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This article was originally published in issue #23
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Extended range instruments have been increasingly in demand over the last couple of years thanks to new movements in modern Metal music, so it's good to know that guitar companies are working hard at making 8-strings accessible for first time extended range buyers.
This affordable ESP from the company's LTD series features what the company describes as a 'a set thru construction', a mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, 24 jumbo frets, a black satin finish and sports a pair of active EMG 808 humbucker pickups.
The first thing to say about the H308 is that it has a highly ergonomic body design: this guitar has fantastic higher fret access! The back of the lower horn is sculpted so you can really get up to the high frets without anything getting in the way and the back of the body of the guitar is concave shaped so you can keep the guitar comfortably close to your body as you play without any jagged edges sticking into you. The ergonomic design continues around the front of the guitar where the body has a slight arch, making it comfortable for picking hand wrist placement near the bridge.
Another important aspect of this guitar's playability and appeal to first time 8-string buyers is the 25.5 inch scale length. Most extended range instruments feature a longer scale length to accommodate for the lower range strings, however if you are new to 8-string, or have small hands, scale lengths such as 27 inch plus can be very daunting. The LTD H308's comfortable 25.5 inch scale length is the same as on many regular 6-string guitars, making this a perfect transition for people who are trying an 8-string for the first time. The shorter scale length does mean that you may need to purchase heavier strings to add a bit more tension in the low end, however this is not a problem these days as strings as heavy as 70 or 80 gauge are readily available.
Due to its scale length, I feel it would be worth adding that if you wished it would be possible to tune this guitar with a high A string, which would make the tuning from low to high B, E, A, D, G, B, E and A. However, I highly recommend that you should use a super light string for the top A string in order for it to resonate, intonate and tune correctly.
All of this talk of the H308 being ideal for first time 8-string buyers shouldn't deter 8-string veterans though, the guitar features quality ESP hardware and tuners, 3-way toggle switch, a solid fixed bridge, master tone and volume, a super solid construction and bruising tone delivered from the EMG 808’s. I myself own one of these guitars and I have gigged it in all kinds of weather and situations and not once has the LTD H308 let me down: it’s a real hard worker on the road and in the studio.
The H308 features a pair of active EMG 808 pickups. EMG was one of the first pickup manufactures to create a pickup for the 8-string guitar and has gone on to be the first to make pickups for 9-string, so the company knows its stuff when it comes to extended range and it's no surprise that the LTD H308 has a pair of these well designed pickups on board. The bridge pickup with distortion has a sharp attack, a lot of high end clarity and low end tightness, which is ideal for the low tunings possible on the 8-string guitar - in this review's case using a tuning standard F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, and E. The bridge pickup remains clear and articulate when playing chords with distortion, the EMGs keep the signal even and clear.
Switching to the middle position which features the bridge and neck pickup, we get a fantastic tone that would be ideal for clean amp sounds, especially with modulation effects such as chorus. The mix of the two 808 pickups together creates a clear sparkly sound with a lovely low mid growl in the low end.
Switching finally to the neck pickup, we get a fat, creamy tone with distortion which is ideal for soaring lead playing, the notes sustain and burn off the fretboard. There is a real punch to this pickup without a loss of clarity. This pickup position is also ideal for warmer clean tones, again like with the middle position, EMG pickups make a great pallet for modulation effects such as chorus.
One of the selling points to this guitar, aside from the playability, sound and its ergonomic design is the quality hardware. The guitar comes with quality durable ESP tuners, the low F# string tuning peg is wide enough to take strings up to 72 gauge. The Hipshot 8-string bridge, meanwhile, is bullet proof: it doesn’t cut into the side of the picking hand, and it’s easily adjustable so you can fine tune your action and intonation with ease. The string-through design caters for the extended range by having slightly staggered string holes in the back of the guitar which create a tiny bit more length in the low B and F# strings which helps with intonation, tuning stability and resonance in the lower range.
There's just no getting away from the fact that the H308 is a fantastic starting point for first time 8-string buyers who want to buy a quality gig-ready extended range instrument for an affordable price. Having said that, I also strongly feel that this guitar has the right goods for the seasoned 8-string guitar player who may want a shorter scale length than most 8-strings on the market. If the price tag is still a little high for the first time 8-string buyer, there are other versions of the same model in the series, such as the incredibly affordable but still brilliant quality LTD H208 which comes with LTD active pickups, silver hardware and a bolt on neck. Both that and this H208 represent fantastic value for money. I highly recommend you go to your local guitar shop and try one now.