Review: Jackson Concept Series DK Modern MDK HT8 MS

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine


Review: Jackson Concept Series DK Modern MDK HT8 MS

Jackson Concept Series
Words by Paul Blomfield

Jackson Concept Series DK Modern MDK HT8 MS | Fender Music Australia | RRP: $3599.00

The limited edition Jackson Concept Series Dinky MDK HT8 MS is the apotheosis of modern extended-range guitars. Combining bleeding-edge tech with sleek ergonomics, Jackson has achieved an unrivalled level of playability and precision, creating a sound that is as close to perfect as I’ve heard from an instrument with eight strings.

Jackson Dinky

In 2002, Swedish band Meshuggah released their groundbreaking fourth studio album Nothing, experimenting with tunings which, at the time, were unheard of, hovering around an octave below standard E. It was during their tour of this album that the band realised that their seven-string guitars weren’t up to the task and decided to add the fabled eighth string. I clearly remember reading about this online and being blown away that a band would have the guts to take something already so divisive and controversial—the seventh string—and go one further.

Catch up on all the latest music gear reviews here.

Fast forward twenty-two years, and every major guitar brand putting out instruments for rock and metal has at least one model of guitar with eight strings. I’ll openly admit that I underestimated Jackson’s relevance in the ethos of extended-range guitars, but after a week with a Concept Series Dinky MDK HT8 MS, I stand well and truly corrected. Kudos, Jackson. You’ve made a believer out of me.

The two-piece basswood Dinky body of the Concept Series MDK HT8 MS is classically metal, finished in a luxurious satin black for that understated elegance. Look a little closer and you’ll notice everything is very angular. There are so many angles, in fact, that for a hot minute I was under the illusion that the body wasn’t the classic Dinky shape, but something more asymmetrical. The Hipshot 8 bridge and Fishman Fluence Modern pickups are set into the body at a 26 degree angle. The graphite-reinforced three-piece maple/wenge/maple neck is multiscale (25.5”- 27.5”) with 24 fanned jumbo frets on a 12”-16” compound radius ebony fingerboard. The Graphite Tech TUSQ XL nut is also angled, but in the opposite direction, opening up the scale length at the bottom end. The upshot of all this is that you’re guaranteed improved sustain in the lower two strings, while the top six strings retain a more classical scale length. The upward-facing edge of the fretboard is fitted with Luminlay glow-in-the-dark fret dots to solve any issues you might have navigating the fretboard in dark venues.

8-string guitar

When I first picked up an eight-string guitar around 17 years ago, I joked to my drummer at the time that the neck looked and felt like “a damn aircraft-carrier”. I think this is a big part of the reason why so many guitarists are phobic of extended-range guitars. My argument is that when they’re made right, the additional strings and room on the fretboard open up an entire world of creative possibilities. Jackson absolutely nailed the feel of the neck and fretboard on the Concept Series Dinky MDK HT8 MS. The satin finish, super fast neck profile and fanned frets all enhance the playability, making it the ideal entry point into eight-string guitars.

Fishman Fluence

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, so let’s talk about tone. This could be the deal-breaker, right? Tone is a tricky thing to nail down with baritone guitars. High-gain tones that work great in Drop D can easily turn the low end of an eight-string into a soupy mush. Pickup selection is often to blame. While modern metal pickups trend towards higher output, a set of super-hot pickups in an eight-string guitar can make it nearly impossible to achieve a good tone. This was my mindset as I plugged the Jackson Concept Series Dinky MDK HT8 MS into my DI box and opened up an instance of Neural DSP’s Archetype Gojira X in Reaper. I was immediately blown away with the clarity in the low end, even while chugging away on the sludgiest, filthiest, discordant chords I could mash into the two lowest strings. I’m partly crediting this clarity to the excellent string sustain achieved by the scale length and Hipshot 8 bridge, but the real MVPs (most valuable pickups) here are the Fishman Fluence Modern PRF-M39-AB1 (Neck) and Fishman Fluence Modern PRF-M39-CB1 (Bridge) pickups. These pickups achieve a clarity and precision that I believe is unrivalled in any 8-string model on the market today. Even under the pressure of the most extreme high-gain tones, there was nowhere near as much mud as I expected. And if you’re concerned about this having an adverse effect on leads, there’s a hidden feature that will put your mind at ease.

The guitar is fitted with a three-position switch (bridge, bridge/neck, neck), one volume knob, and one tone knob. The tone knob comes with a push/pull function that allows you to toggle between two different voicings. Activating the second voicing by pulling up the tone knob boosts the gain, giving you all the guts you need for those screaming solos. It also adds girth in the low-mids, making high-gain amp tones a little barkier and aggressive at the expense of a little clarity. The default voicing (tone knob pushed in) was cleaner and more precise, making it the optimal choice for low-end riffage. I found the two voicings more distinct while playing leads and also through clean amp tones.

A highlight for me was tuning the guitar. Yep, I said what I said. She’s a keeper. The Jackson die-cast locking tuners felt incredibly precise, and the guitar barely drifted out of tune for the entire week I had it in my spare-room studio. The only thing I wish I had was a fretwrap to throw around the nut to prevent ringing in the strings I wasn’t playing.

I’ve been hemming and hawing about adding an eight-string to my guitar family for many years now. There’s a very short list of brands to whom I would grant that privilege, and I am a fool for ever doubting that Jackson should be near the top of that list. The Jackson Concept Series Dinky MDK HT8 MS ticks all the boxes, including a handful of boxes I didn’t even know needed to be ticked.

For more info, keep reading at Jackson Guitars.