ESP’s and LTD’s M-series superstrats have long been one of the main pillars of ESP’s success, and their popularity doesn’t seem to wane. Many of the company’s signature models, too, are based on M-series guitars, such as the George Lynch and Kirk Hammett models.
This review takes a closer look at two mid-priced M-series instruments, which both sport Seymour Duncan pickups.
The LTD M-400M (price in Finland approx. 745 €) is a typical M-series guitar:
It’s a bolt-on neck superstrat with a pair of humbuckers and a genuine Floyd Rose vibrato.
The M-400M has a maple neck that’s topped with a bound rosewood fretboard.
ESP/LTD have recently updated some of the cosmetics in the M-series by doing away with the large name-carrying 12th fret inlays (that I always found a little strange). In any case, the M-400M’s small dot inlays look much more stylish. The fingerboard offers you 24 jumbo fret’s worth of playing surface.
The model designation’s second ”M” points to this guitar’s beautiful two-piece mahogany body, which comes in a silky smooth satin finish.
Back in the 1980s ESP was one of the first companies to add contoured heels to their bolt-on guitars, so it’s no surprise to find one here.
The M-400M comes equipped with all-black hardware:
We find a set of Grover machine heads on the headstock, as well as a Floyd Rose locking nut and a bar adding string pressure behind the nut.
For the LTD M-400M ESP have chosen a pickup set comprising Seymour Duncan’s Jazz model – one of the company’s most popular neck humbuckers – and the relatively hot Custom 5 bridge unit.
The control set-up is very straightforward offering a three-way toggle switch and a master volume control.
The LTD MH-1000NT (892 €) is a gorgeous fixed bridge instrument, designed to work with the whole gamut of modern ultra-low tunings.
The MH-1000NT is constructed using ESP’s proprietary set-through neck joint, which combines the best of both worlds by featuring a set neck that only ends underneath the bridge pickup. The resulting neck joint is sturdier than a traditional set neck, but doesn’t sound as dry as many through-neck guitars do.
This LTD’s body consists of a mahogany back and a bound, arched quilted maple top.
The neck is crafted from three long side-by-side strips of maple. The bound fretboard is made of Macassar ebony, which is a bit browner and more lively than what you’d expect of other types of ebony. This model, too, comes with 24 jumbo frets.
A set of locking tuners has been installed on the MH-1000NT.
The top nut uses a self-lubricating graphite-composite material.
The pickups chosen for the LTD MH-1000NT have been picked to suit the demands of Progressive Metal and similar genres.
Seymour Duncan’s Sentient is a neck humbucker, which sits in-between the ’59 and the Jazz in terms of its sound. The Sentient uses an Alnico 5 magnet with a moderate output, but the pickup has a clearer and brighter tone, compared to traditional neck humbuckers.
The Pegasus bridge humbucker for its part combines a wide frequency range and a clear attack with a creamy mid-range. Duncan promise precise transient reproduction and enough clarity for even the lowest tunings and highest distortion settings.
The MH-1000NT comes with a three-way switch and controls for volume and tone. A push/pull-switch inside the tone control lets you split both humbuckers.
LTD’s M-400M is a prime example of a guitar wizard’s favourite instrument.
The neck profile is relatively wide and flat. When combined with the fretboards large radius and the jumbo frets this results in an extremely fast and slinky playing-feel.
The workmanship on the M-400M is of a high standard, and the review sample’s set-up was great.
Acoustically, this LTD sounds very clear and fresh, which is typical of a well-made Floyd Rose-equipped bolt-on.
This clarity carries over nicely into the amplified tone:
The LTD MH-1000NT is more of a Les Paul-leaning superstrat.
The well-rounded, bigger neck profile is more to my personal liking, but the playing surface is as fast and precise as on the M-400M.
The MH-1000NT is a gorgeous beauty of a guitar. Its workmanship and finish are outstanding, making this model a real winner in the bang-for-buck field.
This LTD has a slightly warmer acoustic tone, which isn’t surprising taking into account the MH-1000NT’s different construction.
Even though this model has been made with Progressive Metal guitarists in mind, the LTD offers a much wider palette of sounds. It this guitar’s style pleases you, there’s really no reason why you couldn’t use it in a covers or Country band.
This tonal breadth is down to this models excellent pickups. Both the Sentient and the Pegasus have been designed for Metal, but their relatively moderate output lets the music breathe.
As you can easily hear in this clip, the MH-1000NT sounds great in clean settings, too (the split pickups come first):
The demo song has been recorded with a Blackstar HT-1R combo. The rhythm guitars are the MH-1000NT (stereo left) and the M-400M (right). The MH-1000NT takes the first solo, with the M-400M going second.
It isn’t hard to see why LTD’s M-series guitars are so popular:
This series offers you ergonomically sound electric guitars for the modern player, who prefers high-gain tones and low tunings. The M-400M and the MH-1000NT are both high-quality mid-priced instruments, who successfully approach the same subject from slightly different angles. These guitars are hard to beat in the value-for-money stakes.
LTD M-400M & MH-1000NT
M-400M – 745 €
MH-1000NT – 892 €
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
Pros (both models):