The San Dimas SD22 JB should be canon to every guitar nerd. It’s the red sparkle Jackson that Steve Vai (as “Jack Butler”) plays in the 1986 movie “Crossroads“. You know, the one with the dude from “Karate Kid”. LOL!
The “head-cuttin’ duel” remains legendary among even casual guitar players. Show of hands! How many of you over-utilize the ‘pause’ or ‘frame advance’ feature during the duel to try and catch what Vai is doing? HaHa! Check it out:
I don’t know about you, but I think the kid pulled a “sweep the leg” and deserves disqualification! LOL!
Anyway, that red sparkle guitar is one of the most talked about axes in Vai’s history. Maybe because the sole usage seems to be in just that movie. “Crossroads” has a March 1986 release. Vai hits mega rock star status in July 1986 when Roth’s “Eat ‘Em And Smile” comes out.
Now, 34 years later, Jackson is making all aspiring rock star’s dreams come true. The Pro Series Limited Edition San Dimas SD22 JB! Coming out of the Mexico factory, the SD22 has the legendary Jackson features and playability at an affordable sticker price.
Totally for clarification, the SD22 is not a Mexico factory clone of the Jackson USA Custom Shop Jack Butler from around 5 years ago. Aside from obviously coming from the Custom Shop, that previous one also has an ash body, a Duncan JB/’59 humbucker set, and a German Floyd Rose. You can get this SD22 for less than half of that Custom Shop version! That should have your attention!
Mine shows up in excellent condition. The red sparkle finish is almost hypnotic! HaHa! It does need an adjustment to the neck relief via the truss access at the nut. This one does not come with the truss wrench, but if you know how to do it, you already have one. LOL! The exceptional part is that once I made that first adjustment, it’s been staying in place ever since. This is NOT a big fat chunky neck that I expect that type of stability from. I’m guessing it’s from the graphite reinforcement in the neck. If so, it’s impressive. Most impressive.
Outside of that, the Floyd Rose saddles arrived with no intonation. I mean, they were even and in a neutral position all the way across. I like to double check all my setup points, so this has no impact on me and I’m fine with that. Some less-technical players might be stumped by that. And it’s always possible this one is an oddball that slipped through QC.
The nut is a Floyd Rose R3. The fingerboard edges are rolled, which is VERY comfortable. My MIJ San Dimas Pro Mod has rolled edge that are a little more pronounced. I do prefer the effect on the SD22 much more. Using my Fret Rocker, every fret was level. No high frets, which is super groovy!
The neck thickness is in line with your regular Jackson profile. For non-Jackson guys, it about like the normal ESP profile. In Warmoth terms, it falls between their Standard Thin and their Wizard. It’s interesting that the SD22 profile has only the slightest increase in thickness from the 1st to 12th fret. About only 0.002″ from my measurements. Not something that jumps out at you while playing, but it is a nice feel.
Jackson’s specs show the frets to be “jumbo”. At about .110″ x .057″, I think it’s in the “extra jumbo” territory! LOL!
It’s the San Dimas body. What’s left to say? HaHa! But seriously, the San Dimas is my personal favorite body from Jackson/Charvel. If a Strat-like shape is your thing, this SD22 is for you. The shape and the contours and the feel are there. Very comfortable. The cavities and the neck pocket all get a look. Routing lines are clean. The neck pocket is clean, showing a flat contact surface free of paint.
The alder selection is a fairly standard selection. Alder has a fairly even balance of tonal qualities. It’s reasonably light in weight among all guitar woods, and fairly common in weight for Strat-style bodies. This SD22 clocks in with a total of 8 lbs, 10 oz.
The only area of opportunity might be the route for the Floyd Rose. And only then, if you plan to tweak it out. When approaching it from the trem cavity, a larger sustain block will effectively prevent any pull-ups. An alternative to that is the Floyd Rose tungsten sustain block, which is the same dimensions of the stock block and delivers massive sustain and tonal improvements. And then when looking at it from the top, the routing is a little snug there as well. That only comes in to play if you are the type of player that likes a different style trem arm. If so, the FR Push-In Trem Arm might be the option to consider. If you are in to that sort of thing, you already know the score.
The SD22 comes stock with a pair of DiMarzio humbuckers. A Super Distortion in the bridge and a PAF Pro in the neck. The PAF Pro came out in 1986 and are what Vai’s Green Meanie received during the “Eat ‘Em And Smile” sessions. And the early 1986 release of “Crossroads” suggests it was filmed in 1985. So I don’t know if Vai was using a PAF Pro prototype or if the selection is just due to being a reasonably standard DiMarzio option for 80s rock.
The control and the pickup cavities all have some shielding paint. Looks like the harness hardware are unbranded parts, as near as I could tell from my inspection. And the pot has a nice smooth travel with enough friction to keep the knob in place.
Color: Red Sparkle
Body Shape: San Dimas
Body Material: Alder
Bridge Pickup: DiMarzio Super Distortion
Neck Pickup: DiMarzio PAF Pro
Switching: 3-way Toggle
Bridge: Floyd Rose 1000 Series
Hardware Finish: Black and Chrome
Tuning Machines: Jackson Sealed Die-Cast
Control Knob: Dome Style
Switch Tip: Black
Neck Material: Maple
Neck Construction: Bolt-On
Neck Finish: Hand-Rubbed Satin Urethane
Fingerboard Radius: 12″ – 16″ Compound Radius
Fingerboard Material: Maple
# of Frets: 22
Fret Size: Jumbo
Nut: Floyd Rose 1000 Series
Nut Width: 1.650″ (R3)
Position Inlays: Black Dot
Side Dots: Black
Truss Rod: Adjustment at Nut
Headstock: Jackson Pointed 6-In-Line
The SD22 is an excellent guitar. The accouterments allow it to perform exactly as you expect for an 80s rock machine. Familiar body, smooth neck, and attention to what a proper rocker wants.
And Jackson does it right. This is clearly a respect for an 80s guitar and a respect for the 80s player. Jackson is NOT a company that’s been taking stabs in the dark for years to deliver pale simulations of 80s nostalgia that are only “good for the money”. HaHa! You know you’re getting real alder and real maple. You can feel the quality when you pick it up and as you play it. If you’re going to try to resuscitate an 80s guitar brand, take a lesson from how Jackson kept their brand vibrant and never stopped doing it right.
For reference, this Jackson Pro Series Limited Edition San Dimas SD22 JB guitar evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs in use are Marshall 1960B, Mojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s and Classic Series G12M Greenbacks.