Jackson Rhoads forensic

by Henrik Hjortnaes,
proofreading by RacerX

Comparison of the Rhoads Pro and the RR1 guitars
(Japan versus USA)

Published February 2006


Frets and fingerboard
Strap button rear
First fret
Neck width
Neck thickness
Gap at neck heel
Closing thoughts


Have you ever wondered what the differences are between a Japanese made Jackson Rhoads Pro and its American counterpart, the RR1? Read on - I have both and did some forensics work to find out!

RR1 - 1997

Seymour Duncan TB4L (bridge)
Seymour Duncan JNL (neck)
Passive electronics
Floyd Rose Original tremolo
Alder body wood
List price in Denmark: $3660

Rhoads Pro - 1993

Jackson logoed JH-3 (bridge)
Jackson logoed J-50 (neck)
Active electronics
Schaller JT-590 tremolo
Poplar body wood
List price in Denmark: $2000

Jackson USA headstock
Jackson Pro headstock


The specifications above are the most obvious differences between the two, but looking closer there are more differences to be found. I will uncover any detail worth mentioning in the following. Notice the list prices here in Denmark at the time! Very expensive and very different too.

Please note the build year: RR1 1997 and Rhoads Pro 1993. This will surely explain some of the differences found in the following, due to Jackson slightly changing details over the years in the production of this particular model. But the comparison is interesting nonetheless.

Click here for a quick rundown of the original Japanese Jackson Rhoads Professional Series 1990-1995, including Serial number information.


I won't go into detail on how they compare sound wise, because they have a totally different setup from the factory. One being passive with Seymour Duncans and the other being active with Jackson pickups. What's the point? If they have had the same set of pickups, I could have made a comparison.

When played acoustically without an amp, the RR1 does have a slightly fuller sound. A louder and wider bass range, more body, would be the most fitting description, but we are talking very small differences here.

  • Jackson Rhoads Pro and RR1

Fret ends and ebony fingerboard

The fret ends on the USA are rounded and nice as you can expect from a USA Jackson. The Pro’s on the other hand are very clean cut and even sharp in some places. There's no doubt that more time and effort has been put into dressing the frets on the USA.

While examining the neck, you will slso notice the differences in the ebony fingerboard. Very dense and dark on the USA, nice on the Pro also, but a bit more grainy. Both are being regularly oiled.

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It’s hard to see in the picture but the RR1 headstock is larger than the Pro. In some places up to 6mm. More wood is surrounding the tuning pegs on the RR1.

The Jackson logo is different as well. The letter "J" is somewhat left alone on the RR1 (bad kerning) and the letters looks more bold compared to the Pro.

Another noteworthy difference is that the headstock edge is straight on the RR1, but slanted on the Pro (see arrows in the pictures). See below for a much better picture showing this weird slant. The Pro is slanted towards the binding, whereas the RR1 is cut at a 90 degree angle.

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Headstock, fret work, update

Jackson Japan Kevin Bonds StarsJust recently, I acquired a 2005 Japanese Jackson Kevin Bond Rhoads and it has the exact same slanted headstock edge as the 1993 Pro.
In fact, it has a lot of the same small trademarks of the 1993 Pro. Pretty interesting. It's like the Pro models have finally returned in full glory!

One thing though: the fret-ends of the KBRR has been rounded just slightly compared to the clean cut Pro, and that's a good thing. It feels a little more comfortable when running up and down the neck.
See more (a lot more) Kevin Bonds Rhoads pictures in the gallery.

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Strap button rear

First thing I noticed with the RR1 was that it is slightly neck heavy. I have always praised my Pro for perfect balance, so the small imbalance of the RR1 really surprised me. Well, the reason I think, is the placement of the rear strap button. Picture shows RR1 on top, Pro bottom. Why is the strap button in the wrong place on the RR1? Beats me…
Using a wide untreated leather strap will help on a bad balance due to increased friction.

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The bindings are narrow and white on the RR1. The Pro’s are thicker and more yellow. The binding work on the Pro is overall better workmanship. It is more precise and homogeneous.

It is actually quite interesting that almost every workmanship detail on the Pro is better looking. Bindings are more even and precise, fret ends sure looks nice and even (but they are sharp, haven't cut myself yet though), logo is more detailed and kerning is better, seams where the wings are glued to the neck-thru plank are invisible, all countersunk screws and holes are made correctly and identical - no heads sticking up like on the RR1, no paint mess in the cavities - the American made RR1 can’t compete here.

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1st fret

Distance from edge of nut to center of first metal fret is different on the two guitars.

RR1:36.5mm Pro:36.0mm. Not much, but all I can say is that to my ear, the RR1 has a different (and wee bit better) intonation than the Pro, and that could come from this difference. But another intonation adjustment to the Pro could perhaps fix this. For this comparison I tried to set them up the same way regarding intonation, string manufactor, string gauge, height, everything.

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Neck width

The width of the neck and distance from E to E string is also different; the RR1 is close to 1mm wider compared to the Pro all the way up the neck.

Neck thickness (millimeter)

The feel of the necks are very different, so I grabbed a caliper to gauge the thickness of the two. The Pro is very thin.

The earlier RR1’s (called Rhoads back then) had thinner necks too, but that changed around 1993, where they got more chunky. That’s why you'll see quite a large difference in the table. Remember, my Pro is from 1993 and the RR1 is from 1997. Had the two guitars been the same age, they would probably have had the same measures.

I like the feel of both, but the Pro feels faster to me; it is super thin.

  • Jackson Rhoads neck thickness

(above measures are in millimeter)

Gap at neck heel

Big gap between the neck heel and the neck pickup on the RR1. Narrow gap on the Pro. Hmmm...

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Closing thoughts

There’s no doubt in my mind that the 1990-1995 era Japanese Pro is every inch as good as its USA counterpart and for less money, especially for used ones. Up till recently (late 2006), the Pro's have been much cheaper than the RR1 when buying used. Typically, it's been in the ballpark of RR1's going for $1100 and Pro's for $500, but I've seen several Pro's going for a lot more lately (2007). They are worth it.

2005 Kevin Bond Rhoads, slanted headstock just like the early 90s Rhoads Pro's
2005 Kevin Bond Rhoads, slightly better fret work (fret ends more smooth) compared to my early 90's Rhoads Pro

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