ESP LTD EC-401 Electric Guitar Review | A Cut Above Other Guitars

ESP LTD EC 401 Electric Guitar Review

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The ESP LTD EC-401 is an affordable Electric guitar with professional grade quality.

I have owned one of these guitars since the year 2017. It has been my workhorse and one of my primary teaching guitars ever since that time. 

ESP LTD EC-401 review at a glance

I will tell you right off the bat that I absolutely love the ESP LTD EC-401.

This guitar has the same build quality as many of the higher-end guitars I have played. The hardware is fantastic for how affordable the guitar is, and the tonal quality of the guitar is acceptable for both clean tones and dirty tones but certainly caters towards rock centric styles.

I’d definitely recommend this guitar to anyone looking for an affordable mid-range guitar for rock, metal, and blues. 

You can see my LTD EC-401VF in action in this YouTube Guitar Lesson about metal guitar techniques.

ESP LTD EC-401 Features 

Because I have owned one of these guitars for over 7 years at the time of writing this, you can bet that I am very familiar with the ESP LTD EC-401 features.

Guitar body and neck

The guitar’s body is a typical single cutaway made from mahogany and is extremely comfortable to hold. Sure, the guitar is heavy, but that just means durability to me, baby!

As for the neck, the neck on my ESP LTD EC-401VF is lacquered, and I assume the neck is lacquered on other models of the guitar as well.

I generally am not a big fan of lacquered necks,  but LTD knows how to do a lacquered neck properly! Seriously, this neck plays as if It was just bare wood. 

As for the neck, the neck is a set neck, which makes it very easy to access those upper frets, which I do often as a lead guitar player.

This also is far more comfortable to me than a  bolt-on guitar neck, but that is purely preference of course.

Fretboard and frets

As for the fretboard and frets on the ESP LTD EC-401, they play just fine! My frets were not sharp at all,  and the rosewood fretboard delivers like a dream! 

My primary Axe has an ebony fretboard, and it’s difficult for me to find Rosewood fretboards that resonate with me, but ESP LTD makes them feel great! 

On top of playing great, the fretboard’s abalone markers look fantastic! I regularly get compliments from my friends, family, and my wife on how incredible the fretboard looks.


As for the pickups on the ESP LTD EC-401,  I got the VF model (ESP LTD EC-401 VF), Which has Seymour Duncan pickups.

The modern models have EMG 60 and EMG 81 pickups. Even though this is not the model that I own, I  have played this model at the local guitar store where I taught for many years, and I can tell you that the EMG  60 and 81 pickups probably sound exactly like you expect EMG’s to sound.

That’s right, you probably won’t be playing any jazz on this bad boy, but you can certainly get some crispy, crunchy rock and metal guitar tones from these active EMG pickups. 

In fact, these pickups are so good that James Hetfield uses them!

Of course, you’ll want the right guitar amp to compliment it,  such as a Blackstar. I personally like to use it with the Blackstar Fly 3, which is one of the best portable mini amps.

The Blackstar ID Core V3 is another consideration, and is one of the most versatile practice amps.

But yeah, EMG pickups if you don’t know, are very high output and are great for metal and rock. But at the end of the day, a lot of your tone comes down to your guitar amp.

Bridge and Tuning Machines

As for the bridge and  tuning machines, well, I got a B stock model of the guitar.

The good news is the guitar does stay in tune! The only real problem I had was my D string tuner is a little tight, but that’s okay because I love this guitar, and if I had a problem with it I could get the tuning peg replaced.

As for the bridge, it’s a typical tune-o-matic bridge, Which feels great for the right hand and definitely helps the guitar to hold its tuning.

Overall I highly doubt you will have a problem with the bridge and tuning machines on anESP LTD EC-401. 

Overall Build and Design Quality

For a metalhead like myself that loves affordable guitars and single cutaway designs, I can tell you that the overall build and design definitely exceeds expectations.

The body of this guitar is gorgeous and definitely gives other single cutaway guitars in the same price range a run for their money.

And yeah, the guitar is a little heavy, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve played or owned other guitars made of Mahogany or other heavy materials. 

Overall Tone and sound quality

The overall tone and sound quality is a solid 8.5 out of 10 for me.

It’s only missing that extra 1.5 because it’s obviously not going to be the greatest guitar for clean-tone genres.

However,  I’d give the tone and sound quality a solid 9.5 out of 10 for rock, metal, blues, and other genres that incorporate distortion and drive. 

Still, it’s missing that 0.5 because it only has a three-way selector Which means you may not be able to get all the sounds you desire due to limited pickup capabilities.

However,  if you love the high output, crisp tones that come from the EMG 81 and EMG 60, then you will love the sound of the ESP LTD EC-401.

On a related note, if you want to level up your metal guitar playing, check out these guitar scales for metal players.

And here’s a video of me playing some blues on the guitar.

ESP LTD EC-401 Pros and Cons


  • Set-neck
  • EMG 81 and EMG 60
  • Reliable Hardware
  • Gorgeous Mahogany Body


  • A little heavy
  • Pickups are active, which may be a con for some of you
  • Hardware is reliable, but still mid-grade

Final Verdict?

The LTD EC-401 is an affordable, professional-grade quality that’s comfortable and great for mid to high-gain genres.

ESP LTD EC-401 electric guitar review summary

To summarize, if you are looking for a comfortable, affordable, high-gain workhorse for rock or metal, then I definitely recommend the LTD EC-401

Just remember, the guitar has high-output EMGs that may not be suitable for every guitar player, but they are right for those of you looking to pack a high-output, high-volume punch!