Jackson Guitars Review: Soloist, Kelly, Dinky, King V & Rhoads

Updated on July 10, 2019
Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.

Jackson guitars like the Soloist are icons of heavy metal.
Jackson guitars like the Soloist are icons of heavy metal.

Jackson Guitars

Jackson guitars like the Soloist, Dinky, Rhoads, Kelly and King V are standard issue for guitarists in just about every heavy-rock subgenre. From the early ‘80s to the present, Jackson has been building a bulletproof reputation as the best choice for guitarists who play any form of heavy music. If you’re into metal, that includes you!

If you were conscious during the ‘80s you may remember the rise of the Jackson brand name. For those who are too young, you missed a great time. It was truly the golden age of metal, a decade-long perfect storm of heavy music that saw the insurgence of the NWOBHM, an explosion of bands from the Sunset Strip, the underground thrash revolution and the infancy of death metal. They were beautiful days, and Jackson was waist-deep in it all.

These days, Jackson guitars are still in the hands of some of the best players in metal. Some of them are veterans who have relied on Jackson for decades. Some are up-and-coming talent in powerful new bands who are helping to further the legacy of the already legendary Jackson name. Some are even young guitarists who don’t even have a band yet, but already know Jackson guitars are the way to get the sound they’re going to need to succeed.

Is Jackson a Good Guitar Brand?

In my opinion Jackson is one of the best guitar brands in the world when it comes to metal and hard rock. One of the the reasons is because they build quality instruments for all levels of guitar player. There are several distinct series in Jackson's lineup, each aimed at a specific level of player and budget.

Whether or not a guitar players finds value in an instrument is often dependant on their skill level and the price they paid for the guitar. With a brand like Jackson you can get exactly what you want, based on your budget, skill level and expectations. In other words, no matter if you are a beginner or a professional, there is a Jackson out there for you.

Here's a quick overview of the types of guitars in the Jackson lineup:

  • JS Series: The Jackson JS Series features affordable versions of many classic Jackson models. Beginning and intermediate guitar players can find great value here, and veterans can land that Jackson they always wanted for a cool price. But don’t be fooled: These are still high-quality guitars, with some of the same appointments that put Jackson on the map.
  • X Series: The Jackson X Series takes epic Jackson designs and gives them a little boost into the modern age of metal. Here you can find options like active pickups, neck-thru build designs and gorgeous flame tops. If you love the look of these classic Jackson models but would like to see some more modern features the X Series is worth a look.
  • Pro Series: You don’t have to be a pro to play a Pro-Series guitar, but you might end up feeling like one. These are Jackson models with some serious appointments made for the stage and recording studio. They might cost a little more than the JS or X Series, but if you have your sights aimed at the big time these guitars should be up for consideration.
  • USA Series: Jackson USA Series guitar are high-level instruments for series musicians. Well, make that serious musicians with fat wallets. While the price tags might be a little steep, one look at the specs tells you these guitars are worth the asking price. You can get an awesome Jackson guitar for less, but, aside from the Custom Shop, these are the best Jacksons you are going to find.

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at some of the best Jackson guitar models. On to the gear!


Since the early ‘80s the Jackson Soloist has been among the best guitars built in the superstrat mold. It may seem like a tame design by today's standards, but the late-‘70s and early ‘80s were a time of innovation in the guitar world.

Spurred on by the success of Eddie Van Halen and his Frankenstrat guitar, musicians began looking for Stratocaster-type instruments with hot humbuckers and fast necks. There was a big gap in the guitar world that needed filling, and Jackson took advantage of it.

Jackson X Series Soloist SLX Slime Green Crackle
Jackson X Series Soloist SLX Slime Green Crackle
The X Series Soloist offers outstanding value for a guitar in its price range. This is an legendary instrument made for metal and shred.

The Soloist gave guitarists exactly what they were looking for back then, plus the addition of a neck-thu body and cutting-edge whammy bridges. The design continues on as a metal masterpiece today, and in Jackson’s lineup you can find Soloist models ranging from those that resemble those original guitars, to much more modern ideas.

The Soloist is a great option for lead guitarists and shredders, but at home in any metal subgenre.

The Jackson X Series Soloist SLX


At first glance the Dinky looks a whole lot like the Soloist, but there are some significant differences. The Dinky has a slightly smaller body size, and where the classic Soloist design is neck-thru construction, the Dinky usually features a bolt-on neck.

This means the body tonewood will have more of an overall impact on the sound of the guitar, and for that reason alone some players prefer the Dinky.

The Dinky is also a guitar notable for one of the coolest trends of ‘80s hard rock: the reverse headstock. Though there were many guitars from different manufacturers that employed the backward headstock, the Dinky is probably most associated with this look. Unfortunately Jackson appears to have abandoned this design in decent years.

Dinky models in the JS series are among the best metal guitars for beginners, but you can also find many pro-level models that will work well for gigging musicians.


The Jackson Randy Rhoads model dates back to the earliest days of the Jackson brand. As the name suggests, the design is based on the original guitar conceived by the legendary Randy Rhoads.

