ESP LTD PB-500

Price Paid: 
£399
Condition: 
New
Country of origin: 
Korea
Body wood(s): 
Mahogany / maple top
Neck wood: 
Mahogany
Fretboard: 
Rosewood
Fretboard Scale: 
24.75
Number of frets: 
22
Pros: 
 
Set-Neck
24.75” Scale
Mahogany Body 
Flamed Maple Top
Mahogany Neck 
Rosewood Fingerboard
42mm Earvana Compensated Nut
Thin U Neck Contour
22 XJ Frets (apparently!)
Grover Tuners
TOM Bridge & Tail
Seymour Duncan Alnico 2 Pro (B&N) p.u.
 
The guitar is a solid contender in the good looks stakes, somewhere between a Les Paul and a PRS.
  
The lacquer is well applied, no thick spots, and I think must be thinly applied (it doesn’t look thick) as it has a real lively response from the off.
 
Construction is generally excellent much better than I expected to be honest from a Korean instrument. There is one little area where it could have been better - more of that later.  
 
Fret work is nothing short of excellent - well crowned, no sharp protruding edges and smooth as baby oil on breasts.   The body is a 3 piece, 2 sides on one centre strip, 2 of the 3 are well matched, and the grain runs the length of the body being another bonus.
 
The maple cap is big - make that 2cm at the thickest area I presume it is a veneer top on top the slab of maple BUT the figuring follows the grain from the top flame down the side in a number of places on the natural wood body binding, to achieve that with a veneer top is impressive which suggests it might not be.  Removal of the pickups from the cavity didn’t reveal any further info in this dept.
 
The wiring inside the electric cavity is superb, very neatly soldered and cable ties used to keep all looking tidy. The volume and push/pull coil split tone pot are big units inside, not the small cheapo crap on Epi's and a lot of other Asian imports, the volume taper is useable, it cleans up around 3 on the volume and then adds progressively more dirt from there, it could be better but there is difference between 3 and 10. This might see a replacement down the line for a true taper.
 
The pickup selector is quiet on operation and feels sturdy as does the volume pot, the push pull pot does feel a little rickety but then they often do.
The Earvana nut is well fitted with an excellent action at the first fret, and chords do seem a little more in tune. 
   
The action was about right where I like it from the off.  The guitar didn't have any set up work by the store so credit must go to either the Koreans or ESP's UK wing before sending out to stores.  ESP state instruments go out setup to 1.5mm (treble side) and 2mm (bass side)
 
Pickups – Seymour Duncan Alnico II's, they sound clear and incredibly responsive with a tad of dirt in them, VERY musical.  There is definitely a LP tonality here, and one that brings a smile to my face whether chording or single note work.  I can go out have a bite to eat, come back and she’ll still be going….
 
Acoustically the guitar is very balanced across the tonal range, superb acoustic resonance and sustain -  none of that plasticky deadness you often get on import guitars.  It’s better than my Peavey USA Wolfgang Std.
The neck heel is comfortable, a little more ergonomic than a LP.
 
The inlays on the neck are a nice mix of abalone and mother of pearl, extremely well fitted with no tell tale black filler around them (see pic).  The rosewood board has quite a nice grain but may well benefit from some lemon oil at next string change. A 10" radius makes for comfortable playing in chording and bending.
 
ESP describes the set neck as Thin 'U' shape, I agree with the “U”, not with the “thin” as this is on a par with a US Std Strat neck. Medium would be a better description of thickness. But it’s a very nice neck to play, comfortable with no fatigue from long sessions.
 
The sound is definitely LP-ish, solid and strident with excellent sustain and note definition. Think Zakk/Gary Moore/Lifeson and there is also Slash and Joe Perry in here too.  Activate the push pull and stay on the bridge and you have a sound not a million miles away from Brian May (something I didn't expect). 
 
Cons: 

The push pull pot does feel a little rickety but no operational issues so far. There was a little fret buzz with the stock 10-46 gauge which worsened when changing to a 9-46 gauge but a ¼ turn on the truss rod and it went. Weight wise she is quite heavy, but no worse than other guitars in the mahogany field. The binding on the neck is generally good, I believe it is acrylic but has a nice off white colour to it. Mostly very well applied except it looks like when smoothing fret edges on the bass side they caught the binding around the 19-22 fret as it has a darker streak on it, not noticeable unless you look for it and the one area of what you might call a construction or workman flaw but with no impact on playability or tonality. The only real downside are the tuners, Grover branded but a little weird feeling when in use. They don’t have a great deal of sensitivity when tuning to pitch so a minimal touch is required, again replacements may be sought down the line but they are useable and hold tuning when in. Fitted hard case for this model is an eye watering £120!!!! No user manual or tools within the unopened box from distributor.

Summary: 

Overall the initial signs are positive. This is an older model now discontinued in their Korean guise (now made in china with different pickups (SD P-Rails) and solid colours only) . The few reviews online I could find suggest for the money there is little out there to compete and I have to agree. At the steal price I got her for I'd probably have to spend double to get anywhere near this quality in this body style (mahog body + fixed neck) and even then I’d be hard pressed. My old Japanese Tokai LP which I have been told by its current owner (who is a Tokai aficionado) was good and the PB500 is a lot better delivering more of the expected LP tones for half the price. Very impressed overall.

Overall Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)