Ibanez JEMJR Review – Steve Vai Signature Electric Guitar
Are you a fan of Steve Vai and thinking about buying the Ibanez JEMJR signature guitar?
If you want a superstrat guitar, then you’ll have a lot of choices. It’s understandable to get overwhelmed with the number of options.
So is the JEM Junior for you?
The Steve Vai Signature JEMJR is a guitar designed for fast playing. This is a hot-rod guitar offering the full Steve Vai experience at a budget price.
In this Ibanez JEMJR review, we’ll talk about build quality, sound, playability, and more.
We’ll uncover all, so you can figure out if the JEMJR is the guitar for you.
Check out my guide on the Best Super Strat Guitars
About Ibanez Guitars
Ibanez is one of the most iconic guitar brands since the 1950s known for producing stunning guitars with exception craftsmanship and playability.
Hoshino Gakki founded the Japanese guitar brand Ibanez in 1957. They were one of the first Japanese musical instrument makers to find success importing into the USA and Europe.
In 1980, with guitar-driven music in the limelight. Ibanez saw a gap in the market for high-speed playing guitars. High-profile artists Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen helped establish the brand.
To this day, Ibanez is a big hitter in the guitar business. They sell guitars catering for all budgets in a wide variety of styles.
Ibanez JEMJR Review Highlights:
The Ibanez JEMJR is a modern-looking guitar designed for fast playing. So what’s to like, and what are the discrepancies? Let’s dive in.
What We Liked
- Affordability: If JEM is out of budget, this guitar is an opportunity to own a JEM but at a cheaper cost.
- Playability: The Wizard III neck is thin and pleasant on the palm. The jumbo frets allow room for lavish string bends.
- Innovative design: Ibanez designed this guitar to push boundaries. Details such as the monkey grip and vine of life inlays stand out from the crowd.
What We Didn’t Like
- Inlay material: They make the fret inlays out of cheap plastic.
- Rough frets: Out-of-the-box, the JEMJR may need a fret polish.
- Complicated tuning: Like with any double locking nut and bridge. It’ll be a new skill to learn. Changing to alternative tunings mid-set is difficult and swapping strings is also more complex.
Ibanez JEMJR Review: Features & Specifications
- Whammy bar on a double locking bridge.
- Monkey grip handle on the body of the guitar.
- Satin-finished Wizard III neck designed for speedy playability.
- Two Quantum humbuckers and a single-coil pickup for an array of tones.
Ibanez JEMJR Review: Our Insights
So does the Ibanez JEMJR – Steve Vai Signature Guitar sound like your type of guitar? Let’s investigate further and look at the finer details.
As with most Ibanez guitars, the build quality of the JEMJR is excellent.
Built in Indonesia, the workmanship has many positives. The All Access Neck Joint (AANJ) is the Ibanez version of a bolt-on. The body and neck connection is pinpoint for a sturdy attachment.
This section showcases Ibanez’s craftsmanship in its full glory. Pleasant to touch, the rounded heel looks and feels like the work of skilled luthiers.
An even finish across the body is a pleasant surprise. With complicated areas like the monkey grip and lion claw. There’s reason to believe it’d be at the detriment of a smooth surface.
The polyurethane gloss reduces the risks of cracks. It won’t age and the JEM Junior will maintain its shine throughout its lifespan.
At this price point, there are a few niggles. In particular, some stock comes with unpolished frets. It’s a quick fix but the fretwork may feel a little gritty out of the box.
For an affordable version of the Ibanez JEM, there’s a lot to love about this guitar’s build quality.
There are surprises investigating the tonewoods. You can expect modest-priced guitars to have lower-quality woods. But the choice of wood on the JEMJR is far from the norm.
Meranti is a low-cost timber that makes up the body. It doesn’t have the sustain of more expensive tonewoods. But it’s durable and will withstand heavy use.
There’s no such penny pinching with the maple neck. Dense and strong, it’ll feel robust in the palm. The neck adds a little tonal sustain that the body wood lacks.
The jatoba fingerboard is alluring with visible grains. The finish gives the wood a dark coloration like rosewood but it has the gleam and shine of ebony.
While some woods aren’t the most common. They built this guitar with durability in mind.
Hardware and Electronics
The Ibanez JEMJR is a modern-looking guitar and the cosmos black hardware plays a big role in the space-age look.
On the headstock, there are standard die-cast tuners. The machine heads are of decent quality.
But, before you dismiss them in favor of locking tuners. This change wouldn’t make a tremendous difference because of the bridge and nut.
The nut is a locking nut, and it’s a clever piece of hardware. Far removed from a traditional-looking nut, it improves tuning.
Using metal plates that lockdown on two strings, you can expect little string movement. For further stability, there’s the double-locking tremolo bridge.
The downside of locking mechanisms is changing strings can be more of a challenge. If you’re new to a locking nut and bridge. It’ll take some practice to master.
