ESP is one of the leading brands for modern and old-school metal players today. They are known for an excellent consistency across their entire product line! Recently we reviewed an ESP E-II Horizon FR-II and were very satisfied.

Let’s look at the more affordable LTD H-401QM and see how it holds up!


  Mahogany Body

  Quilted Maple Top w/ Faded Sky Blue Finish

  Thin “U” Shape 3-Piece Maple Neck

  Set-Thru Design

  Rosewood Fretboard with 13.77” Radius

–    25.5” Scale Length

–    Offset Stripe Inlays

  24 Extra Jumbo Nickel Frets

  LTD Fixed w/ String Thru Bridge

  Grover Tuners

  42mm Locking Nut

  EMG 81/85 Active Pickups

–   3-Way Switch w/ Vol/Tone Knobs

The first thing about the H-401QM that stands out is it’s finish. The Faded Sky Blue is stunning to look at and the light colored binding around the edge makes for a great accent. The back is finished in a transparent deep blue.

The Thin “U” shape is similar to the ones on the higher end ESP models and offers a nice chunky neck to hold onto for fast rhythm playing.

The guitar features a “Set-Thru” neck, which is ESP’s own design and features a pocket in the body where the neck slides in, similar to a bolt-on. In the Set-Thru design, the pocket is much deeper than a bolt-on and goes about halfway through the body where it is glued in.

The LTD-made bridge is quite comfy and is fairly similar to a hipshot-style design.


The H-401QM features ESP’s favorite, the mahogany body/maple top combo. Tonal characteristics offered by Mahogany/Maple is a wide low end with a concentration in the mids as well.

(We have a much more in-depth article on tonewoods if you are looking for more insight!)

The advantage of a Set-Thru neck is that it sort of meets in the middle of bolt-on and neck-thru. You get some of the sustain of the neck-thru while getting some of the brightness and snap of a bolt-on. It’s a neat design that we don’t see too often and brings a unique sound to this guitar.

Taking the huge chunk of mahogany out to embed the maple neck definitely helps to clean up the tone a bit by adding a brighter character to the mahogany body.

All of these construction features are paired with a set of good ol’ EMG 81/85 pickups. Some of us love em’, some of us hate em’. Either way, they are extremely popular and are a go-to option for affordable guitars for metal! The 81/85 combo are quite aggressive and punchy, but sometimes lack a bit in the clarity department when playing big chords on a high gain setting.

Overall the guitar has a fairly balanced sound that really stands out in the mid-range. It has ton of sustain and the pickups make for a great metal tone.

Build Quality:

I was not surprised by the quality of this guitar. Although all of the hardware and electronics are much cheaper, Korean ESP guitars are often built with similar care and QC as their Japanese counterparts. 

There are almost no flaws in the finish. The top looks great and there is no overspray on the binding or any bubbling. My only complaint about the finish (and this is a personal opinion) is that it’s quite thick and very shiny and it shows fingerprints very easily. This bugs me, but might not bug everyone.

The guitar looks like it would be light, but feels very solid in your hands. I can’t imagine having any issues with the neck moving or anything.

The fretwork wasn’t incredible, a few little scratches, but it definitely met my expectations for a $749.99 guitar.

Final Verdict:

If you’re looking for an affordable guitar that still meets the expectations of an expensive ESP, this one is a great choice.

Very minor (if any) issues in the build quality, an exceptional finish, and a great sound brings you an affordable guitar for metal that can hold up to some of the expensive USA models! The only thing I would probably modify on this guitar is the addition of locking tuners, which is a minor upgrade that can go a long way!


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This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana.

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