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This article was originally published in issue #5
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The Music Man JPXI is the latest evolution of the JPX series, a guitar that has enjoyed incredible success and can be seen in the hands of many players all over the world. This new version combines elements from both the JPX and BFR (Ball Family Reserve) models to create a very versatile and well-crafted instrument.
The Music Man's body is constructed from alder with a maple top and mahogany tone block. The neck is select mahogany with an ebony fretboard bearing 24 medium jumbo, stainless steel frets for that silky feel when performing bends and vibrato. The neck features a slimmer profile than previous models and a super-flat 20" radius, built for the kind of hyper-speed playing that Petrucci is known for. All the woods are finished in a luxurious blue coloured sparkle that Music Man call Onyx.
The body is very nicely balanced and light in weight with comfortable contours that fit the body whether you're stood up or sat down. The neck feels incredibly quick and comfortable, being skinny but substantial enough to give comfort and reassurance in the hand. The five-bolt neck joint is nicely sculpted to allow easy upper fret access and the high gloss polyester finish looks great without getting sticky for swift position changes. Finally, locking Schaller tuners offer superb tuning stability with the floating trem, without the need for a locking nut.
The JPXI features two magnetic pickups in an HH configuration, with piezo saddles built into the solid steel bridge. Both pickups are Dimarzios with a Crunchlab in the bridge and a Liquifire in the neck. These can be split by pulling up the tone control, revealing the inner coil of each pickup for more tonal variation. The piezo saddles can be blended in, via a separate blend control and have bass, treble and volume controls on the back plate of the guitar for fine tuning. A three-way selector allows for three pickup configurations, further complemented by the coil tap and another three-way to add in or solo the piezo saddles.
In use, both Dimarzios sound fantastic in all positions and really reveal the character of the alder and maple combination. On both clean and crunch tones the pickups retain detail and clarity that gave you a real sense of quality and confidence that what you're playing will be accurately represented at the end of your signal chain. When coil tapped, authentic Telecaster/Strat tones are to hand and yet remain quiet, even on high gain settings. There's bags of sustain and resonance when played acoustically, telling you that this is a quality instrument even before plugging it in.
The piezo saddles offer a superb level of versatility and really mimic an electro-acoustic tone very well indeed. I found them addictive to say the least and found very little of the typical piezo 'quack' and brittleness usually associated with this kind of pickup. When combined with the magnetic pickup options you are presented with more tonal choices than most players would ever need!
The JPXI features a custom floating bridge made by Music Man from hardened steel and it looks and feels very solid indeed. I've never been a fan of the way Floyd Rose style tremolos look and feel that the Music Man variation not only looks much better but feels better too. Tuning stability is maintained after vigorous use and the pitch can be raised up about a minor 3rd with the harmonic at the 4th fret of the G string (vital for playing that Under a Glass Moon solo!)
There are of course two downsides to this guitar. The first is the price. This is a very expensive instrument that is well out of reach for most Petrucci fans. The spec and construction are very high indeed but there are many other options available to the aspiring rock/shred guitarist at a third of the price of this guitar that will serve very well. The other potential downside comes with owning any signature model guitar. Once you go on stage with a Petrucci guitar, people immediately form an opinion about you as a player and associate you with the man himself. Now, this may not be a problem for Petrucci fans who simply want to own this guitar to get the Petrucci sound, or own a little but of the Petrucci legacy, but if you want to carve your own identity with the guitar then signature models can represent an immediate hurdle as they are so directly linked with the artist they are designed for.
The JPXI is a superb instrument that would serve any rock player very well indeed and could be used for other styles of playing successfully too. If your budget allows this level of guitar and you're not scared of being pigeon-holed as a Petrucci fan then this guitar comes very highly recommended.