JEM555 Steve Vai Signature review by Ibanez

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reliability & Durability: 5
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.4 Good
  • Users' score: 7.6 (135 votes)
Ibanez: JEM555 Steve Vai Signature
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Price paid: $ 1000

Purchased from: Music World (RSA)

Sound — 8
Steve Vai uses this guitar for lead and that's what it was made for. The guitar is mostly midrange-focused so cutting through a mix won't be a problem, especially on the Bridge pickup it's very nice for lead work as well as rhythm playing (the way Vai uses it medium to high gain). The neck pickup is nice for a round tone but sometimes too thick for a nice rhythm tone (if high- gain riffing is your preference). For clean tones the neck pickup is great for jazz since it's more bass-focused (don't expect Fender-cleans from a high-output humbucker though). If you roll down the tone knob you're starting to get a more fuzz-like sound with all that bass, tweak it to preference. The middle pickup (single coil) is just weak in my opinion, not clean/sparkling enough and not strong enough to hold its own. It sits between two humbuckers and the drop in volume between single-coil to humbucker is quite significant so it becomes a bit impractical if you Switch between them during gigs. One thing I have to add is how good this guitar sounds unplugged, I was pleasantly surprised. If it had the newer generation DiMarzio (Evo 2's) I would rate it a 9 because the balance between pickups is a bit more even but in this case it's not.

Overall Impression — 7
I've had this guitar for 5 years and play anything from metal to jazz and this guitar does a good job in said two. In combination with a Peavey Valveking 112 (with Celestion V30) and Fulltone OCD as a clean boost I get a very decent tone (on this budget at least). The guitar was way cheaper than other brands, Jackson, ESP, Charvel etc. So I can't really compare the price in Dollars since our exchange rate (rand) is weaker against the dollar. Money talks. You buy what you can afford. This guitar falls in a Jackson Dinky price range ($600-$800) so I'd say in this price range it's good value for money (if you want a superstrat). If this guitar got stolen I would try and save up for a Jackson SLS3 Solist (+-$1300) but If I were pressed for time and only had $800 I would very likely buy this guitar again, but most definitely fix the Bridge again. As mentioned before the Edge III is sadly the downfall of an otherwise great guitar. If it had a better floating Bridge I would've given it an 8-9 rating. I tried to stay as objective as possible but since I couldn't be 100% I'd suggest you go try out this guitar for yourself, How bout in black this time?

Reliability & Durability — 5
Steve Vai has a roadie so he can go crazy with his guitar, dive-bombing the hell out of the thing cause there's always a guy to setup his guitar, that and the fact that he probably has at least 5 guitars at a gig (for us normal folk that's just not realistic). The Edge III tremolo is awful in my opinion. If you bend too hard, or use the whammy bar too far then it will go out of tune. The worst is if you snap a string because then the Bridge falls, all the strings are out of tune so the gig is pretty much ruined. That's why it's way too risky to only have this guitar at a gig, especially if you play aggressively, if it's mellow playing you can probably cope with one guitar. I took it to a guitar tech to make it a fixed bridge, if it wasn't for that I would have sold the guitar, but for this review it's still reviewed as a floating tremolo system. No roadie so no high rating on reliability.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
When I played this guitar in the shop the action was great, hence my reason for buying the guitar great playability and sound. One thing I realized is this guitar does not like thick strings (11-52+), the sound is also then way too bassy. When the guitar had thick strings on it wasn't very enjoyable in my hands (despite a professional setup). After switching back to a lighter gauge (10-46) the guitar felt and sounded great. The guitar is comfortable to play, sitting or standing and the finish is quite thick (don't know what kind of paint was used, I only know Basswood likes a fully-covered/solid finish).

Features — 8
Korean-made (2006) Ibanez JEM 555 (WH). It has an American basswood body with a 24-fret neck made of 3-piece maple and rosewood fingerboard has the Tree of Life inlay up to the 12th fret. The pickups are DiMarzio Evolution and the guitar has an Edge III tremolo system. (The hardware is unspecified stock Ibanez tuners perhaps?) One tone knob, one volume knob and a 5-way selector switch. If it had a Piezo system, coil-splitting functions and a case it would get a 10 on features.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    knoxemdead
    I believe that the jem 555 is a very nice guitar. My R.G. is very nice. Just set the intonation and the action where you need it. I play vai and satch. My RG rocks, its a beautiful guitar and so is my jem 555. Some say bad things about them ( then say they have been playing for a year and a half. I have played 48 years. play 20 more years sir then come back and comment ok? signed, Eddie Knox
    radzio393
    Hey every one I have a Steve Vai Jem 555 and i have a small problem with Floyd rose The guitar is in tune when i use it while going down with it but when pulling it up it seems that the Floyd does not come back in to its position and the tuning of the guitar changes like step higher but then when i push it down again it comes back to its original tune what can i do to stop that happening pleas reply ...