ESP LTD EC-1000M Deluxe Review
A modern single-cut whose unique wood complement delivers impressive pummeling power and glistening clean tones.
ESP’s LTD EC models remain a popular alternative for players looking for a stylish, affordable, and playable variation on the Les Paul formula. The model’s light weight, wide cutaways, and thin, shapely bodies—all introduced on the top-of-the-line Eclipse models in the ’90s—provide an appetizing option for guitarists who have never quite gelled with the Les Paul’s relative heft. ESP’s hot-rod-oriented design approach has also made the LTD EC series a guitar of many permutations. Many models offer premium hardware, finishes, and materials combinations.
The new EC-1000M combines a LTD EC lightweight mahogany neck and body with a maple fretboard while adding 24 frets to the mix. The results are a streamlined rock and metal machine, and a unique twist on the single-cut formula.
The contrast between the EC-1000M’s glistening black finish and bright, nearly white maple fretboard is eye-catching. To some, the body’s sleek curves, sharp horn, and maple fretboard with pearloid block inlays will constitute a striking modern visual aesthetic, while those who’ve been around a while longer might also see some of the funky charm of Les Paul-inspired designs from the ’70s. The 1 5/8"-thick body is 3/8" thinner than a Les Paul Standard, and a nice match for the thin, U-contoured neck. Together they create a streamlined, built-for-speed feel. A TonePros locking tailpiece and bridge and a set of LTD series locking tuners anchor the strings.
ESP loaded the EC-1000M with a pair of active EMG humbuckers, specifically a 60 in the neck and an 81 in the bridge. The ceramic magnets and close-aperture coils of the 60 give clean and mildly overdriven tones a more pronounced attack, while the 81’s blistering output and rail magnet make it ideal for aggressive rhythms and smooth leads. These pickups aren’t as dynamic and responsive to picking variation as traditional alnico-powered humbuckers, but they’re a great choice for modern metal and hard rock. Each pickup has its own volume control. A master tone control and 3-way switch round out the electronics.
Bad Boy Boogie
The combo of the EC-1000M’s mahogany set-neck construction and ripping EMG humbuckers packs quite a wallop. Many guitars follow this sonic recipe, but the EC-1000M’s maple fretboard adds a brighter edge to the attack and super-robust highs. The fretboard lacquer feels wonderful beneath the fingertips, eliminating any friction you might experience from the low action. That said, I found I preferred the feel of higher action because the slippery fretboard made bending a bit too easy.
The clarity and note definition of both power chords and single-note runs was excellent. Sustaining single notes morphed smoothly into controllable feedback when I wanted it. The neck’s thin and wide U profile makes legato runs easy, but the width of the neck makes chording on the lower frets a little uncomfortable after extended periods.
The added high-end edge provided by the maple fingerboard enhances pick attack significantly, so I dialed in a little less presence and treble from my amp. There’s less of the rich, velvety bite you get from rosewood or ebony, but your leads will definitely cut.
The EMG 60 and maple fretboard work together to accentuate the guitar’s best attributes. Clean tones sound bold. Arpeggiated clean passages glisten. Overall, the guitar generates a prominent presence in a band mix. The 60’s traditionally boomy low-end output is surprisingly tight, and the output remained strong even when I rolled the guitar’s tone control way back. While the high-end sensitivity derived from the maple neck and EMGs enhances chords, it makes the ESP very sensitive to pick attack—especially the sloppy kind. For some players with less developed picking technique, the output and attack may sound strident and overly aggressive.
Guitarists who depend on vintage PAF voicings and a mahogany-and-rosewood (or ebony) wood complement may find the EC-1000M’s brighter, more modern tones tough to tame. But for less dogmatic players, the ESP is a unique hard-rock and metal workhorse that offers interesting sonic variations on the hot-rodded Les Paul formula at a very affordable price. It’s definitely worth a look if you seek a distinctive twist on a classic formula.