REVIEW > JARRELL GUITARS
BY AL SANTANGELO
There’s an old adage about the importance of first impressions. Jarrell Guitars seemed
intent on taking that philosophy to heart with
its new JZH-1x semi-hollow archtop. Like
most guitars from Jarrell, it’s not understated.
Yet the guitar is at home in many different
musical environments, responsive, playable,
and well built. And players keen to deviate
from design norms and expand the range
of tones at their fingertips are certain to be
intrigued by what this Jarrell model has to
offer on both fronts.
A Complete Package
The JZH-1x gets your fingers tingling with
anticipation before you even open the case.
This really is a guitar review, I swear, but
Jarrell’s six-latch, fitted hard case simply cannot
be ignored. Its sleek, silver exterior looks like a
cross between ancient stone and futuristic alloy,
while the red cushioned interior—complete
with built-in hygrometer and neck-length sup-port/storage compartment—cradles the JZH-
1x perfectly and even has cut-outs for the strap
pins (something many manufacturers ignore).
The case follows the guitar’s body shape, a
design feature that seems much cooler than
just another black, vinyl-covered rectangle.
While the JZH-1x is bound to divide
opinion, it’s difficult not to be struck by the
guitar’s bold aesthetics. Calling to mind Dean
designs like the Icon and the Boca, as well
as Rickenbacker design motifs, the JZH-1x’s
body shape is familiar, yet exotic. It has an air
that suggests the guitar came from somewhere
you couldn’t even find on a map.
With its spruce top and mahogany back,
the JZH-1x offers a tonewood combination
that’s more like a quality flattop than a typical
semi-hollow electric. Its hard maple neck has
an ebony fretboard with colorful, butterflylike abalone inlays, and the same abalone
appears in the Jarrell name and logo on the
The JZH-1x comes loaded with good hardware too. A lot of new guitars leave you making mental notes of all the upgrading you’d
do. Jarrell eliminates that entire mind trip by
Seymour Duncan SH- 2 neck pickup Sperzel locking tuners
simply putting in great parts from the get-go.
Sperzel locking tuners and a Graph Tech nut
keep things stable and smooth up top, while
the locking TonePros bridge and tailpiece pin
things down at the other end.
The factory setup on the JZH-1x was
spot-on right out of the case. The action
was low without buzz, and the intonation
was excellent—a nice bit of instant gratification for anyone who’s ever had to wait for
their new guitar to be set up post-purchase.
There’s plenty of room for bends on the
Jarrell’s 12"-radius fretboard, and its C-shape
neck and 24 3/4" scale was comfortable
for my average-size hands. The neck carve
felt slightly thicker than my Highway One
Stratocaster, but a little thinner than the
neck on my old Dean Cadillac.
Jarrell scores in construction quality and
finish as well—the guitar feels tight and solid.
And details like fret ends were clearly looked
after with care. The guitar is well balanced
too, and feels comfortable sitting or standing. While it’s certainly lighter than a solidbody, the JZH-1x is no featherweight and
has very good natural sustain.
Muscle Under the Hood
Nothing is more disappointing than playing a
great axe with lame pickups. Jarrell eliminates
those concerns by putting a Seymour Duncan
SH- 2 in the neck and a TB- 11 in the bridge
position. The guitar sports two Volume and
two Tone knobs, a standard 3-way switch, and
two mini-switches with SSP wiring (series,
split, parallel) that offer dozens of combinations and makes playing the JZH-1x nothing
short of an adventure.
I ran the Jarrell through a Marshall
MG100HDFX into a Line 6 Vetta cabinet
with two 12" Celestions, left the EQ flat,
and used just enough reverb to round off
the edges. In series mode, the TB- 11 bridge
pickup delivers the goods clean or dirty, with
plenty of power to provide clarity and a nice
balance between highs and lows. Heavily
distorted tones were airier than what you’d
hear from a solidbody, but there’s more than
enough definition and punch to crank out
harmonically rich AC/DC rhythm tones and
then some. Semi-hollows aren’t meant to be
metal machines, but I did take the JZH-1x
for a spin around that block, and it per-
formed admirably with nothing more than
the Marshall’s built-in overdrive channel to
add gain. Rolling back either the pickup vol-
ume or the channel gain opens the doors to
everything from smooth, warm distortion to
more sizzling high-gain goodness.
PREMIER GUITAR MAY 2011 173