Jackson SLSMG

Discussion in 'Guitar Reviews' started by s4tch, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. s4tch

    s4tch SS.org Regular

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    I've had this guitar for a couple of months now (you can find my NGD thread here), so I decided to write a review. This is my first review, English is not my first language, so bare with me. Thanks.

    Features

    MG series were the budget Japanese line for Jackson in the early '00s. The factory offered cheaper lines like the X- and JS-series, usually made in India, so the MG series were mid-priced instruments in the Jackson lineup. IIRC the SLSMG retailed for around $1000 in the US. SLS stands for Super Lightweight Soloist, where Soloist means the usual neck-thru construction and a Superstrat body. This model is called lightweight because of the back of the body being curved out a bit to save weight, so this is not a full-thickness Soloist. It is not literally lightweight, though: mine weights 3,9 kg, which is light compared to a not chambered Les Paul, but heavy compared to a Jackson DKMGT (MG series bolt-on superstrat with Alder body). That's an average weight for a guitar, I wouldn't call it particularly light. Specs are:

    - Mahogany body w/Mahogany thru neck
    - Ebony fretboard, jumbo frets, 16-20" compound radius
    - 25,5" scale
    - TOM style bridge (Jackson JT390; TonePros T3BT-B is told to be a direct replacement)
    - H-H pickup config, EMG-HZ or EMG pickups (more on that later)
    - volume and tone controls, barrel style input jack
    - 3+3 Jackson Soloist headstock, non-locking Jackson branded tuners

    Personally, I'm not a huge fan of these pickups (easy replacement) and TOM bridges, but otherwise, this is a simple, comfortable superstrat. As on most neckthru guitars, upper fret access is excellent. The neck is wide, thinner than a Strat, fatter than a Wizard, round, with practically no shoulders. Combined with the compound radius, you get outstanding playability.

    The back of the neck is lacquered, this might not be everyone's cup of tea. My hands don't sweat, I'm OK with that.

    The review template asked me to give a score for features; I'd give 4/5, and I'd reduce a point for the TOM style bridge.

    Sound

    These guitars came with either an EMG-HZ set (first couple of production years; also, the neck is thinner on those) or EMG 81/85 set. Mine had a 81/60 which sound awesome under certain circumstances. I managed to get screaming solos, heavy rhythms and nice cleans, but the pickups failed to impress me on low-gain, bluesy tones. If you're mainly looking for a metal machine, you'll probably be fine with the pickups.

    I'm always looking for versatility, so I replaced the pickups with a set of DiMarzio Breeds which sound killer in Mahogany. My tech will install a 5-way switch รก la Ibanez to get a coil split tone on the bridge pickup, I'll love that sound.

    The guitar itself sounds like a Mahogany neckthru guitar: huge lows and mids, tons of sustain, with some darkness removed by the Ebony board. Attack is a bit slower than on a bolt-on guitar, and that's my only complaint.

    I'll give a 4 to the sound out of the factory. However, this is an easy and cheap fix if you have your preferred pickup set. After replacing the pickups, I'm happy with the sound.

    Action, Fit & Finish

    Let me get this straight: for a mid-priced mass production instrument, the SLSMG provides outstanding quality. The finish - other than being the most awesome factory finish ever for my taste - is very even, the fretwork, the wood, the tuners, the knobs, even the nut is perfectly manufactured. Before getting the guitar, I had some reservations about the bridge: I've had a DKMGT with the same JT390 bridge which looked mediocre, but this bridge seems to be better than the one on the other MG-series guitar. However that's the only upgrade I'll consider for the near future.

    As I wrote earlier, the playability is up there with any guitar I've ever played. You can achieve crazy low action with minimal fret buzz; this is one of the very few guitars when I told my tech to raise the action a tiny bit after the setup.

    Score for fit&finish: an easy 5/5. You won't find better built sub-$1000 guitars.

    Reliability

    Being a simple guitar with quality components, this won't disappoint you. I read tons of reviews online during the search period (I've been looking for an Eerie Dess SLSMG for 3 years before I finally snagged one), the only common complaint is about some tuning issues because of the nut, but that's an easy fix for an experienced tech. Mine holds tuning perfectly, even when I don't play the guitar for a couple of days, it's 100% in tune when I pick it up. However, I'm not in a band, I don't tour, so my experience is not relevant for some of you. Anyway, I've had no issues with the guitar, and I'm not expecting any in the future. This is easily the best made import Jackson I've ever had - and I've had some, even from the '90s, the golden era of Jackson. Score: 5/5

    Customer Support

    As I have no experience with Jackson customer support at all, I won't comment on that.

    Overall Rating

    Won't be a surprise: I absolutely love the SLSMG. I mean, looks is one thing - the Eerie Dess Swirl finish and the sexy curves are outstanding. But when you consider the SLSMG as an instrument, it won't disappoint you either. Stable, comfy, great sounding, quality piece of instrument. If you're looking for a relatively cheap neck-thru guitar, give it a shot, you're betting pretty safe here.

    Price-wise, it's not a huge risk either. I've seen some black SLSMGs sell for $350 on ebay, that is just f@#!n' ridiculous value. Don't get me wrong, it's not the best guitar on the planet. I've played and owned some better ones, but those cost at least 4-5x more, and offer just a tiny bit better playability, tone, quality. Overall, the SLSMG is an easy 5/5 for me, regardless of the finish.

    Finally, just a quick comparison with the Ibanez RGA121 which is pretty highly rated on the board, and one of my safest bets for an affordable fixed bridge guitar. I've been an Ibby guy for 23 years, I've always had at least 1 Ibanez at home in the last 2 decades. I've had an RGA121, so I have some direct experience with both guitars. Both are superstrats with a Mahogany body and a fixed bridge, still, pretty different beasts. The neck on the Ibby is flatter, I prefer the rounder profile on the Jackson. The RGA has a constant fretboard radius, the compound radius on the Soloist is more player-friendly. The bridge is comfier on the Ibby. The Jackson is better built, and has better sustain, fuller tone, too. I'd still consider the RGA over the SLS for metal: the attack on bolt-on guitars makes them a more natural choice for staccatos, palm muted riffs for me. I prefer the playability, the quality and the looks of the Jackson, but that's just me. Both guitars usually offer great value for money.
     
  2. Thanatopsis

    Thanatopsis SS.org Regular

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    Nice review. I couldn't have put it much better.
     

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