Reviewed: Jackson Guitars SL2Q and SLX Soloist

Fender Music Australia | fender.com.au | Expect to Pay: SL2Q - $2299, SLX - $1299

Jackson have been a staple of metal and rock guitars and basses since Grover Jackson acquired Charvel guitars in the ‘70s. Synonymous with a seemingly endless list of big rock and metal acts, Jackson have continued to produce high quality instruments with a contemporary edge, and the SL2Q Pro Series Soloist and SLX Soloist both pay tribute to the timeless ‘Super Strat’ shape made famous by Jackson and Ibanez. The SLX Soloist is a budget-priced solid body electric with Duncan designed humbuckers, a Floyd Rose Special locking tremolo system and a red sparkle finish. The SL2Q, meanwhile, is a 24 jumbo-fretted solid body electric with dual Seymour Duncan Distortion humbuckers, a Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking tremolo system and eye-catching ‘Purple Phaze’ finish.

The SL2Q feels fast, and even unplugged the tone feels quite controlled. The contoured mahogany body is just resonant enough. Noodling away at the higher frets is easy, and fast, thrashy riffs come easily – in fact, the guitar almost inspires them, and the lightweight, streamlined mahogany body resonates comfortably against your torso. Amplified, the Duncan Distortion pickups (special mention to the actual Seymour Duncan’s and not ‘Duncan Designed’ stock pickups) really suit this guitar and open up a little when played clean. The cleans are even, balanced and clear. Even when switched to the neck pickup, the guitar’s voice remains crystal where other guitars and pickups can become muddy or overbearing, whether with some gain or on cleaner settings.

 

The Distortions, as the name suggests, take gain very well, instantly becoming a controlled yet bitey beast. Solos on the SL2Q are inspired and vibrato is easy, while noodling on the Floyd is also comfortable and retains tuning. The volume and tone knobs on both guitars are comfortable and within reach while remaining out of the way. The SL2Q is an unapologetic speed machine, whereas the Soloist SLX takes a more raw approach to heavy riffs. Despite coming with the aforementioned ‘Duncan Designed’ stock pickups, the Jackson SLX Soloist sounds and feels chunkier than the SL2Q. It works well for rhythm playing while still feeling like a speed machine, a feeling somewhat synonymous with Jackson. The fretwork and construction isn’t quite as high spec’d as the SL2Q, but you couldn’t expect any different from a guitar at a lower price. In addition to the great craftsmanship and construction, both guitars pack some features that set them apart from the pack.

 

The first thing that struck me about the Jacksons was the real Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking bridge that comes as standard on the SL2Q and the Floyd Rose Special on the SLX Soloist. A Floyd Rose would usually be an aftermarket addition to a guitar of any level, but Jackson have you covered. Straight out of the box the guitar was tuned and well intonated thanks to the locking tuners and the stable, double-locking floating bridge. This ensures that the Seymour Duncan TB-6 and SH-6N Distortion Humbuckers are free to sing, bite and snarl at every nuance of your playing. On the other hand, the SLX Soloist sounds chunkier amplified and might be more suited to riffier, heavier metal, while the SL2Q can handle your lead needs. The SLX retains the fast, controlled feeling of a Jackson, but would be better suited for rhythms, and at their price would be a great introduction to the feeling of a Jackson. The Duncan Designed HB-102B pickups sound great, and while they don’t have the clarity and character of the Duncan Distortions, they hold their own in the SLX Soloist. Amplified through a Marshall or similar amp, the Soloist can easily get crunchy and rocky, all the while retaining the feel of a Jackson.

 

While the Distortions in the SL2Q are responsive, they’re thin and thrashy, which is what the guitar is made for, but pigeonholes it a little. They do sound full in their own way, because there’s a lack of bottom end that keeps it controlled. Depending on how you play, this could be a deal maker or breaker, as I don’t think different pickups would add much bottom end to the streamlined, lightweight mahogany body. Both guitars tune incredibly accurately thanks to the Floyd Rose fine tuners, and they hold that tuning once you’re locked down.

 

These guitars bear the Jackson name with pride and sit side-by-side with other Soloists, Dinkys and the Randy Rhoads V. Expert craftsmanship, killer looks, and these Jacksons are workhorses. They do what they do and won’t try to be anything else, but really hone in on what they do best. Both guitars feature Floyd Rose double locking bridges that secure six strings at the opposite ends of the iconic Jackson six-in-line headstock. The SL2Q is a mahogany shred machine and the SLX is a basswood riff monster. Seymour Duncan pickups complete both axes and tie the whole bundle together. Either of these would be a welcome addition to any guitar collection – hell, even just to hang on the wall and admire.

Hits and Misses

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They know what they do, and do it well

Seymour Duncan Distortions on the SL2Q

Varied sounds for different uses

Great looks

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Pigeonholed sound and feel

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