This is the most comprehensive review of the LTD EC-10 beginner’s heavy metal guitar you will find. I played this guitar for over 10 hours before making this review and I’ve included a 15 minute video to go along with it.
In general, I’m a fan of the LTD brand, but I previously only ever owned or played their more expensive guitars. So is this cheap sub-$200 guitar worth it? Let’s find out!
As always with ArtOfShred, I paid for this guitar with my own money. I was not paid by Musician’s Friend (the retailer where I purchased the guitar) or LTD to make this review. The EC-10 was on sale for $149 + tax.
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Table of Contents
About The Author
Hey, I’m Karol (like Karl not Carol). I’ve been playing guitar for 20+ years, but I’m still an amateur and learning every day. In my younger years I played in a band, but nowadays it’s for fun.
Why should you listen to this LTD EC-10 review? Because I don’t care about selling you anything and I want to help you make an informed choice about the guitar. I started Art Of Shred because I was unimpressed with the obviously biased guitar and musical equipment reviews online. Keep in mind, of course, that these are just my views. I don’t know everything and my opinions are my opinions.
ESP LTD EC-10
ESP LTD EC-10 in black
Made in: China
Good beginner's guitar
Sounds good, usually
Looks good, especially as a heavy metal guitar
Comes with gig bag
Over a dozen sharp frets (ouch!)
One imperfect tuner 🙁
Pickups are muddy with lots of low end fuzz
LTD EC-10 video review
If you don’t want to read that 15 minute review covers all of it, including a sound demo. The sound demo includes clean tones, distorted tones, flanger/reverb/delay effects, and fuzz. I also test all 3 pickup switch positions.
The Basics of this Cheap Heavy Metal Guitar
This is a pretty straightforward guitar. It’s got a Les Paul-ish body. 2 humbucker pickups. 3 way pickup switch. 1 volume control. 1 tone control. 24 frets. 24.75″ scale length. And it weighs 7.5lbs.
Something unique about this guitar in comparison to others in its price range are the 24 frets. It’s not often you find a cheap guitar with 24 frets.
But do you need 24 frets?
No, you almost definitely don’t need 24 frets if you’re just starting out playing guitar. Been playing a while and comfortable soloing? OK, you’re ready for those extra frets!
My point is don’t let things like the number of frets be the deciding factor in a guitar purchase unless you’re sure it’s what you need.
The package arrived nicely double boxed and the guitar came packed inside its cheap gig bag. Pulling it out it looked good. No dirt or oxidation on the frets (like the Firefly FFLG) and no glue on the fretboard (like the Squier CV Jazzmaster).
It shouldn’t be a bonus, but it’s a bonus when you get a new that doesn’t need a lot of cleanup work right away!
I tuned it up and plugged it in and got to work testing …
Immediately upon putting the guitar in my hands I became a little disappointed. Sharp frets!
Not just sharp frets, but well over a dozen sharp frets!
This is unfortunate for any guitar, but especially unfortunate if you’re a beginning guitar player who doesn’t have the simple tools to fix something like this. While it is a simple fix it does take a little bit of knowhow and a little bit of time. And, of course, tools.
I used my FretGuru ultimate fret end file. With a cheap guitar you could get away with a cheap flat file from the hardware store. But be careful and tape up your fretboard and neck first!
The next thing I noticed was when tuning the D string.
The D string tuner slips!
It’s not to the point that you can’t tune the guitar, it’s just a little more difficult than it should be. Once in tune I thankfully didn’t have major tuning stability issues, but this is still a problem you don’t want on a beginner’s guitar like the EC-10.
(It’s not a problem you want on any guitar, but you get what I’m saying.)
No other issues to report, but sharp frets aren’t a small issue by any means.
Pros (it’s got that metal tone!)
The target market of these guitars is beginning heavy metal players.
I think ESP / LTD did a good job tone-wise as far as that goes.
- The bridge pickup gives you a really good crunchy / thrashy / metal distortion.
- The clean sounds are pretty good, too!
The EC-10 also feels good to play. It’s hefty, but not too heavy. The 24.75″ scale is the same as a Les Paul. And it has a belly carve for comfort. I also like the way the smooth unfinished neck feels. (In contract to the Glarry Telecaster neck that I had to sand!)
What Kind of Setup Did I Do?
The guitar came setup okay. The action at the 12th fret was just above 2mm. Honestly, I didn’t need to mess with that because it wasn’t egregiously high. But I did mess with it! And I would come to somewhat regret that.
You see, once I lowered the action below 2mm I started getting fret buzz. Which meant I had to do fret work beyond fixing the sharp fret ends. Please watch the video review for a better explanation of this.
What kind of setup was necessary is a better question
Fixing the sharp fret ends and then setting the intonation were necessary. Getting the action below 2mm is my personal preference.
Because I stuck with the lower action I ended up also having to do a fret level, crown, and polish. That’s a lot of work. Again, I could have gotten away with slightly higher action and less work. (But I’m a stickler and wanted lower action!)
The total setup took about an hour. If I had only fixed the sharp fret ends it would have taken 10-20 minutes.
How Does The EC-10 Sound?
As you can hear in the video review’s sound demo it sounds mostly good.
The only issue is that with a lot of fuzz the pickups just can’t handle it and get muddy. It’s still a cool sound if you’re just riffing, but if you’re trying to ring out any high notes with the thick low end fuzz they’re going to get lost in the mix.
Still, it sounds good!
If you’re playing mostly distorted metal with some cleans every once in a while I think you’ll like the sounds out of this guitar and its ESP-designed pickups. Considering the price I’m actually really happy with what the pickups could do for me. You’ve got to set proper expectations because a great guitar pickup costs as much as this whole guitar.
What Would I Upgrade?
The tuners, for sure!
Locking tuners, personally.
Like I said, the D string tuner slips and these are cheap tuners anyway. It needs new ones. That doesn’t mean if you’re buying this as your first guitar that you should replace the tuners. It just means that after you’ve played for a while you’ll probably want to.
Locking tuners make changing strings quick and easy, and they’re also a huge upgrade from cheap tuners like the EC-10 has.
The cheap plastic nut is not ideal, but the nut on my EC-10 is cut surprisingly well and hasn’t caused issues. If I was keeping it as a daily player I would personally install a Graphtech TUSQ nut, though.
I might also upgrade the pickups but …
If this is your first guitar you’re going to be fine with these stock ESP-designed pickups for a while. And once it’s time to upgrade? Well, you might want to buy a new guitar instead. But keep in mind …
The LTD EC-10 is a good mod platform for learning to fix and upgrade guitars
It’s got good bones, as the saying goes. And once you’re ready, it’s a good guitar to start learning how to upgrade and fix things. You won’t have to worry about ruining a potentially expensive guitar.
It’s very difficult to break anything beyond repair but you might be apprehensive anyway. Don’t be!
LTD EC-10 photo gallery
Final Thoughts On The ESP LTD EC-10
This isn’t a perfect guitar, but that’s too much to ask of a cheap guitar anyway. I will just reiterate: I like this guitar. It’s not my favorite sub-$200 guitar, but it might work for you just fine anyway. If this was my first guitar (and I got one with sharp fret ends) would I be happy with it? Yup. Most definitely.
Overall: 6.8/10. Despite its sharp fret ends this guitar gets a pretty good rating. I really like it as a metal guitar for beginners.
Do you own an LTD EC-10? Let me know what you think about it via email or the comments below.