LTD KH-202 review by ESP

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.4 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.8 (243 votes)
ESP: LTD KH-202
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Price paid: £ 399

Purchased from: PMT Birmingham

Sound — 8
The stock pickups are decent as stock pickups go, and reasonably versatile, with the bridge pickup the highlight of the pair - it gives a nice sound for rhythm playing and some soloing - but I have upgraded the pickups to EMG 81 (bridge) and EMG 60 (neck) for 120, which is the same as the next one up in the range (the KH-602) and gave me a great improvement on an already good tone. My main amp (until I save more money) is a Marshall MGFX15, (although I have played through much nicer amps, which vastly improve the sound) and this combination lends itself more towards distorted rock and metal sounds, although nice cleans are possible with the neck pickup, or the bridge with the tone rolled off. The rating is for the stock pickups.

Overall Impression — 8
The 399 I paid for the 202 is definitely worth it if you're looking to upgrade from a beginner's guitar, as it has decent features for the price, although the stock pickups, while providing a decent sound for stocks, definitely warrant an upgrade if you want to get great sounds for gigging or recording. The extra 120 I paid for the EMGs takes it close to the 600 price tag of the next model, the KH-602, which has nicer woods and hardware, so for an extra 80 that would be a preferable purchase. The looks are rather understated completely black finish which contrasts nicely with the skull inlays and chrome hardware but still look nicely "metal"; in conclusion, a pretty tidy purchase.

Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar would withstand playing plenty of gigs. I have had it for more than two years now, and while I don't mistreat my guitars I can be a little accident prone with them. The guitar is very tough, as I play for sometimes up to 12 hours a day (yes, I need a social life) and tend to knock it on walls, cupboards, other guitars, my keyboard and my clarinet, and after two years of this the only result is that the once viciously pointed headstock is not as sharp, and there is a hole in my bedroom wall where it went through. There are also a few scratches on the back (blame my belt) and a couple of dings on the headstock. Overall, pretty tough.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The neck on this guitar is superb, described as an "extra thin you neck contour", so the back is pretty flat, and is good for sweeping, etc. It had a small amount of what appears to be glue on the treble side at the 19th and 20th frets which won't come off, but this doesn't affect the playability of the guitar in the slightest, and is purely cosmetic. The rest of the guitar is finished immaculately, no imperfections in the paintwork and frets are well dressed with no sharp edges. The only changes I have made are to replace the pickups with EMGs and lower the action. The only downside I can find to this guitar is that string changes and tuning take up to half an hour due to the Floyd Rose, but the result is great tuning stability, and once strings are played in they stay in tune for weeks at a time.

Features — 8
This guitar has a bolt-on neck, 25.5" scale, 24 extra jumbo frets, a basswood body with a maple neck finished in satin, a rosewood fingerboard with skull inlays and "KH-202" at the 24th fret, black nickel hardware, separate volume pots for the bridge and neck pickups and a master tone pot, a 3 way switch a Floyd Rose Special bridge and ESP LH 301 pickups at the bridge and neck. It is the lowest spec full-size guitar in Kirk Hammett's (Metallica, Lead Guitarist) signature range, and offers good features for the price.

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