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ESP USA M-III Tea Sunburst


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For almost 50 years ESP has been producing premium guitars for a full spectrum of musicians. In 2014, ESP broke ground on their first ever USA factory in North Hollywood, California where they hand-craft some of the finest instruments to bear the ESP name. The M-III is a beastly combination of tonal versatility and ingenious design. If a Super Strat and a Les Paul has a baby it would look something like this, complete with Flame Maple top over a Mahogany body, and top notch appointments you might only see in a custom shop. If you're looking for finesse and power in a stunning package, the M-III will provide.

This ESP USA M-III features:

  • Flame Maple Top with Tea Sunburst finish, 8 pounds
  • Mahogany body w/ Natural Wood Binding
  • Quarter Sawn Maple Neck
  • "Extra Thin U" neck, satin finish
  • Ebony Fingerboard
  • 1.650" nut and 12" radius, 25-1/2" scale
  • 24 Stainless XJ Frets
  • (2) Seymour Duncan Classic Stack pickups
  • (1) Seymour Duncan Saturday Night Special humbucker
  • 5-position pickup switch
  • vol x tone controls w/ push-pull coil splitting
  • 2-Pin Gotoh Tremolo bridge
  • Bone nut
  • Sperzel Locking tuners
  • ESP USA Form Fit Deluxe Case
  • Made in USA

For 2018 we are excited to announce our partnership with ESP guitars. After a serendipitous introduction to the people and products of ESP at the winter NAMM show, getting on board was a natural. For nearly 50 years ESP has played a many important roles in the music industry; starting out in the spare parts business, which transitioned into OEM guitar manufacturing, and ultimately their own ESP branded products.

This ESP M-III comes from their USA factory in North Hollywood, California. While they make guitars available from stock, it's really more of a well-oiled custom shop. The USA builders take classic ESP designs to a new level, with world-class materials and an extra focus on artistry. The M-III takes two of the most influential electric guitar designs ever made and combines their best attributes. Sporting the tonal versatility of a Super Strat and the materials of a Les Paul, it offers a plethora of unique sounds on a familiar platform. Mahogany is a dense tonewood that provides warmth and richness while the Maple cap accentuates the treble side of the spectrum. Combined with an Ebony fretboard and 24 Stainless frets, the M-III is a players dream that can adapt seamlessly to any playing style.

The pickups in the M-III are a solid Seymour Duncan rock trio: Classic Stack single coils in the neck and middle positions with a Saturday Night Special humbucker in the bridge. The Classic Stack's are Alnico V pickups with an emphasis on noiseless performance and clarity. These are stacked coil pickups, with a specially calibrated bottom coil for maximum noise cancelling. At 8.5k they are "hotter" on paper than they sound. We found them to be clean and mellow, and the noiseless feature means quiet operation at high gain levels (very handy to guitars of this ilk). Overall these pickups sound downright vintage: round and bouncy with a perfect amount of spank. In addition to being quiet as a mouse, the middle pickup is RWRP for heavenly in-between tones. Down in the bridge you have a hidden gem: the Saturday Night Special. Lots of humbuckers use strong Alnico V's, but we are big advocates for weaker magnets in humbuckers because they tend to hit a sweet spot between power and harmonic content. In this case the SNS uses Alnico IV, which produces a balanced spectrum that bridges the gap between the bright, fast attack of an Alnico V and the warm, rounded tone of the even weaker Alnico II. At 9.75k resistance, the SNS has the punch your looking for but with more emphasis on clear highs and lows. The clean tones are wholesome and almost "vocal" in their response to picking dynamics. Kicking in some gain produces a harmonically rich crunch that is never too compressed sounding.

The neck on the M-III is what they call their "Extra Thin U" profile. It varies slightly from their regular "Thin U" where the taper is a millimeter thinner. The "U" shape provides good palm support while the thin taper makes it easy to get a thumb around the neck when necessary. With it's Ebony fretboard on quarter-sawn maple with stainless steel Jescar frets, this neck is a rocker's dream. Dark Ebony is an increasingly rare and seriously tough hardwood that's jam-packed with natural oils, so combining it with stainless steel frets is like playing on an ice rink. With a 1-11/16" nut width and modern 12" radius this neck was built for speed and accuracy.

Being fairly "old-school" guys when it comes to guitars and amps, taking on ESP was somewhat a surprise. We of course knew the ESP brand, but mostly by it's stereotypical and predominantly heavy metal image. Lucky for us we had some friends at ESP that were eager to show us the many sides of the ESP name, and when we held our first USA piece, it was over. Their designs are familiar yet refreshing and the USA shop delivers some the finest fit and finish you'll find on the market today. If you thought you knew ESP, think again.