1975-1982 Navigator SA-120
Strong challenger to 335
'Japanese craftsmanship at a pinnacle' - I came across this phrase 3 times out of 5 articles describing this guitar while browsing through the Japanese blogs. For those who are less familiar with the brand, Navigator is ESP's sub brand targeted for supreme quality seeker. In its lineup, Grassroots are toward the beginners, Edwards stays around the mid and upper range, and Navigator apparently sits on top. I know an ESP luthier in their custom shop in Ochanomizu Tokyo. Whenever I visit his shop I am amazed with the exotic and highly creative design of Navigator guitars on display, let alone the rich and warm sound with long sustain.
As for this particular model, this is one of their 335 type semi-hollow bodies. Navigator 335 series appears in the ESP catalogues only from 1975 to 1984. The guitar I put up here is their 1975-1982 production. The guitars manufactured around this period are distinguishable by the narrow dots on 12 frets. Navigators from the rest of years have dots distant each other, one on 6th string and one on 1st string. As a matter of fact, It is rare to find this particular production and you wouldn't want to miss this chance. According to the Japanese sites, this model was played by Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton in their Japan tour in 1980's.
To speak of the quality, I'd give A/A- mark, for its sturdiness on binding and excellent fret dressing. Lacquer finish stays intact for 30 years. Quality timbers and mahogany center block enhances sustain and maturity of sound.
Minor ding on the rear headstock, lacquer wear along the side neck, and additionally punched hole beside pickguard degrades the perfect mark. These were applied for discount.
Trivia for collectors - the model of this guitar is SA-120. ESP advises there is difference of the tuning pegs between SA-120 and SA-150, where SA-120 has brass-made ones while SA-150 tuning pegs were made from bovine bone.