Price paid: £ 899
Purchased from: GuitarGuitar.co.uk
Sound — 10
I mainly play metal and rock and as expected the Snakebyte suits these styles perfectly. The addition of the EMG-JH pickups really puts this guitar in another league in terms of sound quality and low noise. The JH pickups were created with the assistance of Hetfield himself and are made to his preferences but they are a lot different than the old 81/60 combo he used to use. They have a lot of mid crunch and growl more reminiscent of a great passive pickup but with the power and presence of an active EMG which makes them great not only for metal but for softer rock also. The highs are perfectly balanced (IMO), they are perfectly EQ'd so that they aren't tinny high up the neck but they aren't dull on the low end. The mid tones are super clear and there's a lot of tonal space to work with even if you cut the mids on your own EQ/amp which gives a large wide expansive roar to power chords. The low end is great too. It doesn't get muddy low down using 10 or 11 gauge strings but it has just enough bass to give the overall tone weight without taking over. If you flick to the neck pickup you are treated to a very gorgeous full bodied resonant tone. Using distortion with this pickup you can produce solo sounds reminiscent of a Les Paul, soulful and almost ghostly but with a character of its own. I mainly use this guitar through a Marshal MG102CFX in the bedroom but I've also put it through a DSL 100 and headphones coming from a Line 6 POD HD500X. Playing through an all tube set up really brings out the beauty and full range of the pickups and shows off their "best of both worlds" hybrid passive/active sounds but these pickups work wonders on lower end "bedroom" practice amps too and it plays very well with amp modelling units.
Overall Impression — 9
The Snakebyte is the best guitar I own and have every played and I really don't say that lightly. My collection at this time only consists of an LTD DV8-R, and LTD EX-351 and a BC Rich NJ Beast but I've owned more over the years including a Jackson King V, BC Rich KK Warlock and a Gibson LP. The Snakebyte seems to have taken the best features of all these guitars and crammed them into one excellent package. While I actually prefer the ESP locking tuners to Sperzel now that I own both varieties I still do sort of wish ESP kept the bone nut, Schaller straplocks and the flip open battery hatch rather than a screw in hatch. These are minor issues though and I fully understand why ESP did it. I could easily add Schallers if I can be bothered and the Synthetic nut is actually very high quality and impressive. The battery hatch doesn't really bother me either because its not like you have to change batteries much anyway. The addition of the EMG JH pickups MORE than makes up for the slight drop in fancy extras. If I was ever parted from this guitar I would do everything I could to get another one as soon as possible. Video from YouTube:
Reliability & Durability — 9
Being a large pointy(ish) shaped guitar you are going to end up knocking the pointy ends but the build does seem very solid and well put together just like all other high end LTD guitars. The body has a lot of contours for easier forearm placement, easier access to high frets and so on. When you really look at this guitar from lots of angles you see just how impressive it as as a piece of ergonomic woodwork and I believe this will help to keep the finish looking fresh in areas of high ware and tare. The strap buttons are standard on the model I have and they are secured tightly. ESP seemed to have learned from mistakes (or Hetfield told them to do this) and have placed the neck end strap button right at the back of where the neck meets the body. This eliminates neck dive completely. This guitar has no tone dial (Hetfield's idea and I like it). Instead it has 2 volume dials, 1 for each pickup. The dials are silky smooth to turn but feel very sturdy and solid. This guitar comes with ESP locking tuners instead of Sperzel. This was money saving change that ESP implemented in the LTD models but don't let that make you think its cheap. The ESP locking tuners work every bit as well as Sperzels and built just as solid. The only reason ESP saves money with these is because they make them themselves. The design of the tuners is the same design as Sperzel, you have screw tighteners on the back to clamp the strings before tuning to pitch but the ESP screw tighteners are thicker than Sperzel making them easier and more comfortable to get a good tight hold of. I'm very impressed with them.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
This particular guitar was set up to perfection when I first got it. I was very surprised just how well it was done. I have other guitars that have been set up by pros that aren't as well set up as the Snakebyte came. The frets were all the perfect height and the action was super low with only mild fret buzz when played hard (exactly how I like it). The pickups were set up at the height I usually like them also. They are about 5mm from the strings or there abouts. I did adjust them to test out the tone difference but the factory position turned out to be the best. The finish looks very nice and smoothly polished all over besides one little sort of pin prick in the paintwork on the back. Other than this tiny blemish the whole thing came looking very beautiful and bright. The snow white pain is indeed snow white, there's no mild shades of ivory or anything like that. The nut wasn't quite cut properly which meant that the B and E strings weren't running all the way through the notches but it didn't seem to have any negative effect other than cosmetic and it was easily fixed.
Features — 8
I own the new model Snakebyte made in 2013 in Korea. The older versions of this guitar came with a bone nut, Sperzel locking tuners, Schaller straplocks and EMG 81-60 pickups. The latest specs are: - Set-Neck Construction - 24.75" Scale - Mahogany Body - Mahogany Neck - Ebony Fingerboard - 42mm Standard Nut - Thin U Neck Contour - 22 XJ Frets - Black Hardware - LTD Locking Tuners - Tonepros Locking TOM Bridge & Tailpiece - EMG JH SET (The Het-Set) Active Pickups - Finish: Snow White (also available in black) - 3-Way Switch - Neck Volume - Bridge Volume