This year Ibanez has introduced a Steve Vai signature Jem in the Preimium line. Premium axes are made in a factory in Indonesia which Ibanez has an ownership stake in. Check out pics of the new axe from the NAMM floor at the end of this post. Nice, huh?
The Jem70V is in Sea Foam Green, and it features Steve’s signature DiMarzio Evolution humbuckers, an Ibanez Edge bridge, basswood body (like the earliest Jems), rosewood fretboard with full vine inlay (colour-matched to the body and headstock), and a 5-piece maple/walnut JEM Premium neck. The neck is very much a Jem neck, not simply a Wizard shape with a floral inlay on it or anything, and the fretwork is spectacular. I know some players are hesitant to check out Indonesian instruments because they might associate them with lower-cost lines, but the Ibanez Premium range is much closer to J Custom quality than Prestige. If you’re an Ibanez geek like me you should find that pretty exciting.
Unfortunately it appears that the Jem70V has effectively killed off the brief tenure of the Jem505, a Japanese-made, bare-bones Jem introduced a few years ago. If you want the Premium Jem, by all means pick one up because it’s a brilliant guitar. But if you were holding off on pulling the trigger on a Jem505, you’d better start calling up guitar stores to see if they have any left in stock.
Of course now that there’s a Premium Jem out there, I’m sure it won’t be too long before other signature models follow suit. Premium JS, anyone? Personally I’d love to see a Premium version of the Apex 100.