Last month we looked at the unashamedly metal Jackson USA Custom Shop Gus G. Star. It’s a beautiful guitar but – how do we put this – it costs about as much as a used car. If you’d like to tap into Gus’ vibe without spending a jillion dollars, Jackson offers two more models in the X series and more affordable JS Series.
Of the two guitars, the X Series is the closest to the USA Custom Shop version. In fact, from a distance it can be hard to tell them apart. It has a one-piece maple neck-through construction with mahogany body wings, and the neck is stabilised with a pair of graphite reinforcement rods and a scarf joint. The fretboard radius is a Gibson-style 12” (not as flat as many shredsticks, not as round as a vintage Strat), and there are 24 jumbo frets with pearloid sharkfin inlays. It’s kinda cool that after all these years, those sharkfins are just as iconic as they were in the 80’s. The pickups are Gus’ signature Seymour Duncan Blackouts, which pair low-output passive humbuckers with an active preamp mounted to a volume pot, giving you all the benefits of active performance but with a little more earthy a tone.
As for the JS Series, it has a poplar body with a bolt-on maple neck and a 12”-16” compound radius fingerboard which gets flatter as you approach the higher frets and more rounded as you get towards the nut. The pickups are passive high-output Jackson humbuckers with a single volume control and a three-way toggle switch. (If you’re after Gus’ tone, his signature Duncans are available separately too). Both the JS and X Series models are available in Satin Black with White Pinstripes and Satin White with Black Pinstripes.
For guitars that look so similar, they’re actually quite different and in some ways the JS Series is more player-friendly, especially thanks to that compound-radius fingerboard. It has more of a snap and attack to its tone, and is a little more forgiving on high bends. While the pickups may sound a little generic, they sure get the job done in translating all your shreddage into high-output punishment for your amp, plus the middle ‘both-on’ setting makes for some nice clean tones. But the X-Series version feels like the pricier guitar that it is, with more sustain and harmonic richness thanks to the neck-through design, and a fuller sound overall due to the choice of mahogany body wood.
Gus’ signature pickups obviously bring this one much closer to his tone. Tune it down and lay into some chunky power chords, play some middle-of-the-neck thrash riffs or go on a sweep-picking freakout, and you’ll notice the same harmonic richness and sustain that Gus has made such a part of his musical voice.
Although these look like mid-priced and budget-priced iterations of the same guitar, that’s not the case at all. Some players might actually prefer the JS Series version over the X Series, especially if they have their own pickup preference and want to do some swapping somewhere down the track. It certainly has a lot going for it in terms of playability and punch, but the fatter-toned X Series is really where it’s at in terms of build quality and more closely capturing Gus’ own vibe and sound.
Hits and Misses
Good build quality
Great pickups in the X Series
No coil splitting
JS pickups are a little generic