Ibanez JEM7V Review – Steve Vai’s Workhorse

The Ibanez brand of guitars is almost synonymous with metal music, and that has become a fact over these past several decades. One guitarist who contributed to this the most is definitely Steve Vai. When he joined forces with Ibanez in late ’80s, they created one of the most impressive guitar models even to this day. Of course, we are talking about Ibanez JEM series. What sets JEM line of guitars apart from similar signature models is the fact that Vai is actually using these guitars. As a matter of fact, his JEMs are the staple of his gear.

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Of all the models available, JEM7V in white is the most popular choice for many. This is probably because Steve Vai’s favorite guitars – named ‘Flo’ and ‘Evo’ – are based on this very model. The difference between a standard JEM7V and those that Vai uses is minimal. In short, if you own Ibanez JEM7V, you can mimic Vai’s tone pretty closely. Our mission today is to take a closer look at this guitar and see what makes it so popular even after all these years.

Ibanez JEM7V Review

For a guitar that has been in production for decades now, JEM7V is still going strong. It’s one of those guitars you can recognize on the street from far away. As you are about to find out, it’s the incredible selection of components that make this model so impressive in all aspects that matter. We are going to start with the overview of the features you can find on a standard JEM7V, and then move on to how it performs.

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Features

The body of JEM7VWH comes in a standard super Strat shape we are used to seeing in Ibanez guitars. The only difference is the routed carry handle which is a Vai’s own creation. The tonewood used for this guitar is alder. The neck is a very fine 5-piece unit made of maple and walnut.

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The craftsmanship makes it one of the more beautiful multi-piece necks available today. On the top, you will find a rosewood fretboard with pearl-abalone vine inlays.  One of the more recognizable parts of this guitar is its pearl pick guard.

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The hardware is all gold plated. This includes the tuners, the nut, and of course the bridge. Speaking of which, it’s an Edge Pro tremolo bridge. Now for the thing that matters the most – the electronics. The pickups on JEM7V are made by DiMarzio and come in form of two Evolution humbuckers, along with a Custom single coil. These are controlled by one tone knob, one volume knob, and a selector switch. It’s worth noting that these humbuckers are Steve Vai’s design, which gives them a more characteristic tone.

Performance

The performance of JEM7V is exactly what you could expect from a guitar that was carefully designed by Steve Vai. The impressive craftsmanship is not there just for show. This thing plays like a dream.

Here’s a quick video review of the Ibanez Jem, so you can see once again how sweet it plays.

Neck & Bridge

The neck is pretty fast, and will give you the elite Ibanez experience. Something that is extremely valued especially in the world of rock and metal. Edge Pro bridge isn’t a legit Floyd Rose, but it’s one of the top licensed tremolo bridges built on this design. It holds the tuning reliably and allows for some pretty extreme dive bombers without budging.

Pickups

The pickups are a whole different ball game. One of the first thing that really shows you what kind of guitar you’re dealing with, is the range you can get from these pickups. You can play just about anything you want. For a passive set, DiMarzio Evolution humbuckers have a refreshingly powerful output. When plugged in the same chain with different modulation pedals, you immediately recognize that Vai had something to do with their design.

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The custom single coil made by DiMarzio fits the whole setup perfectly. Once you start playing with different pickup positions, you can get some interesting results once you pair the single coil with humbuckers. It’s punchy and gives a bit of headroom to the finely tuned humbuckers.

For example, the bridge humbucker is pretty beefy, but the single coil gives it that much-needed snap. It’s a similar story with the neck humbucker. Overall the sound this guitar delivers is pure bliss, especially for the followers of Vai’s tone and those who need more maneuvering space to work with.

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Pros

JEM7V is a dream no matter which individual aspect of its design you single out. The guitar is just that good. From design to performance, it’s all excellent.

Cons

There isn’t a single drawback we could find to this thing. JEM7V is in the class of guitars where you will hardly find factory defects or something not done right. This axe is still one of the best Ibanez models in circulation.

Conclusion

It’s not every day that a guitar manufacturer delivers a model that reaches the level of fame like JEM7V. It is up there with Stratocasters and Les Pauls in terms of its impact on the guitar world, and how much it is appreciated today. Steve Vai’s decision to work with Ibanez is something both parties benefited from.

In the grand scheme of things, the guitar world would be vastly different if it wasn’t for this guitar. Whether or not it’s a model you would enjoy largely depends on your personal playing style, and what kind of tone you’re after.

The only thing we can say is that Ibanez JEM7VWH is still one of the best choices on the market for those looking to buy a truly great rock/metal guitar. With the selection of pickups and tonewood, JEM7V handles even stuff like blues and funk. In terms of sound, it’s a multi-tool.

With that said, this guitar costs a pretty penny. To get one, you will need to set aside a decent amount of money, which is partially why we don’t see a lot of them out there. However, those who know what this guitar offers will see it as a worthwhile investment.

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