Another hyped, affordable Strat has entered the market here in the US to compete with Squier, Sire, Donner, and more.
Over the course of my guitar content career I’ve reviewed a lot of affordable Strats. To be precise, I’ve checked out cheap S-style guitars from:
Glarry, Donner (twice), Squier, PRS, Stadium, Might Be Famous, Sterling, and GTRS to name a few.
So I feel pretty comfortable when it comes to adding my opinion to the cheap Strat discourse. Not to mention my go-to guitar is my beloved HSS Mexican Strat. So with all that said, let’s dive into this very opinionated view of the Jet Guitars JS-400.
Quick reminder, if you want a more *objective* review, head over to my Ultimate-Guitar article.
Important Specs To Know…
Overall the Jet JS-400 is not an overly complicated or unfamiliar guitar. A Basswood Strat body features an HSS ceramic pickup configuration, with a single volume and tone knob plus 5-way switch. Moving to a master tone instead of the convoluted two tone Strat setup is a nice touch. Additionally, the HSS configuration brings lots of versatility. The big selling point on the JS-400 might be the Roasted Canadian Maple neck. Not a common feature on guitars that are under $300 (both euro and USD).
There’s some clear signs of smart decision making, with a nice, slightly sculpted heel joint and the roasted neck. Overall the hardware is not overly impressive, but not a huge detriment to the playing experience either. There’s no major weak point on the guitar that would inhibit enjoyment so far.
How Does It Sound?
I noticed something super interesting that I touched on in my UG review but will expand on here. The JS-400 sounded awful through the solid state amps I used for band practice. Generally, guitars of all sorts sound fantastic through them, thus why I use it to practice. Everything from cheap partscasters to my Squier Starcaster have all shined through the rig but the JS-400 fell so flat.
On the other side, it certainly sounded good through my tube amp and digital amp modeler (UAudio Dream ’65). These pickups can sound really good, for certain, but clearly need a lot of boost either from my cranked tube amp or cranked high end modeler, to get to a useable tone for me. It is very capable, but not quite as plug and play as some other cheap Strats like the Donner DST-400 I loved from 2022.
The in between bridge/middle sound was also a touch too quiet for me, though most other pickup sounds were exactly as I expected/wanted them to be. John Mayer, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Weezer Strat tones were easy to find.
How Did It Play?
Honestly, not too bad! The strings that come stock felt a lot worse than most but the neck and fretwork was really impressive for a $250 euro guitar. The roasted neck helps it not change as much with climate and moisture, which kind of makes sense considering it has felt the same since the minute it came out of the box. Nicely done. The bridge and tuners are fine, nothing special, and don’t do a particularly impressive job holding tune if you work the whammy bar. But generally it would be fine for any stage or studio setting, and further upgrades to the bridge or tuners would go a long way without costing a lot.
Would I Play It?
This JS-400 from Jet Guitars is a few mods away from being a reliable HSS Strat that I would use in my band. It’s got some awesome features, great finish color, and I like the humbucker sound a lot. But upgraded tuners or a higher mass bridge might be in order. In particular compared to the DST-400, it just doesn’t feel as compact and complete as the cheap Donner did. The Donner was unspectacular, but rock solid. This has spectacular features and moments, but some lapses too. Objectively it is a great buy and value, subjectively I’m not sure I’d buy this over the Donner but it is close!