Price paid: $ 799
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Features — 10
Missing my late '80s/early '90s Jackson Soloist with OFR I had to sell years ago for rent. I went years without a Superstrat. Went looking and the JH-600 was it. First ever "Signature" series I've owned, but since it had every feature I wanted for the right price and being a huge Slayer fan, there you go. It was new but "blemished" with full warranty. I looked and looked and was checking the neck for bows and noticed there was some inconsistency in the paint on the top of the guitar. Most visible on that angle. Barely noticeable looking straight at it. Other than that, perfect.
The main feature that was the deal breaker was the Kahler bridge with what looks like a FR locking nut. So none of the highly publicized bend note out of tune issue, which I have never experienced in years of playing mainly standard bridge and Kahlers. Floyds too much of a hassle anymore. Neck thru 24 fret Ebony was a must as well. Perfect action out of the box. As far as design and ergonomics it was what you want out of a Super Strat. Easy access to high frets, slender neck. Was actually surprised it was Alder and maple neck. Would have thought mahogany, but sounds unique and has hella tone by way of the EMG's. Not to mention you have much less wood missing with the Kahler. I have read that some think volume knob interferes with playing, but most serious players can adjust. Although I would have perhaps put the knobs (volume and global tone, toggle) further down, it was a non issue. Played great.
If there were a gripe, it would be the bar on the Kahler was not low profile enough. It was too high off the guitar at the point the bar was bent. Difficult (for me) to do certain techniques like pull up without having to unmount my hand. I like to pick and use my other 3 fingers to operate the bar - not as easy like with my Strat or a Floyd. There is another lower bar available from Kahler for an almost insulting $30 plus shipping. Much better with lower bar. Small price to pay for not playing sharp anymore and the other issues with FR.
My first guitar with active pups. LOVE 'em for a shredder like this. Of course I left the cord in the guitar and killed the battery quicker, so be conscious of having to unplug it after each use or the battery will drain. These EMG's are designed for HIGH GAIN applications. I have read that active pup's don't do clean sounds well and is less "organic" than a stock Les Paul 'bucker or crazy DiMarzio's. This is subjective, IMO and can hear a difference. Throw on some good delay, verb and chorus and your golden for clean intros and quiet interludes. But then again who buys a JH-600 to play R.E.M. covers or jazz?
The tuners are Grover and quality the Kahler is a Hybrid model and can be set as a standard bridge, but is not quite as good quality as the higher end Kahlers. To me a non issue. Was made in Korea, which TBH rivals any US manufacturer these days. Lots of the US made guitars have had quire a few QC issues in the last 10 years- not to mention names. My Strat is Mexican and plays great. I have never and never will play a guitar from China or Taiwan. Plus FWIW, the JH-600 was inspected in the US as well as Korea and has a sticker on the plastic electronics recess cover. We know they inspect them well because crappy QC would have overlooked the minor finish issue and not saved me $200.
Sound — 10
I have several other guitars, play different genres, but for metal and louder duties, this is my goto guitar. I play through an all tube amp through some great amp modelling - no space for stacks in the studio. I Use a DigiTech RP1000 with amp loop to preserve tube sound of my Fender Deluxe. Very quiet. If your thing is pinch harmonics and crunchy rhythms-well there you go. There is only one volume knob and one tone knob, which is fine with me - keeps things simple. Three way toggle allows the player to change to heavier of brighter sounds for solos. I really like the simplicity as some other guitars like the Ibanez which had a 5-way toggle - too much IMO.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Out of the box I was floored. Over the years I've played some pretty bad factory set-ups. ESP really nailed it. Low action no buzz solid feel of the Kahler which almost feels like a standard bridge i.e. LP, Explorers, V's etc. So you can mute as heavy as you like with no sharp chugging you get with Floyds. In fact you can even make the Kahler Hybrid act like a fixed bridge by a few turns of the supplied allen wrench. This will not allow the cam to operate and you can take the bar off if suddenly get switched to only rhythm duties. It's not the top of the line Kahler but not a cheapo unit by any means. Interestingly it held a Eb tuning (half step down) by just unlocking the nut and tuning the pegs with no need for a complete set up like a Floyd. If you have no technical knowledge or time to bother, the Kahler makes things simple and diverse in use.
I've restrung it using GHS Boomers and no need for the internet nonsense of having to solder the ends of the strings - no issues. Frets had no issues fit and finish as good as if not better than any USA model. No visible wood in the battery compartment or electronics area. No flaws at all save for the above mentioned paint issue. I recommend "blemished" guitars. Bought a Boss DD5 and new Wah with the money I saved.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This is not a cheapo guitar. Not a $4000 custom either. I don't gig much these days but it would hold up fine. The neck thru construction helps and feels as solid as my old Jackson and Ibanezes, The latter having 4 screw neck joint - not ideal for shredding. The only giigging issue I could forsee is batteries! No 9V no play this guitar. So have some spare batteries in the case which was NOT provided. This was a bummer, but I just got a Gator case for $69, so no biggy. You WILL need a hard case as there are all manner of allen keys and trem bar storage and those extra 9V's.
Overall Impression — 9
This is the ideal guitar for metal. Period. Just see the interviews with the late great Jeff Hanneman. I agree with his need for a super strat shape as the weight distribution is close to perfect. Take both hands off and the guitar stays horizontal. Try that with a Warlock or Explorer. I kinda grew out of the odd-shaped bodies. Too cumbersome and heavy. I also practice sitting down. Body is very comfortable and the unique bevel on the bottom horn for even more comfort and access. Took off point for no case at this price point. $1000 guitar should at least have a gig bag.