Review: GJ2 Inspiration Series Concorde and Shredder

During the late 1970s, luthier Grover Jackson bought Wayne Charvel’s guitar repair shop in Southern California, and began expanding the Charvel guitar line into what would evolve into some of the world’s best-sounding and playing instruments.
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During the late 1970s, luthier Grover Jackson bought Wayne Charvel’s guitar repair shop in Southern California, and began expanding the Charvel guitar line into what would evolve into some of the world’s best-sounding and playing instruments. These guitars featured flat-radius, unfinished or oiled necks with large fret wire, and were deemed by many to be the perfect instruments for heavy shredding. The instruments quickly gained the attention of notable players such as Steve Vai, Jake E. Lee, George Lynch, and Randy Rhoads. The company was sold to International Music Corporation in the mid-1980s, and was later bought by Fender (which continues to produce both Charvel and Jackson guitars).

In 2011, Grover Jackson teamed up with former Fender senior vice president Jon Gold to create GJ2 Guitars. As expected when one of the industry’s greatest luthiers designs guitars, GJ2’s USA-made instruments have delivered superb craftsmanship and innovation. And now, the company’s new, Korean-built Inspiration Series offers professional-grade guitars at affordable prices.

INSPIRATION SERIES CONCORDE

The Concorde is one of Grover Jackson’s most famous models, and it has quite a pedigree. In December 1980, Randy Rhoads visited Jackson at the Charvel factory, and sketched out a V-shaped guitar body with an asymmetrical wing on a cocktail napkin. Jackson created a prototype of the guitar, Rhoads took it on tour, and then the guitarist came back wanting a second version with easier access to the upper frets and a thinner V shape to the body. A second prototype was made a couple of months before Rhoads’ tragic death in 1982, and it became frozen in time—an unfinished project until GJ2 was launched.

The Inspiration Series Concorde is the first GJ2 model of the “Rhoads guitar” to sell for well under $1,000. But don’t consider price alone here—this is no budget guitar with tradeoffs or limitations. The setup right out of the case was excellent. The neck profile makes it easy to play across the fretboard, and with not much body in your way, it’s easy to reach the high registers. The Jackson-designed Habanero Special pickups have a thick and meaty midrange tone, and the neck pickup sounds especially fat. Clean tones don’t produce much spank or sparkle, but this probably isn’t the kind of guitar you’d use for a jazz-blues odyssey anyway. The Inspiration Series Concorde really soars with heavy gain at dangerously high volumes, delivering a punchy and aggressive attack for rhythm playing, and commanding absolute clarity on lead lines. I’d like to imagine that the Inspiration Series Concorde would get Randy’s seal of approval if he were around today.

GJ2 INSPIRATION SERIES SHREDDER

The well-named Inspiration Series Shredder is exactly that—a speed machine with tons of ’80s hair-metal nostalgia. The first riff I played on this guitar sounded lively and ballsy, and I found myself playing way too many pinch harmonics. The action feels impossibly low, but the setup is really fantastic. There’s no string buzz anywhere on the neck, and the intonation is almost impeccable. I had quite a bit of fun trying to coax the guitar out of tune by using the Floyd Rose tremolo wildly, but it landed right back in tune each time.

The Jackson-designed Habanero Special humbuckers are impressive high-output pickups. This is the type of guitar that wants to scream for attention, yet it maintains a well-balanced tonality that never gets overly squawky or muddy. The USA-made version of the Shredder offers a 5-way pickup-selector switch, but the Inspiration Series version doesn’t give up much with its 3-way selector. The guitar’s natural midrange articulation made it easy to power out of a dense stage or recording mix whether I choose the neck or bridge pickup. If the sound was too aggressive, I could always sweeten things by turning down the Tone knob. In fact, the Inspiration Series Shredder is such a responsive and dynamic instrument that I found myself using it as my primary practice guitar. It had a way of magnifying my expression and articulation that kept me focused on every detail of my technique and phrasing. The Inspiration Series Shredder is well designed for metal madness, and it performs at its best with high gain and high volume. If playing aggressively at top speed is your thing, this hot rod is ready for you.

SPECIFICATIONS

INSPIRATION SERIES CONCORDE

CONTACT gj2guitars.com
PRICE $799 street (includes hardshell case)

NUT 1.69"
NECK 25.5" scale 3-piece maple, neck-through
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 22
TUNERS Hipshot locking
BODY Basswood
BRIDGE TonePros or Floyd Rose 1000 ($100 option)
PICKUPS Two Habanero Special humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.26 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Nice midrange tone. Striking appearance. Great value.
CONCERNS Not terribly comfortable to play while seated.

INSPIRATION SERIES SHREDDER

CONTACT gj2guitars.com
PRICE $799 street (includes gig bag)

NUT 1.69"
NECK 24.75" scale, maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 24
TUNERS Hipshot locking
BODY Basswood
BRIDGE Floyd Rose 1000 tremolo
PICKUPS Two Habanero Special humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario XL, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.56 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Excellent playability and setup. Dynamic. Responsive. Nice trem range.
CONCERNS Not too versatile.

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