Are ESP LTD Guitars Good? – Or Just Cheap Knock-Offs?

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Are affordable and mean-looking LTD’s really great guitars or are they just cheap original ESP knock-offs? If you are wondering about stuff like that, you are in the right place!

I have owned ESP LTD for 10 years and played dozens of them over the years (I have enjoyed playing most of them). Now I’m about to reveal all I have found out playing and researching LTD’s.

Let’s get started!

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…).


Are ESP LTD Guitars Good?

ESP LTD EC-10 displayed for readers
I tested the cheapest ESP LTD (EC-10) in 2021. You can check out my full review of it here.

Quick answer: ESP LTD are great high-value guitars that are built for metal. Common budget guitar problems like fret buzz, rough fret edges, and other minor flaws can be present especially with cheaper models. But most of the time, LTD’s are ready to rock out of the box without extra hassle. Also, ESP LTD’s are usually not the most versatile, but they sound mean for sure.

Let’s dive deeper!

What’s Good?

  • Tons of different models are available with different body shapes, pickups, and hardware
  • High value for the money
  • Fast playability
  • Most models are affordable
  • Solid pickups
  • Sound mean
  • Usually surprisingly versatile
  • Hardware quality is usually top-notch
  • Lefty models are available too
  • Setup is usually good out of the box
  • Extra jumbo frets on most models (great for shredding)

I’ll dive deeper into a couple of the most important factors.

Hardware Quality is Usually Top Notch

From cheap LTD EC-10 to my ESP LTD MH-400 to ESP LTD EC-1000 that I have played frequently, the hardware quality is something noticeable. LTD’s stay in tune like beasts! Bridge, fret wires, and everything has held up great in rugged use too when compared to other similar priced models.

ESP LTD EC-10 had the best hardware quality of the 5 best electric guitars under $200 I tested.

Even though LTD’s are not my favorite guitars overall, to me, they offer one of the best quality hardware I have seen in under $1000 guitars.

Fast Playability

Thin U is one of the most common shapes LTD’s come with. It feels a tad wider from the shoulders than Ibanez guitars for example, but they still feel thin. This ensures good access to the fretboard and I especially like how sweep picking feels with LTD’s.

But I personally prefer the slimmer neck shape of Ibanez guitars (I have small hands).

Another reason for fast playability are the extra-jumbo frets. You don’t have to press strings much in order to fret a note. And especially with low action, playing really feels like a breeze.

Sound Mean, But Usually Surprisingly Versatile

LTD’s are metal guitars and for a reason. They sound mean. And it’s awesome that with LTD’s you have options with ESP’s stock pickups, EMG’s, and even with Seymor Duncans available.

But if I’m completely honest, LTD’s are not the most versatile guitars. For example, if I compare them to similar priced Ibanez models, the difference is pretty clear to me. But still, LTD’s are surprisingly versatile. They are not just metal guitars, and especially clean parts of your favorite metal ballads are something that LTD’s can handle easy-peasy.

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What Flaws/Cons Can Be Present?

ESP LTD guitars are not perferct. Here’s the downside:

  • Not the most versatile
  • Some cheap models feel cheap
  • Some setup issues can be present out of the box (fret buzz, bad intonation, etc.)
  • While finish and hardware issues are rare, they can happen (as with any guitar)
  • Common Thin U neck shape is not everyone’s favorite

What Features Do ESP LTD Guitars Offer?

Let’s look at what kind of features different ESP LTD guitars have when we compare differently priced models:

Price symbol meaning:

