As Metallica and especially Kirk Hammett has been the wet dream of most guitar beginners (“OMG KIRK HAMMETZ!!11“) for quite some time now, the ESP KH-2 is one of the most desirable guitars on the market right now. All fanboy-ism aside though – it is by far my favorite guitar I’ve ever played. As I’ve owned four different KH-2s in my life (yes, f-o-u-r), it’s finally time for my ESP KH-2 Review!
ESP KH-2 Review: The Basics
Okay, so what’s the KH-2 actually? It’s basically superstrat based on the original ESP M-Series that have been built in the early 1990s. These are the raw specs of the guitar:
- 25,5″ Scale
- Bolt-on or Neck-through Neck Construction
- Alder Body
- Maple Neck
- Rosewood Fingerboard with Skull Inlays
- Extra thin flat neck shape
- 24 XJ Frets
- Original Floyd Rose Tremolo
- EMG 81/60 Pickups (81/81 in earlier versions)
As you see, this all does not sound extremely spectacular. It’s just the basic setup of a high-quality Superstrat like they built it 20 years ago. What makes this guitar so different that you have to write an ESP KH-2 Review for it you ask? Let me explain below!
ESP KH-2 Review: The Look
I know, the look of a guitar is always a matter of taste. But the ESP KH-2 is a very sleek, elegant black guitar. Although quite simple, I think this is a very beautiful combination. I don’t know if I’m that much of a fan of the skull and bones inlays (kinda cheesy if you ask me), but I got used to it. And I have to add: these inlays are extremely well made! Normally you have black filler lacquer around the inlays because they haven’t been cut perfectly – this is not the case with the KH-2! On my KH-2s the inlays have always been perfectly cut and set in with an awesome amount of manufacturing quality and dedication. Oh and the good thing is: you can get the KH-2 in all colors you wish for – as long as it’s black!
ESP KH-2 Review: The Feel
This is where my fascination for this guitar started and why I write this ESP KH-2 Review. The feel of this guitar is just amazing! The moment I played my first KH-2 I fell in love with the extra thin flat neck contour which makes your hands just glide along the neck like magic. Add the satin lacquer on the back and you have a great playing guitar in your hands! The wide fretboard radius makes shredding solos very easy as well, and the extra jumbo frets are just perfect. All in all, the whole guitar just feels so damn well made in your hands that it’s a joy to play. I know I should stay unbiased in a ESP KH-2 review, but I just can’t help it. These guitars just feel perfectly!
ESP KH-2 Review: The Sound
This is the second reason why I write this ESP KH-2 review: The sound of the KH-2 is just perfect for my musical taste! As you can see in the article about my gear, I’ve owned a lot of guitars throughout the years so I should approximately know what I’m talking about. I’ve tried everything on stage and in rehearsals to find the perfect sound, but only the KH-2 nails it. The alder body and the maple neck just offer extremely tight low-ends (nothing “flubby” here), while mids and highs are well balanced giving the KH-2 a great acoustic tone. Combine that with the EMGs (I like them very much for the music I play) and you got a beast for everything hard-rock and beyond!
One odd thing that I have to state in my ESP KH-2 review though: I’ve owned both versions – set-neck and bolt-on. Although the bolt-on models are more inexpensive, I prefer them over the neck-through models! I know it sounds weird, but the bolt-on has a nicer attack in the lower mids that adds more presence and aggressiveness to the sound. You still can reach all the higher frets, and the sustain of bolt-on KH-2s is also incredibly good. I recommend to try both and just pick the one you prefer!
If there’s one guitar I will never sell, it’s my Custom Shop ESP KH-2. This guitar is just perfect for my style of music and displays the awesomeness of Japanese guitar manufacturing. It has all the sound and feel to it that I can wish for. If there’s anything to criticize then it’s that the skull inlays might not be everyone’e cup of tea. I know the ESP KH-2 is quite pricy as well, but it is more than worth its pricetag! To conclude my ESP KH-2 review, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars – you can check its price here on Musicians Friend!