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This article was originally published in issue #5
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ESP is one of the hottest guitar brands right now, with some great 'big name' users. But what if a Japanese-made ESP is out of your price range? Well ESP has that covered too, with its lower-cost LTD range. We gave Michael Casswell an LTD M-300FM and asked him to find out just how well it shreds.
What happened to the days when guitars had names rather than being known by a series of letters and numbers? This guitar is called an LTD M-300FM. It's a low to mid priced guitar that comprises of a neck through design, mahogany body with a flame maple top (always a good combo), 25.5" scale neck with 24 jumbo frets, two EMG 81 humbuckers, three way switch, a Floyd Rose special trem, and the obligatory pointy headstock - in reverse no less!
I don't think this guitar is aimed at Blues players (I am being ironic), and I suspect the parent company, ESP, is fishing for the young teenage male who likes his metal loud, proud and fast! This guitar is a definite statement and you are telling the world that you are going to shred till you drop. The fantastic EMG 81 pick ups will certainly help you do this, being probably the most powerful pick up out there. I love EMGs, but tend to use the more toneful and civilised 85 humbucker. The 81 is a great pickup, but subtle it isn't.
We also have what looks like a Floyd Rose locking tremolo, but don't be fooled. This is a Floyd Rose Special, which means it is the budget Floyd, made in the Far East. To me, it delivers less response and resonance than the proper German-manufactured Floyd. I guess using the real thing would substantially increase the price of the guitar, but it is a shame that the Floyd Rose special fitted here looks to me like it will wear out the knife edges quickly, leaving a trem arm that keeps coming loose because of the stupid plastic insert under the screw on sleeve, will not hold its tuning like it should, and generally will end up being ignored due to fact that it's a pain. In between filming takes, I kept having to retune this guitar, so already the trem is border line. Editor's note: This is the second issue in a row that we've encountered problems with license built Floyd Roses (last month on a Yamaha). We hope someone at FR is paying attention (and if they aren't, that guitar makers are) as this sort of thing isn't good news.
Playing wise, the neck is the speedy wide thin type, with big jumbo frets that are great for the wide legged, wide vibrato. The set up on this guitar could do with a tweak, because although the string height wasn't high, it certainly wasn't low, and for some of those swept arpeggios you want things as slick and as easy as possible. The worry is, for a truly buttery low action, the neck has to be very true, and the fret work perfect, so lowering the action on this could mean choking out fret bends higher up the neck. Or it might be fine, but in my experience thin necks can be very sensitive to temperature and the rigours of touring. But probably our young metal kid isn't at the touring stage yet, so all should be okay..
The guitar is finished in polyurethane, which will keep it nice and shiny for decades. This industry standard finishes encase the wood in a hard shell, and do not take on the cool worn-in look that makes a guitar look and feel great. All the hardware is finished in black nickel, which is sort of in between black and chrome. It certainly adds to the overall rock vibe of the guitar, but is not for me. The EMGs do make the sound of doom, and all the right metal noises can be had. EMGs are active, and will turn the most average sounding guitar into a much better average sounding guitar, and they can make a great guitar sound awesome. They are also dead quiet, so perfect for high gain work, and they also don't care about cable length or pedals, because they power the signal straight through all that stuff and into your amp. So a good choice from LTD.
Apart from the slightly suspect tuning issues, this guitar will do the Metal thing well. The trouble is, as you grow as a player and a musician, you will outgrow this guitar. It might even be a false economy to buy a cheaper- to- mid priced guitar like this, because as soon as you walk out of the shop with it, it will be worth very little. So probably not the best guitar for jazz, but certainly a consideration for a young Metal god.