The Jackson Soloist is now in its fourth decade of production, proving it has fared pretty well against the forces of fashion. The current catalogue includes many different flavours, from a multi-scale eight-string to this workhorse shred machine that looks like it’s come straight from the main stage at Castle Donington in 1988.
The build here is very clean with, aesthetically at least, little to differentiate this X Series model from the high-end USA instruments in the stable, other than the laurel fingerboard and Duncan Designed pickups. The HB-103B and HB-103N humbuckers are patterned after Duncan Distortions and these hot ceramic units are built with hard rocking in mind.
The upper-fret access offered by the neck-through-body neck design has, of course, been central to the Soloist’s appeal since the first official models were produced in 1984. Here, the maple neck runs through the entire length of the poplar body and graphite reinforcement rods either side of the truss-rod deliver additional stability. The back-angled headstock is attached via a scarf joint, adding further strength and solidity to the build.
The slim neck is comfortable and serves as reminder of why Jackson’s enduring designs continue to appeal to the shred demographic: they simply exude playability. Although shallower necks can sometimes cause hand cramping, the subtly rounded shoulders here provide ample leverage which, along with the compound 12-16” radius, allows two-tone bends with choke-free execution. The action is ludicrously low and, in conjunction with the factory-shipped 0.009-0.042 strings, fluid legato work is a cinch.
Through a clean amp, both pickups are bold and clear, and while they don’t provide enough versatility to switch from clean thrash breakdowns to authentic Hendrix-style double-stops, the electronic configuration has obviously been designed to prioritise power and clarity.
Switching to a Bogner patch on our Axe-Fx III, there’s both a sense of nostalgia and an overwhelming desire to knock out the riff from Megadeth’s Tornado Of Souls. The Duncan Designed bridge pickup has a pronounced midrange, which marries perfectly with the classic metal amps we’re scrolling through on the Axe-Fx.
Although billed as featuring “hot-coil windings for a high-output tone,” in practice the bridge is a little more measured, delivering both definition and punch on medium to high-gain amp settings. Switching over to the neck pickup, the neck-through design makes its presence felt – there’s sustain aplenty along with more compression.
Regardless of fads and fashions, the metal sounds and bands with which this design is associated are no less valid today than they were 30 years ago. The titans from metal’s golden era are as popular as ever, and the influence of the Soloist on contemporary guitar design can be seen in its countless imitators.
In this affordable incarnation, the Soloist is much more than a mere nostalgia trip – for fleet-fingered modern technical players it provides the holy grail in terms of upper fret access, action and playability, all without costing the Earth.
- PRICE £619
- DESCRIPTION 6-string double-cutaway through-neck solidbody electric, made in Indonesia
- BUILD Poplar body, maple neck-through-body design with 12-16” compound radius Laurel fingerboard, 24 jumbo frets
- HARDWARE Jackson sealed die-cast tuners, recessed Floyd Rose Special double-locking vibrato bridge and Floyd Rose Special locking nut
- ELECTRONICS Duncan Designed HB-103B (bridge) and HB-103N (neck) humbuckers, 3-way blade pickup selector, volume and tone
- SCALE LENGTH 25.5″/648mm
- NECK WIDTH 42.9mm at nut, 52mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 20.7mm at 1st fret, 21mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 53.9mm at bridge, 35.2mm at nut
- WEIGHT 3.3kg/7.3lb
- FINISHES Snow White (as reviewed), Rocket Red (with black hardware), Satin Black (with gold hardware), Silverburst (with black hardware)
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- CONTACT jacksonguitars.com