Electric Sound Products (ESP) was founded in 1975 by Hisatake Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan as a guitar part replacement company.
Word spread quickly, however, of the high quality of ESP’s parts, labor, and installation, and the company soon had an excellent reputation and was well on its way to becoming the obvious choice for many professional musicians in Japan.
In 1983, ESP spread to the US market and began creating custom instruments for guitar players in the New York area, such as Vinnie Vincent, Bruce Kulick, Page Hamilton, and Ronnie Wood. Around this time, ESP released its first guitar in the United States, the 400 series, which arguably rivaled the Fender Stratocaster in all areas but widespread brand awareness.
Also in the 1980s, the company began making parts for Kramer, Schecter, DiMarzio, and Guitar Research, and even produced OEM parts for some companies’ manufacturing.
The ESP Kamikaze was the company’s first signature model, made for George Lynch of Dokken in 1985. More guitar models and signature models were released in the coming years, with the Signature series hitting the market in the early 1990s.
In 1995, ESP took the hint from companies like Epiphone and Squier that the budget guitar market was incredibly lucrative and created the LTD series: a line of affordable guitars that maintained high-quality parts and attentive design elements.
While ESP continues to produce high-end equipment, the LTD line allows curious beginners—as well as budgeting professionals—access to professional gear that rivals many other guitar manufacturers, arguably surpassing its similarly priced cousins, Epiphone and Squier. This review will cover the ins and outs of the ESP LTD M-100FM. Read on to learn more…
The LTD M-100FM’s body (we’ll just call it the “100FM” from now on, for simplicity’s sake) is carved out of a single piece of basswood and is topped with flamed maple, giving it a beautifully textured woodgrain pattern under the semi-translucent finish, which comes in see-through black and cherry colors.
As a tonewood, basswood probably isn’t the greatest in the world, but it certainly has a worse reputation than it deserves; even some high-end guitars use it as a body tonewood. Basswood generally provides well-balanced harmonic response with a strong mid-range and sensitive dynamics.
The body’s shape is sharp, aggressive, and well-planned, with an upper contour for the strumming arm, as well as a small slanted curvature on the neck’s bolt-on plate, which allows easier access to the higher frets. With basswood being a lighter wood, the 100FM’s body can best be described as comfortable and sleek, although basswood is also soft and more susceptible to dings and dents than other woods.
Following from above, the 100FM’s neck is also extraordinarily sleek and quick, with a super thin “U” contour. This guitar is built for shredding and facilitates speedy fret mobility.
Carved out of maple with a rosewood fretboard, the neck contributes a good deal of brightness and mid-range punch to the guitar’s overall tone, and the rosewood fretboard adds some harmonic complexity to the upper range, as well as some thickness to the mids and lows. The 100FM has 24 frets (beating most of its competition by 2 or 3 frets of range), and its down-pointing tuners give the guitar a unique appearance.
The 100FM is adorned with two ESP LH-150 pickups, which are open-coil humbuckers. Given that they are budget stock pickups, the LH-150s are not fantastic.
They are okay for beginner playing and don’t have a lot of buzz, but they definitely lack some harmonic complexity and sound overall just a bit bland. Of course, heavy effect processing can remedy this problem to some extent, but after a certain point, layering more effects on top of a mediocre base tone will cease to be an improvement. If there were one thing to replace on the 100FM, it would be the pickups, hands down.
The 100FM’s hardware can best be described as solid, but minimal. It comes with a simple setup of just one volume knob, one tone knob, and a 3-way pickup selector switch, all of which feel pretty reliable. The bridge is an LTD Floyd Rose tremolo with individual string saddle adjustment screws, and the nut has locking screws, which help the 100FM to stay in tune pretty effectively—although lots of tremolo usage will inevitably lead to detuning.
The tuners are also made by LTD and are more reliable than most budget guitar tuners, and the strap nuts appear strong and trustworthy. The ¼” jack comes loose every once in a while, but it’s nothing a simple finger twist can’t fix. All in all, the guitar’s hardware is strong and reliable and won’t need to be replaced anytime soon.
ESP has really done a nice job on the 100FM, optimizing it for shredding metal and rock styles, but also leaving it versatile enough to be played with a wide array of different genres. The locking nut goes a long way in holding the guitar in tune and enhancing its sustain, and the neck feels fantastic in the hand, lending itself to speed and accuracy.
The basswood responds well in this guitar in producing a powerful midrange, but the pickups will really need to be changed if you’d like to bring this guitar on stage. The stock LH-150 humbuckers lack character and are pretty boring, lacking a lot of the tonal complexity that good humbuckers should display.
For a beginner, the tone is fine, and this is a fantastic learning guitar.
Overall, I give this guitar a 4.5 out of 5.
The ESP LTD M-100FM is a fantastic guitar for a beginner or as a stage backup. Yes, the pickups are weak and just don’t sound very good, so if you’re going to be playing live shows or using the 100FM in the studio, you should definitely replace the stock pickups with something of higher quality that yields better harmonic response, dynamic response, and character.
However, the pickups are really the only major weak point of the guitar.
The hardware is solid, the locking nut is a nice touch, the LTD Floyd Rose tremolo is nice (although it could be a little better), and the tuners are surprisingly reliable for a budget guitar. The body is a sleek shape and the flamed maple top just looks absolutely badass with the black or red semi-translucent finishes.
Even the choice to angle the tuners downward on the pointed headstock adds a sense of forward-pressing aggression to the guitar’s aesthetic style.
There aren’t many budget guitars on the market that display such a range of genre versatility as the 100FM. While appearance-wise it certainly leans toward metal and rock, the 100FM’s clean response is surprisingly good (again, keeping in mind that the humbuckers will want to be replaced).
It has a strong mid/low-range and clear, but not shrill, highs, lending itself to metal, jazz, rock, blues, and more. For the money—coming in at around $330 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) —it simply cannot be beat by another budget guitar when it comes to reliability and versatility.
If you’re a beginner who is looking to explore your options and haven’t yet decided what genres you’re interested in pursuing, this would be an excellent choice. If you’re a gigging musician who’d like a backup on stage, you can rest easy with the LTD M-100FM by your side. All in all, this axe is fantastic. Good job, ESP. Keep it up!
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