Thursday, November 15, 2012

ESP LTD Jeff Hanneman JH-200 Digital Camo

The ESP LTD Jeff Hanneman Digital Camo (JH-200 DC) guitar is the "entry" level version of the range of Jeff Hanneman signature guitars from ESP. From its killer looks, classy looking hardware and devilish inlays, this guitar was built to play only one genre of music - and it would almost be insulting to the man himself if it were used for anything else. I purchased this guitar at a 40% discount, brand new out of the box - in one of those crazy sales in Jakarta (which I have aptly dubbed guitar heaven).

I am sure judging from the images of the guitar above, you would be inclined to do nothing but leave your distortion knob at 10, and to truly rock out with this guitar. With 24 jumbo frets, and extra thin neck, and a fast fretboard, this guitar will let you hit the solos you desire. Below some quick facts before the review;

Quick Facts:

Neck Material: Maple
Neck Profile: Extra Thin U-Neck Contour
Fingerboard: Rosewood (24 XJ Frets)
Body Material: Basswood
Neck Pickup: ESP LH-301 Humbucker
Bridge Pickup: ESP LH-301 Humbucker
Bridge: Kahler X-Tremolo

Make: Made in China

So in recent time I've been drawing the distinctions between Chinese made and Indonesian made guitars. In further re-iterating my assessment of this, I find China made guitars to lack attention to detail, and more often than not, the guitar will require some work before it is ready to be used to jam or to gig with. This guitar was no exception, as when I got it the action was a mile high against the bridge. The Kahler X-Tremolo looked really nice from a hardware perspective, however, looked absolutely confusing to work with. With no one who sold me the guitar knowing how to set-up this bridge, I took it upon myself to set it up - but more on that later. Anyway, going back to the comparison, the Indonesia guitars I have purchased recently (view recent posts) have actually been ready to go right from the box. More often than not the harmonics, the intonation and the action are all really low and ready to go. I've not had to set-up any of my Indonesian made guitars in recent time - but I've had to go through a lot of pains with my Chinese made guitars. To not speculate, I won't comment too much on the factory line-up and how the production lines may differ in terms of QC, however, the short version is, I am more impressed by guitars produced out of Indonesia, than China.

In going back to this particular guitar, the action was a mile high, and it wasn't until I finally found a manual online for a similar Kahler bridge, of which I applied the theories I felt were similar for all Kahler bridges, and attempted to set-up up the guitar - the result? Well, first time around the strings snapped! I attribute this to lowering the action and tightening the locks too soon, not allowing strings to stretch, and instead snapped it while bending a note. My next attempt was much better, as I then had to read up on how to re-string a Kahler, and in the mean time, decided to experiment on it. Essentially before you can reduce the height of the screws, it is important to unlock the nut at the back for each string place holder. Only then can the screws move up and down freely without injuring the strings too much and according to Gary Kahler - I was close to screwing up my entire bridge. After several other attempts, I've managed to bring the strings very close down, and have gotten used to adjusting the nuts. The guitar feels real good now, and this is something some experimentation will deliver to you. I've had to reset this guitar 3 times, to finally get to a point I feel most comfortable - and yet, I feel the G, B and E strings are a bit too high - something which I will eventually work on.

Sounds wise, this guitar is filled with a sonic tone to play metal. Rolling down the town does not give you much satisfaction, but at full blast, this guitar is meant to be shred upon. Shred upon I did, and I look forward to trying to record a metal track using it. Reaching the 24th fret is easy, and very convenient for any pentatonic run. The difference between neck and bridge pickups are very slight as both utilize the same stock ESP pickups. Changing pickups is something I would consider in the future, as I am not the largest fan of the LH-301s, but I do believe it provides a certain character to the guitar. The LH-301s masquerade as high output passives, which have quite a bit of mids and bass to it. It's not a bad pickup by any means, but it's difficult to get that sting at times. Do note though, this was tested on my CFX 30 Marshall amp, with distortion on 10, bass rolled to 7, mids at 5 and treble at 6.

I do enjoy the playability of this guitar after the set-up. Prior to the set up, I was ready to smash the guitar to bits with my fingers digging underneath the strings and the tone lacking. After the set-up, it's become very playable and I very much enjoy doodling on this guitar. It's a welcomed aesthetic addition to my collection, but at the same time its functionalities are apparent. I'll eventually update this blog post with a posting of me using it on a metal track - just gotta find that metal track first.

This guitar can be great, but at this point in time it's just "good". A bit more work and I think it'll be king - but at this juncture, it'll settle for a lower than desired score till it finds its optimized and maximized potential.

Overall Rating: 7.5

Here's the updated video after the set-up:


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