Jackson guitars have enjoyed a reputation for outstanding quality, beginning with the company’s late-Seventies custom-shop origins and continuing to its present-day status as a major manufacturer.
Usually, that quality came at a price higher than most of Jackson’s direct competition, but pros and players who refused to compromise, and who were willing to pay a little extra, allowed the company to thrive without cutting corners.
When two new Jackson guitars arrived for me to review, I found the quality exactly what I expected. The unexpected part was their very affordable retail prices, which were two, three, maybe even four times less than I thought they were going to be. Having reviewed the Chris Broderick Soloist 6 a few years ago, I expected that the Chris Broderick Pro Series Soloist 6 would actually be more expensive, due to its stealthy matte-black finish. I was blown away to discover that it costs less than a third of the previous model’s price. The JS32 Dinky Arch Top was an even bigger surprise, as it sells for an insanely low price that simply hasn’t been seen before with a guitar of this quality.
Features: The Chris Broderick Pro Series Soloist 6 features the same sleek body shape, 24-fret neck-through-body design and dual-humbucker configuration as the high-end Broderick Soloist 6. However, it has a few differences, including the matte-black finish, materials and pickups. The most noticeable variance is the fretboard, which is rosewood rather than ebony. The Pro Series Soloist 6’s body and neck, however, are all mahogany.
The pickups are direct-mounted DiMarzio CB 6 humbuckers, but the Pro Series Soloist 6 still features the same versatile push-pull controls that provide coil splitting when the master volume control is pulled up and tone circuit bypass when the master tone control is pushed down. In addition to a standard three-way pickup selector switch, the Broderick Pro Series Soloist 6 has a mini toggle kill switch. The tremolo is a recessed Floyd Rose Special FRT-2000 double-locking two-point model.
The JS32 Dinky Arch Top is a dead ringer for the original Jackson Dinky model that was a best seller during the height of the late-Eighties/early Nineties shred phenomenon. It has the same slimmed-down, contoured basswood body with an arched top and a slim-profile maple neck with rosewood fretboard, pearloid shark-fin inlays, 24 jumbo frets and compound radius. Electronics consist of a pair of Jackson high-output humbuckers, master volume and master tone controls and a three-way blade pickup-selector switch. A licensed Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo mounted in a deep cavity that permits extreme upward bends completes the package.
Performance: I was very impressed with the feel of the neck on the original Broderick Soloist 6, which remains exactly the same on the Pro Series Soloist 6. With its matte-black finish covering the body and neck alike, the guitar feels like one solid piece, and the entire fretboard is easy to access, thanks to the neck-through-body design. Like the original version, the pickup-selector switch is located within easy reach of the picking hand, which is ideal for players who switch pickups often during songs. And since the switch’s throw is parallel to the strings, you never have to worry about accidentally switching pickups. But the absolute coolest feature of the Pro Series Soloist 6 is its entirely black cosmetics, which gives it the high-tech look of a custom hot rod.
As for the JS32 Dinky Arch Top, it’s the best solidbody bargain available today for players who prefer a modern Super Strat design. Whereas many guitars in its price range have substandard electronics and hardware and need more than a few setup tweaks to play well, this Dinky was gig-ready from the second I took it out of the box. The pickups sound bold, clear and punchy, and the tremolo has a smooth, reliable action. The fretwork feels comparable to that of a much more expensive guitar, with perfectly smooth edges. In a blindfold test, most players would be unable to distinguish it from any of Jackson’s previous Dinky models, both in terms of playability and tone.
List Prices: JS32 Dinky Arch Top, $359.99; Chris Broderick Pro Series Soloist 6, $1,199.99
Manufacturer: Jackson Guitars, jacksonguitars.com
Cheat Sheet:The Chris Broderick Pro Series Soloist 6 is a more affordable version of the original Chris Broderick Soloist 6, offering similar circuitry and playability.
The Soloist’s push-pull controls provide access to coil-splitting (master volume) and tone-bypass (master tone) functions that expand the guitar’s tonal spectrum.
The JS32 Dinky Arch Top has the classic slimmed-down Jackson Super Strat design, featuring two humbuckers and a recessed Floyd Rose tremolo.
This Dinky’s 24-fret neck has the same compound radius, slim profile and deep cutaway that have made the original Dinky a shredder’s favorite for decades.
The Bottom Line:The world-famous quality of Jackson’s Custom Shop is now available on two production models that sell for insanely low prices, yet offer uncompromising quality ideal for gigging pros.