Editor's Rating

Traditional shape with modern features: The E-II T-B7 is a stealthy rhythm monster.

8
Looks
9
Quality
8
Playability
7
Sound
8
Price

Ever since seeing Stephen Carpenter play a white ESP Tele-shaped 7-string in the Deftones video for ‘Hole in the Earth’, I’ve been lusting for one. It may have ignited my love for the Telecaster shape entirely, to be quite honest.

It took ESP several years to release an ESP and LTD production model, both of which were debuted at NAMM 2013. Yes, they were available as ESP custom shop models in the years prior to that, but not with a baritone scale neck and, unfortunately (to this day), not in white.

ESP re-branded their lineup in the meantime and started the E-II series, which replaced the ESP standard line as we knew it. Under this new banner, they released the T-B7 – a non-signature version of the otherwise almost virtually identical Steph Carpenter model. And we’re trying one today!

The Specs

  • Alder body
  • Black satin finish
  • Pickguard
  • 27″ 3P bolt-on Maple neck
  • Ebony fretboard
  • 24 XJ frets
  • Bone nut
  • Tonepros locking TOM bridge
  • Gotoh Locking Tuners
  • Schaller Straplocks
  • EMG 81-7 bridge humbucker
  • EMG 707 neck humbucker

Impressions

The E-II T-B7 is available in two finishes – matte white and matte black. I am opening the ESP case to find the latter in front of me. And even though I still think the white T-7 from the ‘Hole in the Earth’ video is the most appealing looking one they ever built, the matte black E-II really does look like a stealthy mean machine.

It combines traditional and contemporary design elements seamlessly. Because while the body- and pickguard- shape is absolutely that of a classic Telecaster, the black on black look of this T-B7 is anything but. It’s almost funny how many shades of black E-II managed to use for this guitar.

Let’s see: We got the matte black finish, a black pickguard, a pitch black ebony fretboard with no more than a 12th fret inlay and black hardware. E-II even darkened the classy pearl binding and it’s more charcoal rather than your usual pearl white.

The headstock continues the great combination of classic and modern design elements, they really nailed it with this one. It’s very sleek, but still has a little bit of Fender DNA in it.

The Playability

The moment you pick this guitar up, the weight will definitely strike you. This is one heavy guitar! I noticed the same when trying both Stephen Carpenter signature models and I think it’s what initially turned me off of the guitar.

I simply prefer light-weight guitars, but this E-II is a tank. On the other hand, it makes it feel indestructible. This is probably the most solid feeling guitar I ever held in my hands. The phrase “solid as a rock” becomes a whole new meaning when holding this guitar.

On top of that, I have to  say that the neck is quite chunky. I really didn’t expect that, because according to its spec sheet, it’s also ESP’s “thin U” shape – one that I am familiar with, thanks to my own ESP Horizon 7-string. But the T-B7’s neck is noticeably different and I did not expect that, given the guitar’s Metal aesthetics.

The factory setup is so flawless that the somewhat hefty neck profile doesn’t even bother me, though. The action is low and free of buzz… and I was surprised to find the guitar was set up to drop G#. I guess E-II know their audience?!

So despite the neck profile taking some getting used to, the T-B7 still gives you that typical ESP plug & play feel that I love so much about this brand. You can take this guitar straight out of the box and on stage – and it will perform and feel immediately familiar.

The Sound

And the sound has that same familiar feel! When I hear ESP, I think Seymour Duncan or ESP. You all know I always prefer passive pickups, but the EMG 81-7 sounds pretty damn solid in the E-II. The low end growl is clear, aggressive and is perfect for modern Metal sounds with lots of gain.

You will obviously deal with the typical EMG compression when you’re playing bigger chords, but single notes and power chords sound absolutely brutal in the T-B7, especially in the lower registers. Color me surprised, I’m liking it!

Here are two clips for you:

The Verdict

The E-II T-B7 is the very definition of solid as a rock! The build quality is flawless – I didn’t expect anything else from an ESP built in Japan, despite the different logo on the headstock. And of course it has the beloved ESP plug & play feel straight out of the box, so you can’t really go wrong.

On top of that, you get a beautifully designed instrument that is a perfect middle ground of a traditional shape with contemporary features. For a Telecaster, the T-B7 definitely looks very “Metal”, but I really think it’s a great look for this instrument.

My only gripes with the guitar are the hefty weight and the chunky neck, although I gotta say that I grew accustomed to the latter rather quick. It’s not an uncomfortable profile, so it’s not like the guitar is hard to play because of it.

But just like the E-II’s sound, it makes this instrument feel like a rhythm guitar first and foremost. So if you’re a rhythm guitarist who is looking for a high quality instrument and loves traditional over the typical super strat 7-string shapes, you should check out the T-B7 for sure!

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