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This article was originally published in issue #41
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A quick perusal of the Music Man website will reveal no less than ten separate John Petrucci signature model guitar variations that have been released since the inception of the original JPM model back in 2001. The latest iteration of this hugely successful guitar is the JP16, aiming to combine some of the features from the first JPM design with the later BFR or Ball Family Reserve models for an update of a design that is now 15 years old!
The JP16 is available in both six and seven string variations, our review model being the 7-string, but both feature the same basswood body and select roasted maple neck and smoky ebony fingerboard. The roasting process removes as much of the moisture from the wood as possible, increasing the stability of the wood whilst adding a lovely dark hue to the maple, accentuating the figuring at the same time. It’s been a feature of the Music Man range for some time now, but never fails to impress when you look at the gorgeous pieces of wood they select for their necks.
The body is finished in a high gloss, black finish called Black Lava that features a subtle metallic quality and even more subtle sparkle touches that lift the design compared to a standard matte black look. The neck has a super flat 17” radius and 24 medium jumbo stainless steel frets for super shredding capability. From a visual perspective this is a well-loved and established design now thanks to the unique body contours, deep cutaways, recognisable shield inlays and small headstock shape.
Hardware wise there are some changes from the previous JPM models in that the JP16 sports the new Floyd Rose 1000 Pro floating tremolo system and a locking nut for even more whammy abuse than the original Music Man custom JPM tremolo solution that was a 2-point floating system with a standard nut. This is the only JP model to have such a tremolo and will greatly please those who prefer a locking style system for the ultimate tuning stability and it’s great that the option is now there for either system.
The guitar also has a pair of DiMarzio Illuminator humbuckers with the standard Petrucci-style mini 3-way switch and a Push/Push Tone control for parallel single coil sounds in position two. A high quality custom made, active pre-amp circuit allows for up to +20dB of boost, switchable via the Push/Push Volume pot. High spec Schaller tuners complete the package for a thoroughly modern instrument that is designed for speed and accuracy throughout.
From its original inception this instrument was designed for speed and comfort. Since Dream Theater are known for their long shows this becomes the most important aspect of John Petrucci’s guitars and Music Man has created a design that is supremely comfortable and accurate for long playing sessions. The body features the same scooped forearm contour found on the original JPM guitar but subsequently changed to a carved slope on all other iterations of the guitar. This scooped contour is very comfortable, especially for longer playing sessions and matches very well with the other comfort contours on the body and neck joint, including the cutaways that have become more pronounced and pointy over the years.
Music Man necks are some of the most comfortable in the industry and the JP16’s neck is no exception. Finished in gunstock oil and a hand-rubbed wax blend this is as smooth and slick as it gets and puts gloss and most satin finished necks to shame in terms of speed and fluidity around the neck. The 7-string neck is very approachable for even smaller hands and the guitar is fairly light considering the amount of mass the extra neck and hardware width adds.
Tonally the JP15 is every bit as good as the hardware and design elements of the guitar. The DiMarzio Illuminator pickups are well known now for their great performance now with both clean and drive tones and can offer up all manner of super aggressive low end thump whilst achieving sparkling, crystalline clean tones a la Dream Theater. John uses a huge number of tones in a single song with Dream Theater and these pickups cope admirably with all of the changes he throws at them.
The JP16 doesn’t have the piezo system found on some of the other JP models but the simpler tonal options present something of a refreshing change for the series where just having the single coil split and boost options adds enough tonal variation to be useful without becoming overwhelming and confusing. The 7th string has a ton of bottom end and never becomes ‘flappy’ or loose in its response whether being used for arpeggiated chords or aggressive chugging.
The JP16 is a lovely looking, superb sounding and amazing playing guitar that is a worthy addition that makes sense from a features perspective for the JPM range. As with all JPMs it comes with a pretty hefty price tag but considering the truly exceptional playability, and great build and tones on offer it is more than worth the asking price.