ESP: Telecaster Style With a Twist

(john Gorbe | Posted 2011-03-23)

ESP: Telecaster Style With a Twist

The Fender Telecaster is a timeless shape and design dating back a good 60 years, and the design has been imitated by many companies attempting to recapture its magic while adding something unique to the legendary instrument. My time spent with ESPís TE-202 validated for me that ESP is setting themselves apart from these other companies.

ESP began their journey in 1975 in Japan as a custom replacement parts company. In 1976, ESP also began crafting guitars under the ESP and Navigator brand in the Japanese market. ESP began crafting custom instruments for local New York artists between 1984 and 1985. Among these artists were: Vernon Reid, Ronnie Wood, Vinnie Vincent, and Bruce Kulick. The also launched their 400 series as the first production line distributed in the States.

Fast-forward to 2011 Ė ESP is now based out of North Hollywood, California and is ranked among the most popular guitar companies in the world.

I was able to sit down with their new TE-202 model last week and set it through itís paces. I received my TE-202 Rosewood model from Patís Music Center in Bensalem, Pa. Letís go over the features first and then my opinions about this guitar.

The TE-202 Rosewood features an alder body mated to a bolt-on maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard, Thin U Neck Contour, 22 extra jumbo frets, nickel hardware, ESP tuners, traditional flat-mount bridge, ESP LTS-120 bridge pickup, LH-150 neck pickup, 3-way switch, master volume, master tone, and a distressed 3-tone burst finish.

I played this guitar for approximately 6 hours off and on. I found the guitar to be light and very comfortable in my hands. I appreciated the Thin U Neck Contour, which was a big factor in the comfort department. This is great for long gigs when fatigue could set in. I also noticed that the instrument was well balanced allowing me to focus on my playing and not constantly applying upward pressure on the neck to snap it back into playing position. I attribute part of this due to the headstock shape. In addition to its good stream-line looks it provides functionality as well!

Tuning the guitar was fairly simple, although the tuners at times felt slightly sloppy and while turning they didnít reflect the actual tension I was applying to the string. I would most likely upgrade these tuners anyway since Iím a big believer in locking tuners but this wouldnít be a huge issue to ponder on if I were deciding to purchase the guitar.

The guitar looks great if youíre into the distressed look. Itís really well done and I really appreciated the simple nickel hardware appearance. This combination of features made it look very worn but also rich.

Overall, the TE-202 felt great in my hands. Bending was easily achieved in all frets with no fretting out. The extra jumbo frets may have had something to do with this. These frets felt very smooth and well dressed across the entire range of the fingerboard. I also liked the distressed treatment on the neck Ė it wasnít overly done and allowed my thumb to glide smoothly across the fingerboard.

What I liked most about the TE-2-2 Rosewood was that it had a nice warm sound in the neck and a nice ďTele-twangĒ in the bridge. This guitar is available with a maple fingerboard, which I suspect would have a more bright and snappy sound. Personally, I liked the Rosewood with the Humbucker. This made for a warmer sound when I wanted it, which is tough to get on a standard Telecaster.

On a clean setting I enjoyed the mix of both pickups together as this setting created a nice punchy sound with a fair amount of mid-range. I was able to articulate a lot of picking nuances with this setting and enjoyed how it amplified the subtleties of my picking style. The bridge setting, to my ear was that of a classic Telecaster sound that has been heard for years in Country and even funk styles.

Adding some overdrive made these pickups come alive a bit and I found them to be quite punchy and full. My favorite pickup combinations for a dirty sound were the neck and neck/bridge mix. Using the bridge only was a little thin and made we want a little more beef in my sound. Both pickups work really well together here and I could leave this setting without touching the controls and be happy!

The volume control was fairly musical and worked in a gradual manner and not like an on/off switch. I like the wider range of control when I want to clean up my sound or make it dirtier by riding my volume. I also like to execute volume swells and this guitar is set up pretty well for that. In this price range you canít for a wider range volume pot.

The Bottom Liner
The ESP TE-2-2 Rosewood lists for $349. Let me write that againÖ$349. You get versatile sound, decent quality craftsmanship and a great feeling guitar for little money here. I have to give the TE-202 Rosewood a thumbs up and would recommend it if youíre looking for a backup guitar or looking for a first guitar.

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