Ernie Ball Music Man JP6 Review
Note:Original review was published on the September 2010 issue of SOUND Magazine.
That guy, John Petrucci is a tasteful guy about his guitars. Ok, i was not fully happy when he had left Ibanez to Ernie Ball Music Man in 1999. I was much of an Ibanez guy, those days. But time after time i really liked his new Music Man guitar. There are two most considerable aspects about it; the design and smartness of he guitar.
Let's start with general catalog specs;
Dimensions: 31.8 cm W x 4.5 cm thickness x 94.0 cm L
Weight: ~ 3,29 Kg
Body Wood: Basswood
Body Finish:High gloss polyester
Neck: Maple (some models have birdseye maple)
Scale Length: 25,5"
Neck Width:1-7/8" (47.6 mm) at nut, 2-7/16" (61.9 mm) at last fret
Neck Finish:Gunstock oil and hand-rubbed special wax blend
Neck Colors:Standard - Natural; Optional - Matching painted headstock
Neck Attachment:5 bolts - perfect alignment with no shifting; Sculpted neck joint allows smooth access to higher frets
Bridge:Standard - Custom John Petrucci Music Man® floating tremolo of chrome plated, hardened steel with solid steel saddles Optional - Piezo bridge with solid steel saddles
Frets: 24 full jumbo (similar to Dunlop's 6100)
Tuners: Schaller Locking w/ Pearloid Heads
Controls:500kohm volume and tone - .022µF tone capacitor
Switching:3-way toggle pickup selector (4PDT), with custom center position configuration 3-way toggle piezo/magnetic selector (when applicable)
Pickups: DiMarzio Customs (before 2009) / DiMarzio LiquiFire (N), DiMarzio Crunch Lab (B)(Actual Pickups)
Lets talk about the general structure of the guitar; first of all, the design and ergonomics of the guitar is stunning. The balance is nearly perfect, no matter sitting or standing. Furthermore its arm contour with its very radical approach is so useful, i think. If you set your strap too low (same level with your knees, for instance), you may not notice its usefullness but contour works. Next thing you will notice is the relative lightweightness of the guitar as Petrucci's former Ibanez JPM Guitar. Set it on your neck and forget like a necklace :) The main reason of this is the wood choice of the body. Dont think it is the same kind of wood on the cheapo guitars. This one has more resonant, more natural type of basswood, probably american basswood (tilia americana). The overall boby contours are pretty cool The upper and lower cutaways are smarty and functional also. Furthermore, the lower cutaway feels excellent. It is very easy to reach all 24th fret register while the guitar has functional 5 bolt joint system.
Of the neck... Made from one piece of maple and the finish feels excellent. But this kind of oil/wax mixture on maple is very very comfortable, natural, soft, satin-like and non-sticky. This spec is one of the best and the most sides of guitar at the same time. Neck finish is so comfortable but it gets dirty relatively fast. The more frequently play and more sweaty/oily hand you have, the faster dirty looking maple you will get. Personally, i do not care about the appearance of the necks back side and the feel of the neck seems much more important for me, so its better to have this guitar oiled necks.
Neck profile is, as far as i can remember, different than the good old ibanez JPM. It's been 7 or 8 years but as far as i can remember(dont take it certain), the center part of the neck was more oval and the neck of this EBMMJPM guitar is not. Actually it reminds me the well-known Ibanez Wizard-II profile. Not too skinny like a paper, not too chuncky. Very comfortable for shredders exclusively. The nut is looking "Earvana Compensated Nut System" and i really like the way what Ernie Ball do to their guitars at nut. They are dense, accurate and functional for stability of tuning, very slipery. This is another plus for the guitar. Besides the neck and body joint is so great. You still have more wood at heel like good ole strats but you can also reach the farthest frets very easily. Moreover, because of those 5 bolts, the guitar has clear neck accuracy.
The frets are very wide and high. Seems they are very similar to the Dunlops #6100.
The fretboard is qualified Indian Rosewood. Dark and tight textured. Very classy! Radius of the fretboard is little two inches narrower than his old Ibanez JPM. But still flat type choice due to have extreme low action settings.
The classy ornaments of the guitar are the tuning machines. They are precise, fully functional and useful tuners made by Schally, Germany. Besides, pearloid caps of the tuners make them appear so elegant.
And the bridge... I believe that the tremolo system is the ultimate weapon of the guitar. Specially designed for Mr.Petrucci. This is not a Floyd Rose or that type of floating tremolo. But you can do nearly everything that you can with a floyd rose. Dive bombs without going out of tune, the effects that John Petrucci does on the solo of "Under a Glass Moon ", soft vibratos... Yes, this tremolo has many disadvantages of floyd rose type tremolos but, for me, it works way better than Floyds nad much more comfortable for right hand positioning, hand rest etc. Moreover there are nothing to scratch your palm, nowhere to make it untune while playing if you rest your hand on bridge. And the tone is way better than unmodified floyd roses because of its big brass trem block with small adjustment allen screw for trem arm tightening. One of the smartest floating tremolos ever.
And the electronic system... Typical configuration is the same of his old ibanez model; 2 humbuckers with 3 way 4PDT type toggle. He uses 4PDT switches exclusively on his guitars due to the sound it offers in the second position where inner coils of both humbuckers work together for clean lines of songs. The pickups were custom dimarzios before but for a few years Petrucci has two signature pickups. His actual pickups are DiMarzio CrunchLab and LiquiFire set that are truely shred pickups. You really can shred the mix up, believe me. Fast alternate pickings or fat chords with neck position and bone crushing leads with rich harmonics with bridge pickup is easy to achieve. Plus some EBMMJPM models have pieze transducers in the bridge saddles. Because of the piezoeelctric ceramic technology, you can have 2 guitars in one. Very useful for the players who go on stage very frequently. Especially if you have only a few acoustic sets and have to carry an acoustic guitar just for those few songs, thats really good for you. You can have raging electric guitar or truely isolated acoustic, the only thing between two is just flip of switch. Moreover you can go stereo, too. This is so cool and rich sounding, if you play the rythym guitar lines. You need a proof? Watch Dream Theater's Hollow Years song intro from "Live at Budokan" DVD. You will be amazed, i guarantee it.
How about the finish? Yes, there are few options. Standart JPM line products have solid colors and the coolest one is called “Mystic Dream”. Needless to say, they are all polyurethane or polyester class.
And the sound test... This is truely a shred guitar, so this is the first thing you must notice. Truely a shred guitar with good dynamics, response, harmonics, relative playing ease, enough sustain, powerful pickups. Especially, if you like the latter years of Dream Theater and have powerful amp, than it will be easier to achieve that heavy sounds. Besides of that, not just fast picking shredders, anyone plays hard, heavy metal type of music will find something valuable for themselves. With suitable configurations (as certain pedals, amps, amp settings etc.), the versatility of JPM can be increased.
Shortly, EBMMJPM is a guitar much further than the equivalent models with its building craftmanship (nut and fret craftmanship especially), hardware (tuners, pickups, electronic system especially), design (arm contour, very easy 24 fret access, balance, lightweightness especially), attractiveness (finish especially), versatility (piezoelectric option especially). The only negative thing i can remember is the price. I really like to see the price tag with lower numbers, my firends. I dont say its too overpriced stuff, no, that's not what i am saying. But a little bit lower prices might get this guitar to be used by more guitarists.