JEM555 Steve Vai Signature review by Ibanez

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 5
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 7
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.6 Good
  • Users' score: 7.6 (135 votes)
Ibanez: JEM555 Steve Vai Signature
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Purchased from: Swee Lee Music, S'pore

Sound — 10
The best part of this guitar is the pickups! Two humbuckers in the bridge and neck positions and a single coil in between. Clean, powerful and versatile as hell, you can get pretty much any sound from these three babies. The selector even allows you to dial in some combinations such as one single coil and one half of the humbuckers. I play mostly rock and metal and this guitar suits me just fine. It helps that I'm able to emulate the sound/tone of the artist whose song I'm playing: P I've played it through a couple of amps, mostly practice size marshalls and crates, through various distortion pedals (DOD Metal X, Death metal and Grunge, and a Korg Distortion factory, see the pattern) and a crybaby wah. Depending on the settings you dial in you can get anything from smooth overdrive to straight out kick ass metal tones. No complaints here. Vai designed this to be an extremely versatile guitar, and it delivers even in the 'junior' version. Last note, I'm not sure if it's the wood or just the guitar design, but my JEM even sounds good and prety loud 'unplugged', that is I can strum it without plugging in and it sounds pretty decent.

Overall Impression — 8
I love this guitar, simply cos it's my first guitar and I've had a lot done to it to make it one-of-a-kind (the grover tuners and black pickups). It's probably not something I'd buy again on retrospect, probably would have gone with another model which has a more stable floyd rose trem and better build quality. But for the price, you do get a very versatile guitar with excellent pickups and a fast neck. I've played for about ten years now and after everything I've learned about guitars I'd say this will make a decently priced practice guitar, which can replace having multiple guitars in terms of the kind of sounds it can recreate. If you have the cash, go for the real things (JEM7Vs). But if not this is as close as you can get to wielding Vai's mighty Ax. If I lose it I'd probably be pissed as hell more for sentimental reasons, but I'd happily replace it with better quality ESPs.

Reliability & Durability — 5
Here is the main gripe I have with this guitar. First off the machine heads gave up on me after a few months, had to have them replaced with Gold Grovers (for free thankfully). The guy at the shop told me this is a common problem with the 'cheaper' Ibanez guitars, shame on them! No complaints about the machine heads since then. The overall build quality is not as robust as higher priced models, you get what you pay for. I've also had the lead connector fail once (fixed) and of course the unreliable tremolo. I've had the white pickups changed to black evolutions mainly for cosmetic purposes. I've used this on stage and it held up ok, but I don't think this guitar can stand the rigors of constant touring without a backup.

Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The guitar came out perfectly set up out of the box, nice tight action and in tune. But I think I messed it up when I started changing the strings and tuning it down to D#. Had to send it to a guitar tech each time I re-string cos the bloody tremolo wouldn't stay in tune! Finally decided to block off the trem completely and have been quite happy with it since. I don't do much of that whammy bar divebombing stuff anyway. My Jem is now a kick-ass fixed bridge guitar. The neck has always felt fast compared to other guitars I tried, and it's very comfortable to play on for long periods of time.

Features — 8
You know the specs for this from the website and other posts, basically this is a 'toned down' (read: cheaper) version of Vai's mighty JEM7V. Mine is the Korean-made white model. Appearance wise, the only differences are dark chrome hardware (machine heads, bridge etc) instead of gold and the vine inlays only go from the 3rd to 12th fret, on the 12th fret there's a cheeesy "Steve Vai" label: P Also comes with Ibanez's Lo-Trs tremolo which is just ok, not great. Came with its own hardcase which was nice and the same DiMarzio Evolution pickups as the real JEM, which I thought was the best feature of the whole guitar. More on that later. Overall, a nicely equipped quitar for the price with killer looks to boot (the signature 'Monkey Grip').

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