$= 150-300 Dollars

$$= 301-699 Dollars

$$$= 700-1100 Dollars

$$$$= 1101-1899 Dollars

$$$$$= 1900- Dollars

Model
Features
Price RangeCheck Price and Looks (Affiliate Link)
ESP LTD EC-10-ESP Designed LH-100N and ESP Designed LH-100B Humbucker
-Basswood body
-Maple neck
-Engineered Hardwood fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$Sweetwater
ESP LTD MH-10-ESP Designed LH-100N and ESP Designed LH-100B Humbucker
-Basswood body
-Maple neck
-Engineered Hardwood fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Viper-10-ESP Designed LH-100N and ESP Designed LH-100B Humbucker
-Basswood body
-Maple neck
-Engineered Hardwood fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$Sweetwater
ESP LTD TE-200-ESP Designed LH-150N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-150B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Maple neck
-Engineered Hardwood fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD TE-201-ESP Designed LH-150B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Maple neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Xtone PS-1 Semi-hollow-ESP Designed LH-150N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-150B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-Maple neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD EC-256-ESP Designed LH-150N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-150B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Mahogany neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Quilted Maple top in some models
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD F-200-ESP Designed LH-301N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-301B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Maple neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD EX-200-ESP Designed LH-150N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-150B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Maple neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Viper-256-ESP Designed LH-150N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-150B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Mahogany neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD MH-203QM-ESP LS-120N Single-coil, ESP LS-120M Single-coil, and ESP LH-150B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-Quilted Maple top
-Maple neck
-Maple fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Kirk Hammett Signature KH-202-ESP Designed LH-301N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-301B Humbucker
-Basswood body
-Maple neck
-Rosewood fretboard
-LTD Locking tuners
-Extra Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD George Lynch GL-200MT -ESP Designed LH-150B Humbucker
-Basswood body
-Maple neck
-Maple fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Arrow-200-ESP Designed LH-301N Humbucker and ESP Designed LH-301B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Maple neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose
$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Signature Alexi-200-ESP Designed LH-301B Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-Maple neck
-Roasted Jatoba fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD EC-401-EMG 60 Humbucker and EMG 81 Humbucker (active)
-Mahogany body
-Mahogany neck
-Rosewood fretboard
-Grover tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD M-400-EMG 85 Humbucker and EMG 81 Humbucker (active)
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Maple neck
-Rosewood fretboard
-Grover tuners
-Extra Thin Flat neck shape
-Floyd Rose
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD EX-401-EMG 60 Humbucker and EMG 81 Humbucker (active)
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Maple neck
-Pau Ferro fretboard
-Grover tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Phoenix-Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic Humbucker(active)
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Mahogany neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD Locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD EC Arctic Metal -EMG 81TW Humbucker(active)
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Mahogany neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD Locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Arrow-NT-EMG 81 Humbucker(active)
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Maple neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD Locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Mirage Deluxe ’87 FR-Seymour Duncan Hot Rail Humbucker
and Seymour Duncan Distortion Humbucker
-Alder body
-3-Piece Maple neck
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD tuners
-Extra Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose 1000 Bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD EC-1000-EMG 60 Humbucker and EMG 81 Humbucker (active)
-Mahogany body
-Mahogany neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD H-1001-Seymour Duncan Sentient Humbucker and Seymour Duncan Pegasus Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Maple neck
-Set-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Hipshot bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Viper-1000 QM-Seymour Duncan Sentient Humbucker and Seymour Duncan Pegasus Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-Quilted Maple top
-3-Piece Mahogany neck
-Set-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD SN-1000 HT-Seymour Duncan Sentient Humbucker and Seymour Duncan Pegasus Humbucker
-Swamp Ash body
-Roasted Maple neck
-Roasted Maple fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Hipshot bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Eclipse ’87 NT-Seymour Duncan ’59 Humbucker and Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Maple neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Phoenix-1000-Fishman Fluence Modern Alnico Humbucker
and Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-Piece Maple neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD SN-1000 FR-Seymour Duncan hot Strat Single-coil, Seymour Duncan hot Strat Single-coil, and Seymour Duncan Pegasus Humbucker
-Swamp Ash body
-Roasted Maple neck
-Roasted Maple fretboard
-Grover tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose 1000SE bridge
$$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Reba Meyers RM-600 -EMG 81 Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-Maple neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Alan Ashby AA-1-EMG 81 Brushed Gold Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-Mahogany neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Kirk Hammett Signature KH-602-2 x EMG Bone Breaker Active Humbucker
-Alder body
-3-piece Maple neck
-Neck-through neck joint
-Pau Ferro fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Extra Thin U neck shape
-Floyd Rose 1000 Bridge
$$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD James Hetfield Signature Snakebyte-EMG JH-N Active Humbucker and EMG JH-B Active Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Mahogany neck
-Set Neck neck joint
-Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD Vulture-EMG JH-N Active Humbucker and EMG JH-B Active Humbucker
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Mahogany neck
-Set Neck neck joint
-Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-Tonepros locking tune-o-matic Bridge
$$$$Sweetwater
ESP LTD James Hetfield Signature Snakebyte – Camo-EMG JH “HET” Humbucker and EMG HJ “HET” Humbucker (active)
-Mahogany body
-3-piece Mahogany neck
-Set Neck neck joint
-Macassar Ebony fretboard
-LTD locking tuners
-Thin U neck shape
-TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge
$$$$$Sweetwater

FAQ

Difference Between ESP and ESP LTD Guitars?

