James Hetfield of Metallica is one of the most influential metal guitars of all time. His insane picking hand and legendary riffs have earned him the recognition he has today. In the 1980’s James started extensively using ESP guitars and over the years, ESP/LTD have graced him with many signature models.

Today, we’ll be looking at the LTD Snakebyte, a more affordable version of the insanely high end ESP Snakebyte.

Shall we begin?


– Mahogany Body

– 3pc Mahogany Set Neck

– Ebony Fretboard

– 24.75″ Scale

– Thin ‘U’ Neck

– 24 XJ Frets

– LTD Locking Tuners

– Tonepros Locking TOM Bridge

– EMG JH Active Pickups

Something to note right off the bat is that the LTD model of this guitar surprisingly has almost the exact same specifications as the ESP model, other than the tuners/neck wood. The main differences lie in the quality of wood/finish and the shop in which the guitar was built. With that being said, we’ll focus on the LTD model today!

Like many signature guitar models, (such as the super sexy Jake Bowen Signature), James was heavily involved with the design of this guitar. He actually pretty much designed all of the visual aesthetics himself, including the shape of the guitar. The shape of the guitar is similar to the EX-401 or Gibson Explorer style. Some big differences that separate it (other than a slight alteration in the shape) is the carved out back and forearm contour. These design features makes the guitar a bit more comfortable, as it hugs the body a lot more and adds some ergonomic benefits for the picking hand.

The neck of the Snakebyte is the ESP/LTD signature Thin ‘U’ shape. The Thin ‘U’ is and always will be, one of my favorite neck profiles on a guitar. It’s got a bit of a rounder shape than the ‘Extra Thin’ neck you’d find on something like an M-1000 Koa, and it’s quite a bit more comfortable for rhythm playing if you like more guitar to hold onto.


The Snakebyte is entirely Mahogany, and as such it has a very warm acoustic-like sound quality. It does have active EMG pickups, so the pickups sort of hijack the sound of the guitar a bit more.

(EMG actives….Some of us think they are great, some of us hate them. Regardless of which side you are on, you should definitely check out our article, “EMGs: Do They Suck?”.)

In the Snakebyte, we get to try out the EMG JH (James Hetfield) set. These are obviously James’ signature pickups combo.

This set is sort of similar to the EMG 81/60 combo. I did find the bridge pickup to be slightly more pronounced in the midrange compared to an 81. It definitely added a bit more bite and character, but a little less low end growl. The EQ curve seems a bit better balanced for a ‘full mix’ sound than the 81.

The cleans took me by surprise. The neck pickups has super smooth cleans that stayed clean well without any breakup. What surprised me even more was that I managed a really great mid-gain sound by engaging a Tube Screamer in front of a Fender amp profile (on my Kemper).

Overall, I liked these pickups more than other EMGs that I’ve played. They felt really versatile. It was a pleasant surprise. I’d say this guitar would fair well with most genres. It definitely sits at home for metal and looks the part, but it’s not confined in the genre by any means.

Build Quality:

I was not surprised by the quality of this guitar. All of the hardware and electronics are basically the same as the super expensive ESP model (except for a few minor details) and the guitar was put together amazingly.

There were no flaws in the finish and the guitar played great. The neck feels thick and strong, and it holds tuning pretty well. The only thing I would do to this guitar would be maybe upgrade the tuners. The LTD locking ones are pretty decent, but I found that they were a bit slippery when trying to get the tuning to be precise. Upgrading the tuning machines is a really easy, worthwhile fix.

Final Verdict:

The LTD Snakbyte is for the ultimate James Hetfield fan. It’s a guitar designed by him, built to some really amazing quality standards, and has a great sound. Of course, the ESP version of this guitar would be for the Ultimate, Ultimate fan.

Honestly, for 1/4 of the price, the LTD Snakebyte ($1199) is an insanely well-priced guitar compared to the ESP model. If you are looking for a workhorse rhythm machine, a sweet new pointy guitar, or you just want to be James Hetfield, this is a sweet buy.


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This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana.

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