EBMM JP15 Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Signature JP15 Guitar

The EBMM JP15 -- I'm surprised I like it.

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There were very few reasons for me to take a chance on this guitar:

* I don't like Dream Theater
* Petrucci is a good guitarist but Prog metal is not my thing
* Plus, JP seems like total knob
* I think EBMM guitars generally look weird
* The JP15 looks weird
* I don't like the headstock (but I've seen worse)
* I don't like the 4+2 tuner arrangement
* I don't like thin wide necks
* I don't like active electronics
* I generally do not like DiMarzio pickups
* I do not need or necessarily want a piezo transducer
* 'African mahogany' is cheap wood used for cost-cutting purposes
* The maple top is really thin and not as impressive as those found on PRSi of similar price
* The JP15 is overpriced by at least $500 (You're making a JP car payment).
* The neck inlay and position markers are cheesy

That's a hell of a lot of reasons not to buy a guitar. Yet, for some reason I suspected that the JP15 would actually work for my intended purpose: a replacement for my current 'shred machine' -- a Suhr Modern Satin that has gotten on my nerves.

What the JP15 has going for it is:

+ A vulcanized (roasted) maple neck that is less susceptible to changes in humidity (no fret sprout)
+ Oil and wax neck finish (smooth and fast beyond your wildest dreams)
+ The correct neck geometry for what I was going for (not too wide)
+ 24 frets you can actually use -- upper access is really exceptional
+ Medium jumbo stainless steel frets
+ Despite being a DiMarzio product, the Illuminator pickups sound fantastic
+ Like the Suhr, the JP has pickups mounted directly in the body rather than floating on mounts
+ Tuning is stable and avoids the inconvenience of a double-locking system like the Floyd
+ The guitar weighs 7 pounds even (one of the benefits of the cheap 'African mahogany' body)
+ Built-in onboard variable boost (I don't like to use distortion pedals so this is great)
+ I dig the cool reverse approach to pull pots -- these are buttons you push rather than pull up

After one hour of playing this thing it was obvious that the the JP15 was absolutely, hands-down the fastest guitar I've every played. It is the closest thing to effortless playing I've experienced in 35 years of doing this. Here I'm just loafing at 95 BPM:

I was banking on the neck to be a slightly modified (deeper) Wizard carve and that's pretty much what it is. Once you get accustomed to the neck and the upper fret access of the JP15 you're going to not like your other guitars much. The only guitars of mine that are not collecting dust are my Artist grade PRSi and a Hiland model that is very easy to fly around on. But not like this.

Here's a track with all three pickups, the bridge up the middle with neck and middle panned left and right through a Plexi:

I might as well sell all the others since they all feel like clunky relics from another design era. Seriously, the JP15 makes most other guitars feel stupid. Even the Suhr Modern feels clunky compared to this.

Intonation on this guitar, due to the compensated nut, is better than what you're going to find on the majority of guitars out there. Even distorted 7th chords sound good (to me).

The guitar is not perfect, however.

-- Using EB Cobalt strings the nut slot on the 3rd string is not quite wide enough so you get a little ping or snag when bending the string -- but it does not seem to effect the return of the string to pitch. Likewise, when using the whammy bar a couple of strings creak on the nut as if they are binding a bit. This did not happen with the strings it came with.

The guitar ships with regular EB Slinky strings (10s) and you'd think that a set of EB Cobalt 10s would be the exact same size as the Slinkys but a few years ago I spent over $300 on a string shootout and found that there were all kinds of minor variations across and within brands. A lot of firms switched from Mapes wire years ago and began sourcing it from China for their affordable strings. So the more expensive stuff might be a bit beefier than the cheap strings that go on at the factory. When I put cheap DiAddario strings on it the problem went away. After putting some lube on the nut all problems were solved.

I'm not one to use the vibrato bridge much but I always like the sound of floating bridges on bolt-on neck guitars compared to hardtails. The nut slots are a minor annoyance rather than a performance problem but EB says that the customer is not the QC department. Yet, I'll have to correct this oversight eventually or just switch back to the cheap strings permanently.

-- The trim pots on the back of the guitar should be adjustable through the adjustment holes on the back panel but the holes do not line up with the pots at all so I'll have to take that off to make any changes. Pretty dumb. Again, this should have been caught before it left the factory.

-- It takes longer to tune this guitar than all my others; not sure why. But it stays in tune well.

Overall, this guitar is brilliant. It plays better than any other guitar I've ever experienced and it sounds terrific.