“An ultra-fast guitar that you’re going to want to burn many fretboard miles on”: Jackson American Series Virtuoso review

The new go-faster bolt-on Superstrat from the Jackson USA line is a speed machine with a build that justifies the price tag

Jackson American Series Virtuoso body
(Image: © Jackson)

Guitar World Verdict

The Jackson American Series Virtuoso is a tier-one instrument where attention to detail is not only felt but heard, and a clear reminder why an American-made guitar is still something to behold.

Pros

  • +

    Seymour Duncan pickups offer wide range of classic and heavy tones.

  • +

    Flawless construction and setup.

  • +

    Comfortable for speedy playing styles.

  • +

    Floyd Rose 1500 ensures tuning precision.

Cons

  • -

    Expensive.

  • -

    Progressive and metal players may favor active pickup choices instead.

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

So, where do I start? Jackson released yet another guitar that looks an awful lot like the numerous others in their ranks of fast-playing and sleekly designed instruments. I don’t want to be cynical here because you – like me – are dying to know what’s so mind-blowingly different about the new Jackson American Series Virtuoso, so hang on. 

A year ago, Jackson launched the American Series Soloist SL3 to rave reviews. Now, with the release of the American Series Virtuoso, Jackson elevated the fanfare with an ultra-slick promotional video that featured major djent and metal artists like Periphery’s Misha Mansoor and Revocation’s Dave Davidson, along with virtuosic metal titan Marty Friedman as the centerpiece, followed by metal’s new wave of up-and-comers such as Heriot’s Debbie Gough and Clint Tustin of Erra – all playing the guitar while showcasing their diverse range of shred-tastic styles behind a chugging backdrop of original music. 

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look to see the American Series Virtuoso in the capable hands of metal’s brightest stars to date. 

But gathering up a bunch of influential shredders is still not enough to persuade what’s so unique here, so allow me to dig in and divulge what’s notable. On the surface, what’s new is that the American Series Virtuoso arrives as a dual-humbucker guitar with a bolt-on speed neck as opposed to the Soloist SL3’s HSS pickup configuration and neck-through-body construction. 

It’s apparent that Jackson is building upon their extensive lineup of super-octane-performance guitars, but what’s key is that once you get a hold of the Virtuoso in your hands, it’s unmistakable what makes it a cut above the rest.

Until now, I’ve held and auditioned so many import guitars (like the Jackson X-Series Dinky I reviewed) that I’ve nearly forgotten what it’s like to play one constructed in the USA. 

That being said, it’s like a slap to the face – where you quickly realize there’s a tangible upscale refinement to the Virtuoso that makes it a substantially serious instrument because it’s so well made. What’s more, after a cursory test drive with it, you’ll find that it effortlessly improves your rhythmic and fleet-fingered acrobatics so instantaneously, that it’s enough to say, “This one’s a keeper.”  

According to Jackson Guitars, the Virtuoso features “150-plus hand-crafted details…” And while I can’t even begin to list how that’s achieved, I can offer that every inch of the guitar feels like a level-up in precision with its build. The generously sculpted and satin-finished alder body comfortably presses against your body to make you feel connected to it. 

Its bolt-on “speed neck” is graphite-reinforced with a smoothly contoured “handshake heel,” and boasts an alternating five-piece caramelized maple-to-maple neck construction along with a streaked ebony fingerboard with rolled edges, a 12- to 16-inch compound radius and 24 jumbo frets. 

Jackson American Series Virtuoso rear

(Image credit: Jackson)

As an old-school shredder, I’ve always preferred a bolt-on neck to most neck-through-body designs, and here, Jackson’s “speed neck” is accurately portrayed, with a slim and shallow profile that makes any impulse for wide interval stretches and burning up the fretboard an open invitation.  

Jackson’s sonic engine proclivities often include the powerful combo of the Seymour Duncan JB TB-4 bridge and ’59 SH-1N neck humbuckers, both of which are directly mounted to the body for more responsiveness and purer tone.

For its control layout, there are dome-style knobs for volume and tone, and a five-way blade switch allowing for a range of full-humbucking and split-coil tonal flavors. Jackson also favors a Floyd Rose 1500 Series double-locking tremolo as its steadfast bridge system for whammy wanderlust, and rounding out its premium components, Gotoh MG-T locking tuners and Dunlop dual-locking strap buttons keep tuning and guitar stability in check respectively. 

Jackson American Series Virtuoso

(Image credit: Jackson)

Surprisingly, the most polarizing aspect of the Virtuoso among influencers and user comments has been the guitar’s satin shell pink finish (c’mon, people) and, of course, the steep cost. Since I received that particular finish, I’ll stick my head out and say I love it (hey, I came from the ’80s), but I’m aware my metal brethren gravitate toward colors that resemble the abyss – so rejoice, there’s a satin black finish for thou, as well as more neutral finishes like mystic blue and specific ocean. 

I alluded to it before, but its setup and low action are spot-on right out of the sturdy Foam Core case it comes in. What’s immediately discernible by raking the strings is the guitar’s response yields incredible depth and sustain, whereas with most import guitars I’ll hear a plinky or blunted sound.

Jackson American Series Virtuoso

(Image credit: Jackson)

This, naturally, is the result of skillful craftsmanship at play here, which already tells me the Virtuoso is gonna slay when plugged in. But does it chug? Indeed, it boldly chugs. The duo of Duncans delivers the requisite heft and aggressive output to accommodate most metal styles along with more nuanced tones when set in the 2 and 4 split-coil positions on the selector switch.

Altogether, it’s a proven recipe of heavy and classic tones for passive pickups regardless that most shredders generally prefer active pickups. But here I find no issue, and am of the mindset that these sound pleasingly raw and lively.

All in all, the Virtuoso is a premium instrument with American-made provenance, and that reflects in its higher price tag, but if money is no object, it soars as an ultra-fast guitar that you’re going to want to burn many fretboard miles on.

Specs

Jackson American Series Virtuoso

(Image credit: Jackson)
  • PRICE: $/£1,999
  • BODY: Alder
  • NECK: Five-piece caramelized maple/maple, bolt-on with graphite reinforcement, hand-rubbed satin urethane 
  • SCALE LENGTH: 25.5” (64.77 cm)
  • FINGERBOARD: Steaked ebony
  • FINGERBOARD RADIUS: 12”-16” compound radius (304.8 mm to 406.4 mm)
  • FRETS: 24 jumbo
  • INLAYS: Mother of pearl offset dot with Luminlay side dots
  • TRUSS ROD: Heel-mount truss rod adjustment wheel
  • PICKUPS: Seymour Duncan JB TB-4 Direct Mount and Seymour Duncan ’59 SH-1N Direct-Mount
  • CONTROLS: Volume, Tone
  • SWITCHING: 5-position blade: Position 1. Bridge, Position 2. Bridge Outer Coil and Neck Inner Coil, Position 3. Bridge and Neck, Position 4. Bridge Inner Coil and Neck Outer Coil, Position 5. Neck
  • HARDWARE: Floyd Rose 1500 Series Double-Locking Tremolo, locking Gotoh MG-T tuners, black
  • FINISH OPTIONS: Satin Shell Pink [as reviewed], Mystic Blue, Satin Black, and Specific Ocean 
  • CONTACT: Jackson Guitars

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.