What Are The Differences Between ESP’s Brands?

We get a lot of questions about the differences between our various guitar brands, and with as many different kind of guitars and basses as we make, your confusion is quite understandable! This FAQ should help you to differentiate between the various names you see on the headstocks of guitars and basses we make.

ESP Custom Shop
The ESP Custom Shop is located in Japan. We make three types of guitars and basses there: completely custom instruments, ESP Original Series instruments (see below), and our Signature Series guitars and basses under the ESP brand. Each instrument made at the ESP Custom Shop is handcrafted by experienced luthiers to the highest level of detail, and rank among the finest guitars in the world.

To help you better understand how this works, a custom instrument is a "one-off".... a guitar or bass that we make just one of. It’s made to the specification of the person ordering the instrument. These instruments are generally not made available for other people to purchase, and therefore represent the highest priced and most exclusive series of instruments we make. You can learn more about the ESP Custom Shop and order yours here.

A few examples from the ESP Custom Shop. Each ESP Custom Shop guitar and bass is handmade and built to the order of the designer.

ESP Original Series
These are the guitars and basses made in small quantities at our ESP Custom Shop that are available for sale to anyone who orders one. Our luthiers create multiples of each ESP Original Series model. The ESP Original Series includes guitars in our well-known shapes, like the ESP Eclipse, Horizon, Arrow, and others. They are still hand-made using the finest available woods and components, and each guitar or bass takes quite some time (and a lot of effort and expertise) to create.

An ESP Original Series Arrow. ESP Original Series instruments are handcrafted at the ESP Custom Shop, but unlike custom models, multiple guitars of each model are built.

Beginning in 2013, we opened a manufacturing shop near our United States ESP headquarters. We founded this facility for the purpose of building our ESP USA Series, which are high-performance guitars designed for serious professional players. ESP USA models are not custom guitars, but they may be personalized with several aspects, including the top woods, the finish color and type (gloss or satin), a choice of passive or active pickups, and more.

An ESP USA Eclipse. ESP USA models are made in Southern California, and may be personalized with select top woods, finishes, and more.

Formerly called “ESP Standard”, the ESP E-II Series are guitars built at the ESP factory in Japan. While being less expensive than the handcrafted guitars from the ESP Custom Shop, ESP E-II models are made to very high standards in quality, with components and aesthetic designs that make them some of the best factory-produced guitars and basses the world has ever seen. Many well-known artists as well as everyday hard-working musicians have turned to ESP E-II for instruments they use both in studios and on tour.

ESP E-II guitars and basses are built at the ESP factory in Japan. They represent our highest quality instruments that are factory produced. Shown here: ESP E-II Horizon NT-7B Hipshot.

LTD and LTD Deluxe
In 1995, we launched our LTD Series to be able to offer guitars and basses that were affordable enough for more musicians to own, and yet offered better playability and sound quality than other guitars in their price range. These instruments are made in factories in various locations in Asia, including Korea, Indonesia, China, and elsewhere. Despite their relatively lower prices, we are still very stringent with the level of quality standards of all LTD models. LTD Deluxe (also known as “1000 Series” instruments, like the EC-1000) offers a level of quality that any serious performer would be proud to use for important gigs.

LTD guitars, like this M-403HT, are designed to offer affordable high quality and reliability to musicians around the world. 

Signature Series (ESP and LTD)
When an artist creates an ESP Custom guitar for their own use, we sometimes find that other musicians would like to play the same guitar or bass that the artist has created. Those instruments become part of our ESP and LTD Signature Series. ESP Signature Series guitars are created one at a time by hand at our ESP Custom Shop in Japan, just like the original model the artist plays. LTD Signature Series guitars and basses are made like our other LTD models, at factories in other parts of Asia. One item of note: when you see an LTD “600 Series” signature guitar, it’s the equivalent of a high-quality “1000 Series” standard LTD Deluxe.

Our Signature Series instruments are offered under both the ESP and LTD brands, and have been made for many artists in many genres of music. Above: James Hetfield (Metallica) ESP Vulture.

Hopefully this article clarifies the differences between the ESP family of brands. We welcome you to ask any questions you still may have in the comments below!

Mike J.

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Great stuff!

Soff S.

I'm an ESP fan but believe the E-II label is unnecessary & has the potential to confuse. The 'ESP Standard' title should remain & the instruments' headstock should read 'ESP', the E-II label could be placed on the fretboard instead if tier differentiation is the intention. 

Jason V.

I agree. The E-II guitars do say ESP on the 12th fret but it would be great if it were reversed and ESP were on the headstock. Although it didn't confuse me the first time I saw it, but I did think it was some sort of cheap knock off. I later learned that that's not what it is at all but that was my first impression. 

Andrew Sebastian

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