Hidden gem: Jackson Dinky JS22
I tried one of these recently, and was rather impressed with it.
A while back I was all about the Ibanez GAX30 and AX120, but then had to give them up because the neck shape didn't agree with my fret hand. This is not to say the guitars have bad necks because they don't. The AX from Ibanez is a great guitar, but the shape (the "shoulder" of the neck shape specifically) presses on my palm in a way that is absolute no-go territory for me.
Since that time I did buy a Strat, but I'd still like to get a good inexpensive HH guitar at some point. While at a guitar store recently, I picked up a Jackson Dinky JS22 and whoa... this is actually pretty darned good.
This is Jackson's version of a basic inexpensive Strat, more or less. But for the price you actually do get a lot of guitar for the money.
"Basic" defined: Two humbuckers, two knobs, 3-way switch with no push-pull on the control knobs, Strat-style vibrato system, standard nut, standard tuners, no locking nuts.
It's the other parts of this guitar that make it stand out. And what I mean by that is this:
Arched top. This means the top of the body has a slight "hump" in it and isn't flat. Regular Strat guitars don't have this, but the Jackson does.
Neck binding and headstock binding. Standard Strats don't get binding at all, but again, the Jackson does. It looks nice.
High fret body cut in the rear.
Check this out:
Look where the neck bolt plate is and notice the curved cut there. That's to allow better access to the higher frets. You get this on the Dinky JS22. This used to be something you had to pay a lot to get. Not here. This is affordable.
12" to 16" compound radius fingerboard. Again, something you used to have to pay a lot for to get. Dinky JS22 has it for way, way less.
There are a few, but they're not deal-breakers.
First, the body has a "planky" feel to it. It's not as comfortable as the traditional Stratocaster body shape. There's nothing particularly wrong going on, but you can feel the less-round shape.
Second, the tuners "go blind" because of the Jackson headstock shape. This means that when sitting with the guitar and you go to adjust a tuner, you literally can't see them because of the headstock's downward angle. There's not much that can really be done about this as the shape is a Jackson design staple that they've been using pretty much forever.
Third is the vibrato system. I didn't test this because the vibrato arm (a.k.a. whammy bar) wasn't in the guitar at the time I played it. But it didn't have to be because I know it would not have worked well. Why? All the strings travel on an angle from the nut to the tuning posts. Vibrato systems work best with strings that have straight travel from the nut to the posts, or are stopped at the nut with locking nuts. What Jackson decided to do here is slap on a vibrato for the sake of doing it since this model doesn't have a Floyd-Rose style tremolo system. What Jackson should have done here is not have any vibrato at all and just made it a hardtail.
Again, none of these things are deal-breakers considering how good the rest of the guitar is.
Will I be picking one up in the future? I might unless someone sends me one first. (I'll happily link to and promo any instrument retailer or guitar company that sends a guitar my way, email me and ask.)