Hands-On Review:JS32T Rhoads and JS23 Dinky


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These affordable Jacksons shred price-to-performance expectations

By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central

 

The 1980s are remembered for cultural touchstones like spandex, hair gel, and  the movie Wall Street. And while some of these trends can seem dated,  one '80s phenomenon remains vital and relevant to this day: Solidbody electric  guitars built for the era's speed-oriented hard rock. At a time when the  traditional music companies were caught up in corporate turmoil, upstart  enterprises like Jackson Guitars redefined both build quality and aesthetics by  giving players the instruments they wanted at prices they could afford.

 

This "player first" tradition promoted by Jackson is alive in a range of new  guitars from the Bloodline series. We had a chance to test out the JS32T  Randy Rhoads model and the JS23  Dinky, two instruments that will help you shred faster and scream louder  without nuking your bank account to do it. Let's see what powers these  metal-leaning axes.

JS32T Randy Rhoads

Rock history has all too many tragic tales, but few are as heartbreaking as  the loss of Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist Randy Rhoads, who died at age 25 in a  plane crash just as he was gaining his rightful recognition as one of the best  lead metal guitarists in the world. Just before his passing, Rhoads had taken  delivery of two Jackson signature guitars. The Bloodline model pays homage to  these instruments with a Rhoads-inspired offset V-shaped body that oozes a  hard-rocking virtuoso vibe.

 

The JS32RR's  bolt-on maple neck sports a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard adorned with Jackson's  trademark shark fin inlays. The tilt-back headstock looks cool and keeps the  strings at a good angle while the fretboard's compound radius (12" at the nut;  16" at the 24th fret) makes it easy to grip full-fingered chords in the lower  positions and perform super-wide bends without fretting out in the higher  reaches.

 

The body shape not only looks fierce, it also offers incredible access to the  upper positions (the neck joins the body at the 19th fret). As a result, the  Rhoads provides a perfect balance between playing comfort and performance  aesthetic. It's a great axe for traditional picking, extended legato left-hand  slurs, and right-hand tap technique, and is equally well suited to rhythm and  lead playing.

 

While a version (the JS32TRR)  is available with a double-locking tremolo (JS32RR),  the guitar we tested had a fixed Tune-o-matic-style bridge. Instead of a  tailpiece, strings pass through the body, with the ferrules echoing the body's V  shape. Our test instrument's rich red metallic finish made a powerful visual  statement.

 

Since it's equipped with a pair of Jackson high-output humbuckers—mated to a  three-way switch and master volume and tone controls—it was no surprise that the  Rhoads slammed the preamp of our Rivera Knucklehead harder than a pitbull with  an attitude problem. Sustain? Bite? Crunch? Harmonics? Check, check, check, and  check. But roll back the volume, and the Rhoads' tone cleans up pretty nicely.  This guitar definitely boasts a few different sweet spots but without losing its  articulation, and can cover a surprisingly wide range of musical situations.

JS23 Dinky

The JS23 is a prime example of what made Jackson such a key player in the "super Strat"  movement. Its offset double-cutaway design and classic body shape cut a less  extreme silhouette than the more pointed Rhoads, but it can scrap with any gang  of metal marauders.

 

With a 24-fret maple neck, large frets on a nice flat rosewood  fingerboard—also adorned with those classic shark fin inlays—and light Indian  Cedro body, the Dinky feels great in the hands and is very easy to get along with.

 

Our guitar's natural finish brought out the elegant grain in the wood. The  body's weight and balance offered the kind of comfort you appreciate more the  longer you wear the guitar. The fulcrum-style tremolo bridge is a modern update  on the traditional non-locking tremolo, and contributes to the JS23's  open and balanced unplugged tone.

 

That tone translates quite nicely through the versatile pickup configuration:  high-output single-coils in the neck and middle positions, and a humbucker in  the bridge. (The similar JS22R has a pair of humbuckers instead of the S/S/H layout.) Controls include a  five-way switch and master volume and tone knobs. Running the gamut of pickup  combinations produces the full range of tones required to rip out everything  from chunky low-note riffs to full-throated chords to upper-fret single-note  leads delivered at light-speed.

 

As with the Rhoads, the JS23 pickups are hotter than a spring-break beach party. But they can also be coaxed  to show their gentler side by adjusting to both the player's touch and the  guitar's controls. The balance between the single-coils and the humbucker—a  chronic weakness on some competing guitars—is impressively matched. Dial things  in the right way, and you can even invoke the bluesy sound of a different style  of '80s guitar icon: Stevie Ray Vaughan.

A new breed

Overall, both of these Jackson guitars offered excellent crunch for the cash.  Sure, there were a few little things in setup that you won't find in the  company's more expensive offerings; both guitars required a small adjustment in  intonation right out of the box. But in all the important areas—fast action,  rock-solid stability, smooth playability, and great core tone—these Bloodlines  belied their affordable price tags. They'll rock the stage without shredding  your savings.


For guitars that respect the classic metal ethos of the '80s but boast  the best in modern manufacturing and materials, check out the Jackson  Bloodlines: the JS32T  Rhoads, JS23  Dinky and JS22R  Dinky.