Jackson J32 Kelly review

The black-clad metal machine with a neck built for your meanest riffs

  • £363
  • $549.99
Sleek, shapely and a little bit scary, this isn't a guitar for the faint-hearted.

MusicRadar Verdict

A monster metal axe on a budget.


  • +

    Individual looks. Crunchy tone.


  • -

    This shape hates guitar stands.

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One look at that iconic headstock and those shark fin inlays and you know you've got a Jackson on your hands. Beloved of metalheads worldwide, these high-performance guitars are built for punishment.

This sharp-angled newcomer looks like a Gibson Explorer that's been through some intensive ninja schooling - it's going to need some serious tonal cojones to match its non-more-black aesthetics and attitude.

"This Jackson looks like a Gibson Explorer that's been through some intensive ninja schooling."

As is to be expected, the Kelly's asymmetrical body makes for slightly awkward seated practice and it's the enemy of most guitar stands. Strap it on, though, and things start to make more sense - this guitar is both balanced and surprisingly comfortable for something with so many sharp edges.

In the pickup department, Jackson has kept it simple with a pair of its own passive high- output humbuckers. The bridge pickup is full of attack, sharp without being overly harsh and perfect for soaring leads, while the neck humbucker is ripe for riffage.

Tonally, the JS32 performs best when it's given lashings of gain; it growls and slashes with enough swagger to convince anyone of its bone-crushing potential. Switch to the clean channel of your amp and these pickups also yield a sweet and full-bodied sound.

If you're after a guitar with a ton of tweaking options, the JS32's lack of comprehensive features like coil-splits and dual volume and tone controls may mean the Kelly falls short of expectations, but its core audience will appreciate its no- fuss approach.

Speaking of core audience, the 24-fret neck is a gift to shredders, with a broad, flat playing surface populated by perfectly fitted jumbo frets and a compound radius that makes an easy transition between planting chords and massive string bends.

The Jackson Floyd Rose offers top-notch tuning stability, ensuring you'll return back to perfect pitch even after your wildest whammy bar excursions.

The latest Kelly easily lives up to the Jackson's reputation: it has fantastic build quality, a neck that's perfect for fret-melting solos and skull- pounding riffs alike, and a set of humbuckers that deliver plenty of weight.

Granted, it's not exactly a multi-use guitar (it will look a bit out of place playing Mustang Sally in your local, and the shape isn't for everyone), but for metalheads after a Jackson that won't break the bank, the JS32 is near pointy perfection.