Hands-On Review - E-II Eclipse vs ESP Standard Eclipse
Hands-On Review - E-II Eclipse vs ESP Standard Eclipse
The introduction of the E-II brand to the ESP family was met with quite a bit of, well let's call it hesitation. The reason for the change doesn't matter at this point. ESP Standard is gone and there is E-II to replace it.
I was one of many, who said that I'd probably not get an E-II guitar when used ESP Standards were plentiful in the used market. But I found a fairly good deal on a used E-II Eclipse (in a color and price that I don't often find used ESPs) so I thought I'd give it a try. I've had it few weeks, and thought I'd give my impressions.
My immediate reaction was good. There was an immediate familiar feeling. If someone had put the guitar in my hands and had never shown me the headstock, I would have said "yep, another ESP Eclipse." The neck size, shape, controls, even the weight are what I'm used to. (Though I've played a few really light Eclipses, mostly those are LTDs.)
The sound is also what I'm used to. Granted, it's another guitar with EMGs, and while guitars will sound different, you pretty much know what to expect.
The Gotoh locking tuners are very nice feeling. I've only done one string change with them (previous owner used very light strings, and I like heavy gauges) so I won't say they're hands-down better than Sperzels or the old Gotoh locking types, but I like them very much. I also like the Schaller strap lock buttons as stock (I don't know if they come with the locking mechanism for the strap, if they do, the previous owner held-out on me.) The Tone-Pros locking bridge and stop bar are great.
The Less Good:
The fretboard. Ignore, for a second, that in this color I'd prefer an ebony fretboard from an aesthetic point-of-view. The rosewood is very light. This could just be the piece on my sepeific guitar, but looking at the photos on the ESP product page, and the videos linked from there, they all look very light. It just seems off to me. Especially when compared to the rosewood boards two of my other Eclipses.
(I wasn't able to get a good picture of fretboard vs fretboard in the same shot. I'll put one in when I get a chance to shoot in better light tomorrow.)
While we're dealing with the neck, the inlay material has also changed. This E-II is a 2014 model, and my most modern ESP Standard Eclipse is from 2009. At some point (perhaps even when they were branded as ESP) they changed the material from something that looks like shell (I doubt it's actually mother of pearl) to a perloid. Again, it's a personal perspective thing, but to me it just seems like something that belongs on a lower-quality guitar.
Trying to keep as fair as possible, I wanted to share this:
Above I noted that one of the "less good" items I pointed out was the perloid inlay on the E-II, which was different than the inlay material on my ESP Standard Eclipses. My most modern ESP is a 2009, but after searching a few auctions, I noticed that there was perloid inlays on ESP Standard Eclipses as old as 2009. The change in inlay material was not something done during the switch to the E-II brand, but at least several years before the end of the ESP Standard brand.
Not sure when or why the change was made, or why my 2009 is different from the auction guitar, but I figured I should share what I've found.
Still on the inlays, there's a chip on the corner of the first-fret inlay. I bought the guitar used, so I'm willing to believe that this wasn't something from the factory, but the filling material is level with the fretboard and inlay. There isn't a divot where the missing part of the inlay should be. The photo below looks like there would be a recess, but my finger nail scrapes right over it. It's level.
A few more days with the guitar, and I realized that there's another thing to add to the "Less Good" list. The string spacing on the nut is fine, but the slots are all shifted toward the high E string. This causes the high E to sit very close to the edge of the fretboard in the lower frets.
I noticed this after doing the setup on the guitar, but I thought that I might have put the bridge on the opposite way. Perhaps it was because of that, that the string was at a weird angle, but no such luck.
I took the guitar in to have a new nut installed. Annoying, but such is life.
In fairness, over the years on the ESP forum, I've read of enough people having to replace nuts on fairly new LTDs and ESP Standards as well.
I played the E-II and a few of the ESP Standards back-to-back and they feel very similar. As I said above, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between any of them if I was blindfolded and someone put them into my hands (except for the knobs). It's just the aesthetic that gets me. I know the things I find less good about the guitar are mostly personal preference, but to me it makes the guitar look like something lower-quality. I expect light fretboards and perloid inlays on my LTD EC-401b, I expect them on my friends EC-1000, but I don't expect them on a guitar at this price point.
It's a very nice guitar. I'll keep it around. But as I mentioned in another thread in the E-II forum, I'm attached to the brand. I'll still take a used ESP Standard over a similar E-II. Not because the E-II isn't a quality guitar, but because the ESP brand holds more value to me.
As always, your mileage may vary. It's a review worth nearly what you've paid for it. Please consult a physician before beginning any guitar related activity. Thank you, drive through.
Not that everything written on the internet isn't already 100% fact, or written by someone with experience in the subject matter, but sometimes people are leary of reviews. I've played guitar for nearly 30 years; written, recorded, gigged, YouTubed, Djented, repaired, built, the whole nine-yards. I've owned ESP guitars since the late 90s and everything from 200 level LTD guitars to Custom Shop ESPs. ESP made guitars make up nearly half of my collection.