ESP LTD EX Black Metal review

A solid high-gain monster with none of the frills but all of the thrills

LTD Black Metal EX
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Guitar World Verdict

The EX Black Metal is ideal for those who want to plug in and rock out with no messing around with tonal variation.


  • +

    No-nonsense format offering high-powered metal tones.

  • +

    The neck is a speedy ride.

  • +

    Locking tuners.

  • +

    Lightweight build.


  • -

    Some neck dive when played on a strap.

  • -

    Tuners are a bit cramped.

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Trends are cyclical and, broadly speaking, recent music and fashion tastes have been borrowing cues from 20 years previous. 

Case in point: black satin guitars are back. Or perhaps they’ve never been away, but recently they’ve caught this particular reviewer’s eye and brought back memories of the early Noughties when the black satin look was definitely in. 

Fast-forward to 2021, which saw LTD ushering in a new batch of stealthy numbers, bolstering its Black Metal range to a now plentiful 12 guitars. One of the company’s most striking silhouettes has to be the EX and ESP/LTD’s spikier-than-thou version of the Explorer, which makes its debut in the collection.

Equipped with a solitary EMG 81 and single volume control, the EX Black Metal is complemented by black metal hardware, including a tune-o-matic bridge and locking tuners. It all sets up what is bound to be a solid, no-frills, high-gain affair. It features a set-thru construction with a mahogany body, a three-piece maple neck and a Macassar ebony fingerboard.

LTD Black Metal EX

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

And while you’d be forgiven in thinking this could all add up to quite a weighty guitar, you’ll be very much mistaken. As were we when we took receipt of the EX Black Metal, thinking we’d been sent an empty box. This thing is super-light, weighing in at just 2.54kg/5.6lbs.

Of course, having such a lightweight body can come with its own issues, and while your back may thank you, the combination of the low mass and the upper strap button location means the neck just wants to nosedive while standing. 

The construction, overall, is solid and mirrored in the guitar’s sonic attributes. The EMG 81 is fixed and adds to the overall resonance. The 81 is well-known for its detail in the highs, while still delivering that weighty low-end required for metal.

The lack of moving parts adds to the guitar’s direct and solid feel. It allows you to get straight down to the business of big heavy riffage at great speed

The lack of moving parts adds to the guitar’s direct and solid feel. It allows you to get straight down to the business of big heavy riffage and at great speed, should the need take you. The neck is flat and on the wide side, so there's plenty of space for the big-handed folks out there, but not too big for smaller-digited types either. 

However, the locking-tuner spacing on the headstock is very tight and could frustrate some, though the addition of extra-jumbo frets is always welcome for those who want to rock a lower tuning with big string gauges.

While this guitar delivers a striking silhouette, all the blackness feels like it’s not too showy. The look is further complemented by the lack of inlays on the fretboard, although handy glow-in-the-dark dots adorn the side of the neck. 

Don’t be fooled by the supposed lack of features when compared to the price. This guitar is designed to shorten the distance between your riffs and the gain channel, making sure that they sound as precise as possible.


  • PRICE: $949 / £859
  • SCALE: 24.75”
  • BODY: Mahogany
  • NECK: 3Pc Maple
  • FINGERBOARD: Macassar Ebony
  • FINISH: Black Satin
  • NUT WIDTH: 42mm
  • NUT TYPE: Molded
  • FRETS: 22 XJ Stainless Steel
  • TUNERS: LTD Locking
  • BRIDGE: Tonepros Locking TOM and Tailpiece
  • PICKUP: EMG 81 with Black Logo
  • CONTROLS: Volume
  • CONTACT: ESP Guitars

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