LTD Snakebyte
LTD Snakebyte

Snakebyte, V/XPL/FB Shaped Guitar from LTD in the James Hetfield series.

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tjon901 08/02/2011

LTD Snakebyte : tjon901's user review

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Another year another Metallica signature guitar from ESP. I guess it was Hetfields turn this year and it seems like he decided to go back to the Explorer. Since he is with ESP he cant have an exact Explorer so it looks like they took an Explorer and gave it a more metal shape. This in the white finish is almost like going back in time to the 80s but not quite. This is the LTD version which most people will get since it is 1000 dollars compared to the 3500 dollar ESP version which has exactly the same specs. With this guitar you get the typical setup. It has a mahogany body and neck with set neck construction. The fretboard is ebony with 22 jumbo frets. It has a pretty thin neck. It has EMG pickups in Hetfields now old setup with the 81 in the bridge and the 60 in the neck. It will be interesting if ESP decided to start putting in Hetfields more expensive signature EMG set in their guitars soon. Up top it has Sperzel locking tuners and down at the bottom it has a locking tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece.


This guitar play just like any other ESP. The frets are big and the fretboard is flat and the action is low. You can really shred on this guitar. It is very easy to play. The locking tuners and bridge are something every guitar maker should do. The locking tuners up top keep you in tune no matter what and you can pickup your guitar after months and it will still be in tune. The locking bridge on a tune-o-matic doesnt do anything to the tuning but it makes it so your bridge does not fall off the guitar when you are changing strings since a normal tune-o-matic is held down by string pressure. If tune-o-matic falls off your guitar and you put it back on the wrong way it will completely destroy the intonation of your guitar.


The EMG 81 and 60 set is what Hetfield used up until recently. Now he has a Signature EMG set which is based off of the 81 and 60. They have pole pieces to make them look more like traditional pickups and have a cool nickle finish. According to Hetfield they have more bite than the normal 81 and 60 but I have yet to try them myself. I cant wait till my store gets some in stock so I can give them a test drive. Metallica has been using EMG pickups for decades and it is a key part of getting a tone like theirs. The 81 in the bridge is a classic setup for metal. The 81 gives you great high end crunch and clarity even in the lowest of tunings. With the 81 harmonics pop right out and you get a nice searing high end tone. This high end is what keeps the sound nice and clear. The 60 in the neck is a pretty much neck only pickup. It is not super high output and is best used for clean tones. With the 60 in the neck you can get the famous Hetfield clean sound that you hear on just about every album. It is a unique clean sound because it is cleaner than most clean sounds. He takes the slightly sterile active pickup clean sound and uses it to get his own unique take on a clean tone. In the neck position I personally prefer an 85. The 85 has about the same output as the 81 and I think it is better for dirty solos in the neck position than the 60 is. But of course this would be useless for Hetfield since it does not have a very good clean tone and he does not play many high gain leads in the neck position.


You do not have to be a Metallica fan to like this guitar. It is a throwback to the old 84 Gibson Explorer which you could get in this color without a pickguard and with EMG pickups. This is the guitar Hetfield is most known for. Now with ESP you get the modern take on that same instrument. It is a great guitar overall for any type of Metal music. You can shred on it or you can play pounding riffs. You can get it in black or white which is all you need for a metal guitar. EMG pickups mean you can rip right out of the box. The LTD version of this guitar is pretty much all you need. The differences between this and the ESP version are not worth 2500 dollars. People are people just because some different people made this guitar does not mean that it is so much worse. The quality control and fretwork on the ESP guitar might be spot on perfect right out of the factory but it is nothing a 50 dollar setup cant fix on the LTD version. If you are looking for an Explorer shaped metal guitar ESP is currently making some of the hottest.