ESP is a company known particularly for their high-end, metal-oriented guitars. With the stigma that metal guitars have to be black and pointy, and ESP does follow this stigma sometimes, it’s a real treat to play something entirely fresh every once in a while. A few months back, we reviewed the E-II ST-2, one of my favorite ESPs that I’ve ever played. More recently, I was finally able to pick up an E-II ST-1, and today we’ll be reviewing that one!

Let’s see if it’s as great as the ST-2 model!


– Alder Body

– Quilted Maple Top w/ Aqua Marine Finish

– Thin “U” Shape Maple Neck

– Bolt-On Design

– Maple Fretboard with 12” Radius

– 25.5” Scale Length

– 24 X-Jumbo Nickel Frets

– Abalone Dot Inlays with ESP Signature at 12th Fret

– Floyd Rose Original Bridge

– Gotoh Locking Tuners

– 42mm Locking Nut

– Seymour Duncan Classic Stack Plus/Pearly Gates Pickups

– 3-Way Toggle Switch w/ Vol/Tone Knobs

Right off the bat, the E-II ST-1 is probably the most beautifully designed ESP guitars that I’ve played. The Aqua Blue on top of the Quilted Maple is just stunning. I’m usually quite ‘anti-pickguard’, but the white marble pickguard on the ST-1 really adds a classy aesthetic that suits the finish well. The last piece of aesthetic goodness that ESP has graced us with is the Maple fretboard. Next to the Aqua Blue finish, the Maple looks really clean.

One of the best features of this guitar, which seems to be missing in a lot of ESP models, is the satin neck. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with gloss. I even enjoy gloss for rhythm playing, but nothing beats the smooth feel on a satin neck for shredding.

The neck is a “Thin U”, which is the same as a lot of other ESP models, if you’re familiar with the Prestige Wizard profile, is just a bit thicker than that. It’s still a shredder’s neck, though. 

The Floyd Rose Original needs no introduction, but if you want to read about it, be sure to check out our Floyd Rose Guide. The Floyd works really well in this model. I’ve always been a fan of H/S/S configurations with a floating tremolo. It brings out the 80’s metalhead in me.



These days, most of the ESP models that have been rolling out feature a Mahogany body. The E-II ST-1 is built with an Alder body, Maple top, and a Maple neck. Alder is a lighter tonewood and is known for having a mellow, yet bright tone. A nice feature of Alder is its ability to sound good with most pickups, due to it’s transparent and shapeable nature.

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

The pickup choice in this guitar is excellent! The extremely versatile Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbucker is one of my personal favorite Seymour Duncan pickups. It’s so good that it actually made it onto our Top 5 Seymour Duncan Humbuckers list!

The Pearly Gates bridge pickup is a PAF style humbucker that was originally designed for Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top. It has a really sweet midrange that makes for a punchy, aggressive attack. Even though it handles high gain very well and remains punchy under saturation, the Pearly Gate humbucker also maintains it’s wide dynamic qualities.

The Seymour Duncan Classic Stack Plus single coils bring a really Strat-like sound to the middle/neck position. The neck pickup is round and beefy and it helps to create the perfect Eric Johnson-style lead tones, while the middle position offers a light twang with a little less gain than the bridge.

Overall, the pickup configuration is extremely dynamic and versatile and would sit well with just about any guitarist. On top of the pickup selection, the guitar features a Floyd Rose Original for extra sound variety.

Build Quality:

The Japanese ESP E-II series are some of the most consistent guitars I’ve ever played are generally found with very few flaws, if any.

The finish is outstanding and is one of the best looking ESP guitars I’ve ever picked up. The Japanese ESP luthiers are extremely precise so no cosmetic issues to be found. If there are any noticeable flaws in the fretwork, they are extremely difficult to find. The Tokyo ESP shop absolutely nails the fretwork consistently.

Final Verdict:

The ESP E-II ST-1 is a gorgeous, versatile, comfortable guitar made by some of the best luthiers around. Not only does it sound incredible for just about any style of playing, it’s one of the best (unique) looking ESP guitars available.

This instrument would fit very well in any collection and after playing with it, I’m tempted to buy one for my own.


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

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