BECAUSE MY COMFY TEENSTER WORLD WAS changed forever by seeing Mick Ronson, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Marc Bolan, and others slinging a certain iconic guitar, I have always been attracted to models that pay homage to the Les Paul. But working for a guitar magazine as an adult is a lot different than giving up 16 magazine and Herman’s Hermits when David Bowie, T. Rex, Led Zeppelin, and the Who blow your fragile little mind. What happens is that the older, more experienced reporter in you starts wondering if the universe needs yet another facsimile of a classic guitar design.
Then, the new EC-1000 MGO totally obliterated every molecule of my cranky cynicism.
In my experience, to transcend the historical biases associated with basing a new guitar on a seminal design, the guitar in question must prove—without a doubt—that a savvy manufacturer indeed delivered far more than a clone with a few cosmetic embellishments. The workmanship must be exquisite, of course, and the tones just different enough from the original guitar’s formula to establish the new guitar’s sound. The guitar must also inspire the player to take all the tricks, tones, and licks they’ve utilized on the classic machine and push them to the next level using the newbie. Finally, the whole package has to feel like it belongs in your hands. For me, the Korean-made EC-1000 nails every single one of these considerations. It’s simply a brilliant guitar that does a lot of things superbly.
The design, for one, certainly evokes the Les factor, but the “unfurled flag” fret markers, wavy-top headstock, sharp cutaway, and supermodel-slim profile are striking artifacts of a modern burner. The build quality is magnificent. The review model’s gold finish is flawless, and the high-gloss lacquer is as smooth as a just-Zamboni’d ice rink. All hardware is battened-down tight—the pickups don’t rattle in their mounts, and there are no buzzes or wonky knobs. Ergonomically, the pickup-selector switch and Volume controls are positioned well for rapid, mid-performance adjustments, although it takes a bit of a reach to manipulate the Tone knob while riffing. The frets are polished and rounded in perfect little “hot dog” ends. Basically, everything about the guitar screams that you paid a lot more than $799 street for it. We’ve certainly seen much more expensive models come through GP Central with slightly less-outstanding craftsmanship.
I tested the EC-1000 at a couple of band rehearsals and in the GP sound room through a variety of amps, including a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto, a Club Amps combo, an Orange Tiny Terror, a Marshall JVM 210H, and a Kendrick 20th Anniversary Bass Ass Man. I also occasionally brought out my own 1976 Les Paul Heritage Standard—as well as a Gibson Custom Shop Standard—to compare what the EC and the LPs could coax out of the same amp setup.
First off, the EC-1000 mated with each amp immediately. No matter where the amp controls had been set previously, I could plug right in and get a useable sound without any diddling around—whether that was a clean tone, saturated, semi-distorted, gronky, overdriven, or edgy. Of course, it’s not a bad thing to “tune” a guitar to a specific amp. Some fabulous guitars I’ve played needed a bit of amp tweaking before the guitar and amp combo really sang. But it’s also nice to just pop in the plug and smile without touching any knobs.
Amplified, the EC-1000’s foundational tone is what I’d call “poppin’.” Notes seem to snap off the strings with a round, articulate attack— kind of like a Duane Eddy tone on steroids. Go for the bridge pickup alone, and that pop has an obvious spike to the treble without being strident or overly bright. The combinedpickup tone is rounder, with a hollow-sounding resonance that’s quite sexy clean, and very vocal-like when distortion or overdrive is kicked in. The neck pickup has a good amount of chunk, but the low end never gets muddy or otherwise indistinct—even if you get all psychedelic with a fuzz pedal. Pretty much everything you can play—from complex arpeggios to bass-string riffs—is rendered with a warm, but clear attack that always puts the emphasis on the notes you’re playing. I was impressed that, even with stupid amounts of saturation from amp-and-pedal combinations, the EC-1000 wouldn’t spazz out and produce blurry, vague, or hazy sounds. Not every guitar can make that boast—which is why dualhumbucker players should definitely check out an EC-1000, as well as why I feel it deserves the ultimate GP recommendation of an Editors’ Pick Award.
SPECS | ESP Guitar Company, (800) 423-8388; espguitars.com
MODEL LTD EC-1000 MGO
PRICE $1,142 retail/$799 street
NECK Mahogany, set
FRETS 24 super-jumbo
PICKUPS Two Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro humbuckers
CONTROLS Two Volume, master Tone
FACTORY STRINGS SIT
WEIGHT 7.06 lbs
KUDOS Exceptional build quality. Poppin’, articulate tones. Slim and light. Great value for price.