Sound — 8
play in various styles, but I bought this guitar for hard rock and metal. My setup is usually guitar > Crybaby 535q > Boss stage tuner > Engl 530 preamp > Boss Digital Reverb > VHT 2502 > VHT Fatbottom 2X12 cabinet. I don't like the way EMG's sound with my rig, so I replaced the pickup with a DiMarzio super distortion like I have in my other guitars. Prior to changing pickups, it was a bit noisy, but I attribute this to poor wiring. In my opinion, EMGs sound very consistent regardless of what guitar they're mounted in. So I won't comment on how the guitar sounded with them. With the super distortion, the sound is rich and ballsy. The low end is articulated but not boomy, the mids are complex and detailed, and the highs come through aggressively. The high end on this Engl preamp is a bit tricky so I was pleased that it was not overbearing with this guitar. The guitar had very simple controls and therefore is not as versatile as other guitars, but it responds well to picking dynamics. I wouldn't say that it sounds amazing but it's probably the best sounding guitar I own for what it does. The alder lends itself pretty well to this kind of guitar but I would be interested in playing one of these that had maple wings on a maple neck. I gave it a 9 because it does exactly what I want it to do, but isn't some awe-inspiring holy relic of a guitar.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing for about 8 years. I'm down to this guitar and a Jackson SLSMG, which gets me by fairly well. I almost wish I would have asked DCGL to install the pickup for me, so I would not have my experience tainted with Jackson's poor wiring. But I hate paying to have work done that I can easily do myself. If this guitar were stolen or lost, I would either buy another one just like it or a used USA KV2. I've always favored Flying V guitars. I love this one because it makes an impression on stage. The ergonomics, as I explained above, are great. I love the fretwork and the compound radius. I love how simple it is and how well it performs its task. At the same time, I do wish it had a neck pickup. I mostly compared this guitar to USA Jacksons, and I decided that it plays on par with them. I would rather have this Brand New guitar for this price than a used guitar that plays equally well for this price. Get ready for people to assume it's an Alexi Laiho model, though. Nothing against him, but his signature model just doesn't do it for me. I would probably give this guitar a 10 if the electronics had all worked properly out of the box. That's saying a lot. I hate almost everything that's marketed to me.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Well, this guitar has some pretty pointy fins on it, which is enough to worry anyone about its durability. After almost a year of practices and Live performances, it still looks and plays amazing. The hardware (besides the tuners and the output jack) is all top quality and feels very durable. The finish seems to be very resistant to scratching, but it probably chips more easily because of this. I replaced the strap buttons with Dunlop straplocks, but the ones that came with it were ok. Aside from trivial nonsense like strings breaking, I would absolutely depend on this guitar now that I've rewired the whole thing. It was a bit iffy back when the volume knob would cut out. I always have more than one guitar handy at a gig, but that's not to say I don't trust this one. The Floyd Rose is great for staying in tune, but I'd rather just Switch guitars that try to restring in the middle of a gig.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
This is probably where I'll be the most critical. I advised DCGL to leave the stock action, as it's normally pretty good on these Japanese models. Right out of the box, the action and intonation were great. The bridge was level, and the nut was the proper height. During transit, the neck moved a little and I had to adjust the truss rod to take out some relief. This isn't a big deal to me and should be expected from a guitar that had to ship from one state to another. I ended up lowering the action on the treble side very slightly, but it was a very minute adjustment. The pickup seemed to be adjusted properly, but it isn't rocket science with an EMG. One thing that bothered me a little about the guitar was the enormous electronics cavity. There is only one knob, and the output jack is on the top fin, so there really isn't any need to scoop so much damned wood out of the body. It's as though they took blanks from the other models that had switches and tone knobs and whatnot. Probably doesn't make a huge difference in sound or durability, but I'd like some of that wood back. The pickup routing is adequate, but I was limited in my pickup choice because of its shallowness. I would probably not be able to install a DiMarzio x2n. I was not able to install a Mastertone SPA-1 that I had lying around. Having purchased other guitars from this factory, I expected a few finish flaws. There were some masking/overspray issues with the bevels, and also with the shielding paint (although I am very grateful that they did use shielding paint). I suspect that the hardware was hastily installed before the paint had fully dried, which has led to ridges where the pickup rings sit and whatnot. These aren't really visible normally, so no big deal. But there are some spots in the finish where I can see the neck portion join to the wings underneath. But again, I expected this. And truly, nobody can see those flaws from offstage. The binding turned out pretty well as far as that goes, and so did the inlay. Not very much filler, it seems. The fretwork was exceptional. Some of the edges aren't the prettiest but none of them are sharp or loose. The frets are nice and level and facilitate low action. My main criticism of the guitar is the state of the wiring when I received it. For some reason, Jackson star-grounds their controls (at least from this factory). This is a benefit for me, since it cuts back on RF noise which is important in a passive setup. I have found that it's not as important in active pickups, so I'm grateful that they included this. But that's where my praise ends. Jackson wired the bridge to ground, which is a no-no in an active setup. I believe this caused unwanted noise. The volume pot was also defective. It had a spot near full volume where the signal would cut out. I sprayed contact cleaner into the pot which helped, but the problem eventually came back. I of course changed all this when I switched to a passive pickup, but it was very annoying for the several months I left the EMG there. The noise lessened when I clipped the ground to the bridge. But enough whining about problems easily fixed. This guitar balances exceptionally well, and makes me feel powerful while I'm playing it. The ergonomics are wonderful and free-feeling. The neck lends itself to fast lead playing and is exceptional in its comfort. I think my KV2 had a thinner neck but this one feels better to me. I'm not sure if it's a soloist profile or some new profile but it sure is nice. I haven't had any problems what'soever with the bridge going out of tune, but I rarely do crazy divebombs. The bottom line is that this guitar only cost $1200, and it plays just as well or better than USA Jacksons I've played. I happen to believe that this guitar is a fantastic deal at $1200, flaws and all. For this reason, I am not letting the quirks I described get to me.
Features — 8
My RR24 was in the first shipment of these to DCGL. I believe it was made in 2006 but these didn't really hit the market until early 2007. Notable features are as follows: 24 frets on an ebony fretboard, with some kind of synthetic inlay. Black binding around the fretboard. Large, wide frets. 25 1/2 scale. Maple through-neck with alder wings. Snow-white finish with black bevels. Body-color headstock with black binding. Randy Rhoads body. Original Floyd Rose bridge and locking nut. Single humbucker in bridge position, with single volume knob. Guitar came with an active EMG 81 (complete with convenient battery cavity). Tuners are Standard sealed Jackson, which have always felt ok to me. I'd been waiting for Jackson to release a Randy Rhoads guitar with 24 frets for quite some time, so I was very excited when these came out. I would have liked a neck pickup, but my only other option for a neck through 24 fret Rhoads is the custom shop which is prohibitively expensive for me. This guitar is a stripped down, straight-ahead machine, but the hardware is of good quality. The folks at DCGL included a hardcase, some picks, a strap, and a Jackson t-shirt. I gave it a 7 because it only has one pickup, and because the tuners do not match the overall build quality of the guitar.