  • ESP models are made in Japan and USA, while LTD models are made in China, Indonesia, or Korea (ESP LTD Elite models are an exception, they are made in Japan).
  • Some ESP guitars are handmade (Custom Shop models for example), but all LTD’s are manufactured in the production line
  • ESP guitars have better quality woods, hardware, and pickups.
  • ESP guitars are better in quality

Personally, I have no reason to get an original ESP. There are so many great LTD models available that offer me all that I need. I believe this is the case with most players. Of course, if you are a pro or you just have a ton of disposable income, original ESP’s might be a great option for you.

What Does ESP LTD Mean?

  • ESP=Electric Sound Products
  • LTD=Limited

Are ESP LTD’s Good for Metal?

ESP LTD’s are made for metal. And based on my over 10 years of experience playing EPS LTD’s, yes, they are good for metal.

This post about the best metal guitars under $500 has more great metal-machine options for you.

Who ESP LTD Guitars Are Good For?

If you are searching for a high-value guitar that offers mean tones, fast playability, and great hardware, LTD’s are an excellent option for you.

Are Cheap ESP LTD Guitars Good for Beginners?

ESP LTD EC-10 went through my home testing at the start of 2021. If you are a beginner metalhead, guitars like this LTD EC-10 are a great fit for you. So yes, ESP LTD guitars, even the cheap ones, can be great guitars for beginners.

Check this article if you crave more beginner metal guitar options.

Are ESP LTD Guitars Easy to Play?

LTD’s offer fast and smooth playability. And in most cases, the body has contours that make the instrument more comfortable to hold on your lap. The thin U neck shape featured in most LTD’s is comfortable to me, but I recommend testing one out yourself before making the final decision. But all-in-all, I would say that ESP LTD’s easy to play.

Where Are ESP LTD Guitars Made?

ESP LTD’s are made in:

  • China (cheapest models)
  • Indonesia
  • Korea

Here’s some proof:

photo reveals where ESP LTD EC-10 is made
ESP LTD EC-10 is made in China
photo reveals that ESP LTD EC-1000 is made in Indonesia
ESP LTD EC-1000 is made in Indonesia.
photo reveals that ESP LTD Reba Meyers RM-600 is made in Korea
ESP LTD Reba Meyers RM-600 is made in Korea.

Conclusion

While ESP LTD’s are not my favorite guitars at the moment, there’s no denying that they are great instruments. Especially for people searching mean distortion. They also offer really good quality hardware and fast playability. And yes, you can get some LTD’s with very little money…sounds like a good deal to me!

Hopefully this article helped you out, if you have any questions just leave a comment.

I wish you all the best and keep rocking!

Teemu


Here’s Our Favorite Gear Right Now!

Our Favorite Guitars:

Consider all links in this post to be affiliate links. If you purchase, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. It helps us to keep the lights on, thanks! 🙂

Electric guitars:

For beginners and tight-budget guitarists, Ibanez GRX70QA was the winner after hours of testing. If you are a metalhead, Jackson JS22 Dinky is our favorite.

If you have more room on your budget, Yamaha Pacifica 112V gives you a great bang for your buck, and Fender Player Telecaster HH will serve intermediate Players well.

Our favorite Electric guitar of 2021 was the PRS SE Custom 24-08. It gives so much versatility, comfort, and good tones that it’s impossible to ignore.

Acoustic guitars:

For beginners, Yamaha FG800 is our go-to guitar. It offers more than any other guitar in the same price range.

For intermediate and beginners with bigger wallets, Gretsch G5024E Rancher offers so clear and detailed tones, plus easy playability that I had to include it here.

Seagull S6 Original is the best acoustic around the $500 mark. It has the construction, sound, and feel that many more expensive guitars don’t achieve.

Our Favorite Amps:

For beginners, Fender Mustang LT25 offers the most. It’s versatile, sounds good, and is simple to use.

For most home players, Boss Katana 50MKii is the amp that serves you in any situation. From country to metal.

If you are searching for a tube amp for home use, Blackstar HT-5R MKii is my go-to option because it sounds so good, and you can adjust the wattage(power).

When it comes to acoustic guitar amps, Fender Acoustasonic 40 will serve most people really well. But our favorite is Fishman Loudbox Mini BT. It offers a professional level tone and volume with a price most people can afford.