Price paid: $ 500
Sound — 9
Despite the minor damages this guitar suffered, it produces the warmest tone I have ever heard. It could make my cat purr. Despite my preference for other pickups, these Evos are hot sounding. Some may say they are too thin and whiny but like always, how this guitar sounds is all down to preference. This guitar makes leads and solos a work of ART, but when you get down and dirty with heavy metal and more distortion, this guitar can get a bit rough around the edges. This guitar definitely isn't for the metal head audience but when Steve Vai helped create this, he probably didn't have Children Of Bodom or Meshuggah in mind. I am playing this through a Peavy ValveKing and after meddling with the settings, this guitar can sound great. I noticed however that when I turn up the distortion along with the volume, the guitar can get a bit whiny and it loses it's warmth. But as I mentioned before, this probably isn't suited for my musical orientation. In the end though, this guitar is absolutely breathtaking when you pull away from your usual shredtallica routine and just play by heart. If that last sentence didn't make sense, you just have to go and try out the guitar yourself or at least try out any JEM.
Overall Impression — 9
The guitar is Steve Vai's signature model, not mine. I play heavy metal and he plays instrumental rock. A pretty big difference. Now to those saying I am an idiot for wasting my money, I tell you, this guitar was definitely NOT a waste of my money. Despite it's poor condition, it is a great guitar as all JEMs are in my opinion. It looks unique and it sounds great for when you want to experiment with your tone which I find myself doing a lot nowadays with this by my side. Compared to some of my other guitars I own or used to own such as Schecter, ESP, Jackson, and others, this guitar is probably my second best, only coming second to my primary axe. I have to say, that is pretty good for a veteran like this with all stock gear from 20 years ago. Now, I would normally change out the pickups in the guitar but I think this guitar is just fine the way it is. The Evos fit it well and active pickups would just ruin it. You can't put a saddle on a wild horse, and this thing is beyond wild. It is absolutely amazing. The thin neck which is a change to me allows me to quickly change positions on the fretboard and the tone the guitar provides is so unique. Just watch out for what you are looking for in a guitar though when you are buying this, as you might find yourself in a regretful position if the guitar doesn't suit you.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I wasn't sure if I should have played the guitar or sent it straight to the hospital when I received it. It was beaten and battered. The guitar however is quite resilient. Despite all the damages it took, the guitar is built like a tank and bred for war. The pickups are fine, the neck and frets so far seem fine, the head has been repaired and refitted by professionals, and the strap buttons are still there. I have to say, the only thing going against it for playing without a backup guitar is the fact that it uses a floating tremolo, and we all know strings and floating tremolos hold a natural grudge. The finish is overall durable and I could see myself using this as a Live guitar. It definitely has the experience.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Well, what can I say. I bought this, -you guessed it-, used. I tell you, this thing went through hell and back. The bridge has a bit of rust on it, the headstock was snapped off and was repaired back together, there are scratches on the pickguard, there is a massive dent on the edge of the guitar near the button strap, and the strings were rusted (That can be easily fixed though so I won't take it against the guitar). How someone could let this guitar into that condition beats me. However, because I bought this used, I cannot comment on it's factory condition as I have never seen it new. I presume it would have been a beauty though as this is a JEM after all. The bright side of this is that the bridge was perfectly setup with surprisingly intact knife edges and it sounded and played great. Go figure. The pickups were adjusted nicely and the frets were still fine. The bolt-on neck wasn't really warped, but I could see a slight bend as this thing has been around for a while and boy was it abused. And I have to say, the green and black color configuration, while being a mind boggler, is a little on the ugly side. The vine leaf inlays are nice but the green on everything else is just out of place. Then again, it was the 80's when this thing was made.
Features — 10
Just recently buying this guitar used from a friend, I had to do some research to find out what this was. Baffled by it's unorthodox appearance, I later found out that it was basically a black JEM777 with a green vine inlay, green hardware, green knobs, and a green selector Switch (An awkward picture isn't it). Boy was I surprised at how low of a price I snagged this (List price was apparently upwards of $1600-$2000). Doing some more research, this guitar was made somewhere between 1988-1992 in Japan in limited quantities. The superstrat-shaped body is basswood while the 24-fret bolt-on neck is maple. It has an all black finish as mentioned before with a black pick guard. I am not exactly sure what specific model the bridge is but it is an Ibanez Edge for sure, and probably one of the higher end variants as this is a JEM after all. The locking nuts at the head are also probably made by Ibanez, naturally. The pickups are in a passive H-S-H configuration and If I recall correctly, are DiMarzio Evolutions. A 5-way selector Switch controls the pickups along with a volume and tone knob.