With just three years of guitar-making experience under his belt, Cambridge-based Jaden Rose is a newcomer to the British guitar luthiery scene. However, with 25 years of guitar playing credentials, not to mention extensive prior experience as an engineer and woodworker, his CV ticks all the right boxes.
Rose has clearly used the classic Ibanez RG as a start point here. While that might have some of you tut-tuting, it actually means that from the moment you open the branded Hiscox case you know where this Original series guitar is aimed.
The proportions look right, access to the highest fret is easy, it's light in weight and virtually disappears on the strap – it looks and feels familiar. Yet this is no RG copy.
As an example of a custom build, the body has a centre-joined basswood back, with rib-cage contour, topped with a two piece spalted beech top that's subtly carved on the lower bouts with pronounced almost reptilian ridges along those skeletal horns.
The woodworking is impressive; there's nowhere to hide with an oil finish that here has a beautifully satin-like sheen. Four cleanly recessed screws sit in cupped washers on the contoured heel and hold the neck firmly in place – the body/ neck fit is close and tight.
Slightly more neck pitch would have increased the string height at the fixed, hardtail, Strat-like bridge – as it is, the treble side saddle's height adjustment screws protrude a little uncomfortably.
The back-angled, six-a-side headstock is scarf-jointed under the first two frets and, depth-wise, the neck is skinny but not super thin (18mm at the first fret, 21.6mm at the 12th) with a typical classical profile. It has quite a flat back with full shoulders that by design feels comfortable with thumb-behind positions, a little chunkier for thumb around.
However, the fretboard's edges feel new and a little sharp, not helped by an almost triangular fret section, which might help intonation but doesn't aid smoothness of touch. But this is quite an early example – you'll now find fret and 'board edges smoother, and the rather sharp body edges will also now have a little more radius.
The set-up is low and fast, the black side dots provide strongly contrasting position marks, while the subtle offset abalone dots enhance the understated class. It's a great job.
Dual DiMarzios screw directly into the body (with minimal height adjustment), and the pickup routs are super sharp, like the inset rear string ferrules that anchor the strings on the back of the body.
Both volume and tone sit a little further away from the bridge than the more Strat-inspired placement of an RG – a plus in our opinion: close enough for little finger volume swells, but there's little chance you'll accidentally knock your volume back in the heat of battle.
The three-way toggle switch, which like the volume and tone sits in a sharply machined recess, would get in the way for more strum-tastic right-hand styles, but for a right-hand position that's concentrated over the bridge it's an easy movement to change pickups.
Rear-mounted volume, tone and toggle switches sit in a foil-screened cavity with recessed plastic coverplate; access to the side-mounted recessed barrel output jack, that's sensibly placed to throw your lead through your strap by the base strap button, is via a separate rear cavity. Time to plug in…
Irrelevant of style, or indeed personal taste, a good guitar is a good guitar – and this is a very good guitar. The combination of light weight and resonance means that clean tones are airy and not one dimensional.
The clever DiMarzio toggle switch splits the two humbuckers, voicing the neck facing single-coils of both humbuckers in the middle position to add a hollowed funk to your palette, before the strident articulation and higher output of the bridge pickup kicks back into a more modern rock voice.
The neck pickup is well-balanced, both in terms of output and tone. It's soft and smooth, but with a good balance of lows and mids. As we up the gain, the articulation of the bridge pickup ensures clarity, but there's plenty of throat from not over prominent mids, with generous bass – again, balance is the word.
It's a lively drive too; with more extreme gains there's a little whistle but, for this writer at least, a little fight is always endearing. Volume and tone are well graduated too, and fully off the tone control creates a very usable darker tone – it's there if you need to add a little old-school tonality from what is a surprisingly versatile guitar.
The neck is fast and stable, with the flexibility for slight neck vibrato – we'd be tempted to lose the truss rod cover so that behind the nut bends have more travel. Like we said, it's a great guitar with rock and metal as its aim, but has plenty of musicality for cleaner styles, especially with effects.
These Original series guitars are quite a statement of intent. The woodworking and finishing is superb, as is the wood, pickup and component choice. This plays superbly, there are numerous custom options on offer and the price is fair for such quality.
There's very little to dislike here, not least the uncluttered, organic-yet-striking vibe. Yes, oil finishes aren't for everyone, and let's face it shape-wise this isn't that original, but it's this familiarity that could perhaps see Jaden guitars on a stage near you soon. We certainly hope so.