The first Rhoads model was built by Grover Jackson back in the days when he was still part of Charvel. In many ways it was Randy Rhoads, and the guitar he envisioned, that launched Jackson and helped it become the guitar company it is today.

Randy Rhoads was Ozzy Osbourne's first guitar player as a solo musician. If you don't know who he is you need to stop what you’re doing right now and go find out.

The Rhoads has changed a bit over the past thirty-plus years, and it’s been copied here and there, but it remains the most recognizable of the guitars in Jackson’s lineup. It’s a metal classic for the ages. Fortunately, Jackson makes a Rhoads available for every level or player, starting with the JS line and moving up to professional models.

The Rhoads is one of my favorite pointy guitar designs, and I highly recommend checking out the JS32 version. It the perfect guitar for aspiring metalheads, or any player who loves the look of Jackson guitars but doesn't have deep pockets.

Dawsons Checks Out the JS32 Rhoads


The Jackson Kelly is somewhat similar to the Ibanez Destroyer or Gibson Explorer, but edgier and a bit smaller. Though the design was first conceived in the early ‘80s, if you were around a few decades ago you probably most associate the Jackson Kelly with former Megadeth lead guitarist Marty Friedman. Indeed, Friedman and fellow Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine were two of the most visible Jackson artists for a long while.

While the Kelly has the same fast neck as other Jackson models, it definitely has a more metal look about it than either the Soloist or Dinky, and kind of resembles the blade of an axe. It’s a very cool vibe, but that bigger body also means a little more wood, and, to some ears, a different resonance and tone.

There is a Kelly available for every budget and skill level, from the affordable JS version, all the way up to more expensive, professional level models.

King V

When you think about the Jackson King V the first guitar player who comes to mind is probably Dave Mustaine. Mustaine is the driving force behind thrash metal pioneers Megadeth. He used the King V for a long time, starting in the late ‘80s, and became heavily associated with the guitar before moving on to endorse another brand.

But if you were around for the ‘80s you might remember the guitarist who originally wielded the King V, Robbin Crosby of Ratt. Crosby's King V was more of a doubled Rhoads design, but it was quite similar to modern King Vs.

It’s a testament to Jackson that their guitars have what it takes to span the width of the metal genre and get the job done. Whether its glam metal or thrash, Jackson comes through. Like the Kelly, the King V is made from a big hunk of wood, and that means great tone as well as awesome metal mojo.

And it’s hard to imagine a guitar the looks more metal than the King V!

The Jackson King V KVX

Which Jackson Will You Choose?

Good luck picking one Jackson model above the others. Unfortunately this is one of those times where “one of each” is probably the best answer. Or maybe you are one of the fortunately ones who are drawn to one design over the others.

If you are on a budget or even a beginning player you’ll probably want to look to the JS Series. Most of these guitars come in at under $300, and will be more than enough to get you through your first few years of playing until you can move up to a higher-end Jackson.

If you are an intermediate or advanced player you’ll find what you need in the Pro or X Series. The Pro Series in particular has some pretty outstanding options for under a grand. These are serious guitars, for serious musicians.

Of course if you are looking at the USA Select series you probably don’t need any advice. Excepting the Custom Shop models, these are the best of the best in the Jackson lineup. If you are considering one of these guitars you have likely been around the block a time or two and know exactly what you are looking for.

No matter where you stand as a guitar player there is a Jackson series and model for you. Jackson is one of the best guitar brands for metal, with a legacy behind them like no other guitar company. Whatever metal subgenre you are into, you know Jackson will get the job done.

Jackson Guitar Poll

What's your favorite Jackson design?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      GMan Perez 

      6 months ago

      Jackson is in my blood!!

    • profile image

      Juan Carlos 

      9 months ago

      You need to try Jackson Chris Broderick signature...incredibly fast, custom dimarzios, plenty of space for fast articulate solos, great look, splittable pickups, killswitch, etc. etc. excellent tone...

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      iam playing a jackson right now. a 200euro beginner guitar which i bought for 13 years. i like the style and thought i would stick to jackson as my idol hellmuth lehner from belphegor does (even if you are 28 you can have dreams and idols ;-)) therefor i thougth a x series soloist might be the one because i can grow into it if you understand what i mean. a have not really considered a 7 string. maybe i should try one if i can get my hands on it. thanks for the chat.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Guitar Gopher 

      2 years ago

      @ingobert - Since you are tuning so low, have you considered a 7-string? Ibanez makes some good ones in their Iron Label Series, as does Jackson, Schechter, ESP LTD.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      hi! thanks for the great review. i´m thinking about buying a new guitar but its hard to choose. i played for about 13 years now without lessons. i would not say i am a beginner but i am not trained in so many different techniques. i like b-standard tuning, death metal and a beafy juicy tone. i dont know how to describe but in your other review about the best metal guitars you decribed it quiet well. i just started to get trained in shredding. im fast in alternate picking on one string. im working with alternate picking on several string and sweeping. first i thought a js dinky would be perfect for me but im not sure. do you have any suggestion about a guitar which would fit me? i really want to get good and fast. sorry for my english iam swedish without great english skills. thanks! ingobert

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Where is the Monarkh?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)