Leather pants, massive Amplifier stacks, sick riffs and pointy guitars… No, we’re not talking about the 80’s but instead shred guitarist extraordinaire Gus G (Ozzy, Firewind) and 2 of his signature model Jackson guitars that we reviewed and shot out against each other thanks to the good folk at Jackson Guitars.
Now, full disclosure, I’m endorsed by Jackson Guitars, but I’m also an absolute gear snob and won’t touch anything myself that isn’t made in Japan or the U.S.A (It’s ok, you can throw the word ‘elitist’ around I won’t be offended)… so I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to review some more Indonesian built guitars. Not because they would be bad, but because like most Indonesian guitars, there tends to be a ceiling of ‘Yeah that’s pretty decent overall’ that most companies are hitting right now so I perhaps too quickly assumed these guitars would fall very much in the same category as that. And while that’s not entirely untrue, I’m glad I spent time with them because it actually taught me a thing or two.
The two models I played are the Gus G X Series and JS Series signature models. The JS series being the more entry level guitar and the X series being the workhorse level guitar Jackson are offering these days.
The X series is a Mahogany body, Maple neck through construction with Rosewood fingerboard and a stained body. The hardware includes a TOM style bridge, locking machine heads, a single Volume knob and a 3-way pickup switch along with Gus G’s signature Seymour Duncan Blackout active pickups.
This guitar looks and feels the part. The ‘Star’ shape probably says more than I ever could about what this guitar is built for. Fat riffs, lightning fast leads and balls to the wall metal. You won’t find any fancy coil taps or 2 Vol 2 Tone controls here, Gus doesn’t have time for that. This guitar is definitely drenched in the Keep It Simple Stupid mentality and is augmented by the finer details you don’t always get on some guitars. The lock-in tuners are a wonderful touch, the neck strap pin is placed to perfection for an absurdly well-balanced instrument when strapped up and the playability and reach are second to none. The neck profile is a little on the chunkier side for me, but very much understandable if you’ve ever watched Gus play. There’s enough meat there to really dig into your lower register riffage with the high register access being super comfortable all the way up to the 24th fret.
So let’s talk about build quality… There’s really nothing wrong with the build quality of this guitar. There’s nothing sticking out as inherently inadequate, I’m also not wowed by the finish either. The binding is neat and clean, but not so smooth and seamless as I would like from a guitar of this level. The paint job has a few minor flaws when under the scope but all in all, as I expected, it’s the level of construction I know from Indonesian models at this price point. It’s really good, but it’s no standout, at least not amongst the plethora of guitars at this price point. If you want a really no frills kick ass metal guitar at about $1600 odd dollars, then this guitar has that in spades and then more.
And, if you’re a fan of Gus G, then it’s really a no-brainer.
Which brings me to the JS series version, and my little diamond in the rough as I soon found. Both models have a very similar hardware and body layout. The main differences being the JS model is a bolt on, made of poplar and comes with Jackson branded passive pickups. The neck profile is what seems to be the standard JS series styled neck which is a bit thinner overall than it’s X series counterpart which personally I prefer for my playing. It’s definitely a more immediately ‘pleasing’ player which is a great spot when you’re gearing towards a younger, entry-level guitarist’s purchase.
What surprised me most was that at nearly $1000 cheaper than the X series, at no point did it feel or sound like $1000 less guitar. The neck feels and plays great, the hardware is still super solid and the stock pickups actually don’t sound bad at all. Not at all noisy or ‘weak’ sounding like some brand’s stock pickups do, instead, these remained quite full sounding through both clean and distorted guitar tones and we’re well beyond the measure of usability one would expect. The overall build quality isn’t even a far cry from the X series and only some minor details were actually noticeable between the two. Some parts of the finish in the paint wasn’t as clean or neat as the X series and the fretboard wasn’t quite to the quality of the X series.
After playing both guitars extensively they both provide great value at either price point, but if I was going to recommend one after this shootout (and I’m glad I’m not a betting man) but the JS series seems to be a better overall bang for the buck. It punches well above its weight and really does provide any player with a great playing guitar at a price that means you can customise and modify it without breaking the bank or your heart should something go awry.
X – Series:
JS – Series: