NAMM 2020: ESP unveils new LTD '87 Series plus more updates to Signature and Deluxe Series

(Image credit: ESP)

Gear fever is building ahead of NAMM 2020 and ESP has got it bad. Real bad. Having unveiled Phase I and Phase II of its mammoth 2020 rollout, the Japanese company has announced the launch of its LTD '87 Series, a host of new signature models, plus four primo additions to the LTD Deluxe Series.

The '87 Series is a a weaponized shred-ready fleet of electric guitars that reprise ESP's late-80s guitar design, and it will be joined by new signature models for Javier Reyes of Animals As Leaders, Stephen Carpenter of Deftones, Nergal of Behemoth, Brian "Head" Welch of Korn, and Alex Wade of Whitechapel.

Marking ESP's 45th anniversary, the '87 Series is the big news here. 

Sure, you might well ask, "Say there, ESP was founded in 1975, so why the '87 Series?" Well, 1987 was the year when things really started to happen for the company. That's when the aggressively pointed six-in-line headstock allied to souped-up S-style and T-style electrics of the Mirage, M-1 and Eclipse Series really caught the imagination as shred took off and metal got harsher and more popular. 

Right, deep breath, folks. Let's take a look at the '87 Series Eclipse...

LTD '87 Series Eclipse

Now this really is a treat for retro-shredders, with the Eclipse using ESPs TE Archtop body shape rather than the aggressively contoured singlecut that it is known for today.

The LTD '87 Series Eclipse is available with a locking Floyd Rose vibrato in Black or Pearl White, or with a fixed tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece in Pearl White or Turquoise.

All models share the same neck-thru-body construction and each has the classic combo of a Seymour Duncan ’59 humbucker in the neck. These feature original style bobbins and the guitars have a push/pull coil-split. 

As with all in the series, the year 1987 is marked out on 12th fret's inlay.

LTD '87 Series M-1 Custom

Available in Candy Apple Red, Dark Metallic Blue and Black, the M-1 Custom is a lean, mean S-style electric with a single Seymour Duncan Distortion TB-6 bridge humbucker that, like the others in the series, has a coil-tap. Unlike the others in the series, the M-1 Custom has an onboard EMG PA-2 boost switch for when you need your solo to take the front two rows out.

With no recess routing its Floyd Rose 1000 bridge is built for divebombing. Elsewhere, you've got a neck-through construction, with the maple neck having a thin-U profile, and there's a generous work of contouring on that treble-side cutaway to help you reach the high notes.

LTD '87 Series Mirage Deluxe

The LTD '87 Series Mirage Deluxe riffs on ESP's Mirage body shape. One of the first S-style shred machines, it features a bolt-on neck, an alder body, and has a three-piece maple neck with a typically ESP U-shaped profile.

Finishes comprise Pearl Pink and Turquoise – very Miami Vice. Elsewhere you've got a Floyd Rose 1000 bridge and Seymour Duncan Distortion TB-6 in the bridge and a Seymour Duncan Hot Rail singlecoil in the neck. As with the Eclipse models, these have with original style bobbins and a push-pull control to split the coils.

And so on to the LTD 2020 signature models...

LTD NS-6 Nergal Signature

(Image credit: ESP)

Take the ESP Stream body shape, apply a necro Black Satin finish and inlay the Behemoth Triumviratus logo on the super-noir ebony fretboard, go all in with inventive electrics, et voila! You have the LTD NS-6, Nergal from Behemoth's latest signature LTD.

The NS-6 comes equipped with a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker pickups. A push-pull tone pot lets you choose between active and passive pickup voicings. The NS-6 offers a set-thru design, 25.5” scale, a mahogany body and three-piece maple neck. The side markers glow in the dark... Of course they do.

LTD AW-7 Alex Wade Baritone

(Image credit: ESP)

Revised for 2020 and resplendent in Open Grain Black Satin, Alex Wade's signature baritone is a monster with a 27" scale.

The body is swamp ash. The neck is a five-piece marriage between maple, walnut and paduak. The fretboard is Macassar ebony and it is populated by stainless steel frets.

