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Jackson Kelly JS32T, the cheapest Explorer shape

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If you gotta have that Explorer-like shape for new and cheap, this is your only option.

I should note up front there is a distinct difference between the Jackson Kelly JS32 and the Jackson Kelly JS32T. If it's a JS32, there will be a Floyd-Rose Licensed Jackson tremolo system present. If it's a JS32T, that's a string-thru body with no FR system, i.e. hardtail.

Let's talk about Explorers first before getting into the Jackson.

The Gibson Explorer has never been cheap. It doesn't matter which model it is. If you want one of those, you will pay a pretty penny for it.

Epiphone Explorers aren't exactly cheap either. You'll part with at least $500 to get one. My favorite of the bunch is the '58 Korina Explorer. I'd actually prefer that over a Gibson, and no, I'm not joking.

Then there's the Jackson Kelly JS32T, a "sharper Explorer", if you will.

If it's a look that agrees with you, this axe has some good stuff going on. It's technically an offset waist body. And while the neck is bolt-on, there is graphite reinforcement present in the construction. Yes, you get that on a sub-$400 guitar. Frets are X-Jumbo on compound radius 12"-14" fretboard, which means you can set the action ridiculously low, play fast and not fret out.

Here's something that shocks most players: The Kelly is actually easier to live with compared to the Explorer.

The Kelly body is easier for both seated play and when playing while standing. It is much easier to access the higher frets on a Kelly compared to an Explorer because of the way Jackson does the cutout in the back. The controls are easier because it's just master volume, master tone, pickup selector and that's it.

Kelly offers a lot for a little.

Would I own one personally? Said honestly, I would always take the Jackson Rhoads JS32T first, which is a V shape with the short fin on the bottom. Always loved that style and it's my favorite V guitar of all time. You can go "full fin" with the King V, but I always liked the short fin better...

...even though I know you really can't play that guitar seated, which is why it's nice a Kelly shape option exists. You get the Explorer-like shape and can actually play it seated easily.

Bear in mind JS series is the entry level. Jackson makes several different levels of the Kelly guitar, with one of the highest tiers being the USA Select Kelly KE2. That one has the best of everything. Floyd-Rose Original tremolo system, Seymour Duncan pickups, compound radius fingerboard made of super-dark ebony, and so on. Every single thing is top tier, and the price reflects that.

One tier down from the USA select is the X Series Kelly. Much more agreeable price, neck-thru construction and many more cool color options.

If you try a Kelly and really like it, yes you can upgrade to better models. I'm glad Jackson offers the JS Series Kelly, where it's easy to get in the door with this shape at a low price.

Published 2024 Apr 11

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