Music Man’s JP13
Music Man has a knack for building blazing artist models for the likes of Steve Morse, Albert Lee, and John Petrucci – three artists known for their incendiary guitar styles. The latest Petrucci offering, the JP13, has a deceptively utilitarian appearance, but its neck, body, and electronics are as deep and multifaceted as a Dream Theater instrumental tour de force.
The JP13 starts with the classic double-cut template. A comfortable bevel around the top and a belly cut on the back reduce weight, but more interesting is the structure beneath the striking polyester platinum finish. The JP13 body combines lightweight basswood construction and a mahogany tone block, all capped with maple. It’s a complex creation designed to produce a body capable of projecting the powerful sustain and thick tone more often found on set-neck designs named after a guy who used to call himself Rhubarb Red.
Furthering Music Man’s strategy is a neck made of mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. Other neck details include Schaller M6 pearl-button locking tuners mounted in Music Man’s characteristic four-over-two style. The Ernie Ball and Music Man logos and a facsimile Petrucci signature adorn the compact headstock.
The 25.5″-scale fingerboard with 17″-radius has custom shield-shaped pearl inlays including a first-fret inlay engraved with the model number 13. Two octaves of stainless-steel medium-jumbo frets adorn a slim C-neck profile with very slight shoulders. A five-bolt neck plate ensures the tightly fitted neck isn’t going anywhere. Truss-rod adjustments can be made at the base of the neck without having to remove it.
Elsewhere, a chrome-plated floating bridge of hardened-steel is equipped with solid-steel saddles fitted with piezo elements. The bridge is set into the body and mounted with two hex-wrench-adjustable screws.
The JP13’s electronics are highly versatile, with a three-way mini-switch to select piezo only, magnetic only, or both technologies (middle position). A three-way selector switch for the magnetic pickups is enhanced with the addition of two push-push pots: the tone pot splits the coils and the volume pot offers a substantial boost. DiMarzio worked with Petrucci to develop the new Illuminator pickups. These humbuckers (coverless on our test model) have ceramic magnets and measure 10.5 ohms for the neck pickup and a slightly more potent 10.56 ohms for the bridge pickup. The bridge pickup is adjusted a little higher than the neck, to balance output with an attention to detail that goes beyond the expected string setup. Individual string balance can be adjusted via the individual polepieces.
The electronics can be further voiced, with fine-tuning adjustments for piezo treble and bass, the magnetic/piezo mix, and the boost function. Stereo and mono jacks are mounted toward the end of the body on a metal plate, and the electronics and the vibrato springs are easily accessed from the back of the guitar.
The JP13’s electronics seem daunting at first, but the system is quite intuitive, and every possible voice is easy to select. The close action, sensitive electronics, and on-the-money intonation make it possible to produce harmonics at practically every fret. String bending is enhanced by the flat fingerboard radius and the slick stainless-steel frets, which were perfectly dressed on our tester, with no issues in setup.
The piezo pickup produced a ringing chime, helpful for brightening up the Illuminator pickups for rhythm work. The humbuckers, in discreet mode, accented the midrange without sacrificing clarity, even in the bass frequencies.
Plugged into a small tube amp, the single coil provided funky rhythms and rootsy lead sounds. The JP13 shone brightest in humbucking mode, however, where our small tube amp leapt into a satisfying overdrive with the boost engaged – power-chord heaven. But even overdriven, each note was distinct, even in chord clusters. Vibrato dive bombs came back into tune without issue, and the terrific sustain that resulted from the neck, body, and electronic details working together made the JP13 into a rock weapon extraordinaire.
The playing style of a single-note soloing monster like Petrucci requires excellent definition from his setup. Thus, fusion, metal, and hard-rock players will be attracted to the JP13, but it’s also a great axe for any electric guitarist looking for an awesome array of tones, fantastic playability, classy looks, and sturdy build characteristics.
This article originally appeared in VG April 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.