Hands-On Review:JS32T Rhoads and JS23 Dinky
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 theand the , 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'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) is available with a double-locking tremolo ( ), 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.
Theis 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'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 similarhas 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, thepickups 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