Jackson American Series Virtuoso | Fender Musical Instruments Australia | RRP $3399
Fender has gone all out to reinvent Jackson Guitars USA, beginning last year with a ravenous marketing campaign and the introduction of the Jackson American series. The idea here was to introduce a new product line under the long-running USA, Custom Select and Custom Shop instruments that would effectively get a USA-crafted instrument into the hands of working-class, gigging players for less money.
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Jackson American Series Virtuoso
The Jackson Guitars American Series Soloist SL3 kicked off the new American Series in 2022 and due to its inherent success a new model has been bestowed upon us in 2023. The Jackson American Series Virtuoso is essentially a bolt-on entry in the new line that strives to bring the same quality at an even more competitive price point.
Unboxing the Virtuoso reveals Jackson’s Foam Core case, a high-end gig bag; it fits the guitar well, leaving no room for movement in transit. The Foam Core case features the standard compartments one would come to expect from any regular hard case design, case candy consists of the tremolo bar, a set of strap locks, and the usual hang tags and documentation.
Upon removing the Jackson Guitars Virtuoso from its case I immediately noticed how lightweight the guitar was. This can be attributed to the instrument’s alder body which is the classic Dinky style 7/8ths Strat size body, a shape that has become synonymous with bolt-on Jacksons over the last 40 years. This specific example boasts a strong acoustic resonance that may be partly due to its thin satin finish, it is worth mentioning that gloss options are available in other colours for those who prefer this type of finish.
The neck on the Virtuoso is a new 5-piece Caramelised Maple/Maple laminate boasting Jackson’s signature Speed Neck profile. This neck features a compound 12”-16” radiused streaked ebony fretboard with pearl inlays and Luminlay side dots. I found the neck profile to be comfortable for both chording by the nut and technical lead work higher up the fretboard, best described as not thick and not thin. To expand on that, I feel as if this profile sits at a steady middle ground that would satisfy most players.
Neck profile and design
This aside, the neck is definitely a standout aspect of the Jackson American Series Virtuoso and I never found it to be uncomfortable or a hindrance to my playing in the time I spent with the instrument. I also very much liked the addition of the heel-mounted truss rod adjustment wheel, doing away with pesky truss rod covers and extra tools for good.
Hardware-wise I was very pleased to see a set of Gotoh MG-T locking tuners adorning the headstock of the Virtuoso. While the inherent tuning stability they would impart on an instrument with a locking nut is negligible, they do make for quick and easy string changes, and the gear ratio is absolutely lovely.
At the other end of the Jackson is a Floyd Rose 1500 series bridge which has become standard as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) bridge on many mid to high-end instruments in the modern age. Kudos must be given to Floyd Rose for the new trem arm collar found on the 1500 series which utilises a grub screw to keep the arm from coming loose, “which was a common complaint with the 1000 series bridge”.
Additionally, the stainless steel intonation, nut and string holder screws are a nice touch for the gigging “and most likely sweaty” guitarist as they will prevent the corrosion that is common with standard zinc-coated screws.
Direct mounted humbuckers – Seymour Duncan JB TB-4 JB and 59 SH 1-N
Direct mounted Seymour Duncans round out the electronics on the Jackson American Series Virtuoso, this time a JB TB-4 JB in the bridge position and a 59 SH 1-N in the neck. The JB has long been a go-to option for the bridge position in alder-bodied Jacksons, providing a mid-focused punch that will slice through any live mix with the utmost authority. In turn, the 59 provides an authentic PAF-style warmth that compliments the bridge pickup quite nicely. Combine this set with the 5-way selector switch, master volume and master tone controls and there simply isn’t much you can’t do with this versatile superstrat.
Perhaps my favourite thing about the new Jackson American Series Virtuoso is the new 4 bolt neck heel. I feel like Jackson spent considerable time gathering the opinions of their various endorsees while designing this heel as it provides absolutely fantastic upper fret access. There is also a slight bevel in the lower horn which aids uninhibited playing from the 12th fret to the 24th making even the most complex licks on the smallest frets no sweat.
While on the topic of frets, I must take the time to compliment the fret job on my test model. Not a single high fret to be found with a nice crown on each and a fantastic polishing to boot, no sharp bloodthirsty fret ends to be found here! All this combined to make me feel almost as if I was playing an instrument with stainless steel frets due to a sea of effortless bends and vibrato.
The Jackson American Series Virtuoso may just be the ticket for any discerning player who is looking to get their hands on a reliable US-made superstrat packed with pro features right out of the box.
For more information, visit Jackson Guitars.