First Impression: JLS Model SSH Hot Springs National Park AR

Now, working as JLS Guitars, Jim L. Schmidt makes electrics that are devoutly ofthe S-style, but with a twist in the form of his chambered ash bodywith figured maple top. Plugged straight into a Top Hat Club Royale Mk II, the SSH revealed a warm, round neck pickup for good bluesy excursions or sweeter rock ballads, and an open and balanced tonality overall, with admirable definition. Read on to know more about it.

Ronnies Steel Guitar
(501) 623-7997
625 Albert Pike Rd
Hot Springs National Park, AR
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Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments

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Hollihan Guitar & Repair
(501) 623-1903
1083 N Highway 7
Hot Springs Village, AR
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Quattlebaum Music Center
(501) 268-6694
101 W Arch Ave
Searcy, AR

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Saied Music Co
(479) 783-3050
4300 Rogers Ave Ste 55
Fort Smith, AR
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Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Atomic Guitars
(501) 663-0075
318 N Spruce St
Little Rock, AR
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Guitars & Fretted Instruments

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Capitol Keyboard Easy Music
(501) 525-3605
4501 Central Ave
Hot Springs National Park, AR
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Acoustic Piano, Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Print Music

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Ronnies Steel Gtr
(501) 623-4603
625 Albert Pike Rd
Hot Springs, AR
 
Ben Jack's Arkansas Music
(479) 464-4847
1210 S.E. Walton Blvd.
Bentonville, AR
 
Valley Piano Co
(479) 968-5200
813 E Main St
Russellville, AR
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Acoustic Piano, Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Sound Reinforcement, Recording Equipment, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Morrilton Music Co
(501) 354-9933
131 Rock Creek Rd
Morrilton, AR
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First Impression: JLS Model SSH

JLS Model SSHJim L. Schmidt openly admits that his raison d’etre circa 2009 is to outgun his fellow California guitar maker – and former employer – at offering an affordable, bolt-neck, U.S.-made electric with three pickups and a vibrato tailpiece. Schmidt worked first in the lumber selection room before moving into final assembly during his tenure with Fender in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Now, working as JLS Guitars, he makes electrics that are devoutly of the S-style, but with a twist in the form of his chambered ash body with figur ed maple top. Denoted by the workmanlike names SSS Model and SSH Model (differentiated by single-coil or hum bucker in the bridge; each $1,024 including shipping), the line is assembled from start to finish by Schmidt himself in his workshop in Folsom, California, using some original components, some bought in from other suppliers. As a custom builder, Schmidt points out that he can also provide many options regarding the pickup configurations on his guitars.

Schmidt makes his own bodies, routing ten narrow chambers (plus control cavity and pickup routes) in a solid ash back, then capping it with a two-piece, book matched maple top, and marrying it to necks purchased from another manufacturer. The one-piece maple neck on our review sample carried 22 jumbo frets, courtesy of a small fingerboard extension that provided room for the extra fret beyond the 21-fretvintage norm. All frets were smoothly filed and polished, and the neck played extremely well from nut to neck-body joint. The hardware complement on all JLS guitars includes a gold-plated Warmouth vintage-style Stratocaster vibrato and enclosed 16:1 ratio gold-plated Gotoh tuners. Pickups are Fender American Standard Stratocaster single-coils, with the option of a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates hum bucker in the bridge, as on this example.
Schmidt’s chambering keeps the guitar’s weight down to a little over 7lbs, and also allows the inclusion of an elegant f-hole in the maple top, a surprising “Thinline-inspired” feature on an S-style electric. The routing work revealed by this particular f-hole shows just the tiniest bit of wood furring in evidence in the ash beneath, but workmanship is very good overall. The SSH is finished in a thin, water-based satin lacquer. The overall look, to some players, might break into that ’70s trend for stripping guitars to natural, and others might feel a figured top such as this deserves a polished gloss finish. I like the overall vibe in the hand, though, and it’s hard to argue with the environmentally friendly aspect of the water-based finish, or the likely fact that it won’t constrain the guitar’s resonance unduly.

Plugged straight into a Top Hat Club Royale Mk II, the SSH revealed a warm, round neck pickup for good bluesy excursions or sweeter rock ballads, and an open and balanced tonality overall, with admirable definition. The in-between settings still capture much of the Knopfler-esque quack that many S-style players are hooked on, while switching to the Duncan in the br...

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