The Horizon NT-7B is simply one of the best baritone 7-strings in its price range.
After having dreamed of owning an ESP Horizon 7 for a while, I finally ended up buying a used FR-7 for a great price locally in 2017. It was an immaculate instrument and played super well, but the standard scale neck with the glossy finish was just not for me.
So I ended up selling it and this one soon caught my eye: The Horizon NT-7B had finally been upgraded from a TOM bridge to a fixed Hipshot and for 2019, ESP even replaced the soapbar-sized pickups with covered, passive-sized EMGs.
I was lucky to ink an artist deal with ESP Guitars recently and the E-II Horizon NT-7B was the first guitar I chose for my Nightmarer arsenal – not to mention, just in time for tour. So I was really able to put this guitar to the test.
- Alder Body Wings
- Black Satin Finish
- 27″ 3P Maple Neck-Thru
- Ebony Fretboard
- 24 XJ frets
- Hipshot Bridge
- Gotoh Locking Tuners
- EMG 81-7 (Bridge)
- EMG 85-7 (Neck)
- Schaller StrapLocks
- Form-Fit Case
I could have chosen between three different finishes for the NT-7B: Purple sparkle, snow white and black satin. I went for the black one, despite the fact that solid black satin finishes don’t generally excite me all that much. But it still seemed to be the best match for me.
It looks pretty damn stealthy in person. It’s not as balls to the wall-black as the LTD Black Metal Series – the pearl white neck- and headstock-binding add some pop and classiness to it. An additional body binding would have been a nice touch, too.
The offset block inlays offer a bold contrast to the pitch black ebony fretboard. They match the pearl white binding and definitely look way cooler than boring center dots. I could do without the big, 12th fret ESP block inlay, though.
My favorite feature of this guitar is, without a doubt, the headstock. It looks like the blade of a knife! I generally find the regular orientation of the ESP headstock even more sharp looking, but the reversed has grown on me tremendously in the flesh.
Besides all that, the E-II NT-7B just oozes high end quality from every single angle. The attention to detail is impressive, the frets have been polished up to a nice shine and the hardware and electronics are all obviously rock solid.
I asked the guys at ESP to pick the lightest NT-7B out of their stock, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t somewhat hefty regardless. It weighs just under 4kg (just over 8lbs), which is about the maximum of what I’d consider a comfortable weight.
The neck is a bit more substantial than what I’m used to, but I adjusted to the thin U profile in no time. The guitar has what I like to refer to as the “ESP plug & play feel” and the super low action and perfect fretwork certainly add to that.
Right before the tour, I went to the ESP USA headquarters and was honored to have this guitar set up all over again by the tech who does the setups for James Hetfield’s and Kirk Hammet’s ESPs before they leave the HQ. And he definitely nailed it!
My NT-7B is currently tuned to F standard, so basically a half step down from standard 8-string tuning. I use .74 gauge strings for the F and they usually feel a bit loose on 27″ scale guitars, but I prefer their tone and feel over even heavier gauges.
In the past, I always found myself thinking “man, I wish I had a 28″ scale 7-string”, but not this time around. I don’t know what kind of sorcery this is, but the .74 feels absolutely perfect on this guitar. It’s tight and snappy!
The only actual design flaw I could find on this instrument was the position of the volume knob. I hit it with my pinky quite a bit, so I had it moved to the tone position when I swapped the pickups. More on those below…
Besides the fact that I’m not really a fan of the regular EMG 81-7, the massive tone of this guitar is just undeniable straight out of the box. But I ended up going on a bit of journey and tested a bunch of different pickups in the NT-7B.
First, I tried the EMG 57-7, which definitely sounded a lot more dynamic than the 81-7. But I’d say this pickup is made for tunings no lower than B or A and definitely lacks the tight response and aggressive attack my low F tuning calls for.
I installed an EMG 81-7X up next and it seemed to be the perfect middle ground between the two other EMGs. The X is like a more passive feeling version of the 81-7, with increased headroom and dynamics.
I ended up taking the guitar on tour with it installed and was satisfied with the results, but the other Horizon NT-7B I brought comes with a set of Fishman Fluence Moderns and simply sounds even better live and in the studio.
So I wanted to give another Fishman set a shot and got my hands on the Keith Merrow custom set. They are most definitely superior to any of the EMGs in terms of dynamics and tone. And there is a harshness to the EMGs that the Fishmans simply don’t have.
In any case, this E-II sounds exactly like you’d want a Metal guitar to sound: Big and angry with a razor sharp bite. I decided to do a little extra work this time around and recorded several clips with every pickup I have tried in this guitar:
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Out of all the different ESP-branded guitars I have tried and even owned, the NT-7B is definitely my favorite model so far! The only real flaw I could find on it is the volume knob location. The stock pickups are not ideal for me either, but that’s subjective and an easy fix.
I know there are some confusions and speculations out there regarding the quality of the E-II series, but as someone who has owned an ESP Standard Series Horizon 7, reviewed an E-II T-B7 and now owns this, let me tell you that they are easily on par.
In all honesty, I feel like the E-II is even better. The fact that the specs of the NT-7B are a better fit for me might have an influence on this impression, but this really is a top notch instrument with no quality cutbacks whatsoever.
And it’s a road warrior for sure. The guitar feels indestructible and plays effortlessly live. The slightly higher weight didn’t end up being an issue for me and the guitar balanced out very well on the wide strap I was using.
This Horizon 7 is proof that ESP are currently leading the pack of Japanese-made guitars in the $2000 price range. It plays insanely well, sounds nothing short of crushing and looks nice and stealthy! Try not to get stabbed by that headstock on your way out…