure that they sound as precise as possible."
Total Guitar

LTD EX Black Metal: Hands-on demos

ESP Guitars


LTD EX Black Metal: Specifications

  • SCALE: 24.75”
  • BODY: Mahogany
  • NECK: 3Pc Maple
  • FINGERBOARD: Macassar Ebony
  • FINISH: Black Satin
  • NUT WIDTH: 42mm
  • NUT TYPE: Molded
  • FRETS: 22 XJ Stainless Steel
  • TUNERS: LTD Locking
  • BRIDGE: Tonepros Locking TOM and Tailpiece
  • PICKUP: EMG 81 with Black Logo
  • CONTROLS: Volume
  • CONTACT: ESP Guitars

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