Anybody has seen this guitar on hands of Steve Vai and, it's probably one of the more appealing guitars in the market. It has some special magnetism, boosted by the incredible acrobatics of Steve Vai that pushes you to own one.
I went this way and, bought one brand new, on year 2008. This review was already published in my previous versions of this blog and, this is a revisited version of such a review.
Well, that's the part that really attracted me. That super-strato body, with those special cuts for the handle and under the bridge, that pearled pickguard and the amazing "tree of life" inlay... sexy, yes, it is!.
The guitar comes in a plastified hardcase, with an interior covered with a red velvet-like fabric and, all the candies inside (manual, certificate, keys, etc).
Once I've opened the case, I caught in the magical aura of such a mythical guitar, looking to her carefully, as taking mental pictures of every bit. After my eyes were satisfied, my hands needed to touch the wood and hardware and, it was another great moment.
The craftmanship work is perfect, as usual for Ibanez' Prestige series. The woodwork is perfect, as well as the paintwork. But, I was a bit disapointed with the inlays. Just a very few leafs of the Tree of Life were made of mother of pearl, while practically everything else was made of abalone, what gived a plastic look to that inlay.
Also, the peghead white is different from the body's white and, doesn't looked to me of the same quality or taste.
Finally, the golden hardware its more appealing from the distance than looking it closely. It made the guitar less "serious", more "cheaper-looking" than if it had black or nickeled hardware, instead.
None of those aspects that were less appealing to me, can rest nothing to the magic of the entire guitar and, are just sensations that aren't directly related to the real quality of materials and or finishing.
I've found the case not being so practical. There are very few pockets inside and, they are small and without tap, therefore, there is few room to save your usual things there (strings, strap, cloth, etc...) and, since the holes are open, things can fall from the case if opened in a wrong position.
Related to its protective side, it's sturd enough and will protect very well the guitar, since it even has the shape of the guitar routed on the case and, the cover pushes down the neck to maintain it stable and secure.
Ah, man!. This is were this guitar shines with ease. To make it short: this is the funniest guitar I've ever played. My fingers were flying on the fretboard and, the accuracy and silkness of the floating bridge gave me a lot of fun.
The neck profile is a soft C but, be aware that the fretboard is unusually wide and, this can be an issue for short fingers but, I've got short fingers and this wasn't an issue at all. I loved that fretboard. Probably, the fastest neck I've ever tried.
Factory setup was perfect and, I wasn't on the need of reset anything, except for pickups height.
Frets were perfectly sanded and I've feel total freedom going up and down on the fretboard, as if nothing was stoping my movements.
First hours, it takes a while to be used to the distance between strings, that is wider than usual. This makes really easy to perform extreme bendings with one string but, makes really difficult to make bending with two strings at once.
The Edge Pro bridge worked smoothly and accurate. It was a pleasir to play with it. It turned back to tune instantanely after acting it, even after the hardest dive bombing, and was very sensible to the touch so, you don't need to waste your forces to move up or down the tremolo arm, even an slight touch with your pinky was instantanely transformed to movement.
Saddles should be very well mechanized and sanded since, I did absolutely every extreme thing you can imagine with that tremolo and, I lost no string, even standing the guitar just with my hand in the tremolo's arm and, moving it up and down. I was totally impressed.
Even beeing very close on shape to an Stratocaster and, even sharing the same body wood, the JEM feels way lighter than the Strato so, you shoulder thanks it.
Unfortunatelly, the Tree of Life made me to feel lost while playing from time to time. I've discovered with that axe that I prefer more the classical way of mark the key frets: dots, bars or whatever else but, with uninlayed frets between. This is my own limitation and, the main reason why I've sold that axe just one month later. As I said, this is MY own limitation, not necesarely yours!.
I was greately surprised with the sound of the two Evolution pickups. They are strong but, not muddy in any single way. They have complex harmonics and overtones and work fine in clean and dirty. I was disapointed with the middle one, instead. This was a weak pickup that sounded bad alone and when combined with the evolutions, in the in-between positions so, that was as having a guitar with just two useful positions: neck and bridge.
For a guitar of that level, I expected a bit more posibilities, as some extra switches for coil splitting, as Ibanez delivers in less expensive guitars (even the Joe Satrini's models load those switches!).
Evolution pickups are, without any doubt, one of the best pickups that you can find in Dimarzio's catalog and, one of the very few that I personally like of this maker.
Ibanez guitar bodies are usually made of basswood. I personally find basswood guitars as sounding with a veiled and boxed sound. The JEM has an Alder body instead and, their sound is being projected in a more balanced and tasteful way. There is a big difference in sound between the JEM 555 (basswood) and the 7V. The 555 looks like the 7V but sounds very differently.
Despite of the aura that the name of Steve Vai can give to this guitar, this guitar is the funniest guitar I've ever played, with the most comfortable and quick fretboard I've ever played and with an accurate and sensible floating tremolo. The alder body sets this Ibanez' model appart of their other not-mahogany guitars, delivering an snappy, full-bodied and open voice that cuts the mix with attitude. The two Evolution humbuckers are a very good design that enhances the guitar sound, being capable of sounding interstingly in clean and dirty modes. The middle pickup and its combinations with the humbuckers are useless.
Even that the craftmanship work and fishinings are flawless good, I find that this guitar is highly overpriced. I would agree with a price around 1500 Euro but, the cheapest price I've found in Europe for that guitar was 2600 Euro (year 2008). If I compare this guitar to my Strato Deluxe (second to none), that costed 1200 Euro, I can just justify 300 Euro more for the extra hardware (floating tremolo) and extra cuts. About 1000 Euro can be the price of Vai's name.
You can find second-hand JEM7V for about 1400-1600 Euro. If they are in perfect condition, consider to buy it second-hand, instead of brand new. You will get the guitar for the price that I honestly think they worth.