The luthiers at the ESP Custom Shop in Japan have gone all out with their designs for the 2021 ESP Exhibition Limited Series, utilizing special tonewoods, custom-crafted hardware, unique aesthetic materials, and pretty much all their creative juices. The following are our eight favorites. While the commentary is of course snarky as hell, it should be noted that even given 100 years I couldn’t come within the same universe as this level of craftsmanship.
If you like these guitars but don’t want such WILD custom designs, many of these have more, ahem, down-to-earth versions available on Sweetwater.
The EX21-02 SNAPPER-CTM features a flamed koa top and back drop top, mahogany body center, flamed maple neck, flamed maple fingerboard with koa binding, and Seymour Duncan SSL52 & JB/Custom Hybrid pickups with custom wood covers. It’s currently available at Davis Guitar Singapore.
This thing looks like a turtle melted from the headstock down into the body of a stratocaster. They don’t totally go together all that well, but the final product certainly is unique. I’d expect to see this thing on stage at a really high-end jam band concert, likely in the hands of Jake Cinninger or Trey Anastasio.
EX21-06 THROBBER-CTM FL
The EX21-06 THROBBER-CTM FL features stabilized pink resin buckeye burl drop top, Honduran mahogany body, sandblasted mahogany neck, a black & white ebony fingerboard, and Seymour Duncan Psyclone pickups. It’s currently available at Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center.
It kinda looks like a Gretsch took way too much acid and went on a trip that started off well enough, but then got real bad. Unfortunately, the Gretsch tripped so hard it mutated into an almost-Telecaster, where it much now reside for all eternity.
EX21-21 STREAM-GT CTM
The EX21-21 STREAM-GT CTM features a quilted maple top/back with see-thru black and red finish, jasper center, birds eye maple neck, ebony fingerboard, and EMG 66/EMG57 active pickups. It’s currently not available anywhere, so now is your chance!
To me it looks like it can’t decide whether it should be pumping out power metal riffs or melodic death metal riffs, so it landed somewhere in between. Since it’s available, maybe one of the dudes from Insomnium can grab it if they’re looking to start a Dragonforce cover band? Or the other way around?
EX21-36 FRX-CTM-FT NT
The EX21-36FRX-CTM-FT NT features stabilized multicolor Resin Works buckeye burl with a blackboard top, roasted ash body, rosewood neck, macassar ebony fingerboard, and Bare Knuckle Cold Sweat pickups. It’s currently available at Sea Fortune, Taiwan.
On one hand, I feel like Aaron Marshall is already trying to buy the EX21-36FRX-CTM-FT NT. On the other hand, I feel like this one is going to show up in a Periphery music video eventually. It has that “Instagram neo-soul dude” vibe to it, but in a heavier way.
EX21-40 HORIZON-CTM NT
The EX21-40 HORIZON-CTM NT features a hinoki top in colorful wood tiles with Honduran rosewood binding, Honduran mahogany body, birds eye maple neck, cocobolo fingerboard, and Seymour Duncan Black Winter pickups with custom wood covers It’s currently available at Wolf Music Company.
The EX21-40 HORIZON-CTM NT looks like a J.R. Slattum painting listening to more Tool than a J.R. Slattum painting normally does, or Van Gogh’s Starry Night broke apart into a vat of Coca Cola. Either way, the EX21-40 HORIZON-CTM NT is trippy in a subtle way.
EX21-42 MYSTIQUE-CTM NT
The EX21-42 MYSTIQUE-CTM NT features a claro Walnut top with gold leaf graphic, claro Walnut body back with Honduran mahogany center, rosewood neck, macassar ebony fingerboard, and Seymour Duncan ‘59/JB pickups with custom wood covers. It’s currently available at Ikebe Shibuya, Japan.
“Regal as hell” is the first phrase that comes to mind when I look at the EX21-42 MYSTIQUE-CTM NT. I fully expect this guitar to talk circles around me and while I know it’s trying to make me feel dumb, I’m too dumb to understand why. It’s a snooty one, but still – regal as hell.
EX21-25 PROTOTYPE BASS-5
The EX21-25 PROTOTYPE BASS-5 features a Hinoki top in braided woodwork, walnut body, manilkara multi-laminated neck, persimmon fingerboard, and Aguilar 5SD-D2 pickups with custom wood covers. It’s currently not sold, but you might have to fight me personally for it.
I can’t decide if the EX21-25 PROTOTYPE BASS-5 looks like an abstract version of a Gucci bag or the flooring pattern at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. I also feel like this bass should come with a tropical drink of some sort. The more I’m talking about it, the more I actually want this thing.
EX21-28 PROTOTYPE BASS-6
The EX21-28 PROTOTYPE BASS-6 features a macassar ebony top, swamp ash body, flamed maple multi-laminated neck, macassar ebony fingerboard, and Aguilar 6SD-D4 pickups with custom wood covers. It’s currently available through Guitar Center, which is surprising.
The EX21-28 PROTOTYPE BASS-6 looks… surprisingly normal? Like something you’d see in the store and know it costs way more than a down payment on a decent car, but its look wouldn’t be a shock to your system. This is a nice bass.
Check out the full line of 2021 ESP Custom Shop instruments and where to buy them from here.