What is it?
The Jackson Soloist is one of the first electric guitars to come to mind when you think of shred. The neck-through S-style sibling to the Dinky with the super-quick neck, jumbo frets, it is a format that has sustained countless revisions since its introduction in the early 80s.
This month's review model is an excellent example of the type. For a start, it demonstrates just how enduring the Soloist format is – it needn't be finished in snakeskin graphics to retain its sense of self.
Indeed, there's something about this Soloist that resists that legacy, with its solid Specific Ocean a metallic off-green that is calls to mind Jackson's parent company Fender's Sage Green Metallic. With the pickguard covering the upper horn, it calls to mind Jeff Beck's Soloist from the 80s.
We could get used to this more refined air. After all, when the Jackson name is on the headstock it is all but a money-back guarantee that the guitar is going to scream.
Now, to that end Jackson has equipped this Soloist with three Duncan-Designed HR-101 Hot Rails single-coil sized humbuckers. To add a little extra pyro to the performance, we have a licensed Floyd Rose double-locking vibrato, and a very speedy ride indeed with an über-svelte maple neck at one with the poplar body.
Have no fears about this skinny neck lacking stability – it is reinforced with graphite rods. It is a sign of the times that the fretboard is Indian laurel, but it looks appealing, with a 12" -16" compound radius and 24 jumbo frets to ease you into those epic transitions from riff to solo.
Dot markers replace the more commonly seen sharkfin inlays because this is a Soloist that is all done up and doing the town. Lovely.
Performance and verdict
Let's talk about the clean tones first, because we all know you are here to read all about how you only need to think of pinch harmonics before they bloom at the edge of a super-hot lead tone... W
ell, the cleans are pretty darn charming in their own right. In the neck position, there's a rounded quality, with detailed mids that might them a good fit for blues, and if you roll the tone back a little they'll do just nicely for fusion.
There is plenty of range in the Soloist's clean voice. En route to the bite and clarity of the bridge humbucker there are some very musical tones that you might not think of when you read the name Jackson.
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But then, maybe that's because we don't look for them – many of the Soloists we have played have had excellent clean tones, with versatility something of an undersold quality when debating its merits.
Obviously, the more gain you add, the more effervescent the Hot Rails humbuckers get. They are not as blazing hot as some options you might find on a Soloist but do make light work of those Sunset Strip lead tones, with enough fat in the voice to fill out riffs nicely.
Work the whammy bar and there's plenty of spotlight appeal to this Soloist. The licensed Floyd Rose unit is stable enough with plenty of travel for crazy squeals and dive-bombs. Above all, the Jackson Soloist should be a fun guitar, and this is no different. It's just a little more sophisticated. A shred guitar for all seasons.
MusicRadar verdict: A shred wolf in an old-time 50s-style finish, this Soloist is a rock animal on demand, don't overlook it for bluesy rock and fusion styles. This is a high-performance electric with hidden depths.
The web says
"Is this where the evolution of shred guitar has taken us? If so, we’re all in and suspect that some other shred-adjacent players are too. You could see John Mayer picking this up. He has form, playing a hot pink Jackson Soloist, and this looks as though it visits the same tailor as his Silver Sky."
- BODY: Poplar
- NECK: Maple neck-through with graphite reinforcement and scarf Joint
- SCALE: 25.5"
- FINGERBOARD: Laurel with dot inlay
- FRETS: 24, jumbo
- PICKUPS: 3x Duncan-Designed HR-101 Hot Rails single-coil sized humbuckers
- CONTROLS: 3-way pickup selector, 1x volume, 1x tone
- HARDWARE: Floyd Rose Special Double-Locking Tremolo (Recessed), Jackson Sealed Die-Cast tuners
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- FINISH: Specific Ocean [as reviewed], Gloss Black, Snow White, Butterscotch
- CONTACT: Jackson Guitars