Jackson Soloist SLA 3 | Review

Published 1 week ago on June 4, 2024

By Guitar Interactive Magazine

Jackson Soloist SLA 3 | Review
MSRP: (UK) £1299 / (US) $1399

Nick Jennison reviews the Jackson Soloist SLA3. Built for speed and performance, this solid-body guitar features an alder body with a through-body maple neck, providing exceptional sustain and stability. The ebony fingerboard, with its 24 jumbo frets and 12 "-16" compound radius, ensures fast, comfortable playability. Equipped with a trio of high-output Jackson humbuckers, the Soloist SLA3 delivers powerful, articulate tones suited for heavy rock and metal. The Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo system offers superior tuning stability and dynamic pitch control. The Jackson Soloist SLA3 is the perfect choice for serious players.

Some guitars are subtle, understated designs that don't draw attention to themselves. They're visually inoffensive and fit comfortably in any musical setting without needing to be the centre of attention. The subject of this review is about as far away from that as it's possible to get. It's an all-gold, Floyd-loaded shred machine that's literally called a Soloist. This is the Lord Flashheart of guitars (younger/non-British readers, google the name - you will not be disappointed).

The guitar in question is the Jackson Soloist SLA3 from their Pro Plus series — a new line of guitars that offer the absolute highest performance for comparatively affordable prices thanks to East Asian construction. The SLA3 Soloist sports all of the classic features that define this legendary model, with no corners cut and no shortcuts taken. And it's fast. Really, really fast.

Like all Soloists, it sports a neck-thru construction with the addition of carbon fiber reinforcement for additional stability, meaning once you've got your setup dialed in, it's staying put. This is crucial for high-performance guitars, where the difference between "super low action" and "unplayable buzzy mess" is measured in fractions of a millimeter. Speaking of low action, it's comically low from the factory, but there's not a buzz or choke to be found. I didn't have tools with me to measure the precise height, but the 12th fret action is well below 1mm on the treble side. It's possible to get the action this low thanks to the immaculate fretwork (stainless steel frets too, which means they're going to stay this way) and 12" -16" compound radius ebony fretboard. 16" might as well be flat as far as play feel is concerned, but the 12" radius in the lower regions makes for more comfortable chord playing — and more natural-feeling finger rolls during sweep-picked passages if that's your bag (and let's be honest, if you're looking at this guitar, it IS your bag).

Tones come in the form of a classic HSS set, with a Seymour Duncan Distortion in the bridge position and a pair of Flat Strat single coils in the middle and neck. It's actually a surprisingly conservative set given how outrageous the rest of this guitar is, but what you get is a gloriously juicy old-school shred tone in the bridge position, with the added versatility of several single-coil voices for more thoughtful moments. The neck position will do everything from Lukather to Malmsteen, while the split positions 2 and 4 are ideal for "power ballad" cleans and modern fusion leads. It'll also do perfectly passable funk and Texas blues tones, so long as everyone in the room closes their eyes.

The 1000 Series Floyd Rose tremolo is an absolutely non-negotiable addition for a guitar of this kind. It offers rock-solid tuning stability no matter how crazy you get with the bar — and you can get pretty crazy. Harmonic squeals that will have the ghost of Dimebag smiling from metal paradise, fully slack dives, motorbike/spaceship/elephant noises, and even more sensitive ideas like faux slide and subtle chord vibrato — this tremolo will go with you wherever your imagination does.

The Jackson Pro Plus Soloist SLA3 is a soloist in the truest sense — a no-compromise shred machine that heaps scorn on the shy and retiring with its bold tones and even bolder looks. It's a dragster in a world of family SUVs — an unapologetically outrageous guitar, and I love it.

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