Whether you’ve seen the ESP EX50 before or you’re seeing it for the first time, there’s no doubt that it has a striking design. Popularised by Metallica’s James Hetfield – this is a guitar synonymous with heavy music. If that’s what you want to be about, then read on – this may well be the guitar for you.
About the guitar
The EX50 has a basswood body with a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. There are 22 extra jumbo frets and two ESP LH-150 humbuckers. It weighs a mere 11 pounds. The body shape is one of the most well recognized of all guitars – known as a ‘Z’-type, the upper rear and lower front of the body extend out into spikes at an angle with the fretboard.
What sets it apart
This is the ultimate metal guitar. Even looking at it, you can tell by the angular design that it wasn’t going to be all that big with fans of smooth jazz. The frets are ever so slightly set closer to one another than on other guitars, allowing you to accurately hammer-on, pull-off and play riffs at speed. The bridge looks really nice and can actually be adjusted to make it easier to bend strings – another typical feature of heavy metal riffs.
Apart from being considered to be a riffing guitar, the EX50 can actually sound quite good when playing other styles. James Hetfield himself often plays ‘clean’ for slower, finger picked neo-classical interludes. When played clean, it also makes for a good blues guitar – easily played and manipulated with a rich resonance from the humbuckers. Of course, if you want a metal guitar… well, you’ve found it!
There are a few obvious cons for most people. This is a heavy metal guitar, it looks like it and it sounds like it. You’re going to struggle to get a good Hank Marvin sound out of it. It also presents problems for learners – the body shape makes it uncomfortable to rest on your knee – the favorite position for those who are still new to guitars. Have a look at other guitars featured at The Instrument Reviewer and see how their bodies are more suitable for resting on the knee. It’s also rather delicate – I have heard of one player who accidentally dropped the guitar from knee height to the floor and managed to sever the neck clean in two.
As I’ve said the ESP EX50 is an iconic guitar with a body and sound which can’t be separated from heavy metal music. As a heavy metal guitar it is up there with the best, although it can be fragile and you might have to watch the paintwork. So, if it’s a metal guitar you’re after, you won’t be disappointed with this one. You’ll certainly turn a few heads, too!
If you’re looking for a guitar to start learning on, I can’t really recommend this to you. Even though it looks cool and you might be into metal, it’s worthwhile honing your skills on something more comfortable to sit with.
Amazon users currently rate the ESP EX50 with 4.8 stars out of a possible 5.