Purchased from: Guitar Trader/musicpower.com
Features — 9
Made in Indonesia, 2013 or 2014. From Jackson:
- Satin Black finished Basswood body
- 24 Fret, 25.5" scale Maple neck; Jackson Tuners
- Dual Jackson High Output Humbuckers w/ 3 position toggle
- Tune-o-matic bridge, string through body
- 1 Volume, 1 Tone
- Black Hardware
All the features you need for a great metal/rock guitar. Only option to add would be a locking tremolo, but that is what the JS32 Kelly model is for. Regardless of price point, this is a great set of features for a metal guitar.
Body features classic Jackson beveling, the neck has the more exclusive white binding treatment. Would have gone great with a painted bevel option but looks good on its own.
Sound — 7
Actually sounded decent with the stock Jackson HO pickups. By no means a tone ready for recording, but light gigging would have been ok. Played well enough though, that I felt it warranted a pickup upgrade for the best sound/tone it had in her. So Ive loaded some Seymour Duncans; a '59 in the neck and the Invader in the bridge. Sounds GREAT for metal and rock when distorted. Set neck construction and higher quality body wood would set it over the top. That's what the USA series is for though. Cleans are decent, but the JS32T, even with a '59 in the neck is built for distorted tones. Respectable, but a Strat, Les Paul, or other well known clean tone guitar would eat it for lunch. Distorted it more than gets the job done.
For the price point as equipped from the factory: 7. With Duncans: 8.5 maybe a 9 with top line pots, switch and wiring.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
For the entry level Jackson Kelly, I was impressed with how it came out of the box for fit and finish. Satin paint was even, no noticeable blemishes. Kelly shape is smooth and appears to have been made without issues. Neck joint is solid, neck finish is satin and feels VERY fast. Neck wood is uniform and appears of good quality. Minor MINOR fret end feel moving up and down the finger board but nothing I would mark down for. Pearloid Sharkfin inlays look very good, installed well on the fingerboard. Intonation seemed ok as did all other aspects of the guitar. Regardless of make and model Id recommend a professional set up. Hardware is black and appeared blemish free, same with the pickups which came with a plastic protective cover over the faces. Neck and headstock binding appears to have been applied well and appears seamless.
For the price point as equipped from the factory: 9.
Reliability & Durability — 8
With proper care and periodic adjustments I see no reason this guitar wont last a long time and be completely dependable. As with ANYTHING abuse/neglect will significantly reduce its useful lifespan. With fresh strings and assuming no key changes, Id feel confidant gigging without a backup. My one chit here is the Satin finish on the body. This goes for ALL satin finished paint jobs though so no real knock to Jackson: it WILL scratch easily, it will turn glossy where your arms and hands make contact with it over time. I had a Gibson Gothic Explorer and its satin finish did just that. I fully expect this finish to do the same. That being said, I wish Jackson would have offered this guitar in Gloss Black, Gloss White and Satin Black. I WOULD have picked the gloss black.
I knew what I was in for with the Satin finish however so no shock. IF it gets bad enough, Id pay the money to have it stripped and painted gloss in the future, but thats way down the road. For reliability/durability of the guitar itself from the factory: 9. With the inclusion of the Satin paint and NO gloss black option I'm going to knock a mark off: 8.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I'm extremely happy with my Jackson Kelly. If your into the Explorer style shape, my opinion is this blows the Epiphone Explorers out of the water in price, sound, fit and finish. LTD EX and Snakebites I'm sure are close in comparison as are the current Dean's. I think the Jackson just felt better. Also consider that the Jackson JS line is STILL Jackson, and the body shapes are original designs that have stood the test of time.
Great choice for hard rock; heavy metal is its forte. If lost or stolen, Id definitely buy a new one. Aside from the lack of a gloss black finish, I doubt there is anything more someone could ask for at this price and position in the Jackson lineup. Also, unless your a professional musician who tours and records, I seriously doubt you would need more than this guitar offers to have fun, play with friends, or do some light gigging (parties, small venues, in front of your cat/dog etc). Great buy, great guitar! Glad it's a Jackson!