ESP and its LTD brand have released probably dozens of MH-based guitars over the years and it’s easy to see why the design is popular: it embodies the playability and stage-friendly ergonomics of a superstrat, with certain similarities in wood, tone and construction with the Les Pauls. MH guitars are available in all price points right down to the budget MH-50, so let’s look at the LTD MH-1000 Deluxe – the most pimped out Korean MH you’ll find before you get to the really primo Japanese-made stuff, and on to the Custom Shop gear. Mmmmmmm, ESP Custom Shop… [insert Homer Simpson gargle here]
The MH-1000 Deluxe features a solid mahogany body with a quilted maple top. It’s not the most three-dimensional top you’ll ever see, and the flamy-ness relatively hard to see in low light, giving it a kind of restrained, sinister vibe befitting an axe of this orientation. Of course there’s a genuine floating Floyd Rose bridge and locking nut plus six-in-line Grover tuners. The maple neck has a rosewood fretboard, 24 extra jumbo frets and abalone-accented purfling (to match that encircling the body), with small bass-side abalone block inlays aside from the 12th fret MH-1000 inlay. Hardware is black nickel, dark enough to look aggressive and menacing but not so black as to be hard to see. In other words, your audience will still know you’re rockin’ a real Floyd Rose trem instead of a licensed version. And let’s face it: bragging rights are important. We’re guitarists, dammit, not pragmatists!
One particularly interesting feature of the MH-1000 Deluxe is its ‘set-thru’ construction. Not quite set neck, not quite neck-through, a set-thru neck is a set (ie: glued) neck which has been carved to feel like a neck-through. It’s an elegant solution which feels so authentic to what you might expect from a neck-thru that you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for one. What this means, of course, is that construction costs and wood use are kept lower than if neck-through construction was used, but you still get the ergonomic playability of a neck-through.
Pickups include an EMG 81 in the bridge position and an 85 in the neck – a classic combo favoured by many metal and rock players. The control layout is pretty simple: 3-way pickup selector switch for neck, bridge or both combined; master tone; master volume. There are no pickup splitting options either on the switch or via push-pull pots: what you see is what you get. This is a guitar that knows what it was designed for, and that’s to kick your audience’s ass.
With that in mind, it only takes one look to figure out what this guitar’s gonna sound like. If you’ve spent any time with EMGs you’ll know they have great headroom and clarity with an aggressive ‘burn’ around the edges of the notes. This was no different. I tried it though a variety of amps, and the character of the guitar always showed through, with the EMGs reproducing all the fine phrasing details that are sometimes smeared by other pickups. I cranked up the gain and launched into a palm-muted metal assault, and before I knew it about 20 minutes had passed before I’d even ventured beyond the 5th fret – it just sounded so good to dwell down there at the deep end. Moving up to the higher notes, the character of the pickups changed, with more clarity and less fizz. In fact if I was using a single-channel amp with no effects I’d probably choose the MH-1000 as my weapon of choice because it really seems ideally voiced to project unique tones for both rhythm and lead without needing to alter anything at the amp.
As for all that abalone, it might be a bit much for some players – and here’s my only problem with this guitar. I’m really over abalone. Like, really over it. Then again, it is associated with the kind of deluxe appointments that this model tells you to expect – ‘Deluxe’ is right there in the model name – and when you strap this guitar on your audience will certainly be aware that you’ve paid extra for a bit of flash, but hey, what’s the point of buying a guitar with ‘Deluxe’ in the model name if you’re not gonna show it off? The playability is exceptional (especially after lowering the factory setup a few turns), the tones are great and as long as you can hang with all that mollusk, the look is pretty bitchen too. If you dig the vibe but not the look, there are more visually restrained models in the LTD Standard series, or you can knock it up a notch with a genuine ESP Horizon FR-II.
LINK: ESP GuitarsCLICK HERE to buy the ESP LTD Deluxe MH-1000 from Musician’s Friend.