Purchased from: Guitar Center
Features — 8
For only $160, you get a healthy, albeit predictable, list of features.
- Made in 2016 in China as one would expect for a $160 guitar.
- 24 Jumbo rosewood frets. The only problem is after the 20th fret, the frets are very small and difficult to play. The 23rd and 24th frets are just about worthless unless you have some very accurate fretting and/or tapping skills.
- Bolt-on maple neck, satin finish. It's super smooth and very quick, especially since the scale length is so short.
- Poplar body, which is very light, like basswood in weight.
- Neon green, gloss polyester finish. It's very bright. You can't miss it. If you like '80s colors, this is for you!
- 22.5" Scale length. The small frets can make for ridiculous fret hand stretches. For example, I can fret the 5th and 12th frets at the same time. I'm not sure what purpose that would have musically, but it's tons of fun to experiment with! Since the frets are small, it's easy to play stupid fast, especially after playing a full-size guitar for a while. Going from a 25.5" scale guitar to this one is analogous to bench pressing 200 pounds for a while and immediately moving to 100 pound weights. The short scale length makes even 10-52s on standard tuning feel like playing wet spaghetti noodles. I'd recommend heavier strings, especially if you want to drop tune.
- 2/3 scale Rhoads body, which makes me look like a giant despite being only 5'9", so that's cool!
- String-though body bridge. I don't care for floating bridges, so this is a plus for me.
- Jackson die-cast tuners. They stay in tune fairly well, but they're not perfect. Combined with a short scale length, the guitar has a tendency to go flat. This is especially true when doing wild bends and/or vibratos.
- 2 Jackson High Output Humbuckers (Passive). More on those later.
- 1 Volume, 1 Tone knob. No coil tapping.
- 3-way blade selector
No case is included. It's a bummer considering how a 2/3 size body and a 22.5" scale is meant to be in the realm of a traveler's guitar and has no protection. The guitar will not fit correctly in my SKB flying V case which fits my full-size Jackson RR3T and my Jackson PDXT perfectly. It's too small and shifts around too much. The only company I've found that would make a hard case for this guitar charges close to $400 USD. It seems rather outrageous for a simple travel guitar. I wish Jackson would include the Minion series gig bag that they make for this guitar.
Sound — 6
I am almost exclusively a metal player, so I'm basing my review on that style. I (attempt to) play in styles similar to Death, Megadeth, Cannibal Corpse, Trivium, and so on. As such, I'm running this guitar as through a Peavey 6505MH paired with a Carvin 1X12 cab (with a Celestion V30 speaker) and a Boss NS2 noise gate. Considering how the pickups are Jackson branded factory pickups, I didn't expect mind-blowing sound, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Let's start with the cleans. They're not very clean. On the green channel of my Peavey, I don't expect glassy cleans to begin with, but the Jackson branded pickups are not particularly great. The neck pickup's high-ends are smooth and not overly shrill. However, the bottom end is extremely pronounced. Playing chords using the lower strings has a tendency to drown out all the other notes. The bridge pickup is very thin and distorts with heavy picking and strumming.
Using the red channel on my amp is where the guitar is really meant to be. The pickups are noisy, but they are not the worst I've played in entry level guitars or "affordable" guitars. The bridge pickup does have a loose bottom end and shrill highs. This could be improved with thicker strings, but I have yet to purchase strings thicker than 10-52s since that is what I have in bulk currently. In standard tuning, the guitar sounds as well as you would expect from a $160 instrument. I can't imagine how muddy it would sound tuned to C or even C# for that matter. The neck pickup, while full of bottom end, has very mild highs. It's actually quite pleasant to solo with. The output from both of the pickups is respectable, especially among factory pickups from other guitars in this price range.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I bought this guitar as a display model at a local Guitar Center, so I don't know how well the guitar was set up from the factory or if an employee there did the set up. Regardless, when I purchased it, I did not have to do anything except for change the strings from presumably 9-42s to 10-52s. The action is low, intonation was spot on, and the height of the pickups was where I liked it. The neck was straight and I didn't have to fiddle with the truss rod. All of the inlays are in their proper location and correctly fitted. The tuners are aligned correctly and the input jack is not loose, nor is there any excessive buzzing when a cable is plugged in. There is no fret buzz or any dead frets.
There are a few minor problems though. The finish is not perfect. There is a very small (smaller than a pinhead) bubble on the back of the guitar. The tip of the longer wing is lighter in color and not uniform with the rest of the body. It looks like it needs another coat of paint to be even with the rest of the body. The corners of the nut were sharp. I got tired of being poked by it after a couple weeks of owning it and rounded them down with a metal file. Two of the frets have cuts that are a couple millimeters deeper than the fret wires. Will this affect the durability of the guitar? I'm not sure, but at the time of this review, I've had the guitar for three months and so far, no problems.
Reliability & Durability — 6
Will this guitar withstand live playing? That depends on your definition of "live playing." If you mean a jam at your friend's house with some band mates, then sure. The hardware is decent enough that you should not have any problems with hardware failure. Just be careful of the points, as poplar is a relatively soft wood and the finish is not perfect to begin with. As for playing at a show on stage with a live audience, it's difficult to say considering I have not gigged with this instrument. I would not consider this guitar, even as a backup. My reasoning is partly due to a lack of a case for the instrument. No major companies make a hard case for this guitar yet. The only case I've found that will even remotely fit this guitar is the Jackson branded gig bag for the Minion series guitars. However, gig bags are not really meant for touring. As with most Chinese made guitars, the screws are cheap and easy to accidentally strip. If I do decide to make any modifications to this guitar (i.e., swap the pickup rings, swap the truss rod cover, open the control cavity on a regular basis, so on) I'll buy better made replacement screws.
Overall Impression — 6
Overall, this is a super fun guitar to play. The small scale and body make it tons of fun to play. If you are looking for an affordable, straightforward metal guitar, give this a look. If you are a smaller person that enjoys hard rock/metal, then give this a look. It's way cooler than the small scale acoustic guitars on the market! If you can get over the minor flaws, it's a decent instrument. I won't say that it's even close to my customized limited edition RR3T or my PDXT, but sometimes I don't want to drag around a full-size guitar, especially for a jam session with some friends or if I have a few minutes before I leave for work and want to noodle around.
I am considering swapping the pickups. Perhaps I'll get a Seymour Duncan SH-6 set or Seymour Duncan Black Winters. I haven't decided. Heavier strings are a necessity, especially for tunings lower than one step down. Despite the negatives, it plays very well and with its short scale it makes you feel like a shred king! Just don't expect this to sound like a mid-level guitar with brand name pickups and bear in mind its short scale. It's definitely an unusual guitar, but I'd recommend giving it a try. If it were lost or stolen, I'd probably replace it considering the affordability and I do enjoy playing it. My biggest gripe is the lack of an included case or bag. I wasn't really happy with paying an extra $40 for a gig bag that only offers basic protection, but it's better than nothing. I guess I have been spoiled by my fitted SKB cases for my other full-size Vs. I'd give this guitar a 6.5/10, but UG won't let me use decimals.