Are you in the market for an ESP or LTD guitar?
Identifying the country of manufacture is a great way to help your search. Not only does the location affect the price but also the guitar’s overall quality.
ESP makes guitars all over the world. So let’s break it down for you.
Where are ESP and LTD guitars made?
In short, ESP Guitars uses factories in Japan and the USA. ESP Original, Custom Shop and E-II guitars are a product of Japan. ESP USA Series are a product of the USA. LTD are more affordable guitars and are made in Korea, Indonesia, and China depending on the model.
Read on to explore ESP and LTD models. All the research you need is in this article.
You’ll find out where they’re made, the differences between them, and an answer to the big question… does the country of manufacture matter?
ESP Guitars: Some Background Information
Electric Sound Products, or ESP for short, is a world-renowned guitar manufacturer. LTD is a subsidiary of ESP.
Founded in 1975 in Tokyo, Japan, ESP focuses on electric guitars and basses.
As the popularity of metal grew throughout the 1980s, ESP, alongside brands like Jackson, saw enormous growth in popularity.
Bands like Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer receive ESP endorsements. With some of the biggest names in metal using their guitars, ESP became a leading brand in this genre.
Where are ESP Guitars Made?
True to their roots, ESP still crafts guitars in Tokyo, Japan. However, they now have bases in both Tokyo and Los Angeles.
The Original, USA, and EII are the three flagship ESP Series. Let’s go into more detail below.
ESP Original Series / Custom Shop
They craft the Original series in ESP’s native Japan factory, but specifically in the custom shop department.
ESP’s custom shop department is the workplace of master luthiers. So you can expect a guitar crafted with skill and detail. In their own words, ESP says the manufacturers of these guitars “border on the obsessive”.
The ESP custom shop ethos is the opposite of mass production. There are only four workers in the custom shop department. So if you own an Original series, you can expect a personal feel to the guitar and the finest that ESP produces.
Once the CNC machine has cut the guitar shape, it’s down to the skilled workforce to work their magic. An area where handcrafting stands out is the fretwork. Filled by hand with accuracy there are no sharp edges. You’ll find smooth playability to please the fussiest professional.
Let’s also not neglect to mention the Original series is home to cool finishes. You won’t find standard colors, Rusty Iron and Liquid Silver are two outlandish highlights.
There’s no cost-cutting with the Original Series. Tonewoods are peak quality with the body made of one piece of wood and craftsmanship is to the highest standards. But like most things, you pay for what you get.
To own a guitar with such a level of craftsmanship, we’re talking upwards of $4,000.
ESP USA Series Guitars
No surprise, the ESP USA series are made in the USA. Crafted in the North Hollywood, California factory, guitars from here have the ESP seal of excellence.
ESP USA Series guitars are more affordable than the Original series. It’s rare for a USA-made guitar to not be the most expensive in a manufacturer’s catalog.
The reason for the price difference is that the USA Series guitars aren’t as limited as the Japan-made Original Series. That said, USA Series guitars are not cheap, costing around $3,000 and above.
You now have the option to configure your own USA ESP by picking body type, finish, pickups, and color. A self-configured USA guitar is expensive. A more affordable way to get your hands on an ESP USA is to look at authorized dealers like Sweetwater for already made guitars.
An ESP guitar coming from the US factory is a premium instrument. It’ll have a similar crafted by hand feel to the Original series. Also, quality control at the North Hollywood factory is strict so the chances of getting a faulty guitar are low.
There are twenty-two different designs in total all with the ESP distinct aesthetics. While there is a choice, whichever you choose you’ll have a high-performance guitar fit for a pro.
While they may not be as rare as Original series guitars, the ESP USA models are equal in terms of overall workmanship.
ESP E-II Series
The EII series guitars are the halfway point between Original and budget LTD guitars.
Costing around $2,000, they don’t have the same expense as Original and USA guitars. Nonetheless, they’re crafted in Japan.
Japanese craftsmanship is key to these guitars. While they’re not made in the custom shop, the build quality has a similar precision and detail.
The quality of tonewoods won’t compete with the Original series. When played unplugged, the EII series guitars don’t have the same harmonic character as the Original Series.
Original series guitars showcase peak craftsmanship and it’s difficult for any guitar to compete. While details like the fretwork on EII guitars are great, they don’t have the same fine detailed crafting.
But, EII’s are amazing guitars and they are half the price. So, all things considered, it’s a good deal. EII’s are studio and stage-ready guitars.
They may not have the personalized custom shop feel. But If you’re not concerned with owning a one-off guitar, EII guitars have ESP top craftsmanship, playability, and tone.
Where are ESP LTD Guitars Made?
LTD Guitars are a subsidiary of ESP that manufactures affordable versions of iconic ESP guitars. They range from $200 beginner guitars all the way to $1,000+ professional quality guitars.
ESP began the LTD series in 1995 intending to create more affordable guitars.
To achieve this goal, ESP creates LTD guitars in Korea, Indonesia, and China.
Which location depends on the series. For example, the LTD 1000 series is a product of Korea, while ESP makes the 401 series in Indonesia.
You can get an ESP LTD for as little as $200, but higher-end signature models retail for around $2,000. The difference in quality depends on price.
