Review: LTD MH-330FR + ESP Horizon FR-II SD

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ESP Guitars offer plenty of different guitar models for the modern Wunder-widdler. The most classic of these is probably the Horizon – a typical Superstr*t featuring two humbuckers and a Floyd Rose -bridge.

Kitarablogi.com selected two Horizons for this review:

The LTD MH-330FR, which comes with two active ESP-pickups…

…as well as the pukka ESP Horizon FR-II SD equipped with a pair of Seymour Duncans.

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The LTD MH-330FR (current price in Finland: 489 €) is a sleek and stylish piece of work, with the Electric Blue finish adding its own bit of panache.

The same cool finish is also applied to the maple neck and the back of the mahogany body.

All of the MH-330FR’s hardware comes in black nickel, which shines in a smoky, dark-greyish way.

The capsuled Gotoh-style tuners are of decent quality. A volute strengthens the area underneath the top nut to prevent breakages.

A beautiful piece of rosewood has been chosen for the LTD’s bound fretboard, which sports stylish inlays, as well as 24 nicely finished jumbo-sized frets.

The chamfered neck joint makes reaching the dusty end more comfortable, compared to a standard old-school bolt-on joint.

The MH-330FR’s active ESP-pickups look rather similar to EMG-units.

The controls comprise a master volume and a master tone, with a three-way blade switch for pickup selection.

A nice touch: The battery compartment lid is fastened with machine screws, which grip into metal inlets. This is a much better way of doing this than using plain wood screws.

The clean workmanship is carried over into the electronics cavity also, with graphite paint and aluminium foil taking care of shielding against interference.

The LTD’n Floyd Rose Special –vibrato is a decent-quality, less expensive licensed Floyd Rose, manufactured in South Korea. The most important difference between the Special and the full-blown versions lie in the cast bridge saddles and vibrato block. The Floyd Rose Original is equipped with steel saddles and a brass vibrato block.

Another nifty feature: Two openings in the MH-330FR’s spring cover allow you to adjust spring tension without having to remove the cover!

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ESP’s Horizon FR-II (current price in Finland: 1.929 €) is a fine example of top-quality, Japanese workmanship. This model is part of the company’s high-quality Standard-range, and it is built with a through-neck.

The body is made up from two mahogany wings on the back, and topped off with a gorgeous flame maple top on its front side.

Depending on the finish, the Horizon FR-II either comes with black nickel hardware, or, as is the case with our Dark Brown Sunburst –finished test sample, with chrome hardware.

The tuners are genuine Gotohs.

The workmanship displayed on the LTD-Horizon was already on a high level, but the ESP-Horizon leaves you in no doubt that it is a pro-quality instrument: The smooth ebony board sports 24 jumbo frets, which have been finished carefully to give you the smoothest ride possible.

A very smooth neck-joint, indeed…

The ESP Horizon FR-II is also available with active EMG-units, but our review guitar is the SD-version, which has a Seymour Duncan ’59-model mounted in the neck position, with a JB-model near the bridge (JB = Jeff Beck).

The master volume is equipped with a nifty, spring-loaded push/push-switch. The up-position splits the Horizon’s humbuckers for singlecoil-type tones.

Outstanding workmanship coupled with quality parts – the mark of a top-class instrument.

Here we’ve got the real deal: A Schaller-made Floyd Rose Original –vibrato with steel saddles and a brass block.

The ESP Horizon comes with its own case.

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The specifications read ”Thin U Neck Contour”, and I was a bit worried the neck might feel a little unsubstantial and 1980s-style flat. But I needn’t have worried: The LTD’s neck profile is a slim D, which still gives you plenty of flesh for easy playing and good sustain.

The MH-300FR’s Floyd itself works nicely, although I experienced some annoying trouble with the vibrato bar. I couldn’t get the damn thing to stay attached firmly to the vibrato. In use the threaded collar would work loose, causing the bar to start flapping around instead of staying put. Let’s hope this isn’t an endemic problem, but rather a one-off glitch on the review guitar’s Floyd.

Soundwise the LTD MH-300FR is a typical active electric guitar, with a very open and linear tone. Especially the mid-range stays much cleaner and more transparent than on most passive, humbucker-equipped guitars.

Here are two examples (both starting with the neck humbucker):

LTD MH-330FR – clean

LTD MH-330FR – crunch

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The ESP Horizon FR-II is very light and plays like a dream. The neck profile is a tad flatter than that used on the LTD, but still steers well clear of uninspiring flatness.

The fantastic fretwork and flat fingerboard camber result in a fast and extremely smooth playing feel – perfect for large bends.

The Floyd Rose Original is still the number one locking vibrato in my opinion, and it works just as it should on the ESP.

The Horizon FR-II sounds warmer and more organic, when compared to its less expensive LTD-brethren. The sound might be too warm for some Thrash Metal guitarists, but overall its earthy quality seems much more versatile to me.

Splitting the humbuckers gives you three more colours to work with, further broadening the ESP’s palette.

The example tracks both start with split humbucker (neck – both – bridge) before continuing with the full settings in the same order (neck – both – bridge):

ESP Horizon FR-II – clean

ESP Horizon FR-II – crunch

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This review left me in no doubt as to ESP’s guitar-making kudos – these are fine instruments.

The mid-price LTD MH-330FR is a serious guitar, with just the right active tones to satisfy the Hard Rock and Metal posse.

ESP’s Horizon FR-II is a top-drawer guitar for the virtuoso guitarist.

ESP Horizon FR-II & LTD MH-330FR – the audio track from the video

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ESP ja LTD –electric guitars

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

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LTD MH-330FR

489 €

Pros:

+ bang-for-the-buck

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ active pickups/sound

+ Floyd Rose -vibrato

Cons:

– loose wang bar on our review sample

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ESP Horizon FR-II Seymour Duncan

1.929 €

Pros:

+ top-quality Japanese instrument

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ coil-split

+ sound

+ Floyd Rose Original -vibrato

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