ESP is known for crafting some of the highest quality guitars built in Japan for quite some years. The ESP flagship model, the Horizon, has been refreshed with a new aesthetic. We decided to go ahead and review one of the new Horizon models, the ESP E-II Horizon III.


  • Alder Body
  • Flamed Maple Top w/ Reindeer Blue Finish
  • Thin “U” Shape 3-Piece Maple Neck
  • Neck-Thru Design
  • Ebony Fretboard with 12” Radius
  • 25.5” Scale Length
  • 24 Jumbo Nickel Frets
  • ESP Offset Block Inlays with 12th Fret ESP Logo
  • Gotoh TOM Bridge
  • Gotoh Locking Tuners
  • 42mm Bone Nut
  • Seymour Duncan Custom 5/Jazz Pickups
  • 3-Way Toggle Switch w/ Vol/Tone Knobs

Similar to the ESP E-II Horizon FR, the Horizon III is hand-crafted in Tokyo and is built with ESP’s signature thin “U” neck shape. These necks are a bit thicker than an Ibanez necks and offer a bit more weight in your left hand, which I enjoy for rhythm playing.

The Gotoh Bridge is one of the more comfortable Tune-o-Matic style bridges that I’ve played on. It’s not sharp on the picking hand when palm muting, and it’s quite reliable for holding tuning.

The Reindeer Blue finish on the flamed maple top is one of my favorite ESP tops this year. Plus, the black hardware really adds a bit of sleekness to the aesthetic of the instrument. I didn’t like the aggressive top horn at first, but the shape has grown on me and the guitar has easily become my favorite modern ESP, aesthetically speaking.

On to the tones!!!!


I was excited about the specs on this model. Let me tell you why!

All of the ESP guitars we have reviewed so far had pretty much the same configuration, Mahogany body and EMG pickups. What this does is create a darker/aggressive sound and a reasonably heavy body. For the Horizon III, ESP decided to go on the other end of the spectrum!

This guitar is built with an Alder body, maple top, and 3-piece maple neck. Alder is a lighter wood, and is known for having a very tame and bright tone. It is a bit transparent, so you can generally shape it any way you’d like with your pickups, which is one of the reasons it is a go-to wood for many companies. A lot of times Alder, along with Basswood, is associated with cheaper instruments, which doesn’t mean the wood isn’t good. There is some really cheap Alder and Basswood out there, but there is still high end wood as well, so don’t be concerned with quality here!

If you want to learn more about tonewoods, you’re in luck because we have The Ultimate Guide to Tonewoods!

Along with the wood choices, ESP decided to go with the Seymour Duncan Custom 5/Jazz combo, which just happens to be one of my favorite SD pickup combinations out there. The Custom 5, built using an alnico 5 magnet, has a sound similar to a classic PAF, but a lot hotter. This makes for a fat sound with a big scoop in the mids. The Jazz pickup is a super thick neck pickup and makes for awesome lead playing and bluesy noodling.

We love these pickups so much that they happened to both land on our Top 5 Seymour Duncan Pickups list!

The Alder/Maple wood combo paired with the pickups make for a great sound for punk, classic rock and metal, and funk tones. It’s not necessarily my go-to for a progressive metal sound, but it can get the job done well with a bit of amp tweaking.

Overall, the sound makes for a great thick tone, with a high level of clarity, and a ton of sustain. If you are playing progressive or modern metal, I would probably opt for a pickup change.

(Maybe try a Pegasus, which we just did a review on a few days ago!)

Build Quality:

Just as expected, the Horizon III is just about flawless out of the case.

Although the finish is objectively outstanding, I’m not a huge fan of the almost mirror-like glossiness. I just don’t want to see fingerprints on my guitar. I know I could just wipe it, but that’s my one complaint about the guitar, which really isn’t a big deal.

With that being said, the fretwork is immaculate, the electronics have no issues, and the guitar has amazing action right out the case! Not much else to say here!

Final Verdict:

Japanese ESPs, like Japanese Ibanez, are going to be pretty much consistent every time. You can expect insane attention to detail, which makes for a wonderful guitar to play, and to look at.

The Horizon III is absolutely for the guitarist who is seeking an aggressive, yet beautiful look on a guitar that can bring a ton of genres to life.

Again, modern metal applications might require a pickup swap, but other than that, The ESP E-II Horizon III brings just what I’d expect out of a guitar that costs $1699. I think it’s my favorite ESP of the year as well!


We upload new articles daily so if you liked this one, make sure to check out some more! Don’t forget, we are authorized ESP dealers and can get you any current ESP you’d like at the best price possible!

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

About The Author