High-end ESP LTD guitars compete with EII models. Nevertheless, a low-end LTD won’t have the same level of craftsmanship, tonewoods, and hardware.
ESP LTD guitars are still ESP guitars, though. With this comes stringent quality control, regardless of the country of manufacture.
High-end LTD’s like the 1000 series guitars are worthy of a professional. However, lower models like the EC-10 are for beginners.
If you’re used to premium instruments, look for Korean-made guitars like the 1000 series, these are the best ESP LTD guitars.
But, if you’re on a budget a Chinese or Indonesian-made LTD will do the job and replicate the essence of ESP guitars.
They won’t have the same pristine finish, expert setup or hardware quality, but they’re an affordable option that surprisingly performs very well.
Does it Matter Where ESP Guitars are Made?
ESP guitars range from $200 to $4,000. To achieve such diversity, they create guitars all around the world.
But does it matter where ESP guitars are made? Is there a difference?
In short, yes. Where an ESP guitar is made indicates the overall quality.
Original and Custom models made in Japan are pinnacle quality guitars in the ESP catalog.
USA series guitars are on par, but they aren’t as limited run as the Original and Custom guitars.
To cater to all budgets, ESP LTD guitars are mass-produced in Korea, Indonesia, and China.
While we often think of an ESP LTD guitar as a budget option, they have an extensive collection ranging in quality. A high-end ESP LTD manufactured in Korea has similar playability and performance to a low-end EII.
What’s considered the lowest quality guitars are the likes of the EC-10 made in China.
But, it’s worth noting that Indonesian and Chinese factories have improved production practices. As a company with a reputation to uphold, ESP monitors production. So, even the lowest priced ESP offers bang for the buck.
So, the country of manufacture matters. Japanese or American-built ESP guitars feature some of the finest craftsmanship and hardware on the market. These are prime electric guitars.
Whereas, a mass-produced guitar from Indonesia or China won’t have the same level of expertise in production and will have lower sound quality.
Why Are ESP Guitars So Expensive?
A Japanese or American-built ESP offers optimum quality. For this level of quality, you’ll have to pay.
The high-end ESP guitars have the best tonewoods, aged and prepared, cutting no corners. All hardware is premium, from tuners to pickups, all features bump up the ultimate price.
But there’s much more than the raw materials alone. Since the 70s, ESP guitars have built a huge reputation, especially in heavier genres. You’ll find many famous metal guitarists in bands like Deftones and Metallica who use ESP guitars. To own a guitar made by a brand with such a reputation costs.
Beyond prestige, the production of ESP guitars is consistent. They are reliable guitars, which also comes at a cost.
There are many reasons why ESP guitars are so expensive. But recognizing that not everyone can afford thousands of bucks. ESP created the ESP LTD range offering an affordable alternative.
Are ESP Guitars Good?
Yes! ESP guitars are very good.
Guitars built in ESPs Japanese factory have an astounding level of craftsmanship.
The Japanese ESP factory has a highly skilled workforce. Every staff member out of the approximately fifty employees has to go to school in ESP’s ‘Guitar Craft Academy’ for at least two years.
Once the CNC machinery has cut the solid wood, these trained luthiers go to work. Spending hours hand sanding and buffing, the core of Japanese ESP’s are strong and carved to near perfection.
At the painting and finishing stage, ESP have innovative and skilled painters to create unique designs. You’ll notice the finish of high-end ESP’s is to an amazing standard and outclasses low cost models.
The fretwork on these guitars is first-class quality having been handcrafted with a file. All these factors contribute to a smooth playing guitar.
With stark aesthetics and high output sweet-sounding pickups, ESP guitars tick all the boxes.
Finally there’s strict quality control and an expert setup, with such a strict process, you’ll be hard pushed to play a bad Japanese ESP.
USA-built ESP’s offer a similar type of excellence.
ESP’s built-in China and Indonesia won’t live up to the greatness of Japanese and American-built models.
Nonetheless, they are still good beginner guitars considering the price point.
So whether it’s a more affordable ESP or an expensive one, ESP’s are great. But Japanese and American builds are guitars for hard rocking professionals and premium loving players.
So where are ESP guitars made?
ESP uses factories in Japan, the USA, Korea, Indonesia, and China.
They build the top guitars in Japan and America like the Original and USA Series.
The EII models are an affordable way to own a Japanese-built ESP.
Some higher-priced Korean-made models, like the 1000 Series, are high performance and have a similar level of quality as the EII Series.
But ESP also creates budget guitars. Japanese, American, and some Korean-built ESP’s cost upwards of $1,000. So by building guitars in Indonesia and China, ESP can appeal to players on a budget.
Mass-production techniques and cheaper labor costs are some reasons these guitars are cheaper.
Truth be told, there’s a big jump in quality between Japanese and American models and Indonesia and Chinese builds.
But here’s the thing, it doesn’t make Indonesian or Chinese ESP guitars bad. It’s more of a reflection of the quality of Japanese and American builds. Low cost ESP’s are great beginner guitars and perfect if you’re on a budget.
So whatever your budget, there’s an ESP for you. And regardless of price or country of manufacture, you’ll have a guitar with an ESP seal of approval.
These are high-octane rock guitars, so whichever is right for you, crank it up to 10 and play loud.