ESP Guitars was founded in 1975 by Hisatake Shibuya in Japan . Initially only intended for the distribution and sale of spare parts for electric guitars, the company began producing its own guitars and spare parts in 1983. The first instruments were custom-made, individually manufactured according to the wishes of the customers. With increasing success, the series production of the most popular model variants finally began. In 1986 the company opened its first branch (48th Street Guitars) in Manhattan , New York , where mainly instruments for well-known artists and custom-made products are manufactured. In order to be represented in the entry-level sector, ESP first founded the company Grass Roots and in 1996 the company LTD, under whose name most of the normal series instruments are now sold by ESP. In terms of quality, Grass Roots guitars can be classified as cheap, whereby a distinction must be made between the years of construction of the models and some models (e.g. KH-2, Les-Paul, SG, Strat) were built as high-quality replicas. The KH-2 version of the GrassRoots GMM series, imported by the Custom-Shop Düsseldorf at the beginning of the 90s, is probably the best-known and most popular GR guitar. Here is the abbreviation for GMM G rassRoots MM for the ESP version M2 (MII).
There is also the company ESP Edwards. Edwards guitars were originally made exclusively for the Japanese market and are qualitatively between the LTD and ESP standards. Since 2009 Edwards guitars are also intended for worldwide export. The handmade luxury variants are offered under the label "ESP", whereby a distinction must still be made between "ESP Standard" and "ESP Original". ESP originals are handcrafted in the ESP custom factory in Japan and are accordingly more expensive than the ESP standard models. Thus LTD differs from z. B. Epiphone or Squier and has more of the quality level like the Gio series from Ibanez . LTD instruments are made in Asia - mostly South Korea or Indonesia . ESP's current headquarters are in North Hollywood , California (USA). Guitars made in the USA are labeled Custom Shop. Custom-Shop models were also allowed to be built in the Custom-Shop Düsseldorf from 1986 to 1996. All other ESP custom shops only accept orders, which they then forward for production. The guitars made in Germany have an ESP stamp in the neck pocket and on the neck in the same place. USA variants, on the other hand, do not have this stamp, or in the e-compartment in the body.
The optics of ESP's instruments are mostly based on classic models of the electric guitar such as Gibson Les Paul , SG and Explorer , Jackson Randy Rhoads and the Fender Stratocaster . It is characteristic of ESP that these designs have been further developed and are often only roughly reminiscent of the role models.
- ESP Eclipse : The Eclipse is modeled on the Gibson Les Paul , the body shape being modified and the neck mostly being equipped with 22 frets . Depending on the model and intended use, the variants range from instruments with a mahogany body and maple top, which are kept close to the original , to guitars with screwed necks, Floyd Rose and active pickups that have been specially optimized for the styles of heavy metal .
- ESP Viper : The Viper is a guitar roughly modeled on the Gibson SG . In contrast to the Gibson, the body is shifted asymmetrically and the neck is equipped with 24 frets. As with the Eclipse, the different model variants range from relatively exact copies of the original to sophisticated heavy metal guitars.
- ESP Horizon : The Horizon is roughly based on the body shape of the Fender Stratocaster , whereby the other design features such as the equipping with two humbuckers , arrow-shaped headstock and the glued-in neck are more reminiscent of instruments from Gibson and PRS .
- ESP M-II : Like the Horizon, the M-II is roughly based on the body shape of the Fender Stratocaster , with the other design features (two EMG 81 humbuckers , Floyd Rose tremolo) and the upward-pointing (reversed) asymmetrical headstock for Hard - Rock and heavy metal musicians are optimized. The M-II is one of the longest-produced guitars and goes back to ESP's first own instruments.
- ESP LTD series : The ESP LTD series includes for the most part the inexpensive guitars of the ESP range. LTD models are e.g. B. F series, EX series, AX series, EC series. Depending on the model number (x50, x100, x200, x250, x400, x401, x500, x1000 Deluxe), the LTD guitars are equipped with ESP-LH pickups or EMG HZ and active EMG humbuckers , there are also some versions with Seymour Duncan pickups. In the LTD series, only Floyd Rose License tremolos are usually installed. By and large, the same materials are used in LTD guitars as in the "real" ESPs. But they are cheaper to buy under the name LTD, as they are mostly made in Korea or Indonesia and the quality of the woods is mostly second class.
