Ibanez Jem Jr. Review
Ibanez JEM is the iconic electric guitar manufactured by Ibanez and first produced in 1987. The guitar's most notable and co-designer is Steve Via. As of 2010, there have been five sub-models of the JEM: the JEM7, JEM77, JEM777, JEM555, JEM333, and JEM70V. The Jem Jr. was released as a low-cost import to meet the demand of players looking for good value and reasonable price.
With many fake Jem copies flooding the market these days, it difficult to be sure you are really getting an original Ibanez made guitar. Unless you buy the guitar from a reputable guitar store or have a really good eye you just may get scammed so buyer beware especially if you are looked for one on the used market.
When I purchased the Jem Jr. I did so on a whim. I have been a big fan of Steve Vai since I was a teenager. Not so much for his music as for his technique and virtuosity. I will be honest and say that I don't even own one of his records. Don't judge me! I was looking for a guitar that didn't quite have the same sound or features as the other guitars in my collection. The Ibanez fit the bill
very nicely. I like to compare this guitar to a sports car. Slim flat neck with wife frets makes it super easy to play. The vine of life inlay and monkey grip handle make it quite identifiable at first glance. The little things like the angled input jack add to the unique design it is well known for.
The HSH configuration of the pickups gives you quite a bit of additional tonal range. Although players who are not used to this configuration may find themselves a little limited in picking space between pickups. Honestly, I don't really use the center pickup very much but I refuse to remove it because I want to stay true to the look of the original Jem. I feel that although the stock pickups in the Jem Jr are adequate, they are nothing that I consider impressive. Yes, they do the job, but I am certain that the guitar could benefit from a pickup upgrade if you are looking to squeeze the most out of this Ibanez.
One aspect of the guitar that irks me a little is that they decided to go with a super white pick-guard instead of the off-white pearl version on the original. I can't help but feel that this looks out of place on the guitar. One can always purchase a replacement but I fear that the hole locations are not in the same location. So installation may be somewhat of a challenge without being forced to drill new holes.
The bridge although decent is not nearly at the same level of quality as the original. I was not surprised to see that Ibanez opted to go with a cheaper version to keep costs down. Some people have voiced their disappointment in this area but using cheaper badges and electronics is a commonly seen tactic among guitar manufacturers looking to cut costs. I would say that the bridge on the JEM Jr is a mid-level bridge that for the most part hold tuning well enough. I have seen much much worse at around the same price point from other manufacturers which shall remain un-named. You always have the option of dropping in an original Floyd Rose if you intend to keep the guitar long term.
The guitar setup was very well done out of the box. The action was low and comfortable. The fret edges we well rounded and not sharp and the bridge was floating level and adjusted properly. So no complaints in that department.
Overall I think the Jem Jr is a very nice guitar although a little retro after all these years. It's not for everyone and some traditionalist may find that it is not for them, the 70's and 80's crowd will still get a kick out of this shredder guitar.
Written By: ATG editors