With its uniquely-styled offset cutaway body and top-of-the-line appointments, ESP’s USA Viper, handcrafted at the company’s Southern California facility, is one of its most luxurious and high-performance electric guitars.
So we couldn’t wait to get one of these beauties in the hands of Tech Editor Paul Riario to see what it could do when cranked through a Marshall half-stack. To no one’s surprise, the Viper didn’t disappoint.
Whether playing clean, shimmering arpeggios, distorted chords and riffs or high-gain, sustain-filled leads, the Viper is, Paul says, “a real stunner.” And it looks great, to boot, with Paul’s example boasting a highly figured flame maple top (quilted is also available) in an elegant see-through purple finish. “It’s beautiful all around,” he notes.
Other features include a mahogany body with a set-through neck and a 24 3/4-inch scale. The neck itself is a three-piece mahogany design with a Thin U profile and a two-way adjustable truss rod with carbon fiber reinforcements for strength and stability, and it’s topped with a bound ebony fingerboard with mother of pearl Split Flag inlays and 22 extra jumbo Jescar stainless steel frets.
It’s a neck-and-fingerboard combination that is “really comfortable,” Paul says. “Just fluid the whole way from first fret to the last.”
Pickups, meanwhile, are a pair of Seymour Duncan active humbuckers controlled by single volume and tone knobs and a three-way selector switch. A cool feature here, Paul points out, is the metal enclosure on the back of the guitar’s body that houses the battery for the active pickups. “Just a simple pull allows you to access and change the battery,” he says.
The Viper is topped off with Sperzel Trim-Lok tuners, a TonePros Locking TOM bridge and tailpiece, Dunlop locking strap buttons and gold hardware. And it comes fitted in a high-quality ESP USA form-fitting hardshell case.
“"The quality on this guitar is unlike anything I've seen – it's impeccable," Paul says. And, he adds, “As far as craftsmanship being top of the line and the set up, this guitar actually plays itself.”
What more could you ask for in a premium instrument?
For more information on the USA Viper, head to ESP.