The Randall KH120RHS is one of the more recent Kirk Hammett signature stacks from Randall Amplifiers.
Now, you may be wondering why Randall would be making a signature stack amp for Kirk Hammett. I mean, aren’t Metallica more associated with Mesa Boogie amps?
Which Amps does Kirk really use?
Well, there is this myth going around that Metallica use mostly Mesa Boogie amps, and they have used them before, but they’re not the only amps they’ve been known to use.
In fact, in the very early period (Kill ’em All, Ride the Lightening etc.) both guitarists were using a Marshall stack. It was only around the time of ‘Master of Puppets’ that Kirk was using Mesa amps in the studio.
Then, around the Black Album period, he was using Mesa’s on stage up until around 2007 when he signed a contract with Randall amps. He still uses Mesas on stage alongside the Randalls, though.
Kirk was originally using the Randall RM100KH signature, but since 2013 he plays through a Randall ‘Meathead’, designed by Mike Fortin.
The Current Kirk Hammett signature Amp
So, the current Kirk Hammett signature amps are being made by Randall. You could fork out for a real life ‘Meathead’ (now known as the ‘667’), but it’s pretty pricey!
This new signature amp has been designed to have all of those tones at a much more affordable price!
The Randall KH120RHS is a 120 watt half stack that features a KH120RH head, paired up with a KH412 4×12 speaker cab. The cab has been fitted with four Celestion Rocket 50 watt speakers, which- I believe- are the same that Kirk uses (the ‘KH’ in the name stands for ‘Kirk Hammett’).
Getting the Right Sound
As I described earlier, the Metallica setup has changed slowly over the years. This is why the amp also has three channels, which are designed to emulate these different sounds.
First, you’ve got the clean channel, which has a very Metal clean tone. By that I mean that there is none of this bluesy crunch, or slight distortion. It’s almost a very sterile clean sound.
Then, there’s the first gain channel, which is modelled after Kirks earlier sounds. This one doesn’t have quite as much gain as the full distortion channel. It’s trying to sound more like the earlier Marshall amps used on the first few albums.
The third channel is a much more modern ‘full gain’ setting. This one is designed for the modern metal sound that Randall is famous for, and should suit more recent Metallica stuff.
So the general idea is that you can take this amp, and get the right sound for anything from ‘Kill ’em All’ to ‘Death Magnetic’.
This stack includes the KH120RHS head, and the KH412 cab. We’ll look at the features of each separately.
The KH120RHS amp head
This amp technically features two channels (clean and gain) and three modes. When using it, however, it’s more useful to think of them as three channels.
- Mode 1:Hammett Clean
- Mode 2: Vintage/Hammett Overdrive
- Mode 3: Modern Hammett Overdrive
- Bass, Middle, Treble and Contour EQ controls
- Master Volume
- Solid State power amp
- 120 Watts
- Spring Reverb
- Series EFX Loop Tape/CD Input
- Footswitch Included
- 4Ω Minimum impedance
The KH412 Speaker Cabinet
- 4 x 12 Celestion Rocket 50 speakers
- 200 Watts total RMS power handling
- 8Ω stereo Inputs
- Metal corners and edges
- Heavy duty outer finish
- Casters included
- 3/4″ Void Free Birch Plywood
- Straight Front
The main differences between this amp and the Randall 667 ‘Meathead’ that Kirk uses is the absence of the 12AX7 and 6L6 tubes. This amp does not use tubes. You would think that would have a huge impact on the sound, but it doesn’t.
Of course, a solid state amp will never sound exactly like a tube amp. If you want to spend a few thousand dollars to get the tube version, then go ahead. We’re interested in what the average person can afford, however.
This is still a great sounding Metal amp.
What We liked…
Well, first of all: the tone. It’s big and thick sounding on the distortion settings, and yet clean and clear on the clean channel. This goes for any volume level- as there is no drop off in clarity in the high or low ends.
The clean channel is especially surprising; producing a very sterile, clean sound- with no distortion, ever! This is perfect for playing ‘Call of Kthulu’, the intro to ‘Battery’, or any other Metallica song.
The first gain mode- the ‘vintage Kirk’ setting- is a good sound if you’re after the earlier style Metallica. It’s also something that could be legitimately used for classic rock, or blues tones.
However, you must remember that this is a metal amp. I really wouldn’t recommend getting this if you want to play mostly classic rock or blues music. It’s just not the right fit!
The second distortion mode is very similar to the first in many ways (well, it’s still the same amp, after all). This mode will suit you down to the ground if you want a truly heavy metal tone.
Getting more Sounds
Can this amp be used for more than just Metallica?
Well, yes- although that is the reason you would buy the amp in the first place. This amp is- essentially- a heavy metal amp. You can apply it to any genre of metal, and you’ll be on to a winner.
You can also use this amp for more mellower, classic rock style tones. However, it’s still a metal amp. I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but if you’re after a warm, bluesy crunch…look somewhere else.
What We didn’t like…
This amp is 120 watt, which is perfect for most gig venues. It may be a little large if you’re playing in a small place, but then you probably wont need much larger for a large venue.
This does mean, however, that the amp struggles a bit a really low volume levels. This is totally normal and to be expected from a larger amp. If you want something quieter, get a smaller amp.
I think it’s worth mentioning, however.
Other than that, the distortion can have a tendency to get a bit fuzzy. This might be because Celestion speakers tend to favour a crisper high end, and tighter bass.
Tighter bass is great for extended range instruments- 7 and 8 strings. However, that sharper high end is what might be causing some of the fuzz. This can easily be sorted out with some tweaks to the EQ. Just be aware of it.
Oh, and about the EQ…
…for some reason, the control knobs are pretty close together on the head. This makes them a bit more difficult to reach and adjust.
Again, it’s a minor point, but it’s there nonetheless.
Conclusions about the Randall KH120RHS
Although this amp lacks the valves of the 667 that Kirk uses, it comes pretty close to the same sounds. You’ll probably want to use it with the mids fairly low- halfway at most- and the bass fairly high (7 or 8).
This is how to get a generic metal sound from the amp- but you shouldn’t limit yourself to that!
Overall, the Kirk Hammet Randall KH120RHS is the perfect amp if you want a Metallica style tone without having to sell your house. The 120 watts of power should be plenty for any situation.