Introducing a stripped down version of a modern classic. Introducing a stripped down version of a modern classic. By Steve Henderson
John Petrucci is a monster! An absolute monster! He’s a player with chops to burn, but he never loses sight of the tune or the tone. Aside from the actual notes he might play, his tone is completely magnetic. For some time, Petrucci has been working with two companies that have their own reputation for tone: Mesa/Boogie (check out their new “Petrucci” amp: the JP-2C) and Music Man Guitars. Music Man have been producing various JP models for 15 years, and this new one continues the tradition of great tones in a simple-to-use performance instrument.
GOT ANY BLACKER?
The JP16 has an oiled, roasted maple neck, with an ebony fretboard bolted (with 5 bolts!) to a basswood body with a high gloss poly finish. The bridge is a Floyd Rose, the machine heads are Schaller, the pickups are DiMarzio Sonic Ecstacy and there’s a thumping 20db gain boost hiding behind the push/push volume knob. In addition, there’s another push/push to engage the inside coils when the 3-way is in the centre position. The headstock is the familiar Music Man 4+2, and there are 24 superbly dressed stainless steel frets. The hardware and the pickups are black, the body and fingerboard are black... Everything is black, and it looks seriously cool. This guitar means business.
The JP16 is great to play – perfectly balanced, standing or seated, and the oiled neck is smooth and controlled. The neck is a slim shallow-D shape and the board has a 17” radius, which means that it wasn’t really designed for cowboy chords, but rather so that the player can follow a more adventurous melodic and harmonic direction. Strumming the JP16 unplugged produces a traditionally quiet output, but with clear note definition. Plugging the guitar into (variously) a Mk.IV Boogie (through a pair of G12-65s), a Mesa TransAtlantic (with a single Celestion 12) and a tweed Bassman, the DiMarzios come alive with harmonic richness and pure grunt. Through a drive channel, legato lines seem to have no decay, the notes sustaining into each other without the usual glitching as they overlap. Chords hang together nicely with even order overtones in abundance. The middle position is actually very useful (!), and demonstrates how critical the position of that front pickup really is – on a Les Paul, it’s generally ignored, but shift it back two frets worth (the effect of the 24 fret neck), and the combination is suddenly a “go-to” sound.
Clean, there’s ample body and woodiness to the tone, but it still has plenty of sustain. The round front pickup will cover a whole lot of musical territory, from jazz to rock to pop, while the bridge pickup is a little more focused in its intention. Go to the middle position and pop the coil tap and there’s “that sound” – the reason the Strat has remained so popular. It produces that Clapton/Knopfler sound without any effort at all. Play with your fingers and snap the top strings a little, and you’re immediately in the zone. It’s an authentic tone, but somehow a little disquieting to hear without a bit of the usual Fender fret rattle.
But this neck - it’s a very slim C shape, and due to the torrefaction process, it’s very dry, very stable and very strong (and, therefore, able to be made thinner whilst maintaining the required stability). This neck is brilliant. It requires little finishing (gunstock oil and their secret wax) and has a natural satin feel. It doesn’t flex at all, either, and it’s super-resonant. It works with the body, and not just for it. You can feel it resonate freely with every note, every chord and every tap on the body.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The JP16 is a hot rod: built for speed without a lot of bells and whistles to get in the way. It feels solid from the minute you pick it up, and it sounds solid the minute you plug it in. It can be big and bold or softly nuanced, and while it may not do the average pop, country or blues gig, the rock, prog or metal player will love its get-down-to-business attitude. But it’s not just for the Dream Theater tragic – the JP16 is a guitar that will deliver modern ‘heavy guitar’ tones in a variety of rock genres. The JP16 is an instrument designed to keep it simple and let the music speak loud and clear.
TOP FIVE FEATURES
• Basswood body, poly finish
• Roasted figured maple neck, oiled
• 25.5” scale, 17” radius, 24 frets
• DiMarzio Sonic Ecstacy x 2
• Floyd Rose
• Cool, dark looks
• Great to play
• Killer tones
• The 17” radius might take a little getting used to
• Not a large range of colour options
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