Review: LTD Elite ST-1


LTD Elite ST-1 – beauty shot 2

There are a lot of changes in store for ESP/LTD-instruments in 2013, because ESP have decided to reshuffle and restructure their whole product range.

In future the name ESP will only appear on the headstocks of Japanese ESP Custom Shop instruments. ESP’s Standard series will be renamed E-II.

New for LTD in 2013 is their Made-in-Japan Elite series, which has been designed to offer the very best of what this brand has to offer.

Kitarablogi has received a brand-new LTD Elite ST-1 -guitar for review. The model is available in two permutations – either equipped with a rosewood ’board neck and active EMG-pickups (LTD Elite ST-1/R EMG) or (like our review sample) sporting a maple fretboard and passive Seymour Duncan pickups (LTD Elite ST-1/M).


LTD Elite ST-1 – full front

The brand-new LTD Elite ST-1/M (1.387 €) is a stunningly beautiful guitar, which manages to blend successfully an air of timelessness with the appeal of a sleek widdle-machine.

This version is released in two different finishes – the blue Aqua Marine and the See-Through Black Cherry of our test sample – while the EMG-version is only available in See-Through Black.

LTD Elite ST-1 – full back

The basic ingredients making up the Elite ST-1 follow a traditional recipe: A bolt-on maple neck and an alder body.

LTD Elite ST-1 – neck joint

The sleek ESP-neck joint makes excursions to the dusty end of the fingerboard just that bit more comfy.

LTD Elite ST-1 – body angle

The front of the body is spruced up by a maple top carrying a quilt maple veneer.

LTD Elite ST-1 – fake binding

By leaving the edges of the maple top uncoloured you get what is known as ”fake binding”.

LTD Elite ST-1 – frets + inlays

The ST-1 is equipped with 24 jumbo frets. The quality of the fretwork is exemplary, and the same holds true for the finish of the neck, which blends a satin-lacquered back with a gloss-finished fretboard.

LTD Elite ST-1 – headstock

Quality is also the name of the game when it comes to the guitar’s hardware.

LTD Elite ST-1 – tuners

The chrome-plated, sealed tuning machines are Gotoh units.

LTD Elite ST-1 – Floyd Rose

The Floyd Rose vibrato is the top-drawer Original-version, made from steel in Germany by the Schaller company.

LTD Elite ST-1 – nut

This is what a well-installed locking nut looks like.

The string retainer bar pulls the strings down onto the nut, so the tuning doesn’t change when a string lock is opened or closed.

LTD Elite ST-1 – pickups

Seymour Duncan is the brand of choice for the LTD Elite ST-1/M when it comes to pickups:

The neck and middle units are stack-coil STK-S4-models, which promise genuine singlecoil tone bar the usual hum. The bridge humbucker is the company’s excellent, hotter-than-vintage Custom-model (SH-11).

The LTD’s truss rod can be adjusted without any component removal. Simply turn the wheel between the 24th fret and the neck pickup, using something like a small screwdriver or a nail.

LTD Elite ST-1 – body beauty

The ST-1’s comprises a five-way switch, as well as master volume and tone controls.

LTD Elite ST-1 – output jack

The jack plate has been sunk into the side of the body, making it easy to secure your guitar lead between the guitar and your strap.

LTD Elite ST-1 – hard case

All LTD Elite series instruments are sold with their own quality hard case!


LTD Elite ST-1 – beauty shot

The LTD’s specs sheet mentions a ”thin U-profile”, which calls to mind the 1990s and dreadful, hand-tiring ”speed necks”.

I needn’t have worried, though, because in fact the Elite ST-1’s neck turns out to be a reasonably chunky affair – very good for both playing comfort and good sustain. I would call this neck profile a ”medium-thickness D”.

The review instrument arrived with an excellent set-up, making the guitar very easy to play. Even though the action was adjusted quite low (E: 1,6 mm/e: 1,4 mm), the Elite’s acoustic tone was superb and totally free of fret rattling. The fat and tall frets feel great and provide a fast launch pad for your fingerboard excursions.

A cheap – or badly installed – Floyd Rose bridge can be a real headache, when it comes to tuning stability and sound.

Luckily, the excellent LTD Elite doesn’t suffer from any vibrato-related problems, making this instrument a real showcase for Japanese quality and workmanship. The guitar plays great and sounds fantastic, and the vibrato bridge works like a dream, even if you like to abuse your whammy bar.

The beautiful voice of the ST-1 carries over nicely into a clean amp’s signal. The sound sample starts with the neck pickup:

In an overdriven and distorted context the Elite ST-1’s hum-cancelling stack-coil pickups are a real treat. The Seymour Duncans give you authentic and wiry Strat-type tones, but completely free from hum and buzz.

Switching to the Custom-humbucker is like engaging an additional afterburner for that extra kick:

At first  the reorganisation of all things ESP might be a bit confusing, but I’m sure we’ll all get to grips with the new nomenclature quickly. One thing is clear, though:

The LTD Elite ST-1 is one of the best Superstrat-style guitars that I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. This LTD is a top-drawer, professional instrument with a fantastic feel and outstanding tone.

Based on this review it seems clear that the Elite-series really offers you the best of LTD at a fair price.

LTD Elite ST-1 – body back angle

All of the five guitar tracks on this tune have been played using the LTD Elite ST-1:


LTD Elite ST-1/M

1.387 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma



+ value-for-money

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ Floyd Rose set-up and tuning stability

+ sound

+ hard case included

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