ESP LTD EC-401 Intermediate Guitar Review

There are many intermediate electric guitars on the market today, so it's not easy to settle on one that fits your needs best. I recently scanned through many guitars in the $500 to $800 price range and the ESP LTD EC-401 Intermediate Guitar stood out to me. In this post I'll explain why.

Things To Consider Before Buying An Electric Guitar

The biggest things that affect a guitar's sound are its pickups, the electronics, the neck joint, and the action. Most other features, like the headstock, bridge, inlay, and wood choice are either cosmetic or secondary. The best guitar for you combines the right attributes with the right price to meet the particular needs of your intended use for the guitar.

The EC-401

ESP is a Japanese guitar company that is mostly known for their affinity for metal guitars and endorsements, similar to other metal specialists like Jackson or Schecter. The EC-401 is towards the top of their intermediate range of guitars. It shows in the construction and materials, too. Despite the high price tag, the high quality ensures that the EC-401 will be a part of your collection for a long time.

Pros

  • Pickup choices set it apart for those who want to get the best sound for their dollar without needing to upgrade
  • Beautiful designs that will fit in with most bands, although there are only three choices

Cons

  • Being over $600 might be a barrier
  • Missing a full EQ on board to craft the tone
  • Neck doesn't play as quickly as you might expect for this genre and design

Features and Benefits

Construction

ESP LTD EC-401 Intermediate Guitar

The EC-401 is made of mahogany with the exception of the fretboard, which is rosewood. It has black nickle hardware, 24 jumbo frets, and a set-in neck joint, which is the best joining for sustain. The neck has a thin-U profile, which emphasizes speed. The body has a single cutaway at the outside of the neck. The scale is 24 and three-quarters of an inch, which is about average or slightly smaller than average. The tuners are the usual Grover design and the bridge is tune-o-matic.

Sound

The key to the sound of the EC-401 is the EMG active pickups. The bridge or rhythm pickup is an EMG-81 humbucker and the neck or lead pickup is an EMG-60 humbucker. They deliver excellent tone and variety and each one has its own volume switch. There is a three-way toggle to choose between one or both being on. The neck joint allows for excellent sustain, which contributes to the warm, rich sound. These are active pickups so they do need batteries. The EC-401 sounds especially good with a good distortion pedal and lots of harmonics.

Value

The EC-401 is priced at $630. The typical intermediate market starts at about $450 and goes up to around $800, so this is right in the middle. However, it plays like a significantly more advanced guitar. The inclusion of independent volume controls for each pickup make a big difference because it essentially allows for some basic mixing to take place before the signal hits any pedals or an amp. The materials and craftsmanship from ESP are excellent.

​Rating

Design

4

Performance

3

Construction

4

Value for the Money

5

User Satisfaction

5

Alternatives

ESP LTD Deluxe EC1000

The next step up from the EC-401 is the EC-1000, which is ESP's professional series. The EC-1000 uses the same pickups as the 401, which links the two together in terms of sound. However, there are upgrades throughout the guitar. The finish is much more advanced and polished. The bride is a tremolo-ready locking tune-o-matic design. The fingerboard has been upgraded from rosewood to ebony. All of the hardware is gold rather than black nickel.

Comparison

ESP LTD EC1000

Price: $900

Pickups: EMG 81/60

Construction and Materials: Mahogany, Ebony, Set-through neck

ESP LTD -400

Price: $630

Pickups: EMG 81/60

Construction and Materials: Mahogany, Rosewood, Set-through neck

Epiphone Les Paul CUSTOM PRO Electric Guitar 

Epiphone Les Paul CUSTOM PRO Electric Guitar

If you are interested in a more mainstream brand or a guitar with greater tone flexibility, then the Epiphone Les Paul might interest you. It isn't Epiphone's top of the line edition of the Les Paul, but it is close. With mahogany construction and house Epiphone pickups, the company is attempting to recall the original's tone at an accessible price. It won't be as good at delivering that heavy tone but it will be much more versatile. The advanced feature is the individual volume pots for each pickup that allow for coil tapping. That means two different power levels for each pickup in addition to the volume, giving you excellent control over the tone. The price is $600.

Comparison

ESP Custom Pro

Price: $600

Pickups: Epiphone House

Construction and Materials: Mahogany, Set-through neck, Coil Tapping

ESP LTD -400

Price: $630

Pickups: EMG 81/60

Construction and Materials: Mahogany, Rosewood, Set-through neck

ESP LTD EC-256FM

ESP LTD EC-256FM

As a budget-friendly alternative, the EC-256 costs $420 and has a similar build. It uses the same woods and has a 22-fret scale. The biggest area where the lower cost makes itself known is the pickups, which are house ESP LH-150s. The pickups do each have their own volume control and a master tone control.

Comparison

ESP LTD EC-256FM

Price: $420

Pickups: ESP House

Construction and Materials: Mahogany, Set-through neck

ESP LTD -400

Price: $630

Pickups: EMG 81/60

Construction and Materials: Mahogany, Rosewood, Set-through neck

Final Thoughts

The ESP LTD EC-401 strikes a good balance between quality and price and stands out among the rest of the intermediate market. This guitar uses pickups from a strong brand, EMG, to ensure that it has a big, detailed sound that works best under distortion but can carry any band. The design and wood choices are both comfortable and durable. There are alternatives in the form up step-up or step-down models and variations.

Stephanie Su
 

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