- ESP Grass-Roots : The ESP-Grass-Roots models are primarily in-house replicas of the best-known and most popular ESP models, which were still manufactured in the Japanese factory until the early 1990s. Unlike the ESP-labeled instruments, there was no custom shop version. Some rare models of the KH-2 ( Kirk Hammett from Metallica ), which were ordered and sold by the Custom Shop Düsseldorf until 1992, are now described as "original replicas". This can be recognized by the original Floyd Rose tremolo system and the two active EMG 81 pickups. They also have an ESP stamp in the neck pocket and in the same position on the neck. The neck is made of one piece and does not consist of several glued pieces, as is the case with the Indonesian models. These guitars are extremely rare and were not originally intended for the German market. In 1992 production was relocated to Indonesia. Since then, the Grass Roots series has been regarded as an inferior replica and its quality is far below the LTD level.
- ESP Max Cavalera : The ESP Viper modeled on the instrument for the Brazilian heavy metal guitarist Max Cavalera ( Cavalera Conspiracy , Sepultura , Soulfly ). What is striking about the guitar is the unusual paintwork in the form of the Brazilian flag . Over the years there have been several other Max Cavalera models, including some with the shape and headstock of the AX models, but also the Explorer-like guitars. As of 2011, the guitars were equipped with two humbuckers, but all previous models only had one pickup.
- ESP Jeff Hanneman : The late Slayer guitarist had a black Stratocaster neck through body, Kahler - tremolo and active EMG - pickups can be built. The guitar is very similar to that of Kirk Hammett . However, this model repeatedly led to discussions, as not only imperial eagles , but also SS runes and skulls are used to mark the fret on the guitar .
- ESP Alexi Saw Tooth : The signature model of Alexi Laiho (nickname "The Black Ax"), the guitarist and front man of the Finnish metal band Children of Bodom . She has the famous form of the Jackson Randy Rhoads and accompanies Laiho on every tour. With the black body, the white arrows and the saw-tooth inlays it is an eye-catcher. The second main guitar has an inverted color scheme (white guitar and black stripes) and sickles as inlays. It is used very often for all standard D songs right now. The other ESP signature models of the Finn are technically the same, mostly just have a different finish and different inlays.
- ESP Kai Hansen : Kai Hansen , ex- Helloween , guitarist and singer of the band Gamma Ray , was the first German to get his own guitar model. Visually comparable to that of Alexi Laiho , but in pink and with two EMG-81 pickups.
- ESP Truckster : An ESP Eclipse modified for the needs of James Hetfield ( Metallica ). Due to the application of artificial quirks, scratches and abrasions, the guitar looks like it has aged from years of use even when it is new.
- ESP Kamikaze : The most famous ESP signature guitar was dedicated to the Dokken guitarist George Lynch . This is a modified Stratocaster with Japanese war paint and a Floyd Rose tremolo system. This model was very popular in the 1980s.
- ESP KH-2 : Guitar for Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett . Based on the M-II and has skulls as fretboard inlays.
- ESP KH-3 : 2nd signature model from ESP for Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett . It is built on an eclipse, but the body is flat. As fretboard inlays it has spiders for frets 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 and for frets 12, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 24 skulls like the KH-2. In addition, at Hammett's request, a large spider designed by the artist Pushead was attached to the body.
- ESP RZK-1 : Richard Kruspe ( Rammstein ) was the second German guitarist to receive his own guitar model. The titanium silver RZK-1 has an asymmetrical body shape based on old Mosrite guitars, a mirrored pickguard and fretboard inlays in the shape of the "Rammstein" cross.
- ESP Eclipse I CTM PL Paul Landers Model : Paul Landers ( Rammstein ) had an Eclipse guitar "1 CTM Vintage Black" modified by ESP. This model with binding in Satin Silver went into series production.
- ESP Ron Wood : Guitar for the Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood , which is based on the Fender Telecaster .
