Ibanez Jem Jr Review – 2020 Guide

Vlad
| Last Updated: January 21, 2021

Steve Vai is one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time. He’s known for incredible technical skills and marvelous lead sounds, so let’s see if his signature models stand for his playing style.

The Ibanez Jem Jr. is a more affordable model of the Jem designed by and modeled after Steve Vai's iconic guitar playing to allow more people access to the distinctive design. 

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Comes with a solid Mahogany body
  • Uses single-coil and Humbucker pickups for great effect
  • Equipped with a Jatoba fingerboard
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews

Ibanez JEM JR Steve Vai Signature Yellow

PROS

  • The price factor
  • HSH tone versatility
  • Jumbo frets installed
  • Beautiful and unique design

CONS

  • Low-quality pickups
  • Just JEM cosmetics, not the sound

Ibanez Jem Jr. Specs 

  • Type of Guitar: Electric guitar

  • Body Size and Type: Double cutaway solid body with monkey grip hole on the top

  • Number of Strings: 6-string model

  • Tonewood: Meranti solid body with 3-layer pickguard

  • Orientation: Available in right and left hand model (JEMJRL)

  • Neck Profile: 1-piece Maple Wizard III neck shape

  • Fretboard: Jatoba fretboard with 24 Jumbo frets and “Tree of Life” inlay design

  • Scale Length: 25.5 inches

  • Color: White (WH), available in special edition Yellow (JEMJRSPYE) and Pink (JEMJRSP) color

  • Weight: 7.05 lbs 

  • Pickup Type: HSH Ibanez Quantum pickup configuration

Pros: 

HSH Tone Versatility

Modern music asks for more grit and punch. Single pickup layout may not be enough. And if you go the opposite way and pick the HH configuration, your clean sound won’t come anywhere close to the Strat sound so HSH might offer you both Les Paul and Strat sound and everything in between with an unmatched sound variety. 

Beautiful and Unique Design

Regardless if you’re a fan of Steve Vai’s work or not, you simply can’t deny the level of unique and practical details on this guitar. Monkey grip installed on the top of the body will come in handy for every rock guitarist out there when the time comes for showing off as you can handle the guitar with reinforced grip.

Also, the lion claw behind the bridge is a nice visual add-on that will make your guitar different from all others. The rest of the guitar looks exactly just like a premium model so it might be an affordable way to show that you’re a Steve Vai fan.

Jumbo Frets Installed

Simply put, jumbo frets generate louder and more round tones. Frets found in Jem Jr. have more metal so that the sustain will be also improved, so you can bend a little bit longer, just like you would expect from Vai’s signature model. Such frets are ideal for rock and heavy metal music.

Affordable Price Factor

Hands down, if you’re looking for a non-vintage rock guitar, you can’t beat the price Jem Jr. is coming at. While the sound is closer to the price range you’re paying for it, the look is unbeatable. So, if you need a guitar for performing in smaller venues or video shooting, we believe that Jem Jr. will work great for you.

Cons

Just JEM Cosmetics, Not the Sound

While it may be obvious due to the price difference, we have to say that this model only looks like a JEM guitar. The sound is nothing different from the RG series, so unless you’re in love with the design, you may actually save around 100 bucks for your purchase.

Low-Quality Pickups

Ibanez Quantum pickups are unbiasedly considered as low-quality pickups among guitarists so if you're an advanced player, perhaps it would be the best call to upgrade them as soon as possible. There are significant gain drops between positions 2 and 4.

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers were all rock-oriented players and Steve Vai fans who knew what they were purchasing so the feedback is positive overall. If you plan to go out and read more reviews, bear in mind that some users would expect to get a “real” Jem value at this price, which is if we have to say politely, unrealistic.

Those who had RG counterparts say that neck humbucker found in Jem Jr. somehow produces more tone. Floating tremolo works like on premium models and the action is very low so it’s suitable for shredding right from the box and the intonation is reported to be spot on. Monkey grip is large enough to fit any hand size. 

Starters were in love with the design, while those experienced reported that the overall performance is significantly improved with the custom pickup installation. Both say that the fingerboard action is incredibly smooth and that it simply pushes you forward to learn or at least try new things and techniques.

Unfortunately, due to the low price, quality control is not the best, so some players had to sand down not just the frets but even the monkey grip handle.

What Are The Components of the Ibanez Jem Jr.? 

Ibanez Jem Jr. is a solid wood electric guitar made of Meranti tonewood with a 3-layer pickguard placed over the top which also covers the positions for volume and tone plastic knobs. On the bridge, there is a Standard DL tremolo installed with 10.5mm string spacing.

