Is this the cheapest decent quality metal guitar available today? In this ESP LTD EC 10 review we look to answer that question. Before we start I’ll get the obvious out of the way. Yes you can buy a guitar by a company you’ve never heard of, that’ll be a very cheap knock-off of a more expensive style. But trust me, those guitars are absolute trash.
The manufacturer will have given zero attention to how the guitar actually plays, and it’s a lottery whether or not you get one that’s playable.
Ok, rant over. Let’s talk about a proper guitar. The EC 10 is the baby of the ESP family, but what a family of guitars to be a member of! Let’s take a closer look.
Overview of ESP EC-10
Design & Materials
The EC-10 is a full size guitar with a scale of 24.75″. The body is made from Basswood, which you commonly find in Fender’s cheaper Squier range of guitars. Basswood is quite lightweight, good for a beginner. I don’t think the tone of a solid body is affected much by the wood used, but others will disagree.
The body has a number of nice design features. There’s a deep body cutaway, which seems to lend itself to those wanting to sit down and play for a majority of the time. It’s not as wide as the body cutaway on other guitars (those that have them), but it’s comfortable non-the-less.
There’s also a cutaway at the lower horn near the neck, making it easier to reach the higher frets. They’ve also sculpted the join neck joint to make it easier to play at the higher register. It’s not quite as practical as the sculpted necks on the Fender American Strat series, but then this guitar does cost over a $1,000 less!
The EC-10 includes a sloped cutaway on the body where your strumming arm sits, another feature for comfort. Those that have played a guitar with a hard edge will know it can get pretty sore on the arm pretty quickly.
The neck is bolted onto the body. There’s an argument that this can affect resonance, however it’s what I’d expect for a guitar at this price range. The beginner won’t notice any difference. In fact, 90% of guitars that Fender make have bolt on necks.
The neck itself is made from maple with a lovely satin finish to the back. That’s impressive because most guitars around this price point have a glossy finish to the neck. That can make it difficult to move around the neck quickly, especially when you have warm hands. The inclusion of the satin finish makes it much easier to play.
The neck profile is a thin U shape. That might not mean a lot to you, but it’s one of the nicest necks I’ve seen on a beginner’s guitar. Very slim and comfortable to play. Good for improving technique.
The fingerboard is made from engineered hardwood, which suggests that it’s lots of thin layers of hardwood stuck together rather than one piece of wood. Whatever it is in reality it looks and feels like Rosewood to me, so no arguments here, although I would always prefer a single piece of wood.
Atop the fingerboard are 24 extra jumbo frets. These frets are a little flatter and wider, making it a little easier to fret. That’s important for a beginner. The standard number of frets is 22, so you’re getting 2 extra frets to practice your scales on.
Moving further up the guitar we come to the nut, which is made from molded plastic. Again this is to be expected in a guitar at the price, so I don’t have any concerns with it’s inclusion on the EC-10. Sure a bone or synthetic bone nut would be better, but plastic will do just fine for this guitar.
The headstock is a reasonably simple affair, with the LTD logo and model number printed. It’s a pretty standard shape except from the “flag” type design at the end of the headstock. Tuning is handled by a set of standard LTD tuners. They’re not too bad and tuning stability should be pretty good. This will vary from guitar to guitar owing to the mass production nature of the EC-10.
The bridge is a tune-o-matic style that’s commonly found on Epiphone guitars. It’s a pretty simple yet good set up. You can make adjustments to the set up of the bridge using a flat head screwdriver. The bridge, stop-tail piece and controls are finished in chrome, which I think compliments the black body color really nicely.
The EC-10 comes with two humbucking pickups, one at the neck and one at the bridge. A three-way pickup selector allows you to select either humbucker, or split them at the middle position. These are passive pickups, which means sound is produced by the disturbances made to the magnetic fields between pickups and strings.
The alternative is active pickups, with include a pre-amp in the circuitry to boost the signal among other things. Naturally active pickups are more expensive, and the EC-10 has got enough push to warrant the use of passive pickups. In fact the pickups are pretty “hot” meaning they produce a lot of output.
The only thing I don’t like about the pickups is how they’re housed in raised frames. I much prefer a natural look or even plate covered pickups. That might be personal preference, but I think it detracts from the aesthetic of the guitar as a whole.
There are just two controls, master tone and master volume. There’s no ability to control the tone of individual pickups, but again I don’t see that as a problem for the beginner. The pickup selector feels pretty solid, which is a surprise. Often the switching mechanism is mostly constructed from plastic and feels flimsy as a result. The EC-10 possesses a nice solidity to the switching system.
The EC-10 can produce a variety of tones, from clean and flat to raucous high gain. When clean the neck pickup has a really nice neutral sound, great for jazz and funk. Blend in a little compression and the result is beautiful for clean styles. The bridge pickup has a little more grit as you’d expect. Roll off the tone a little and it’s great for blues. With the tone turned up you get a nice classic rocky tone, which breaks up the harder you play.
The real fun comes when you add distortion. Primarily this guitar is for those wanting to play higher gain styles such as heavy rock and metal. It’s absolutely brilliant at either the neck or the bridge position. The neck position is more for the lead and solo parts, whereas the bridge is great for palm muting and rhythm.
The pickups perform admirably considering they’ve got no help from a pre-amp. Pickups are usually one of the first areas to have costs cut in entry level guitars, leading to dampened sound. Not so with the EC-10!
As you’d expect this guitar isn’t crafted with care in a dedicated factory. It’s made in China, which goes a long way to keeping the price down. However the construction is actually pretty good. Having said that it’ll still be worth taking it to your local guitar shop for a quick set up to make sure the action is optimal and nothing is out of kilter. That’s a quick and cheap exercise.
The guitar comes with a stock set of .010’s. These are medium gauge and of average quality. You’ll probably want to change them to your preferred gauge and brand. If you’re not sure what strings to go for, your local guitar store can help you with too.
As a nice little bonus this guitar comes with a gig bag to enable you to protect the guitar when you’re on the go. Although I really like the black color, the guitar is also available in red and blue.
Right off the bat, this is the best metal style guitar you can buy as a beginner. Being able to join the ESP family for under $200 is amazing. As well as sporting plenty of features that are sympathetic to the beginner, such as the think neck, body cutaways and extra jumbo frets, the sound this thing can produce belies it’s price.
It’s a bit of a lottery whether or not it’ll arrive set up and it’s probably best to take it to your local guitar store to have them give it the once over. The same can be said of any guitar, but it’s particularly important among beginner guitars. When compared to the Ibanez RG421, another entry level metal guitar, the EC-10 blows it out of the water. For a start the EC-10 is $100 cheaper!
Whilst flexible in it’s tone, the EC-10 is geared more to those who are interested in metal and heavier styles. Make sure to check out my Electric Guitar Page if you’re looking for something else.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page. Want to find out more about the EC-10? Click the link below.
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