Jackson takes two different approaches to the same basic guitar with a simple, but effective change of body woods. Words by Peter Hodgson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #131. Subscribe to our print edition here!
It’s been interesting to see Fender Musical Instrument Corp juggle its many different guitar brands. In recent years, it appears they’ve really hit the right mix: Fender makes... Well... Fenders.
If you want guitar with a hot‑rodded Fender feel, you look to Charvel where you’ll get things like Floyd Rose tremolos and humbucking pickups on otherwise pretty Strat-like form factors. But if you want a real high-performance shred axe – the kind that lives for ultra-fast arpeggios, crushing metal rhythms and intricate fusion-inspired melodies – you’ll find it at Jackson.
That doesn’t mean the lines can’t blur from time to time – the transparent satin finishes of the DK3 Okoume and DK3 Ash guitars on review here have a bit of a high-end Charvel vibe to them – but it sure helps in narrowing down what brand to look at if you want to find the right guitar for you.
TWO OF A KIND
We’ll review these two guitars together, because they’re virtually identical in every way except their wood choices. It also gives us a great opportunity to note the different sonic imprints of these two wood types. Both guitars are Pro Series Dinky DK3 models built on a HSS (Humbucker/Single/Single) pickup format.
Aside from the choice of either okoume or ash body woods, these guitars have a one-piece bolt‑on maple neck with graphite reinforcement bars and a scarf joint. The neck is finished in a hand-rubbed urethane gel, and the headstock is bound in black. The fingerboard is made of ebony and is shaped to a 12-to-16-inch compound radius, getting flatter as you move up the neck to the shreddier end.
The frets are jumbo and there are 24 of them, in true shred-approved tradition. The truss rod adjusts at the heel of the neck with an easily accessible wheel, which is another expected, yet unquestionably welcomed addition. Jackson strings this monster up with .009-.042 gauge strings – perfect for speedy styles, but maybe a bit light if you’re a really heavy player.
Electronics are a trio of Seymour Duncan pickups, a JB humbucker and two SSL-6 single coils, with the middle one reverse wound/reverse polarity for hum-cancelling operation in the two and four positions on the five-way pickup selector. Strangely, there’s no ability to coil-split the bridge humbucker in the Two setting.
There’s a master volume and a master tone control. It would have been easy to make one of these a push-pull to turn the bridge humbucker into single coil mode for an extra two sounds in conjunction with the five available with the switch, but there ya go.
The bridge is a Floyd Rose FRT-O2000 double‑locking unit, recessed into the body so that you can pull it back as well as push it down. Tuners are Jackson-branded sealed die-cast units.
THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT
So brings us to the question on everyone’s mind: how do these two woods differ in sound? Well, okoume occupies an interesting little area; it’s sonically similar to alder, but visually reminiscent of mahogany. It’s also a little denser than alder, giving it a more full frequency response. Ash, on the other hand, is a brighter, harder-sounding wood. So each of these guitars has their own identity, emphasised by the sympathetic pickups.
The JB is a hot vintage-style humbucker with fat mids and full low-end, and it sounds more focused in the Ash model and more full and thick in the Okoume one.
If you’re in a two-guitar band, I’d say go for the Ash model because it’ll give you a tighter sound that will knit more efficiently with the other guitarist. If you’re the only guitarist in your band, hit up the Okoume model, which has richer harmonic overtones and is great for really expressive, nuance-laden solos.
Playability-wise, both guitars are the ultimate in shred-friendly playing experience. The compound-radius fingerboard lets you really get a grip on lower chords and higher sweep-picking patterns, and it just feels right as you progress up or down the neck.
The Floyd Rose operates exactly as you’d hope it would, keeping great tuning stability and letting you really go out there with the bar gymnastics. For the experimental amongst us, this makes the Jackson DK3 an especially enticing range.
THE BOTTOM LINE
These two guitars have many similarities, but they’re for two different types of player. And that makes them a great example of how FMIC has used its various brands to micro-target different players even within the same narrow brand of tastes ,such as ‘HSS Superstrat with transparent finish and compound-radius fingerboard.’
The folks at FMIC really listen to players, because yeah, their job is to sell guitars, but they want to sell the right guitar to the right player, and they’re not afraid to get super-niche to do it. Case in point: these two shred-heavy works of pure art.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• HSS pickup layout
• Seymour Duncan pickups
• Floyd Rose tremolo
• Compound radius fingerboard
• Choice of okoume or ash woods
• Super fast neck
• Versatile tones
• Great tuning stability
• No bridge single coil sounds
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