Today we’re reviewing the ESP LTD KH-330 Kirk Hammett signature guitar, which is one of the many Kirk Hammett signature guitars available. The KH-330 is a medium priced, affordable guitar. There is also the KH-602 which features an alder body, neck through body design, and EMG 81 (bridge) and EMG 60 (neck) pickups, but that retails for much more!
The KH-330 is a reasonably priced alternative, with a contoured basswood body, bolt-on maple neck, and active ESP-designed pickups. Both guitars feature ultrafast necks with an extra-thin ‘U-shape’ profile, 24 extra jumbo frets on a rosewood fretboard, individual volume controls for each pickup, and a three-way selector switch.
Of course, no Kirk Hammett signature guitar would be complete without the very metal ‘Skull’n’Bones’ fretboard inlays, and Floyd Rose bridge!
The main difference that you’ll notice between these two guitars is probably the pickups. Kirk himself uses an active EMG 81 humbucker in the bridge position, and an EMG 60 humbucker in the neck position. So, if you’re really after that sound, it might be worth investing in the KH-602 (linked above), or buying a set of EMG pickups separately.
This guitar is also available in left handed, which should please the left handed Metallica fans out there!
ESP LTD KH-330 Kirk Hammett has a basswood body, and maple neck with rosewood fretboard. It only comes in black and features a locking Floyd Rose special bridge and nut. The scale is 25.5″, which isn’t too bad- and nice and long, which keeps the strings loose. Looser strings make shredding and bending easier (which is what you’ll want to be doing with it, right?).
The 24 Jumbo frets, and extra thin neck make playing accurately easier on your hand. The pickups, although not being exactly the same as Kirk uses, come pretty close, and are still active. This guitar sounds- to me- just like Kirk when soloing and playing thrashy rhythm parts!
- Bolt-On Construction
- 25.5″ Scale
- Basswood Body
- Maple Neck
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- 42mm Locking Nut
- Extra Thin Flat Neck Contour (350mm radius)
- 24 XJ Frets
- Black Hardware
- LTD Tuners
- Floyd Rose Special Bridge
- ESP Designed ALH-200 Active pickups
- Only comes in ‘heavy metal’ black
- 3-Way Switch
- Neck Volume
- Bridge Volume
- Master Tone
Again, if you really want the real deal (and are prepared to part with the extra cash), you might want to get the the KH-602, with the EMG pickups and neck-through-body design. It depends on how much you really want to sound exactly like Kirk, because the ESP LTD KH-330 Kirk Hammett signature guitar is one awesome metal guitar in its own right!
What We Liked…
Well, the one thing you probably want from a Kirk Hammett guitar, is a fast playing, smooth neck. This means having a low action, and strings that are easy to fret at high speed.
Let me tell you, this guitar definitely has that down! The 25.5″ scale length is long enough so that the strings aren’t too tight, and yet short enough so that you can still reach the notes. The 24 extra jumbo frets, which are perfectly set with no sharp edges, make it almost impossible to miss-hit a note when playing at high speed.
The pickups are- although not exactly the same as Kirk uses- a very good substitute! I know I keep talking about the pickups here, but it really is a budget issue. EMG pickups are more expensive, and so they end up on the more expensive models. Apart from that, and the bolt-on vs neck-through-body design, I can’t see much difference between the KH-330 and the KH-602. So its ultimately down to how much you want to spend.
You could probably write an entire chapter of a book on the advantages and disadvantages of having a bolt-on neck, or having it run through the body. The latter is supposed to enhance sustain, although others would argue that this is a myth. Either way, the KH-330 still has those clear, well defined notes that you’d expect from any active pickup system. You can still throw on some really heavy distortion or effects without loosing the clarity of what you’re playing.
The strings are very low, and the guitar overall is very well set up. Many guitars arrive almost exactly in tune (not something you’d expect after a long journey!), and perfectly set up. There are no string buzzes or wolf-tones on this guitar!
I also like how you have a separate volume control for each pickup, as I like to turn one down all the way. I do this so that I can quickly mute the guitar by switching to the pickup that I’ve turned down. Of course, it also lets you blend the two sounds with the three-way switch set in the middle, or set the two at different volumes for when you want less gain…
What We Didn’t Like…
On an aesthetic level, there have been reports of a few blemishes in the paintwork, but nothing too serious. Other than that there are no random sharp edges or messy joints- so the construction is sound. In fact, the ESP LTD KH-330 Kirk Hammett feels heavier and sturdier than you might expect when you first look at the guitar.
The Floyd Rose locking bridge and nut system is great for getting those swoops and dives that you’ll hear on the ‘…and Justice for All’ album. However, it can be a pain to set up and tune. It all depends on the string tension being even across the bridge- which means tuning one string up, tunes the others down.
As for the sound, both the KH-330 and the KH-602 feature active pickups. These tend to have a very specific type of tone. Some would describe the cleans as ‘twangy’, ‘flat’ or ‘shallow’. You can get a decent clean sound from this guitar, but I wouldn’t expect to use it for classic rock, jazz or blues playing particularly.
However, these pickups are at their best when played with high-gain distortion, and what else would you expect from Metallica’s lead guitarist?! There is no noise or hum from either active EMG’s or ALH-200’s- which is very good news if you’re using a lot of distortion, or you’re recording!
Conclusions about the ESP LTD KH-330 Kirk Hammett Guitar
In conclusion, the ESP LTD KH-330 Kirk Hammett signature guitar is built for heavy metal and shred playing. Although it can cope with some lighter styles, and is not as extremely metal biased as some signature metal guitars (Dimebag…), so you’ll be able to play other things on it…
…just don’t expect to use it for a jazz gig any time soon!
Overall, the KH-330 is a great guitar at an affordable price, however, if you’re prepared to spend just a little bit more (and only the best will do), you might want to check out the KH-602 signature, which has the EMG’s.