Neck is made of 1-piece maple and it’s a Wizard III shape, ideal for fast-paced playing and it’s about 25.5 inches long. It comes with 24 jumbo frets and a “Tree of Life” inlay. The neck is referred to as thin coming at 19mm at the nut up to 21mm on the 12th fret and 400mm radius. 

Speaking of pickups, this is a typical HSH configuration made of two ceramic Ibanez Quantum humbuckers placed on the bridge and the neck and alnico single-coil Ibanez Quantum pickup placed in the middle. You can choose different positions among them using a 5-way switch installed on the pickguard.

What Kind Of Nut Is On An Ibanez Jem Jr.?

Ibanez Jem Jr. comes with a locking nut of 43mm width.

What Kind Of Strings Are On An Ibanez Jem Jr.?

Factory string gauges found on Ibanez Jem Jr. are standard nickel wound D’Addario .009-.042.

What Types of Music is the Ibanez Jem Jr. Best For?

If you just take a look at it, you probably couldn’t miss its main purpose. It’s made for hard rock and heavy metal at first. Its design simply screams to be played in such bands and if you know anything about Steve Vai, the first thing you will try on this beauty is how the lead tone sounds and then bend it and ride the tremolo around, just like its maker would do.

So, the prescription for this model is simple - drive, delay, and noise, and repeat. Clean sounds will be okay, but, that’s not why anyone should buy this model.

What Ages and Skill Levels is the Ibanez Jem Jr. Suitable For?

This is an entry-level Jem model so it will suit players on a budget better mostly. Younger players may struggle a bit because of jumbo frets, but nevertheless, it’s a nice long-run investment as they are going to love how it looks and probably be inspired to practice more just because of it.

Speaking of skill level, beginners shouldn’t have any trouble pulling out most of their technical skills while professionals should probably go with the true Jem models instead. But, it may come in handy as a spare model for care-free carrying around the rehearsals and jams.

What is an Ibanez Jem Jr.?

Ibanez Jem Jr. is a budget model of Vai’s JEM series and it shares several aspects with more premium models such as HSH pickup configuration, monkey grip, and lion’s claw pattern behind the tremolo.

Where are Ibanez Jem Jr. Guitars Made?

All Ibanez Jem Jr. is made in Indonesia as a standard product of the JEM series.

Who is Steve Vai?

Unless you’re a complete newbie, there will be no need to talk to you about the guy who played with many rock musicians such as Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper, David Lee Roth, and Whitesnake and also participated in movies such as The Crossroads.

He’s also known for his solo career and if you’re a guitar player and don’t know the main theme of the “For the Love of God” song, we strongly suggest you check it out as soon as you finish reading this article.

But, we won’t talk about his musical career here. We’re going to cover basics about his influence on creating the Ibanez Jem series.

Back in 1986, Steve Vai was about to shift from handmade models he was playing at the moment and had a very specific idea of what type of guitar he wanted. He got endorsement offers from all the major guitar brands, but, as he was very specific in his demands, he had to turn them down.

With the uprising of Super Strat models a relatively “new” player on the market, Ibanez, was looking for a relevant guitar hero to make a signature model and a year later, in June 1987, first Jem was presented at the NAMM Show.

Steve didn’t even know he wasn’t designing a guitar just for himself. The guitar became a huge success and set new milestones in guitar mass-production modeling.

Steve Vai combined parts from various guitars he liked into a single model including a first-ever-made floating tremolo, DiMarzio pickups, and the monkey grip which initially was designed to help him hold the body while he was playing with the guitar over his head.

It might be a plain handle, but it’s so well balanced that you could hold the whole instrument with a single finger.

What Makes the Ibanez Jem Jr. Stand Out From the Competition?

Ibanez Jem Jr. has a typical Ibanez rock sound boosted with outstanding visual design such as monkey grip, lion claw, or tree of life inlay on the fretboard. If you’re not a vintage guy this is probably one of the most beautiful budget guitars on the market. 

It has a bold appearance, and it will be true eye candy for any stage performance. Its design may inspire you to be more creative and think out of the box while the sound will be good enough for any rock or heavy metal player on a tight budget.

Comparison Overview 

Let’s see how Ibanez Jem Jr. stands against the rest of the competition:

Fender Player Stratocaster HSH vs. Ibanez Jem Jr.

Speaking of design, Fender and Ibanez are pure examples of vintage vs. modern clash. So, based on your taste, this aspect may lead you towards one or another model. There’s no clear winner here and Strat design will always have a special place in every guitarists’ heart. 

