A USA-built “super strat” that unites great tonal range and lightning-fast playability in an instrument deeply rooted in Jackson tradition.
Killer sounding guitar that sounds excellent all across the span of the fretboard, from the low open E string up to the 24th fret of the high E string.
Satin finish picks up a lot of fingerprints.
Jackson American Series Virtuoso
In the mid ’80s, when shred took over the guitar world, Jackson was the brand of choice for icons like Randy Rhoads and Marty Friedman. Back then, the company’s guitars were only available from Grover Jackson’s custom shop and were out of reach for a lot of musicians. Since the company’s 2002 acquisition by Fender, the Jackson brand has become accessible to many more players. But as nice as it is to be able to afford a Jackson built in Mexico or Asia, it’s a thrill to see a new, upscale, California-built Jackson like the new American Series Virtuoso. At $1,999 with a foam core hybrid hardshell case-gigbag, the American Series Virtuoso isn’t cheap. But it’s not out of reach for working guitarists, who will value the Virtuoso’s combination of range, straight-ahead functionality, fast playability, and Jackson’s cool combination of flair and economy.
The American Series Virtuoso stays true to the Jackson’s “super strat” lineage but adds useful improvements. The truss rod adjustment wheel is heel-mounted for easy access, and the guitar comes with Dunlop strap locks. A Floyd Rose 1500 Series double-locking vibrato is reinforced by Gotoh MG-T locking tuners. So, you can whammy away to your heart’s content without worrying about staying in tune, which was the case over the course of my very enthusiastic testing. And thanks to a recessed cavity, that Floyd Rose has crazy range. I was able to pull up a tritone on the open 6th string.
A feature many Floyd Rose users will appreciate is the Allen wrench holder attached to the back of the headstock, which lets you store the Allen keys (for the bridge and locking nut) in a convenient, easy-to-access place. I’ve often put my Floyd Rose-equipped guitars back in the closet when I couldn’t locate the Allen key to tune them, so I can attest to the value of this thoughtful little detail.In satin black finish, our test instrument looks understated but deadly. Like most Jacksons, the American Series Virtuoso is built with an alder body. The bolt-on, 5-piece, caramelized maple/maple neck features graphite reinforcement rods to ensure stability. The ebony fretboard is home to 24 frets, features beautifully rolled edges, and Jackson’s 12-16" compound radius, which, in my view, is close to perfect. Full chords are easy to grip down at the more curvaceous end of the fretboard, low on the neck, and technical, speedy lines are easier to play as you move up the neck. It’s a pleasure to navigate, particularly if you use classical fretting technique rather than an angled blues grip with the thumb on top of the neck. Needless to say, you won’t be fretting out on deep bends, either.
Sweet and Savage
The American Series Virtuoso’s electronics are straightforward. There’s a pair of Seymour Duncan pickups (a JB TB-4 in the bridge and a 59 SH-1N in the neck,) a 5-way pickup selector switch, and volume and tone knobs. Though many shred-oriented players and builders gravitate toward active pickups, the Duncans give the American Series Virtuoso warmth that many modern metal guitars with active pickups lack. There’s a distinct midrange focus, which makes it ideal for hair metal, but the guitar’s quick attack also makes modern styles like djent and math rock feel natural. Pinch harmonics are easy to coax from the guitar. Sustain is excellent. And low-register, palm-muted low riffs sound super beefy.
“You definitely don’t need a lot of pedals to generate a lot of different sounds with the American Series Virtuoso in hand.”
The switching array opens up a lot of possibilities, too. Position 2 is made up of the bridge pickup’s outer coil and neck pickup’s inner coil, while position 4 is comprised of the bridge’s inner coil and neck’s outer coil. They are the most articulate of the five settings. Positions 1, 3, and 5 are more traditional humbucker settings. Moving between these settings feels organic and fluid. Volume levels are pretty even between pickup positions, but tone variations are many and distinct. There’s good dynamic range as well. For example, using a mild overdrive sound on the bridge humbucker made low-register, single-note riffs sound gnarly and aggressive. The adjacent position 2, however, was practically clean when I played the same riff with a slightly lighter attack. You definitely don’t need a lot of pedals to generate a lot of different sounds with the American Series Virtuosos in hand.
Our American Series Virtuoso arrived with a great, low-action setup. Sweep-picked arpeggios and slippery legato lines were easy to execute, and the Virtuoso felt fantastic across the whole length of the neck. Sometimes on 24-fret guitars, notes don’t ring true in the very extreme upper area of the fretboard, making it hard to use the top notes for much more than quickly and dramatically capping off a phrase. On the American Series Virtuoso, though, the notes in the uppermost register still sound pronounced and full. That inspired me to spend a lot of time in the C# minor pentatonic-box shape, starting an octave up at the 21st fret. I could play typical rock-guitar licks up in that area, and each note rang out perfectly clear. Access to that area of the fretboard is also excellent, thanks to the guitar’s contoured “handshake” heel, which makes it even more appealing to explore the complete range of the two-octave fretboard.
