Jackson Adrian Smith SDX review

A 'Maiden signature that won't break the bank

  • £430
  • $666.65
On first inspection, the guitar is still achingly pretty, and just on the right side of retro

MusicRadar Verdict

A bit of a game changer in the sub-£500 guitar market. The SDX could convince you it's worth double the street price: no small feat.


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    Sounds and feels like a guitar twice its price. Looks great.


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When Adrian Smith's signature model was released by Jackson, few could have possibly denied its workmanlike aura or its 'girl next door' good looks. As a USA Jackson, its price was on the thick end of £1,800, leaving the guitar out of reach for all but the most well-heeled of Maiden fanatics.

Luckily for us, the good folks at the pointy headstock company have come up with a more affordable version. There are a lot of quality shred guitars out there vying for your hard earned, though, and the SDX has a lot to prove if it wants to be king of the hill.

"No bells, no whistles: the SDX is just a classic shred guitar"

Naturally, there are differences between the SDX and its USA-made brother. Where the original has an alder body and ebony 'board option, the Indian-built SDX has basswood and rosewood, and rather than DiMarzio and Fender pickups, here we have a Jackson humbucker and two noiseless single coils.

These do bring about tonal differences, but we'll get to those shortly. On first inspection, the guitar is still achingly pretty, and just on the right side of retro. No bells, no whistles, just a classic shred guitar with Adrian Smith's seal of approval stamped on the end of the headstock.

Speak to owners of USA-made Jacksons and chances are their favourite part of the guitar will be the neck. On the SDX, you have the traditional Jackson slim D profile with 22 massive frets.

"While £500 does buy you a lot of guitar these days, the SDX feels a step above many"

It's here you start to notice that the guitar really does belie its rather humble price point and, while £500 does buy you a lot of guitar these days, the SDX feels a step above many. The frets are immaculately finished and the oiled maple neck a joy to motor around on. Allied to the surprisingly good build quality, this imparts a premium feel to the SDX.


Tonally, the body might not quite enjoy the snap and sparkle of the alder-bodied original, but we've always found basswood to be a great tonewood anyway, particularly once you're piling on the gain.

The bridge humbucker is plenty powerful, with just enough detail to prevent it sliding into the woolly morass suffered by many lower end units, and the single coils give you more than a sniff of Strat flavour, making the SDX a versatile guitar indeed considering its heavy metal association. The Floyd Rose Special bridge also does a solid job of keeping you in tune, no matter how crazy you get.

A versatile guitar capable of covering many bases, and perfect for nailing your favourite Maiden tunes? What more could you need, bar the white high tops and tight strides? Okay then, Wasted Years on four: one, two, three...