|Body And Neck:|
Truth be told, finding a good budget electric guitar these days isn’t that difficult. Whether you’re looking for a traditional Strat, a Les Paul-style guitar, or something completely different, the choice you have for under $200 is pretty insane! Today’s featured guitar, the Viper-10 from ESP’s LTD, is an entry-level electric modeled on ESP’s higher-end Vipers – as used by the likes of Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest and Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen. Let’s see what this affordable model has to offer…
The best way to describe the Viper is like an SG that’s been hanging out with the metalheads for too long! This LTD version is no different, featuring the curvy asymmetrical double-cutaway body shape, covered in a jet-black finish. The body is made from a slab of solid basswood, so it’s comfortable and lightweight.
With a 24.75” scale length, the slim neck is a pleasure to play, especially considering the quality of some necks in this price range. You’ll find a thin U shape with a smooth satin finish, so speed is not a problem. The hardwood fretboard houses a full 24 extra jumbo frets, making string bending a breeze. Aside from the Viper 12th fret inlay marker, there is no extra decoration on this guitar – minimalist is the word of the day.
Things are pretty minimalist when it comes to the hardware too, which is not a bad thing at this price point. This axe is geared up for hard rock and similar genres, with two ESP-designed LH-100 passive humbuckers at the bridge and neck positions. These are tended to by a single master volume and master tone control, along with a three-way selector toggle in between.
The headstock sports a set of chrome sealed tuners in a 3+3 configuration, which keep the guitar in tune and are smooth to use. This is all bolstered by the fixed tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece at the other end. What it lacks in dive-bombing ability, this guitar makes up for in tuning stability and sustain! It also comes shipped with a basic but welcome gig bag, which is handy for storage.
As mentioned, the two LH-100 humbuckers suggest that the Viper-10 is a metal machine. Sure, the tone isn’t as powerful or articulate as something you would find on offer from one of the higher-end Vipers, but plug it in, crank up the distortion and you have a very decent guitar for rock and metal, while there is enough twang for blues. Power chords are thick and chunky, while lead playing is surprisingly fun, offering tones that sound on par with a $300 guitar. Genuinely – providing you aren’t planning to gig through a full stack – there are no problems with the sound of this baby.
Ultimately there is nothing ‘wow’ about the Viper-10. However, LTD has put a small budget to work here, doing the basics very well. It looks pretty cool, it plays well, it feels built to last, and sounds pretty great for something coming in at under $200. A very good buy for beginners and experienced players alike, as a few aftermarket mods would make this an awesome stage performer.