Jackson American Series Virtuoso: What is it?
Chances are, if you’re even remotely interested in electric guitars, you will have seen and probably marvelled at the promotional campaign behind Jackson’s latest release – the American Series Virtuoso.
The adverts feature one of the greatest metal musicians of all time, Marty Friedman, joined by younger contemporaries such as Periphery’s Misha Mansoor, Revocation’s Dave Davidson, Heriot’s Debbie Gough and Clint Tustin of Erra.
Assembling all of these masterminds from around the world into one room for an extravagant media shoot would have been impressive enough, but Jackson went one step further by asking Mansoor to compose new material for him and his fellow endorsees to collaborate on.
The fruits of their combined efforts are what became known as ‘The Virtuoso Mega Shred’, with all five guitarists showcasing their own unique talents on the new Jackson models in a four-and-a-half minute parade of metallic perfection which had most of us grinning from ear to ear.
Together they demonstrated how well-designed and accommodating the instruments could be for creatively ambitious high-gain players and collectively ended up making history in one of the most inspiring and impressive launches of the year so far. But high-budget marketing and world-beating talents aside, what are these guitars really like?
Jackson American Series Virtuoso: Performance and verdict
It only takes a quick glance at the spec sheet to appreciate how much thought Jackson has put into this. The new 24-fret Dinky-style guitars, the second instalment in the recently launched American Series, are manufactured in the Californian Corona factory using over 150 handcrafted processes, with some impressive appointments starting with the Seymour Duncan humbuckers – a high output JB TB-4 in the bridge and a '59 SH-1N in the neck.
It’s a passive pickup combination that’s been working well for decades and continues to do so today, providing more firepower than your average PAF while avoiding the extreme EQ curves and compromised versatility associated with active circuitry. It’s also worth noting that these pickups are direct-mounted rather than being held in place by the pickguard or mounting rings, a design characteristic which is known to benefit vibration transfer, resonance and sustain. No qualms there, then.
The inclusion of a Floyd Rose 1500 Series double locking tremolo system is another key selling point – which, combined with the Gotoh MG-T locking tuners, makes for a guitar that can withstand all kinds of abuse and remain in tune no matter what.
Elsewhere, the Speed Neck certainly lives up to its name, making even the most technically demanding runs feel as effortless as humanly possible, therefore allowing users to push the limits of their playing in the hope of treading new ground, especially when you factor in the flatter 12”-16” compound radius.
Factory set with low action, it’s a neck that pretty much plays itself, requiring very little physical effort compared to the more curved necks of vintage-style instruments.
The woods also feel well-matched: there’s an alder body, a bolt-on five-piece multi-laminated caramelized maple neck with a streaked ebony fingerboard, culminating in a snappy tone that packs an articulate punch.
As for looks, there’s also a lot to like, thanks to the offset mother-of-pearl dot inlays which sit at the top of the neck for the first 12 frets and then on the lower side for the second octave. There’s a bound Jackson pointed 6-in-line headstock and black hardware to perfectly compliment the four finishes (Mystic Blue, Satin Black, Satin Shell Pink and Specific Ocean).
When plugged into a high gain amp, our Satin Shell Pink review model – arguably the most striking of the four looks – sounds phenomenal, with plenty of low-end oomph and searing upper mids and highs as a direct result of the tonewoods and Seymour Duncan best-sellers.
There’s a five-way selector switch that can take you anywhere from ultra-warm and thick to more cutting and crystalline without ever feeling too muffled or shrill.
Dive bombs and harmonic screams in the style of metal giants like Pantera and Slayer come very naturally indeed and everything returns to pitch as you would hope. And should you need to retune or reset anything, there’s an Allen key holder conveniently attached to the back of the headstock to save you from rooting through the hybrid hard/soft case that comes included.
All these seemingly minuscule considerations – from the easy access wrenches to the direct-mounted pickups, locking tuners and graphite-reinforcement rods in the neck (to prevent warping from extreme temperature fluctuations) – certainly do add up.
After all, these are the differences that make it a pro-level instrument worthy of the trend-setting musicians who lent their name to its spectacular campaign. And naturally, this is all reflected in the cost, Superstrats this well-designed simply do not come cheap.
More importantly, however, it’s all very much worth it – what Jackson has produced here is a high-performance instrument that more than merits the price it commands.
MusicRadar verdict: Believe the hype – with superior tuning stability, mouth-watering tones and the kind of neck every shredder dreams of, the Jackson American Series Virtuoso is a no-nonsense war machine that will take your playing to the next level.
Jackson American Series Virtuoso: The web says
"A USA-built “super strat” that unites great tonal range and lightning-fast playability in an instrument deeply rooted in Jackson tradition."
Jackson American Series Virtuoso: Hands-on videos
Jackson American Series Virtuoso: Specifications
- Alder body
- Bolt-on five-piece multi-laminated caramelized maple/maple neck with graphite-reinforcement rods
- Seymour Duncan JB TB-4 bridge pickup and Seymour Duncan '59 SH-1N neck pickup
- Five-way blade pickup switch, single volume control, and single tone control
- Floyd Rose 1500 Series double-locking tremolo bridge system
- Luminlay side dots
- Heel-mount truss rod adjustment wheel
- Dunlop dual-locking strap buttons
- Gotoh MG-T locking tuners
- Available in Mystic Blue, Satin Black, Satin Shell Pink, and Specific Ocean
- Jackson Foam Core Case included
- CONTACT: Jackson Guitars