Over the decades, Jackson has maintained its place at the top of the shred-guitar pecking order. And for many old-school shredders, nothing tops a straightforward Jackson “super strat”—a role that the American Series Virtuoso fills with attitude and ease. But the Virtuoso is not a strictly retro instrument. The refinements in playability reflect design evolutions that have, no doubt, made Jackson aficionados of modern metal shred gods like Periphery’s Misha Mansoor and Arch Enemy’s Jeff Loomis. But whatever style of metal shred you align with, the American Series Virtuoso’s tonal versatility and inviting playability will get your fingers flying
Designed to inspire and captivate, the Limited Edition Suona models are intended to offer a refined elegance that echoes the masterful work of a legendary artisan. An adaptation of traditional Fender design, its warm, resonant tones and unmatched beauty are a testament to the dedication and artistry poured into every detail.
Here’s what’s different about this series:
- Adaptation of traditional Fender design
- Warm, resonant tones
- Custom Shop '69 and Custom-Designed Suona Strat® Pickups
- Custom Shop Twisted Tele® and Custom-Designed Suona Tele® Pickups
- Custom-Designed Suona Jazz Bass® Pickups
The Limited Suona Collection | Fender
More info at: fender.com.
Another week, another 5 chances to win! Enter here for your chance to win pedals from Fishman, Mojotone, Revv Amps, Walrus Audio, or Voodoo Lab!
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Looper and Sampler Pedal with 6 Minutes of High-Quality Audio Recording!
AFX Broken Record packs high-quality audio looping and sampling into a tiny, yet deceptively-simple, stompbox package. It features intuitive one-button operation, endless overdub capability, and offers easy transfer to a computer.
Featuring high-quality 24-bit, 44.1kHz audio recording of up to 6 minutes, AFX Broken Record let’s you capture cool ideas and build on them, or even play along with audio you pre-load from a computer. Built-in memory will retain what you recorded even after the power is disconnected. So, you can unplug at your gig and move your loop to your computer later. This also means that this backing track will be ready and waiting for you to play at your next performance.
A free AFX PhraseTransfer app is downloadable at fishman.com
BB-OD: Smooth transparent gain from boost to overdrive. 3 way voicing switch lets you dial in the articulation from this British born modern legend. The BB-OD is one of four all new pedal kits by Mojotone. Inspired by the classics, created by the leaders in gear kits, and delivered in an easy-to-assemble package. Pre-populated circuit boards minimize soldering and make these DIY kits fast and easy. Unleash your creativity and experiment with the internal diode clipping switches that set our pedal kits apart.
Pulled directly from Tilt Overdrive’s Boost circuit, Tilt Boost provides up to 20dB of organic level with an intuitive Tilt EQ control that simultaneously increases treble & decreases bass (or vice versa). This allows you to instantly fine tune your feel & tone, & combined with the strategic frequency choices of the independent 3-position Tight Switch, means you can use one knob to add fidelity, recover body, or maintain exact control of low end build up when adding level for an authentically clean boost without bloat. A new Drive Switch allows you to engage a fat overdriven tone reminiscent of Shawn’s favorite setting on the full-sized Tilt Overdrive. Perfect for putting your solo over the top, or giving you a bolder, brasher always-on voice.
The Slöer Stereo Ambient Reverb builds on our popular Slö lineup but adds two additional reverb algorithms, stereo width control, two additional modulation wave shapes, and the ability to control the sample rate. Now you can create immersive, lush, modulated, sleepy, and ambient soundscapes with more width and depth than ever before.
Save your favorite dreamscapes with three onboard presets by simultaneously pressing and holding down on the bypass and sustain switches. Scroll through them by simultaneously pressing and releasing bypass and sustain.
The five-way rotary dial allows five different reverb modes - the three you know and love from the Slö: Dark (Lower Octave), Rise (Ambient Swell), and Dream (Latching Pad); and the addition of two new modes: Rain (Delay Tap Diffusion) and Light (High Octave Shimmer). Secondary functions on the dial change between five different wave shapes for modulation on the reverb trail.
Combine deep modulation, long washy trails, and an immersive stereo field to experience Slöer.
Setting new benchmarks for clean, noiseless power, Pedal Power® 3 PLUS ensures all pedal types, from vintage favorites to modern DSP effects, sound and perform their best. Pedal Power is the industry standard, delivering legendary performance and reliability that professional musicians worldwide trust to power their tone.
• 500mA from every output
• Compatible with battery-operated & high-current DSP pedals
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• X-LINK expansion ports allow up to 16 additional outs with Pedal Power X4 & X8
• 100-240VAC operation for international touring