If you’re not skilled, alternative tunings mid-set will be out of bounds. And, as a quick word of warning, don’t tune once you’ve locked the strings down.
This whammy is fantastic fun. A lion claw cavity behind the bridge allows the whammy bar to duck and dive. Safe in the knowledge, the JEM Junior will keep its tune.
In the long term, the springs in the bridge can lose their elasticity, resulting in tuning issues. If this situation arises, the double-locking bridge is an adaptation of the famed Floyd Rose system.
Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai brought the initial design to the fore in the 80s. For that extra smoothness of the whammy, you could upgrade to a Floyd Rose.
The JEMJR is home to innovative hardware. In the worst-case scenario and a piece of hardware doesn’t meet your demands, it’s easy to upgrade.
The JEMJR Steve Vai Signature sounds as you’d expect. It’s the epitome of Steve Vai.
Vai is a devoted user of DiMarzio pickups. DiMarzio pickups would bump up the price, so the JEM Junior is home to Quantum pickups as standard. Voiced to resemble DiMarzio pickups, you can replicate the Vai sound.
But, this guitar isn’t a one-trick pony. With a 5-way blade switch, it’s versatile.
For lead lines, the notes will cut and squeal. But you can also delve into a Strat-like pop and sparkling rhythm tones.
The JEMJR is suitable across genres. Jazz, blues, country, and hard rock would all adopt the charms of the JEM Junior. You’ll find it an enjoyable experience exploring options in tonality.
That said, sometimes there’s nothing better than the real thing. If you want the full Steve Vai experience, consider DiMarzio pickups. They’ll slot into the JEMJR and act as an instant upgrade.
Overall, this guitar offers an affordable chance to explore the Steve Vai sounds. If you’re a Vai fanatic, it’s a starting point for all your shredding needs.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. Guitarists of all skill levels will find a tone for purpose.
Playability is an area where the Ibanez JEMJR – Steve Vai Signature Guitar excels.
There’s a reason guitar geeks refer to the JEM series as a sports car guitar. It’s designed for fast playing.
There are many ways that the JEMJR meets high-speed performance needs. For starters, the Wizard III neck is speedy.
Thin with a satin finish means you can fly along the fretboard. The frets are jumbo offering a roomy experience for big bends.
There aren’t many guitars that give you access to 24 frets. The deep cutaway allows for high register access. Furthermore, the rounded heel means reaching those high frets is comfortable.
A countered body has ample forearm space. Let’s not forget the monkey grip on hand for showmanship needs.
Even to the fine detail of the input jack. Angled to keep leads secure and tidy, this guitar is a joy to play.
The JEMJR is comfy and encourages guitarists to progress their skills. If shredding like Steve Vai is your goal, this guitar will help you on the way.
It wasn’t so long ago that you’d have to pay big bucks for a Steve Vai Signature Guitar. If you didn’t have around $1,000, to play a Steve Vai guitar was a mere dream. The Jem Junior offers an affordable alternative.
A new guitar for under $500 is always a bargain. But the Ibanez JEMJR displays an outstanding value for the money.
With its modernized build quality, playability, and tonal versatility, it performs beyond the price tag.
Ibanez JEMJR Review: Buying Experience
If you’re buying from a local store, ask about the warranty and return policy. Every store will vary. Here you’ll learn the details when buying from Sweetwater.
One disadvantage of buying online can be the shipping fee. This isn’t an issue with Sweetwater. As long as you’re in the United States, they ship for free.
If you’re eager to play as soon as possible, there’s the option for next-day delivery. But this comes at an extra cost.
Priced around $500, the Ibanez JEMJR meets the threshold for the Sweetwater 55-point inspection. Meaning the guitar will go through rigorous quality control before shipment.
If you’re considering buying a hard case. It’s a good idea to buy alongside the sale of the guitar. Sweetwater will put the guitar in the case and ship it inside for added protection.
When buying from Sweetwater, you’ll have a free 2-year warranty. It doesn’t include damage caused by wear and tear. Nor the misuse of the guitar.
But, any manufacturing faults Sweetwater will resolve. They have a team of guitar techs to rectify any issues with a fast turnaround. The warranty also includes parts and labor.
The Ibanez JEMJR is a powerhouse, but mistakes happen. If you’re unlucky, as long as it’s within two years you won’t have a pricey repair bill on your hands.
Chances are, you’ll love the Ibanez JEMJR Steve Vai Signature Guitar. Having said that, it’s not for everyone.
So what if the JEM Junior arrives and you don’t like it?
This is where you have the safety net of the Sweetwater no-hassle return policy. Whatever the reason, you have 30 days to return the guitar for a refund.
There are a few details to be aware of. You’ll have to return it as received and you may have to pay for the shipping cost. Nevertheless, if you don’t like the feel of the neck or are not keen on trivial issues like the color, send it back.
