It's ironic that the most recent album Chris Broderick recorded with Megadeth is called Th1rt3en because the guitarist couldn't be having better luck.
Not only did he help kick life back into Dave Mustaine's much-loved outfit, but now Jackson has unveiled a pair of Broderick signature models from its US Custom Shop - a Soloist 6 and a Soloist 7.
The Soloist 6 is our review model, and it's a breathtaking guitar. The 44.5mm thick body is rendered from a slab of heavy mahogany, topped with two carved chunks of book-matched quilted maple.
PRS-style revealed 'binding' adds to the well-crafted vibe to the top; a flawlessly applied finish doesn't hurt either.
Hardware comprises a Floyd Rose Pro double-locking vibrato and matching top nut, plus a pair of direct-mounted Broderick-designed Custom DiMarzio humbuckers. Each is routed through a set of recessed controls: master volume, master tone, a three-way pickup selector switch and a killswitch.
The volume control is a push/pull coil-splitter, which isolates the bridge pickup's inside coil and the neck 'bucker's outside coil depending on which direction the pickup selector is pointing. With the selector switch in the middle position, and the volume control 'up', you get both pickups coil-switched, natch.
The tone control is a push/pull too and only functions as a tone in the 'up' position. While it took us a while to realise it wasn't faulty, the down position enables you to bypass the tone circuitry when desired. Broderick feels this arrangement maintains the tonal integrity of the pickups.
Attention to detail is everything at this price, so the Soloist's snugly-fitted aluminium control cavity plates, the rear ribcage scoop and the beautifully sculpted heel are all welcome. Likewise the 24 narrow-but-tall stainless steel frets on the flawless, position marker-free ebony fingerboard, with its beautiful maple binding.
The headstock, also bound with quilted loveliness, differs from the regular Soloist look with its reversed profile and three-a-side tuner format, rather than the classic six-in-line. The machine heads are Planet Waves Auto-Trim jobs - tighten them up and any excess string length is trimmed off automatically: neat.
On the negative side, there's a Strat-style jackplate on the side of the body, which would be much improved if it followed the contour of the body more closely - it looks a bit messy. And at a full 10 pounds, it's heavy. You have been warned.
Weighty it may be, but at least the guitar hangs well on a strap. In fact, Broderick spec'd the precise position for the lower strap-lock button so that the neck would be presented at a comfortable angle - that's proper attention to detail.
Extra kudos is due, too, for the DiMarzio humbuckers. Named 'The Fundamentals' by Chris, these are basically pimped versions of a DP220 D Activator (bridge) and DP151 PAF Pro (neck).
What makes these pickups so tonally versatile is that they haven't been hideously over-wound. Because Broderick is a complex, multi-dimensional player, this Soloist 6 by association offers up a bit of everything, from glassy single-coil tones to harmonically complex humbucker grunt with enough bottom end to loosen some bowels in the mosh pit.
This is a tonal balancing act very few 'metal' guitars achieve, no matter the price tag.
Never mind Th1rt3en - the digits on the Soloist 6's pricetag add up to bad luck for those of us on a modest budget. Even those who have the cash can get a bit sniffy about expensive rock and metal-orientated guitars.
The fact is, for the right player, the Soloist 6 is every bit as desirable as your Gibson Les Paul Custom or a fully-loaded PRS Custom 24. Sloppy jackplate aside, the Soloist 6 is stunning in every regard: looks, playability, tonal palette.
It may be Megabucks but get your hands on one and you'll play it to 'Deth.