Jackson American Series Soloist SL3 review

Jackson opens its new US production line series with an electric guitar that defines the high-performance brand

Jackson American Series Soloist SL3
(Image: © Jackson)

Guitar World Verdict

The return of a good old made-in-the-USA Jackson Soloist is a welcome development made even better by modern upgrades that provide improved playability and tonal versatility.

Pros

  • +

    Super-fast playability.

  • +

    Made in the USA.

  • +

    Lots of tones from the HSS format.

  • +

    Sensible modern upgrades.

Cons

  • -

    Expensive.

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The very first time I saw a Jackson Soloist in a music store in the early ’80s I experienced a similar sensation to when I first encountered a Lamborghini in real life around the same time.

All of my prior notions of what a familiar object could be, whether it was an electric guitar or car, were blown away by a new standard of sexy, aggressive styling and an almost fanatical devotion to speed.

After holding the Jackson Soloist in my hands and playing a few licks, previous Fenders and Gibsons I played seemed like Chevys and Fords – functional and reliable perhaps, but lacking luxury and a distinct competitive edge.

Opening the case for the brand new Jackson American Series Soloist SL3, I was hit with a feeling of déjà vu. Before my eyes was a guitar that looked almost identical to the Jackson I discovered 40 years ago. However, even though shred-worthy guitar quality has improved dramatically since that time, I still felt a similar thrill when playing the new model. 

Made in the USA just like the original, the new American Series Soloist SL3 offers the same standards of quality as the original along with a few subtle upgrades that modern players will welcome.

Features

Jackson American Series Soloist SL3

(Image credit: Jackson)

The Jackson American Series Soloist SL3 is made in Corona, California, only about 25 miles from where the original model was built. It features a graphite-reinforced three-piece maple neck-thru-body design with alder body wings. 

This design yields a sculpted heel-free transition between the neck and body, which, along with the deep treble bout cutaway provides unrestricted access to all 24 jumbo frets. 

Neck specs include a 25.5-inch scale length, 12-to-16-inch compound radius, 1.6875-inch nut width and unbound ebony fingerboard with Jackson’s signature inverted “sharkfin” mother-of-pearl inlays.

Jackson American Series Soloist SL3

(Image credit: Jackson)

The main modern upgrades lie in the electronics and hardware. Instead of Jackson-brand pickups, the pickups come courtesy of Seymour Duncan and consist of a JB TB-4 bridge humbucker, Flat Strat SSL-6 RWQRP middle single-coil and Flat Strat SSL-6 neck single-coil.

Instead of mini on/off switches for each pickup, a five-position blade pickup selector switch provides bridge/bridge outer coil and middle/neck and bridge inner coil/neck and middle/neck settings, while the master volume and master tone knobs remain true to the original design. 

A Floyd Rose 1500 Series double-locking tremolo is standard (the original usually had a Kahler or occasionally a Floyd); tuners are Gotoh MG-T Locking models; and all of the hardware has a matte black finish. Other upgrades include Luminlay side dot markers and a truss rod adjustment wheel located above the 24th fret.

Jackson American Series Soloist SL3

(Image credit: Jackson)

Performance

When playing the American Series Soloist, 40 years of guitar-making experience and refinement is evident compared to the original model. Here, the fretboard edges are smoothly rounded off to provide silky comfort and the slim, flat C-shape neck profile facilitates lightning-fast runs. A deep-routed cavity allows players to raise pitch significantly with the Floyd Rose. Playability, comfort and performance are all simply top notch. 

The pickup settings accessed via the blade switch make this Soloist a super Strat with a capital “S”, delivering a satisfying variety of dazzling single-coil tones in addition to the assertive midrange roar of the Duncan JB bridge humbucker. The reverse wound middle pickup eliminates noise when dual single-coil settings are selected, and all of the single-coil settings sound brilliant and sparkling. 

While the Soloist excels at metal tones, it can also hang with blues, country, funk, fusion, progressive or really any style of music where humbucking and single-coil tones are equally welcome. No mere trip down memory lane, the American Series Soloist proves that high performance and quality never goes out of style.

Specs

  • TYPE: Solidbody electric
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • BODY: Alder
  • NECK: Through-body three-piece maple neck with graphite reinforcement
  • SCALE: 25.5”
  • FINGERBOARD: 12”-16” compound radius rolled ebony with inverse mother of pearl sharkfin inlay and Luminlay side-dot markers
  • FRETS: 24, nickel silver jumbo 
  • ELECTRICS: Seymour Duncan JB TB-4 humbucker (bridge), 2x Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 single-coils (middle and neck)
  • CONTROLS: Five-way blade selector switch, volume, tone
  • HARDWARE: Floyd Rose 1500 Series double-locking vibrato, Gotoh Magnum locking tuners, Dunlop dual-locking strap-locks, black
  • FINISHES: Slime Green [as reviewed], Gloss Black, Platinum Pearl, Riviera Blue
  • CONTACT: Jackson Guitars

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.