What We Like
What We Don't Like
At $499, this is a very affordable version of Steve Vai’s signature Ibanez JEM, packed with plenty of premium features. It may not turn you into a virtuoso overnight, but it’ll give you a great platform on which to practice becoming one…
This is a fine looking guitar, and unmistakeably Ibanez – with classic edgy RG looks. But the JEM offers something a little different compared to the RGs, especially in its design.
There’s a double cutaway body made from solid mahogany, finished in an intense white with a white pickguard. But there are a couple of distinctive features that give this guitar an instantly recognizable Steve Vai vibe – such as the signature ‘monkey grip’ cutout. Not only does it look ultra cool, but it makes carrying the guitar a joy!
There’s also a bolt-on Wizard III maple neck, which is quick and comfortable, and easily accessible thanks to the deep cutaway – it’s perfect for fast lead players (there’s a reason Vai’s name is on it!). On the neck is a rosewood fretboard, with 24 jumbo frets, along with an awesome Tree of Life acrylic inlay.
The headstock is a classic Ibanez 6-in-line, which is white to match the body paintwork. In all, you can’t flaw the design and attention to detail of this durable guitar.
The JEM JR is loaded with some really solid features – nothing breathtaking, but everything working together to give great performance.
There are three very good pickups – two passive Quantum humbuckers at the bridge and neck positions, and a Quantum single-coil in the middle. These three offer a great range of tones, with high-output and plenty of aggression – just what you need for those Vai-esque melodic shreds.
Selecting between them is easy thanks to the five-way pickup selector switch, while there’s also two white plastic control knobs for master tone and volume, which are simple but responsive.
Finally the Ibanez-made standard DL tremolo bridge is impressive, and feels robust – you won’t be afraid to use it and abuse it, knowing your tuning stability will remain intact thanks to the locking nut. With tuning controls at the bridge, it also allows for very precise fine tuning.
Make no mistakes – this is a performance guitar, built for speed and technical players. The Wizard III neck is super fast to get up and down, and the jumbo strings make string bending easy and fun.
As for output, you get great power and bite from the pickups – especially the screaming bridge humbucker – with a bright and cutting sound from the single-coil, while the mahogany body provides extra tone. It’s generally nice and clear played clean, but it just sounds wonderful with a distortion pedal.
It’s a guitar you just want to pick up and play – and that’s so much easier thanks to the money grip! For such an affordable guitar, you do wonder what the $1000 versions offer that this one doesn’t.
Awesome, head-turning looks? Check. Big sound? Check. Versatility, reliability and durability? Check, check, and check. Yes, this affordable Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEM is a very solid shredder’s guitar. Also great recommendation for beginners.