Always wanted to try a seven string? A fan of the Deftones' Steven Carpenter? If so then ESP may have the very thing for you with this very affordable signature model. Tom Quayle checks it out.
Most people associate signature guitars with expensive price tags worn by out of reach instruments made only for rich collectors. These days, however, there's a growing trend for more affordable signature instruments that are not just cut down versions of a more expensive model, but high quality guitars with professional components in their own right. ESP is a leader in this market and has teamed up with Stephen Carpenter from the Deftones to produce a signature 7-string model - the ESP LTD SCT-607B. Fitting with the Deftones style, this is a baritone scale length, 7-string model but, unlike the existing SC models, the SCT features a more traditional 'Tele' shape brought right up to date with modern appointments.
The SCT-607B is a Korean made instrument featuring a very heavy alder body, maple 27" baritone scale neck with an ebony fret board. The neck is ESP's thin U-shape with 24 XJ (extra jumbo) frets and a 48mm non-locking nut. A thru-neck design has been chosen to aid sustain and tone and hardware is high end in the form of EMG-81-7 active pickups, TonePros Locking TOM bridge and LTD locking tuners, all finished in black for an appropriately moody look! The design is completed by a three-way switch and volume/tone controls, topped off with a pearloid pickguard for touch of class. This is a great looking guitar that balances the modern and traditional elements very well and feels great in the hands, despite its considerable weight.
The construction on our sample was up to the usual very high standards of ESP's Korean made guitars. The build quality was superb and gave the guitar that expensive feel and look that we all crave. Carrying on the good news, fretwork and finishing were flawless with no rogue fret ends or poorly sanded edges and all the hardware elements felt solid and responsive. This isn't exactly a cheap guitar of course but you can rest assured that at this mid-level price point you're getting a professional quality instrument for your money.
The ESP's playability was equally high level with one of the most comfortable and approachable 7-string necks I've tried. The extra length provided by the baritone scale feels great and adds a lot more resonance and grunt to the low B string. Fret access is good thanks to the neck-thru design and tuning stability is rock solid with quality locking tuners and bridge.
Played acoustically the SCT-607B has bags of sustain across its range with an impressive and even tone. This bodes well for its electric performance and it doesn't disappoint. The position of the two EMG81-7 pickups is unusual in that the neck pickup is positioned where a middle position pickup would normally go. This makes sense in that the Deftones' style, low-tuned riff playing doesn't really require a neck pickup and having the pickup positioned nearer to the bridge gives a more useful range. Regardless, the tones on offer are impressive with crystalline clean sounds available from all three positions that, whilst exhibiting classic high output, active characteristics, remain dynamic and responsive throughout.
For classic clean Rock and Metal this guitar is a fantastic performer and will even give you more subtle colours if they're dialled in carefully. Plugged into a high gain amp, the SCT-607B reveals its beastly nature, producing tones that would make even the most doom-seeking guitar player crack a smile. The baritone scale and EMGs, combined with the neck-thru and fixed bridge give a devastating delivery if required that is super-tight and responsive for low-tuned riffs and upper range soloing. Lower gain sounds, whilst lacking some of the character of a passive pickup, sound good too and thanks to the lack of a neck pickup, things never become wooly or undefined. Personally, I would miss the neck pickup tones you get on some other guitars but I can see how many players would be fine without it.
There is very little, if anything negative to say about this guitar. It looks and sounds great with a design that should appeal to a much wider audience than the average metal guitar. Obviously, active pickups will preclude a certain sector of the market but any guitar player looking for a pro-level, affordable 7-string that retains some traditional visual elements, has an approachable neck and sounds great would do well to check the ESP LTD SCT-607B out. I really liked this one and have no hesitation in awarding it top marks.