Elsewhere there is a set of direct-mount DiMarzio D-Activator 7 pickups, a Hipshot fixed hardtail bridge and LTD locking tuners to keep things secure when stomping around in the low-end.

LTD Javier Reyes Signature Series

Javier Reyes' signature series has been updated with two models, the more affordable LTD JR-208 and the premium LTD JR-608. Both are eight-string monsters.

The LTD JR-208 comes in Pelham Blue, has a bolt-on maple neck, mahogany body, ESP Designed LH-308N and LH-308B humbuckers and has gold hardware.

The LTD JR-608, meanwhile, well, that's just showing off. Here you've got a set of Reyes' new Fishman Javier Reyes Open Core Signature Pickups, and the all-important mini-switch to engage the multiple voicings.

LTD Stephen Carpenter Signature Series

ESP stalwart Stephen Carpenter from Deftones gets two signature models for 2020. There is the LTD SC-607, which updates his seven-string, Fishman-equipped baritone in Purple Satin. And then there's the 20th anniversary model of his first ESP signature model, the LTD SC-20, which looks incredible in sonic blue and makes us wonder why we don't see more HHS pickup configurations.

Very nice indeed.

LTD SH-207 Brian Welch Signature

(Image credit: ESP)

One of the extended range guitar's most-famous patrons, Korn's Brian "Head" Welch gets a 2020 signature seven-string from LTD that applies a See-Thru Purple finish to a flame maple top, with added aggro courtesy of a reverse headstock.

With its bolt-on construction and ESP Designed LH-307 humbuckers, we'd hope this would be a little more affordable. It, too, has a thin U profile maple neck, so we'd also price in some excellent playability here.  

LTD Deluxe Phoenix Black Metal

(Image credit: ESP)

Here is a none-more-black option for you. You've got the glow-in-the-dark side markers, the Black Metal LTD logo on the headstock, just one pickup (a Fishman Fluence humbucker) in the bridge position... Oh yeah, and hold the fret makers. You don't want any light diluting the noir aspect of the ebony fretboard.

There's a minimalism here that's sure to play well with those whose beauty regimen incorporates corpsepaint. With the maple neck-through construction, the mahogany wings and that Fluence humbucker it should sound incredible, too.

LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Black Natural Burst

(Image credit: ESP)

Here you've got the EC-1000 configured with a burled poplar top on a mahogany body with a three-piece mahogany neck and Macassar ebony fingerboard, as you might expect. 

Pickups comprise a high-output pairing of a Seymour Duncan Sentient humbucker in the neck and a Pegasus humbucker in the bridge. Both are passive, and pretty darn awesome.

We are told this is also available in Blue Natural Fade, should you need something a little more "aquamarine".

LTD Deluxe M-1007

(Image credit: ESP)

We'll hand you over to ESP for a description of this one, a beefed-up S-style that "delivers the fast feel and smooth playability of the M Series in a 7-string version for serious brutality."

Serious brutality, indeed. Well, it's certainly built to withstand a little rough and tumble, with a neck-thru-body design, and a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern Humbuckers (Alnico in the neck, Ceramic in the bridge) to bring the noise. Oh, and for some alternate noise, there's a push-pull control to activate the pickups' second voicing.

LTD Deluxe Viper-1000 EverTune

(Image credit: ESP)

...And finally, the last in ESP's herculean Phase III announcement!  Oh, and it's a beaut. We've got a Viper-1000 with an EverTune bridge. Now, you know what you're getting by now; it's an LTD Deluxe Series instrument so there's premium components throughout. Grover tuners, a Seymour Duncan Sentient in the neck and Pegasus in the bridge, just like the EC-1000 except it's splittable by a push-pull control. Both are direct-mounted. Tune this up and it won't go out of tune. Lovely. Nice See-Thru Black Cherry Satin finish, too.

And phew! That's us, folks. Oh, yeah, there are a few basses also, but it ain't Thumpin' Thursday just yet. More details, specs and prices to follow once we actually see these live at NAMM 2020.

Check in with ESP for more details.

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.