Should You Buy the Ibanez JEMJR?
Here are some scenarios where the Ibanez JEMJR – Steve Vai Signature Guitar belongs in your collection.
- You want a high-performance superstrat.
- You’re a beginner who wants to learn to shred.
- You’re an intermediate who needs a guitar to meet your fast playing demands.
- You’re a professional who wants a budget lead guitar. With modification, the JEMJR can become a studio instrument.
- You’re a fan of Steve Vai and want a guitar to replicate his playing style.
- If you love the Ibanez JEM but can’t afford it. The JEMJR is an affordable alternative.
- You can’t decide between a guitar with single-coil or humbuckers, the JEM Junior has both.
Ibanez JEMJR Alternatives
Still unsure about the Ibanez JEMJR – Steve Vai Signature Guitar? Let’s look at some great alternatives.
Ibanez JEMJR Vs Ibanez JEM77
The JEM Junior is an affordable version of the JEM. You’ll have to pay over $1,000 more for the JEM77, so is the upgrade worth it? Let’s look.
The body shape is near indistinguishable on both guitars. Factor in the identical scale length of 25.5″ and a nut width of 1.693″, there’s little disparity.
Beyond the dimensions, the more expensive JEM77 has a visual difference. The body flaunts a stylish blue floral pattern as opposed to the plainer JEM Junior.
The American Basswood body of the JEM77 has more tonal character. But a big distinction comes in the way of the pickups.
Home to two DiMarzio Storm pickups on the neck and bridge. Then a DiMarzio Evolution in the middle, the JEM77 is a premium-sounding guitar. The more affordable JEM Junior will struggle to compete with the richness and depth of the pickups on the JEM77.
Yes, the JEM77 is better. But we’re talking about a big jump in price. There are similarities like speedy playability and cosmetic design. So, let your bank balance decide if the upgraded JEM77 is a workable alternative.
Ibanez JEMJR Vs Ibanez RG450
The Ibanez RG450DX is a shredder's dream featuring the classic RG shape, thin Wizard III neck, and DL Tremolo bridge.
Read our full Ibanez RG450DX Review
The Ibanez RG Standard RG450DXB is more affordable than the JEMJR. If you opt for the RG450DXB, you’ll save approx $100.
But, the RG450DXB is more than a budget guitar. There are legitimate reasons the Ibanez RG Standard RG450DXB is an ideal alternative to the JEMJR.
The RG450DXB has the same Wizard III neck. So you’re free to shred or try other fast playing techniques.
It also has the same tuning stability thanks to the locking bridge and nut. Although it doesn’t have a cavity so you can lift the whammy, it has a tremolo arm nonetheless. And one that won’t drop the guitar out of tune.
So why is this an ideal alternative?
Let’s say that you love the JEMJR but you want it in a more simplified package. Then here’s your alternative.
If you find the monkey grip on the JEM Junior an unnecessary feature. Although it has the same body, the RG450DXB does without the monkey grip.
Also, if you prefer fret markings to feature uncomplicated markers. The RG450DXB has shark tooth inlays.
With the same build quality, playability, and Quantum humbuckers. Consider this guitar a stripped-back version of the JEM.
Ibanez JEMJR Vs PRS SE Custom 24
The PRS SE Custom 24 is one of the best value guitars on the market. It offers professional quality, stunning design, excellent sound and playability all an affordable price.
Read our PRS SE Custom 24 Review
The PRS SE Custom 24 is a classic. Solid build quality, versatile in sound, and famed PRS playability.
For under $1,000, the SE Custom 24 has all the iconic PRS features. The violin-like ergonomic contoured body. Then there’s the wide but thin neck for peak playability.
It comes with 85/15 humbucker pickups with push and pull pots for single-coil sounds too. And this is where the PRS SE Custom 24 can appeal.
If you want the Strat tones but want flexibility. With the PRS SE Custom 24, you can also dial in a Les Paul-style tone.
Both the Ibanez JEMJR and PRS SE Custom 24 are fantastic guitars. Playing styles can help you see which suits.
If you want a guitar to squeal like a Steve Vai solo, then it can only be a JEM! But for a smoother all-around tone, the PRS SE Custom 24 has a tonal warmness.
The Bottom Line
The Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR is a speed fiend of a guitar. For guitarists interested in fast techniques like shredding, it’s an affordable top pick.
Regardless of skill level, for around $500, it offers great value for money. And, for guitarists who want the sounds and style of a modern superstrat guitar, the JEMJR has to be on the list.
While the Jem Junior competes with the JEM77, the JEM77 is the premium pick. One reason behind the elevated performance is the DiMarzio pickups.
If you don’t have the budget. The JEM Junior is an amazing guitar within its own right. Besides, you can upgrade the pickups down the line.
Whichever way you decide, enjoy shopping for your new guitar.