ESP Guitar Factory

In the guitar industry, ESP (Electric Sound Products) is synonymous with exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and great sound.

The inception of ESP dates back to 1975 in Tokyo, Japan.

Hisatake Shibuya opened Electric Sound Products (ESP), which provided custom guitar replacement parts. The company then began producing guitars under the ESP and Navigator brands for the Japanese market.

ESP parts were first introduced in the US in 1983, and between 1984 and 1985 the company began creating custom instruments for local New York City artists.

At this time, ESP introduced the 400 series, the first to be distributed in the US.

Over the past few decades, ESP has emerged as a reliable name for professionals, hobbyists, and aspiring guitarists alike. Their product range spans from affordable LTD models to high-end custom guitars.

Today ESP operates factories in both Japan and the United States, with two primary facilities in Tokyo and North Hollywood, California.

ESP Japan Factory: Tokyo

The home factory in Tokyo is where ESP’s journey began. It’s here that ESP’s high-end and custom guitars come to life, crafted by the hands of highly trained and passionate luthiers.

In June 1981, a factory was opened in the Toshima-ku district of Tokyo.

In March 1982, a manufacturing facility was opened in Nagoya.

In December of the same year, the ESP Crafts House was opened in Shibuya, Tokyo.

In April 1983, the “Japan Guitar Production Academy” was opened to train guitar manufacturing technicians and repair specialists.

In 1985, the Nagoya facility moved to Kiso, Nagano.

In April 1986, a factory with an area of ​​about 6,600 square meters opened in Sado-Ryotsu, Niigata.

In June 2008, the Tokyo facility relocated to Saitama Tokyo factory.

In September 2012, the Saitama Sado factory relocated to the new Tokyo second factory.

The process of manufacturing starts with selecting the perfect tonewoods for the guitar bodies and necks. ESP often uses mahogany, alder, ash, maple, and exotic woods like ebony, depending upon the specific sound characteristics they aim to achieve.

The wood is carefully shaped into guitar bodies and necks using advanced CNC machines. But the work doesn’t end there. The raw cut bodies are sanded and smoothed by hand, ensuring a perfect finish. ESP’s dedication to handwork shines through in the finishings of their guitars. Lacquer finishes are applied by hand, layer by layer.

The factory also houses a special custom shop where world-renowned artists come to have their signature models created.

Original series and Custom Shop ESPs are handcrafted in Japan while the Standard Series are factory-made in Japan.

ESP USA Factory: North Hollywood, California

The ESP USA Series shop opened in North Hollywood, California in 2014. This facility crafts instruments that continue ESP’s tradition of excellent guitar building with instruments that are 100% Made in the USA.

These guitars maintain the high-quality craftsmanship that ESP is known for while incorporating some American guitar building traditions.

Guitars are designed using 3D software and then cut using CNC machines for precision. But much like their Japanese counterparts, the craftsmen in the North Hollywood factory follow up machine work with hand-finishings.

The North Hollywood factory also offers unique customizations, allowing musicians to tailor their guitars to their preferences. Be it the choice of tonewood, the type of pickups, or the color and finish of the guitar, the North Hollywood factory delivers.

The most distinctive aspect of the California factory is perhaps its pickup winding operation. ESP decided to wind their own pickups, giving them greater control over the tone and output of their guitars. This operation adds another layer of customization available to their customers.

ESP LTD Factories: Korea, Indonesia, China

In 1996, ESP introduced the LTD line, a series of guitars manufactured in South Korea and Indonesia, offering high-quality ESP designs at a more accessible price point. The LTD series has become incredibly popular for its balance between affordability and performance.


World Musical Instrument Co. Ltd, Korea. This is where the higher-end LTD guitars, like the 1000 series, are manufactured.

Korean factories are known for producing instruments of professional quality with excellent craftsmanship.


The Indonesian factories make mid-range LTD models, such as the 401 series. These guitars are designed to offer a balance between affordability and quality, providing good craftsmanship at a lower price point than the Korean-made instruments.


In March 1992, ESP-CHINA was founded in western China, Heilongjiang.

The Chinese factories produce the most affordable LTD models, including beginner guitars like the EC-10. While these are the most budget-friendly, ESP ensures they still meet a standard of quality that represents the brand.

Sound Beyond Boundaries

One factor that truly sets ESP apart is their unwavering commitment to sound. Regardless of where the guitars are made, the focus is always on delivering superior tonal quality. This dedication extends to their choice of hardware and electronics, primarily using top-tier brands like EMG, Seymour Duncan, and their own ESP-designed pickups.

Quality control is an integral part of ESP’s process. Every guitar, from the most affordable LTD model to the top-tier custom models, goes through rigorous testing and setup before leaving the factory. Trained professionals scrutinize each instrument, ensuring the intonation is accurate, the action is perfect, and the electronics are functioning flawlessly.

Craftsmanship and Innovation

While ESP’s primary reputation is built around its electric guitars, it’s worth noting their acoustic series, which shows their craftsmanship and innovation extends beyond the realm of electric guitars. The brand’s Thinline series, in particular, has received praise for its fusion of traditional aesthetics with modern playability.

Innovation at ESP isn’t confined to guitar designs. The company continually explores new manufacturing techniques and materials. For instance, ESP was among the first to experiment with 8-string guitars, answering the call of progressive metal guitarists seeking a broader tonal palette.

Their Eclipse series, known for its single-cut design and versatile sound, has seen various iterations in wood choices and finishes over the years. Notably, the ESP E-II Eclipse series includes models with full-thickness bodies, a feature requested by many fans and artists over time.


In recent years, ESP has been actively addressing sustainability concerns. This effort has resulted in the introduction of guitars using thermally modified woods, which not only lend unique tonal properties but are also more environmentally friendly.

Additionally, the company is committed to sourcing woods responsibly, ensuring the longevity of the world’s forests for future generations of musicians and luthiers.

Rockstars and ESP

ESP’s reputation among professional musicians is a testament to its commitment to quality and innovation. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, George Lynch of Dokken, Stephen Carpenter of Deftones, Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom are just a few among the galaxy of rockstars who’ve chosen ESP guitars.