Soundwise, it’s not so different. But, in our opinion, Strat is all about SSS configuration, okay, maybe HSS for modern music demands. While it may sound odd, Super Strat is not something you should buy a Fender Stratocaster in the first place. 

But, nevertheless, Ibanez Jem Jr. is thinner in both neck size and sound, but also a bit cheaper, too. So if you have the budget and don’t mind the vintage look, Fender Player Stratocaster HSH could be an interesting spin.

Ibanez Jem Jr. vs. Jem

Frankly speaking, the only common thing about those guitars is the design. And when you check the price, you won’t be so shocked as the real Jem is about three to five times more expensive than Jem Jr.

In general, when you buy Jem Jr. you’re getting quite a basic RG guitar coated in Jem appearance. So, to say it in short - everything is different and in favor of real Jem - pickups, frets, build quality, you name it.

Luckily, custom parts are available for Jem Jr. so you can invest in it and upgrade it. As long as you don’t expect to get exactly the same sound as Jem, there is nothing wrong with Jem Jr.

Ibanez Jem Jr. vs. Epiphone Les Paul Traditional

While these two guitars are in the same ballpark regarding price, they are quite different beasts. Ibanez has an HSH pickup configuration while Epiphone comes with a typical Gibson LP HH layout. This has for result a much more tonal variety in the Ibanez model which will especially be heard if you try to play clean guitar parts. Also if you’re technically a skilled player, the lack of a tremolo bar and a bit wider neck on Epiphone may be a significant drawback.

But, on the other hand, lack of tremolo also means more stability for playing rhythm guitars, so in the end, it all matters on your personal preference. If we had to pick a winner, then it would be Ibanez as it seems to be a more all-around instrument when compared to the Epiphone.

Conclusion 

This guitar is a great solution for any rock or metal guitarist out there who is looking for affordable but great looking electric guitar. You will get a typical Ibanez HSH pickup sound and it should provide you with enough tonal variety while lead sounds will remain a pure delight.

People Also Ask

We hope that you know enough about Steve Vai’s Jem Jr. model so you can go out and browse it. Now let us cover the rest of the technical questions about it and also provide you a bit of the trivia and explain what Super Strat exactly is:

What is the Super Strat?

Back in the 1980s, many guitarists started upgrading their Fender Stratocasters with the humbucker pickups to match the current trend of a heavier sound. Players like Richie Blackmoore and Eddie Van Halen were pioneers of such design and based on their popularity Super Strat started being mass-produced around 1983 by many guitar brands.

Is the Ibanez Jem Jr. Hard to Play?

Ibanez guitars are very appreciated by all the shred guys out there and it’s because of the thin neck and swift fretboard feel. That being said, beginners will also have a lot of benefits from choosing Ibanez Jem Jr. as it will feel a bit easier to perform.

How to Care for an Ibanez Jem Jr. Guitar

A simple dry cloth or even an old t-shirt could be enough to remove the dust, while strings should be cleaned after you finish your playing. Keeping your instrument in a case is always a good thing as a lot of dust can sneak into your instrument.

Is The Ibanez Jem Jr. Good?

The Ibanez Jem Jr. is a pretty good guitar for its price. The beginners and some semi-pro players won’t find anything wrong with the sound while they will adore the design. If you love the sound of the Ibanez RG series, you’re going to love Jem Jr. too.

What Tremolo For Ibanez Jem Jr.?

Ibanez Jem Jr. is equipped with the standard double-locking tremolo bridge. It locks the string with both a floating bridge and the nut. Such a system prevents strings from going out of tune no matter how much you pull your tremolo bar around.

Vlad

I'm a 35-year-old rock-oriented professional musician from Belgrade, Serbia with 20 years of field experience in various areas of the music industry. After graduating from elementary music school I joined my first band Alogia in 2001 which had incredible initial success with the debut album and became one of the greatest Balkan heavy metal acts ever. We have recorded several studio and live albums and played as an opening act for Whitesnake, Apocalyptica, and Paul Di’Anno. Meanwhile, I got a chance to collaborate with Roland Planet shop and get familiar with various music equipment for more than a decade. For the last eight years, I have done live audio mixing for numerous bands and other live and studio events, including some TV audio mixing for national television broadcast as well. Currently, I’m playing keyboards for one of the most authentic Serbian music rock legends - Dr. Nele Karajlić, also known for his work with Zabranjeno Pušenje and No Smoking Orchestra.