Misha Mansoor of Periphery proudly discusses the ins and outs of his signature Jackson Pro Series Juggernaut HT7FM 7-String Electric Guitar
It's fitting that a player known for super-technical riffing is hyper-granular when it comes to the details on his signature guitars. And that's exactly the case with Misha Mansoor, of prog-metal band Periphery, and his latest Jackson Pro Series Juggernaut HT7FM seven-string guitar.
The Jackson Pro Series Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT7FM 7-String Electric Guitar is available in Ocean Burst and Charcoal Burst.
Despite it being a lower-cost production rendition of his top-selling USA Signature Juggernaut HT7, it's far from a standard, stamped-out hunk of lumber with Mansoor's name attached. It's a finely crafted, road-worthy instrument that he made sure fit his specifications—even when it meant butting heads with Jackson engineers at times during the prototype and design phase.
"I was a bit apprehensive because I told Jackson, 'Look, I only want to put out products that I can be stoked about. I'm not looking for quick cash grabs or anything like that,'" he said.
Though concessions had to be made to maximize affordability for the average player, the end result of their labors is a guitar that Mansoor feels is worthy of bearing his name.
"They sent me a sample, and I was blown away," Mansoor said. "I realized that these factories have really stepped up their game. … They ended up sending me three more revisions of that guitar, and it got to a point where it was so good, I was like, 'Man, this is genuinely an amazing guitar.'"
Just how good is it?
"When we signed off on it, they sent me sort of production prototypes, and I've been using the six-string version of that on the road," he said. "So, it's legitimately a fantastic guitar. Like I'm kind of shocked at how good of a guitar it is."
Some of the features include a pair of Jackson MM1 passive pickups with a 5-way toggle switch and two knobs with push/pull select (more on those later), 26.5-in. scale to handle the seven-string tension (generally played in drop-A-flat), 24 jumbo frets, flat radius profile, a flame maple top, lightweight basswood body, Jackson locking tuners for added stability, Jackson string-thru hard-tail bridge and the mandatory black hardware for playing metal. It's a lethal combination for just about any aggressive style of play.
As stated, Mansoor is a man who knows what he likes, and doesn't compromise quality. So, the affordable Pro Series model had to hold up with the premium USA Signature version.
One overlap between the two includes the bolt-on, graphite-reinforced, quarter-sawn maple neck, which Mansoor admits is not the sexiest-looking option available, but is unrivaled in its stability and durability, especially on the road.
"It's absolutely paramount that the neck withstand touring because I've had some guitars in the past that did not take well to touring and moving through different climates, humidities, temperatures, et cetera," he said. "Quarter-sawn hard rock maple is the absolute most stable thing that you can put on a neck that also sounds amazing."
Absolute perfect intonation in any environment is also the reason why all his models feature a truss-rod adjustment wheel at the base of the neck, instead of the traditional headstock location. Just in case the rock-solid quarter-sawn maple needs an on-the-fly adjustment, he needn't fuss with a truss-rod cover or string removal.
One big struggle to arise during the concept phase was the matter of pickup selection.
Mansoor's USA Signature model is equipped with a pair of his Bare Knuckle signature Juggernaut pickups, which are handmade in the U.K. (read: "expensive"). But, as this new guitar is aimed at a wider market, Jackson and Mansoor worked together to design the MM1 set.
"I'll say that they're different pickups in the end, but the MM1s are actually very nice," he said. "I didn't expect them to be as good as they are, but Jackson did a fantastic job. But they also have something that's kind of their own vibe. They're both very, very versatile pickups. That's the thing I would say about both sets, is that you could throw pretty much any style music at them, and between the combination of the pickup positions on the guitar and just the general nature of what the pickups are—you'll be able to play anything on them."
To add to the versatility of the pickups is the 5-way blade selector that switches in the standard fashion of bridge, bridge/neck, neck on positions 1, 3 and 5. But on spots 2 and 4, the humbuckers split and use both inner single-coils or outer single-coils, respectively. It adds a unique, milder option to add to the arsenal during performances.
And rounding out the control set are the two knobs, volume and tone. The volume knob is just that—volume, totally standard. The tone knob, however, is bypassed unless pulled up with its push/pull functionality. Yes, the HT7FM has a tone on/off feature.
The rationale behind this is that a tone-knob circuit adds darkness to a guitar's sound. But, as Mansoor plays highly technical, highly distorted, down-tuned music, it takes away from the higher and middle frequencies, which are vital for clarity—especially when playing large, dissonant chords.
The solution? Ditch the circuit—sort of.
"Because I originally didn't want to have a tone knob on the guitar, and Jackson were like, 'Well, you know, we know you don't want a tone knob, but there are people who might want a tone knob,'" he said. "And I suggested doing a push-pull that would bring the circuit in and out."
Another design aspect that Mansoor pushed for was the guitar's upper strap peg that's mounted to the top of the horn, instead of the back of the body, he said. But this resulted in too much neck dive, and made it unstable on stage. However, this was an engineering challenge, as basswood is a low-density material, and there isn't much mass at the sharp end of the horn.
Early iterations of the design resulted in broken body parts and strap buttons getting ripped out. But with some clever craftsmanship, it was sorted out, and the result is a beautifully balanced instrument, even when thrashing around on stage—or diving off of it into a crowd.
"I know that 99.9% of people who get this guitar will not be doing that, but I did say that this has to be my spec," he said. "I don't want my guitar to be any different than what's in stores, so that's why this was very important because they had to get it, not to be just on my guitars, but the sort of process that could be reproduced at a large scale. So that's why that one took a little bit of working out, but they have really smart engineers there who got it working in the end."
In addition to the strap-button issue, the craftsmen at Jackson spent months refining the elegant carve angles on the back of the body and neck. The extra work helped to maximize the high-fret access and smooth the body-to-neck joint to give it what Mansoor calls a "handshake heel" that fits a player's hand seamlessly—invaluable traits for high-speed playing.
The last must-have feature that Mansoor brought to the design table was the Luminlay fret markers, which glow in the dark—the standard state of being while on stage.
"This was a bit of a fight but I got it," he said. "I really wanted to get the Luminlay dots in there because I need those for live playing, and I didn't want mine that I play live to be different from what people had in the stores. So that was a bit of a fight, but I got it in the end, so you're all welcome. Luminlays are awesome."
Misha with his Jackson Pro Juggernaut HT7FM. Photo Credit: Eric Fairchild
Even though this is a market-minded take on a popular signature model, it's far from a cheap knock-off. The Juggernaut HT7FM is not a "good enough" model with a player's name attached to it. It's not a guitar that even needs to be compared to its big brother, as it's a genuinely great, versatile instrument in its own right that can shred, djent, thrash and even clean up nicely.
And that's to be expected with an instrument that needs to live up to the stringent touring and studio requirements of Misha Mansoor—an artist who truly understands what's required in a professional-grade instrument, and that quality is more important than branding.
"That's why it took the better part of three years to get this guitar going," he said. "Because everything had to be absolutely right, and I had to know that this could survive tours."
Tags: Electric Guitars