Sound — 9
As a guitar teacher I am regularly expected to demonstrate a number of different styles, although personally, I enjoy to play classic rock, blues and instrumental music by artists such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson and Yngwie J. Malmsteen. I would like to make it very clear that I never expected a replica JEM costing only 150 to match the quality of an original Ibanez priced around 2000! Instead I have tried to evaluate the guitar as fairly as possible. Despite how little I paid for this guitar I was very surprised by just how versatile it was. The pickups have a wonderful brightness and clarity, unlike so many budget priced guitars that have a tendency to sound "muddy" or dull. The neck humbucker pickup particularly really sings and has a lovely warm tone. Unfortunately, Freya Musical Instruments were unable to tell me what the pickups were when I enquired, so I am unable to say what they are exactly? I tested the guitar through a Marshall MG100DFX and a Kustom 20 watt practice amp on both the clean and overdrive channels and the guitar really sounded fantastic! I did find I needed to use an external overdrive/distortion pedal with the practice amp to get a decent tone (due to poor quality overdrive on amp) but could happily play the guitar straight into the Marshall without need of external pedals all day long! The pickups may not be DiMarzio's but they sure do the trick!
Overall Impression — 9
I have used a number of different guitars throughout my 20 years of playing and as a guitar teacher feel it is important to look for quality instruments for all budgets in order to best advise my students whether they be purchasing their first guitar or up-grading to a model better suited to their individual taste/styles. I purchased this guitar out of curiosity as many of my students are discovering Steve Vai's music and want an Ibanez JEM and their unfortunate parents have been breathing down my neck for a cheaper alternative. Freya Musical Instruments really do offer a friendly and enthusiast service and were very prompt and helpful when answering my emails prior to purchase. Of course, I do not compare this guitar in any way to an original Ibanez JEM. Nobody could expect a guitar purchased for 150 to compete with a 2000 guitar. However, I can confidently say that this guitar performs well and produces a lovely range of tones. The action is smooth, is a real pleasure to play and guitar looks amazing! If it where lost or stolen I would definitely buy it again only, as Freya fastest selling model, it is not always easy to get hold of as my students are discovering. This is a lovely replica of one of the most recognized and sought after guitars without needing to worry about owning a Chinese made Ibanez fake.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Despite having one of my Ibanez RG350S available as a backup (I would recommend all performing musicians to carry a spare!), I had no need for it as the Freya proved itself both worthy and dependable as far as live performance was concerned. The strap buttons are secure without the need for strap locks, although I must confess that strap locks are a beneficial addition to many guitars. I took a chance on buying this guitar as it was not a brand that I recognized, however it has proved both reliable and dependable time after time and has become quite a favourite of mine on stage! You would think I had the real Ibanez from all the attention it attracts!
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
As part of their customer service, Freya Musical Instruments will personally set the guitar up for you before shipping. This includes choice of string gauge (Ernie Ball Slinky 9's or 10's) and action tailored to your preference. Considering this guitar only cost me 150 it is very well made and finished very well. The only flaw that I could find with the finish was that there was less paint inside the "monkey grip" than the rest of the body. However, this is not visually noticeable and I was purposely looking for something to fault. The guitar has a lovely low action, without any buzzing and the licensed Floyd Rose works perfectly. The only other fault I could find with the guitar was that one or two of the frets "choked" slightly. This was easily fixed by my local guitar tech and cost very little to remedy. Most budget price guitars have these kinds of issues so I won't judge the guitar too harshly.
Features — 9
Freya Musical Instruments are a small company based in Ireland. All their guitars are made in China and imported to Ireland where they sell them via their eBay store. They make replicas of many popular guitars such as Stratocasters and Les Pauls. The guitar I am reviewing here is a copy of the Ibanez JEM. The guitar's specifications closely follow those of the original Ibanez model; Basswood body with Maple neck featuring the Tree-of-Life inlay on a two octave (24 fret) Rosewood fretboard. Hardware includes gold-plated licensed Floyd Rose bridge with whammy bar, locking nut and die-cast tuners. Other features include two humbucker and one single-coil pickups, one volume and one tone control and a five-way switch. The finish is white with a pearloid scratch plate. Only the headstock differs from the Ibanez as, although similar, is a slightly different shape and finished in black with "Freya" logo. The body also has a "monkey grip". Guitar comes with a padded "Freya" gig bag.