I originally wrote this review on October 24, 2007 when my son was playing it every day… It was a great instrument. I still think these are great beginner’s instruments and are a good introduction to the look and feel of an ESP or LTD.
ESP LTD M-100FM/M-100/M100FM Review
Sometimes a guitar player just needs the rock-solid tuning of a locking nut combined with either a Floyd Rose tremolo or a Licensed Floyd Rose tremolo. With these little combinations of metal strapped to your axe, you can pull and push to your heart’s content – and the guitar stays pretty much in tune.
Also, I’m a guitar nut. I like most guitars and guitar shapes (haven’t warmed up to the angular and heavy-handed BC Rich stuff, yet). One of my functional favorites is the venerable Stratocaster shape. There’s only one Strat, but it has spawned many different (and very similar) guitar shapes over the years. It would be really nice to have an affordable (read: not $399-$500) Stratocaster with a locking nut and Floyd Rose. One can purchase Fender’s version of the Floyd on older, (USA- and Japanese-made) Strats. However, they do tend to bring fairly good prices (lots of folks want a Strat with a Floyd). Bear in mind that I am not comparing, nor will I in the near future attempt to compare a Fender to an ESP in my reviews. I am just using the Fender as a point of common reference.
So what are our alternatives? There are a few in the sub-$300 market, but not many.
One such alternative is the ESP LTD M-100. The current iteration, the M-100FM (flamed maple), is a wonderful choice and an excellent intermediate guitar. (Although my son is an advanced player, this guitar is actually one of his favorites, so don’t let the “intermediate” term fool you.)
The M-100 also makes for an excellent modifiable instrument – one that can be bent to the player’s needs in a great many way. I REALLY like this instrument (and hope to buy one someday). I think most players who seek great tremolo work and locking tuning will find this instrument to be top-notch at a low price!
Quick Opinion: In a few short words? If you want a Floyd, a locking nut, a comfortable Strat-type shape, and awesome build quality, the M-100FM is a bargain and a dream to play.
Buy one. I bought one for my son (Awesome!), and I will buy one for myself at some point in the future. ESP, you are on my list of favorites now.
Modding: The M-100FM uses a 3-position blade switch. With this type of switch slot and a two-humbucker configuration, the guitar just screams for some interesting pickup combinations! If 4-wire/coil-tappable pickups are installed after purchase, and a Fender 5-way super-switch (also a nice one from DiMarzio with the same blade type and connection terminals) – you can get the standard three positions of humbuckers, plus two different coil taps. Awesome sounding, flexible, no cutting or permanent modifications required.
I like the LH-150 open-face pickups that came in the guitar – for the money, they sound fine and have a broad range of harmonics for heavier music, pinch harmonics/pinch squeals, and other high-gain effects. However, the pickups are easily upgradeable to some pretty spectacular options. Some DiMarzio humbuckers, Seymour Duncan Humbuckers, and even some Gibson humbuckers make for great replacements for tailoring sounds to your needs. If you want to go for the coil-tapping modification, modern DiMarzios and Seymours are already 4-lead. You can get a professional to turn your 2-lead Gibson/Epiphone pickup to a 4-lead for a minimal amount of money: Imagine a coil-tappable, Gibson PAF sound in a Floyd Rose-enabled comfortable double cutaway guitar! Some of the above pickup choices may make it such that the poles don’t quite line up with the strings, but the differences in sound make the offsets quite forgivable.
We modded my son’s M-100FM with a fairly hot GFS PAF on the neck position and a really awesome Gibson 490T from a 2002 SG – both with chrome/nickel covers. It looks good and sounds fantastic.
Playability: Once strings are installed and tuned, the playability is excellent. The neck is of the slightly thin variety (not paper thin like a Randy Rhodes, but thinner than the average Epiphone or Fender Stratocaster). Access to all 24 frets is a breeze, with the 5th and 6th strings being a bit difficult (as is always true with this particular body design type). The relatively flat profile is consistently-done and is quite comfortable.
I really like the weight and balance of the guitar. The body is light and is generally equally balanced to the maple-and rosewood fretboard. When I use one of my nice 2″ guitar straps with my son’s M-100FM, I can play for hours before I start to feel the guitar’s weight. Although the sound is not relative to a Les Paul/Firebird/Explorer’s heavy-body ever-lasting sustains, there is a great balance between weight and sustain.
The Licensed Floyd Rose tremolo works like a charm, is comfortable, and does its job with great aplomb. I added a fourth spring to the tremolo claw to help with keeping the trem unit flatter to the body. Since my son plays harder and thicker strings, the tremolo tended to pull up too much with just three springs. As a result, the trem does take more effort, but it is also more controllable and less wobbly when doing finely actuated whammies.
Features: The ESP LTD M-100FM guitar is a simple guitar – as most of this variety are. But don’t let the simplicity fool you.
The bolt-on neck is great, the two-humbucker and 3-way blade switch combination are excellent, and the licensed Floyd Rose trem system and locking nut are flawlessly executed.
Unlike some cheaper copies of this type of guitar, the M-100 has a counter-sink cut in the tail of the body to accommodate “pulling up on the whammy” in a significant way. This is not a guitar that has just had a Floyd bolted on for the sake of the feature alone. The set-up is excellent.
The body coating is a durable urethane/clear finish over a quilted (cap?) body with dark red or black stain underneath. The effect is beautiful – particularly with the spartan switch-and-two-knob configuration. The knobs are the simple, non-tapping, 1 tone and 1 volume variety.
I love the reversed headstock (longer low strings, shorter high strings). The tuners are fine and seem to be fairly precise, and the look is neat and attractive.
Quality: My son’s M-100FM is very well-made so far as finish and fit are concerned. The clearcoat-on-stain is a mile deep in looks, and is glossier than fresh black glass. The neck is consistent, well-shaped, and fits to the body like a glove.
Like many Korean (and other southeast-Asian) manufactures, the wiring and soldering isn’t as nice as the American stuff. The potentiometers are fairly cheap, too. There is only a minimal amount of shielding present in the body and covers. Some simple ROHS-compliant spray or metal linings would be great (and not too expensive to execute, I’d wager).
I love the way this guitar is put together. Very easy to expand, and most of everything is fairly accessible underneath the pickups and in the rear cavities (trem box and controls box).
Sound: The standard pups sound quite good (well above average for a guitar in this price range that has so many other features – pickups in most less expensive guitars are usually sacrificed along with cheap tuners – this one’s pretty good). The bolt-on neck is well-executed, so the sustainability is very good.
Overall, I like the way this guitar sounds at this price point.. If I were on an extremely limited budget and could not afford to mod this guitar, I would find that it would be perfect for heavier, overdriven, and/or distorted music. If you drop it through an all-tube, class-A amplifier with some serious watts, you’ll need better pickups.
Value: This guitar has a street value of about $325 – just over what they cost new through most retailers. Interestingly enough, VERY few of them come on the secondary used market (like eBay, Craigslist, and such). It appears that most people find their M-100FMs to be real keepers!
In my opinion, this guitar could easily be sold at a street price of $329, so I think it is a great value. These are great guitars as primary dive-bombers or as a great guitar library member – well worth the money and well worth keeping.
Wishes: More colors, please – perhaps white or antique white? Also, I’d like the option of a maple fretboard (WOW. A transparent black flamed-maple body or transparent antique white with a maple fretboard would absolutely ROCK (like on the MH-103)!).
ESP, I NEED ONE OF THESE or one of the MH-103s for my most recent album projects! (Hint hint hint hint hint hint) I like the red or the black just fine, thanks! 😉 Are you folks listening? 🙂