It was four years ago that I picked up my first ever Jackson guitar. That was to be the start of a long, slow obsession with these heavy metal shred machines. Since then, I’ve owned at least one in every model offered by Jackson in their “entry level” series. But out of all the guitars in the line, only one has stood out to me as something truly special. There is something about its shape that screams hard rock and roll at me through an amplifier – something that is just too difficult for words to describe. It just looks, feels, and sounds right. And so when it came time for me to expand my own again, I knew exactly what I wanted. I felt that if my experiences with Jackson were to be taken into account, it would be foolish of me not to give this guitar a second look. And so here we are.
At first glance, there does not appear to be anything extraordinary about the DKA, but upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that this guitar is so much more than just your hum-drum run-of-the-mill rehash. The body shape has been stripped of all extra flourishes and features a simple, sleek outline with modern styling. In fact, this new model offers very few updates from the previous JS32T Kelly, which was originally introduced in 2008.
The main difference between the two models is the finish – DKA being satin black while Kelly comes in a high gloss transparent blue finish. And while some may appreciate Jackson’s decision to leave well enough alone, I personally found that it doesn’t look nearly as sharp without its shiny coat of paint on top. My other complaint is the fretboard inlays. The modern Jackson logo with its sharp, angular lines is a very nice touch on this guitar and I love how it coordinates beautifully with the body shape and hardware. However, the inclusion of traditional abalone dot inlays just seems out of place at this price point with everything else that has been done to update the guitar’s appearance. And lastly, it would have been nice if they switched up some of the hardware colors with black or chrome instead of leaving it mostly unchanged from the Kelly model which debuted 9 years ago – especially when you consider their effort to update other parts such as pickup covers and knobs. But besides those minor gripes, I again must give credit where credit is due for their decision to keep it simple and maintain the elegance of their flagship guitar.
The neck profile found on this model is Jackson’s “Speed Neck” carve which has been featured in other models throughout their product line since 2005. It is thinner than most traditional profiles at around .7 inches thick but not so thin as to hinder its playability – especially for those with larger hands like myself. The compound radius fingerboard features a flatter area that starts around the 12th fret then ramps up into a more rounded curve which continues all the way through the 24th fret just before reaching the edge of the neck. This makes bending strings easier by giving you a slightly greater range closer to the nut while also increasing string tension towards the higher frets for improved note definition. Rest assured that this guitar is more than capable of digging into the low end even on the highest string bends. I have also found it to be very comfortable playing rhythm parts in standard tuning all the way up to drop C without any unwanted buzzing or dead spots.
The tuners are Jackson’s Gotoh Magnum Lock tuners which help reduce tension loss and improve tuning accuracy by locking each string in place automatically when you turn the key. The main benefit of having these is a convenience but if they were to fail for some reason, they can easily be replaced by another set of regular tuners – so I don’t see them as much of a selling point, but hey – it’s the small things that count. As far as durability goes, you can never go wrong with Gotoh products. As far as electronics go, the pickups are Jackson’s own passive high output Blaze models (bucker 1 in the bridge and single-coil in the neck). The JE-1200 in the middle of this guitar is a stacked humbucker which provides you with greater spacing between strings to help improve your overall tone.
The controls include master volume and tone knobs for each of the respective pickups along with a 3-way toggle switch for choosing pickup combinations. With only two knobs, it would have been nice if they added another one for controlling something like bass/mid/treble frequencies or switches for series/parallel wiring options but at least there are individual on/off switches next to each pickup so you have individual control over each of them. The good thing about this guitar is that there’s no need to change to a 4-conductor wiring setup because you can easily achieve any combination of pickup sounds or series/parallel wiring using only the standard 2-conductor cables.
When it comes to playability, I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about this guitar. It’s lightweight and ergonomically well balanced to make playing for long periods of time as comfortable as possible and it glides effortlessly across the fretboard allowing me to switch positions fluidly without worrying about accidentally hitting the wrong note. Another great aspect is its natural tendency towards minimal sustain combined with clean sounding muted notes which really come into play when you’re trying produce a specific staccato style of playing. In particular, I would say that the low end of this guitar really shines through when you’re playing heavy riffs or palm muting fast picking notes. It never gets muddy or muddled and note distinction stays clear even on complicated passages which is a plus for any metalhead.
Overall, the benefits of owning a guitar with high output pickups outweigh their negatives many times over especially if you can find a suitable one that suits your musical tastes. There are countless guitars out there with different specs but it’s ultimately up to personal preference as to what sounds best to you so try as many as possible before making a purchase decision because at some point – they all sound the same. With that being said, I can say that this particular guitar is one of the best I’ve tried personally especially when you consider its price point – definitely a worthwhile investment.