The SX brand is a frugalGUitarist.com favorite delivering solid performing instruments at absolutely rock bottom prices. However, a large majority of their instruments are heavily inspired by (with some downright copies of) the most popular (and traditional) guitars from the biggest manufacturers. When I see an affordable guitar with unique looks, I must admit it’s hard to resist the temptation to give it a spin…
The funky SJM-57 (recently relaunched with a new headstock and named the Liquid RN) with its humbuckers and offset shape kinda looks like the love child of a Fender Jazzmaster, a Gibson Les Paul, and the tail fin of a ’57 Chevy. The powder blue finish yields a total kitschy 50’s look making the guitar a great addition for those seeking something which will turn heads. A bolt on maple on maple 25 ½ scale neck, Gibson style stop tail, and dual humbuckers wired to a three way toggle with master volume and tone controls round out the features.
I’ve come to really like the SX ’57 necks and the SJM is no exception. The neck of the SJM-57 is nice and chunky with a modern flatter radius. Fret work was pretty nice minus a few slightly rough ends. Like the other SX guitars I’ve played, the tuners hold the guitar in tune decently but don’t have the smooth action of a nicer set. While the SX looks oversized, the instrument actually hangs comfortably, though the volume knob placement is a bit forward for my tastes forcing me to slightly alter my picking hand placement.
I plugged up this little darling into my Tech 21 Trademark 60 and a Vox Pathfinder 15r to see where the guitar lied tonally and was a bit disappointed. Tonally the guitar handles clean and overdriven tones decently but while the humbuckers are certainly nowhere near the worst I’ve heard, they were a touch low in output and lacking the lively character more traditional PAF vibe I was hoping for. This axe really calls for something with a bit more pizzazz and a chimey top end to match its unique looks (a P90 model is also available). The volume and tone knobs are effective across their entire throw. I should specifically note that this guitar, as well as a few others from SX I’ve played, seems to avoid the need of a treble bleed circuit offering a great amount of tonal consistency as the volume is rolled back. I’m not exactly sure how they do it (a treble bleed isn’t installed) but it’s a great feature out of box.
I liked what I heard enough to want to try it out at higher volume settings in a rehearsal. As I expected, unveiling the guitar to the group got a “whoa” reaction (though I’m not entirely sure if it was a “whoa that’s cool” or a “whoa that’s…interesting” reaction). As I tuned the SJM-57 up, the nut split! Huge bummer, I haven’t had a nut break on me since I was 11 and that nut was a hollow plastic one. Later that evening, I took a quick trip to a local store and replaced the nut with a GraphTech model and was back in business.
The unique look of the SJM-57 will likely generate a split decision among guitarists, but that’s kinda the point and for me it’s an absolute knock out. Tonally, there’s some room for improvement here and the large oversized pickguard will allow the mad scientist modder an absolute field day…
Price: ~$140 USD
Pros: Unique cosmetics, excellent neck
Cons: Some sub par components