Signature guitars tend to fall into two camps.
On one side you have painstakingly detailed remakes of an artist’s iconic instrument - these tend to be favoured by the die hards who know every string slide and trem wobble of every lead line.
On the other side, you have guitars that are more ‘artist designed’ than ‘artist replica’, offering insight into the player’s visual and technical preferences. After all, the artists are the ones out at the coal face every night, so they know what makes for a decent instrument.
And when you’ve been playing in Iron Maiden for over 30 years, it’s fair to say you have a decent grasp on what makes a good guitar.
The Jackson X Series Adrian Smith backs this theory up. Jackson and the Maiden man have created a textbook sub-£500 shred machine in his own image, without an ounce of fat on it.
Built in Indonesia, the X Series is a classic Strat shape, even down to the Fender-licensed headstock. Its basswood body is finished with a glorious Green Burst quilted maple top. It features a two-piece maple neck and fingerboard, with a compound 12-16" radius.
This is interesting in itself. The compound radius means the neck is slightly thinner and rounder at the headstock end, ideal for chord work, while it widens out as it approaches the body.
This wider section, while subtle, creates a flatter fingerboard - ideal for solos and string bending. It works wonderfully well. Our hands adjusted immediately and it was a hugely comfortable experience.
Smith’s sig has a few other tricks up its sleeve, too. Aside from the Floyd Rose Special trem, the two Jackson-designed single coil pickups offer a welcome variation to the tight, punchy bridge humbucker.
Any Maiden fan will know that typecasting them as an all-out metallic onslaught is doing them a disservice, as tonal versatility is essential. The X Series gets this spot on. If you want to shred, you’re in the right place. But if you want to use cleaner tones or effects, no problem.
It’s hard to see where Jackson has made concessions. Build quality is superb, the tones you can extract are excellent and the compound neck is a revelation. The £500 bracket is always going to feature plenty of highly playable guitars, but Jackson has created something special indeed.