Re: Quality of Jackson and ESP
Jackson is still Jackson. Even though A LOT of people continually believe that the older Pre-Fender, the current Jackson stuff is actually VERY consistant as compared to some of the 90's Jacksons when Akia owned them. The USA Jacksons have always been pretty consistant, but I'd probably go with a current one from Jackson just because most of the guys who work at the Jackson factory have been there for about 10 years or more, and their work doesn't get worse over time.
ESP has always been consistant in my book. Thier quality isn't going downhill either so choosing a Jackson or an ESP is still a good choice. Interesting thing is, back 10-15+ years ago, ESP wanted real distributors in the US to market thier stuff but lost the market to Ibanez becasue they failed to establish a US point of presence and endorsement. Now, they're one of the hottest products out there.
My advice here is to just get a USA made Jackson or Jap made ESP regardless of the time period it was made in. (I do find that the newer ones out are a little better constructed as both companies have refined thier craft)