ESP LTD KH602 Kirk Hammett
ESP LTD KH602 Specifications:
ESP’s endorsement roster of metal guitarists is massive, but Kirk Hammett’s name is likely always going to be the most recognizable. He’s had quite a few variations over the years, with the current roster of KH series guitars at about 38 models. The ESP KH-2 sits at the top of the price range at a whopping $3200 – luckily, the LTD series brings the same specs to the masses.
The LTD KH-202 is the most affordable model due to its bolt-on neck, but the LTD KH-602 is the best deal. EMG 81/60 pickups and a Floyd Rose tremolo system – the same as you’ll find on the KH-2. Except the KH-602 goes a step further by including neck-thru construction – for less than 1/3rd of the price.
Firstly, let’s compare all of the current Kirk Hammett guitars available side by side:
Specifications for all Kirk Hammett guitars
The KH-602’s Neck Construction
Aside from the price gap, the LTD KH-602 has very few differences from the ESP KH-2. The biggest deciding factor in your purchase is the neck-thru construction. For most guitarists, the choice between a bolt-on neck and neck-thru construction is a no-brainer.
Most people find the playability on the upper neck much easier due to the smoother transition to the body. The LTD KH-602’s neck to body transition is short and steep to allow easier upper access.
The sustain is also improved at the same time since the nut and bridge are both fixed to the same piece of wood. This is guaranteed to increase reverberation, but not enough to make a bolt-on inferior.
In terms of practicality, a bolt-on neck is the smarter choice for its ease of repair. Whatever your preference may be, it’s not often that a higher-end model is offering a bolt-on neck while the affordable model has neck-thru construction.
All of the Kirk Hammett models come with a rosewood fretboard, extra-jumbo frets, and his signature skull inlays. The KH-602 only has a different inlay at the 24th fret, otherwise the fretboard is exactly the same as the KH-2.
(Iron Maiden on a Kirk Hammett guitar – would he be annoyed about this? Either way, it’s a great demonstration of the EMG 60 at the neck)
EMG 81/60 Active Pickups
One of the cooler features in Kirk Hammett’s signature guitars is the use of an EMG 81/60 pickup set rather than the classic 81/85. You’ll probably be able to recognize the 81’s bridge tone on about 90% of your metal CDs. When it comes to bridge pickups, the difference between an 85 and a 60 may be harder to discern.
Since people’s opinions on tone tend to be all over the place, it’s better to listen for yourself. The general consensus is that the EMG 60 has better cleans while the 85 sounds better for high gain soloing. That being said, there’s a number of reviewers that claim the 60 is the better of the two, hands down.
The 85’s note definition is a little clearer, but it can sound chimey at times. The 60’s a little less oomph and the notes tend to have a fluidity about them whilst soloing. In the end, it’s always just a matter of preference…but the 60 clearly has nicer cleans. Check out the video comparison of the two and see for yourself.
When comparing the various Kirk Hammett models, the difference can be summed up quite easily. Between the price and minor differences in hardware (LTD tuners vs Gotoh, Floyd Rose 1000 vs Original, etc), the LTD KH-602 is clearly the best quality for your money.
If you’re comparing it to the KH-2 and are worried about build quality, there’s really only one thing to consider. The LTD KH-602 is built in the high-end LTD factory in Korea, while the KH-2 is built in Japan. The production quality gap between those two countries is very small, and will only continue to shrink.
The ESP LTD KH-602 is a fantastic instrument with some high end features at a mid-range price. It also serves as a nice variation on the usual Floyd Rose + 81/85 combos that dominate the market. It’s got a fast neck with a thin profile, smooth transition, and great fret access.
Finally, the neck-thru construction ensures you’ll have all the sustain you could ever want. The reviews of the instrument have been near perfect as well, with the stock setup/action being a highlight as well. That’s another piece of reassurance regarding the Korean factory’s production quality. You really can’t go wrong with the LTD KH-602.