- ESP Michael Wilton : This is a modified Stratocaster with an original Floyd Rose tremolo. Michael Wilton is the guitarist for the band Queensryche . In the USA model, the skulls are painted in phosphorescent color.
- ESP Stephen Carpenter : The signature model from Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter is based on a full-length maple neck (neck-thru construction) with two mahogany side wings. There is neither a solid top nor a veneer on the guitars in this series and, apart from the pointed headstock, the design is closely based on the original ESP Horizon. It has a Tune-O-matic bridge with string guidance through the body as well as Sperzel lock mechanisms and has either EMG or Seymour-Duncan pickups. The guitar is sold in several variants, mainly as a seven-string, both relatively affordable by LTD for around 1100 euros and as an original ESP for around 3500 euros, but there is also a six-string version made of a full maple construction Neck thru. The seven strings are much more popular, as Carpenter used them mainly for all other productions from the album “ Around the Fur ” onwards. Since 2003 there has also been a baritone version, which allows the instrument to be tuned down to the low F sharp at the current time, which Carpenter also uses relatively often.
- ESP Truckster : Another signature guitar from Metallica frontman James Hetfield was launched in 2005. It is a modified Eclipse with set neck, 24.75 ″ scaling and 22XJ frets. An EMG-81 and an EMG-60 humbucker provide the sound. The color of the guitar is an "Aged Primer Gray". The ESP Truckster was used on the St. Anger Tour and the Death Magnetic Tour. Since 2009, the Truckster has also been available with an “Aged Black Satin” finish.
- ESP Iron Cross : Also a signature guitar by James Hetfield from Metallica , which was sold in a strictly limited edition (100 pieces worldwide) in 2009 by the ESP Custom Shop in Japan. It is based on the "original" 1973 Gibson-Les-Paul Custom Iron Cross by James Hetfield with all traces of use. The ESP version is a modified Eclipse with a set neck, 24.75 ″ scale length and 22 extra jumbo frets. An EMG-81 and an EMG-60 humbucker provide the sound. The metal parts are gold-plated. It also has a pickguard and, like a Gibson Les Paul, has an ornamental border (binding). Below the bridge is an iron cross attached to the body with two screws . In addition, a mother-of-pearl cross is also inserted into the fingerboard in the 12th fret. "UM 73" is scratched into the body on the back. This model was also sold as a custom shop model under the name Grass Roots .
- ESP Michael Paget : This is the signature model from Bullet-for-My-Valentine lead guitarist Michael "Padge" Paget. It is based on the ESP LTD V and is equipped with active EMG-81 / -85 humbuckers. There are the ESP Michael Paget and the ESP LTD MP-600, which are completely identical except for the skull inlay on the string bridge of the more expensive ones. A pistol-shaped inlay with an ornate volley is attached to the 24-flush fingerboard. The cheapest signature guitar from Paget to date has been available since 2011: the "LTD MP-200". It has the graphics of the ESP variant, but only ESP humbuckers and dot inlays with the model name in the 12th fret. Unlike the other two models, it has a rosewood fingerboard instead of ebony and a screwed-on neck.
The ESP signature models in the Randy Rhoads V shape , as played by Kai Hansen and Alexi Laiho, for example , have not been officially marketed in Europe and America for some time, because Jackson allegedly has patents on this shape and it repeated legal disputes. However, other companies continue to sell RR copies without any problems, which supports the thesis that there is an agreement between ESP and Jackson.
ESP in music
The name ESP is inevitably associated with hard rock or heavy metal , as these guitars and basses are tailored to a corresponding sound due to the body wood, neck construction and above all the pickups used (often the active EMG-81 humbuckers ).
Some well-known users are James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett from Metallica , Galder and Silenoz from Dimmu Borgir , Michael Romeo , Emppu Vuorinen , Max Cavalera , Dave Mustaine , Jeff Hanneman , Kai Hansen , Alexi Laiho , Tom Araya , Ron Wood , Jesper Strömblad . In Germany instruments from ESP from Rammstein , Megaherz , Orth , Gamma Ray , Blind Guardian , Caliban , Donots and Sub7even are used.
- FAQs. espguitars.com, archived from the original on December 30, 2010 ; Retrieved September 18, 2012 .