There’s an old adage about the importance
of first impressions. Jarrell Guitars seemed
intent on taking that philosophy to heart with
its new JZH-1x semi-hollow archtop. Like
most guitars from Jarrell, it’s not understated.
Yet the guitar is at home in many different
musical environments, responsive, playable,
and well built. And players keen to deviate
from design norms and expand the range
of tones at their fingertips are certain to be
intrigued by what this Jarrell model has to
offer on both fronts.
A Complete Package
The JZH-1x gets your fingers tingling with
anticipation before you even open the case.
This really is a guitar review, I swear, but
Jarrell’s six-latch, fitted hard case simply cannot
be ignored. Its sleek, silver exterior looks like a
cross between ancient stone and futuristic alloy,
while the red cushioned interior—complete
with built-in hygrometer and neck-length support/
storage compartment—cradles the JZH-
1x perfectly and even has cut-outs for the strap
pins (something many manufacturers ignore).
The case follows the guitar’s body shape, a
design feature that seems much cooler than
just another black, vinyl-covered rectangle.
While the JZH-1x is bound to divide
opinion, it’s difficult not to be struck by the
guitar’s bold aesthetics. Calling to mind Dean
designs like the Icon and the Boca, as well
as Rickenbacker design motifs, the JZH-1x’s
body shape is familiar, yet exotic. It has an air
that suggests the guitar came from somewhere
you couldn’t even find on a map.
With its spruce top and mahogany back,
the JZH-1x offers a tonewood combination
that’s more like a quality flattop than a typical
semi-hollow electric. Its hard maple neck has
an ebony fretboard with colorful, butterfly-like
abalone inlays, and the same abalone
appears in the Jarrell name and logo on the
The JZH-1x comes loaded with good hardware
too. A lot of new guitars leave you making
mental notes of all the upgrading you’d
do. Jarrell eliminates that entire mind trip by
simply putting in great parts from the get-go.
Sperzel locking tuners and a Graph Tech nut
keep things stable and smooth up top, while
the locking TonePros bridge and tailpiece pin
things down at the other end.
The factory setup on the JZH-1x was
spot-on right out of the case. The action
was low without buzz, and the intonation
was excellent—a nice bit of instant gratification
for anyone who’s ever had to wait for
their new guitar to be set up post-purchase.
There’s plenty of room for bends on the
Jarrell’s 12"-radius fretboard, and its C-shape
neck and 24 3/4" scale was comfortable
for my average-size hands. The neck carve
felt slightly thicker than my Highway One
Stratocaster, but a little thinner than the
neck on my old Dean Cadillac.
Jarrell scores in construction quality and
finish as well—the guitar feels tight and solid.
And details like fret ends were clearly looked
after with care. The guitar is well balanced
too, and feels comfortable sitting or standing.
While it’s certainly lighter than a solidbody,
the JZH-1x is no featherweight and
has very good natural sustain.
Muscle Under the Hood
Nothing is more disappointing than playing a
great axe with lame pickups. Jarrell eliminates
those concerns by putting a Seymour Duncan
SH-2 in the neck and a TB-11 in the bridge
position. The guitar sports two Volume and
two Tone knobs, a standard 3-way switch, and
two mini-switches with SSP wiring (series,
split, parallel) that offer dozens of combinations
and makes playing the JZH-1x nothing
short of an adventure.
I ran the Jarrell through a Marshall
MG100HDFX into a Line 6 Vetta cabinet
with two 12" Celestions, left the EQ flat,
and used just enough reverb to round off
the edges. In series mode, the TB-11 bridge
pickup delivers the goods clean or dirty, with
plenty of power to provide clarity and a nice
balance between highs and lows. Heavily
distorted tones were airier than what you’d
hear from a solidbody, but there’s more than
enough definition and punch to crank out
harmonically rich AC/DC rhythm tones and
then some. Semi-hollows aren’t meant to be
metal machines, but I did take the JZH-1x
for a spin around that block, and it performed
admirably with nothing more than
the Marshall’s built-in overdrive channel to
add gain. Rolling back either the pickup volume
or the channel gain opens the doors to
everything from smooth, warm distortion to
more sizzling high-gain goodness.
The middle position of each mini-switch
is split (single-coil) mode. The third position
puts the pickup in parallel mode, which
configures both coils side-by-side as individual
single-coils, but with hum canceling. The
output in these split and parallel positions is
significantly less than in full humbucker mode,
but there’s no sacrifice in harmonic richness.
Going through the JZH-1x’s pickup combinations
is a great way to blow an entire afternoon
experimenting with songs you thought
you’d finished. I played several original pieces
the same way I’ve played them for years, but
with the flick of a switch, I was hearing them
in a brand-new way. The JZH-1x delivers a
fistful of tones without the hassle of adjusting
parameters on an effects device.
The SH-2 neck pickup did not take as
kindly to distortion as the TB-11. The woofier
qualities of the semi-hollow were much more
apparent in the neck position, and its booming
low-end punch in series mode tended to overshadow
the highs. Backing off the gain helped
immensely and brought the SH-2 to a more
reasonable balance. In parallel mode, the SH-2
had a beautiful, chiming voice with a round,
smooth tone. Playing both pickups together in
parallel mode yielded tight, cutting sounds and
opened up a world of noiseless, single-coil joy.
The only thing I would change on the
JZH-1x is the layout of the controls. The SSP
mini-switches are placed on either side of the
taller pickup selector, so several times I accidentally
bumped the pickup toggle into the
middle position, when I was trying to change
the bridge mini-switch. I’d prefer to have the
mini-switches next to each other in front of
the pickup toggle, so you wouldn’t have to
jump over it to get to the bridge SSP switch.
The JZH-1x’s chameleon-like tonal abilities,
quality workmanship, and top-shelf parts add
up to an instrument that can handle myriad
musical styles with class. Experimenting
with tones is a great way to grow your personal
sound, and it’s inspiring to have that
much sonic versatility at hand before you
get anywhere near your amp EQ or effects
box—especially when it comes to working in
a home studio or stage when swapping out
guitars for each part may not be practical or
possible. The JZH-1x doesn’t come cheap,
and its looks can be polarizing. But what it
offers in craftsmanship, electronics, and tone
means you might save some dough on all
those guitars you won’t need.
you want a versatile, fully loaded
semi-hollow capable of a multitude
of tones, including some heavier
sounds not usually associated with
you want a straightforward rock or
metal guitar and prefer to upgrade
parts to your liking rather than get
them all in one shot.