We feature some very high-end electric guitars on Guitar Fella – such as this E-II M-I from ESP. Not that you may know it from looking at it mind you, as it shares many design features with more affordable models from ESPs collection. That is, however, until you get up close and personal…
As the photos may have already given away, this premium guitar is the definition of minimalist – some will love it, some may want a little more for their money. However, the stealthy all-black design oozes metal attitude and catches the eye because of its simplicity. We love it.
The body itself sports the classic superstrat double-cutaway shape, with a solid alder build and a smooth satin black finish, which is expertly applied by ESP’s luthiers in their Tokyo facility. Attached via a through-body design is a strong three-piece maple neck.
This neck features a thin U shape that’s designed to get out of your way while you glide around – the fast satin finish helps greatly too. The neck has a total of 24 extra jumbo frets sitting on a dark ebony fretboard. Aside from the edgy reverse headstock, attractive abalone dot inlays and the traditional ESP marker on the 12th fret, there’s no unnecessary decoration on this aggressive axe.
The hardware matches the design perfectly in that it’s stripped down to offer you just what you need and no more. It’s a case of quality over quantity with the electronics, as ESP load the E-II M-I with a single EMG 81 at the bridge. This battery-powered active humbucker is a legend in the world of modern rock and metal, made with powerful ceramic magnets and close aperture coils. On this guitar, it’s controlled by a single master volume knob.
Elsewhere, the E-II M-I features a fixed Gotoh tune-o-matic bridge and string-through-body tailpiece, meaning you lack the ability to use a tremolo, but the sustain and tuning stability is nothing short of epic. This is also aided by the set of precision Gotoh locking tuners on the headstock and the bone nut just below. Note that the guitar comes with a set of Elixir Nanoweb Light strings and is shipped in its own premium form fit case, which is a great addition, even at this price.
The bottom line is that this guitar is built for high-speed metal. The EMG 81 is a pickup with some balls! It’s powerful, super loud and pierces any mix, which bodes well for lead guitarists. With high gain it really sings, although remains articulate even at the highest levels. The low-end is tight and focused even with dropped tuning rhythm playing, while single note riffs and high-paced solos are just as clear. Played cleanly, the sound isn’t as harsh as you’d expect from an active pickup, although the tone certainly comes in at the brighter end of the spectrum.
The ESP E-II M-I is a winner. It won’t appeal to every guitarist, but it’s not designed for every guitarist. With a searing hot active pickup, exceptionally fast neck, reliable hardware and an ominous design, this is undoubtedly a metal monster that experienced performers will adore.