Most modern baritone guitars are designed with heavy metal guitarists in mind.
And the ESP LTD Viper-201B is no exception.
But it has something most metal-oriented baritone models do not: a low price tag.
This is a true budget instrument, but one that does not cut corners on quality. What you get here is amazing value.
Does that mean you should go out and buy this guitar right away?
Perhaps. But it is not right for everyone. If you are a metal guitarist on a budget, especially a lead guitarist, this instrument is for you.
Anyone else may be better off with a different option. Read the rest of this review to find out.
Table of Contents
ESP LTD Viper-201B Review: Overview And Features
Baritone guitars enable musicians to cover those bottom-end territories without making their strings feel like rubber. With elongated necks and thus longer scale lengths, these guitars are primarily popular among metal musicians. After all, we all know how much they love lower tunings, right?
And the ESP LTD Viper 201B was designed with metal musicians in mind. Just like every other guitar in the Viper series, it bears a modified version of the classic Gibson double-cutaway SG body shape. They even named this shape the Viper.
It’s not just the look. The pickups, the mahogany body, the great ergonomic features that make it super useful for playing in the higher fret areas. They all make this a heavy metal monster. And you know it’s great value, coming from LTD, ESP’s budget subsidiary and one of the top Japanese guitar brands for heavy metal.
- Classic ESP LTD Viper body shape that resembles the Gibson SG
- Tune-o-matic bridge
- Mahogany body
- 3-piece maple neck with “Thin U” profile
- Set-neck construction
- 27-inch scale length
- Roasted jatoba fretboard with 24 extra-jumbo frets
- Two ESP humbuckers
- Controls for volume, tone, and pickup selection
Design And Construction
The lower horn on the Viper goes a bit deeper than the upper one, making it easier to access higher frets. What’s really exciting, especially considering the low price, is that it has a set-neck body and neck construction. This not only makes it more comfortable when playing in the higher frets, but also adds more sustain to the guitar’s tone.
The body is made of mahogany while the neck is a 3-piece made from maple. On top of the neck is a nice roasted jatoba fretboard with 24 extra-jumbo frets.
Being a baritone guitar, the 201B has a scale length of 27 inches, which is standard on these instruments. The guitar comes with a black finish (and no other options), which looks super stylish, especially in combination with the great-looking fretboard and the amazing inlays.
The hardware on it is pretty decent, especially for the price. It has the standard tune-o-matic bridge and LTD’s tuning machines, both of which are painted black just like the guitar.
As far as the pickups go, it has two ESP stock humbuckers, the LH-150N in the neck position and the LH-150B in the bridge position. They are fairly versatile and could accommodate numerous musical styles.
But the main focus is on heavier music, and these pickups are great for those lower tunings. They come with the standard controls for volume and tone, along with a simple 3-way pickup selector switch.
Advantages And Disadvantages
- Comfortable neck and easy access to higher frets
- Great-sounding pickups, especially useful for heavier tones
- Well-worth the money
- Very stylish design
- Reliable, hardware and design keep the tuning stable
- Not as versatile as you might hope
ESP LTD Viper-201B Vs. Gretsch G5260
As mentioned, baritone guitars are mostly associated with metal music these days. Most metal lovers are really into those chugging high-gain heavy riffs that you hear in songs played with a baritone guitar.
However, there are musicians in other genres that would like to have an option to cover those low-end territories as well. This goes for blues, jazz, and even classic rock, surf rock or rockabilly music.
The Viper 201B is not for them. But the Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet could be. Let’s compare these two instruments.
The Gretsch has a few interesting traits and features. First off, it has a modified Les Paul shape that the company refers to as the Jet. The finish really stands out, too, especially with several nice touches like the binding on both the neck and body.
It’s all rounded out with a very peculiar stopbar. Sure, it has the classic tune-o-matic bridge, but its stopbar has a “V” shape. It fits in perfectly with its other design features and gives off some of those old school vintage 1950s vibes.
Of course, this is not a vintage guitar. It has a number of modern traits and features. First off, it has a scale length of 29.75 inches, which is noticeably longer than the Viper. It makes lower tunings more stable and even thicker string gauges feel good.
While the controls are pretty much the same, the G5260 uses different kinds of pickups. They are also humbuckers, but the Gretsch Mini pickups are oriented more towards classic rock or blues territories.
Of course, they can also do some nice stuff on higher-gain settings, especially with tube amps or fuzz pedals. But you can’t expect the tone to be as tight as what you’d get with the Viper-201B. Additionally, the Viper has much easier access to higher frets.
The Viper is clearly the better choice for metal players, especially lead guitarists. The Gretsch G5260 is a significantly different guitar than the ESP LTD Viper-201B. Neither is better or worse, they’re just designed for different musical styles.
That said, the Viper is noticeably cheaper, which is actually a real surprise, since it has a set-neck construction. On the other hand, the Gretsch has a significantly longer scale length, which makes it really useful for even the lowest possible tunings.
Read more about it in our full review of the Gretsch G5260.
ESP LTD Viper-201B: Conclusion And Rating
To put it simply, the ESP LTD Viper-201B is an amazing guitar for metal music. It has a longer scale length, making it useful for lower tunings, and it has some inventive ergonomic features that are really great for lead players.
But the most striking thing for us was the set-neck construction, along with a 3-piece maple neck. You don’t usually find this with guitars that are in this price range, especially not with cheaper baritone guitars.
If you’re into metal music and need something reliable, affordable, and very effective for lower tunings and lead sections, then this is the perfect baritone guitar for you.
Of course, it is a little more basic than top baritone guitars. That should come as no surprise given the budget price. But the amazing value you get here propels this instrument to a Musicaroo rating of 4.6 out of 5.