Ibanez JS1000BP Hands on Report

Ibanez JS1000BP Guitar Hands on Report by Glen Cianciulli 7/2016

The playing time I have on Ibanez double-locking axes in the last few years can be counted on the minute hand of a clock. Mostly because the ones I still have just aren’t a good fit for me. So I was intrigued when presented with an opportunity to address this… “an Ibanez JS1000BP in great condition with case”. Really intrigued when I saw the price. Along with a few low-res thumbnail photos the only other detail to help clarify was the serial number F07xxxxx. Most notably the year determines the tremolo routing on the body and possible manufacturing defects or oddities that might be present. Ibanez tweaks things sometimes for good and sometimes for other reasons. For example, the neck width at fret-22 and famously the shift from Edge, LoPro, EdgePro then Edge again. Generally speaking it was not a great idea for Ibanez to design a new tremolo to avoid licensing fees without first vetting patent expiration! Since this JS1000 is a 2007 model I knew to expect an EdgePro tremolo without locking studs and 56mm neck width at fret-22.

It’s no secret that after having owned several dozen JEM, UVs & RGs over the years, I moved on from playing these superstrats. Not just because I prefer hardtails for tone, tuning stability, vibrato, intonating bends, simplicity, etc. You can make a JEM/RG/etc. into a hardtail in just a few seconds…  block its tremolo with an insert and pull a rear spring. This allows string pressure to fix the block against the insert against the body wall thus removing all tremolo movement. For a while I did just that… it provides the nicety of having the fine tuners right there at the bridge too.

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As stated above they’re not a good fit for me. The reasons I moved on from the superstrats are the same ones I’ve encountered (if not labor with) for 3 decades. The same issues many of you might knowingly or unknowingly struggle with today… the fretboard is both too flat (430mm radius) & too wide (43mm nut, 56-58mm at heel) even for size LG hands. I’d call this simply fighting against the instrument or use the analogy of the mechanic using the wrong screwdriver. Combined with the meh ergonomics & relatively “basswood” (blah & muddled) tone at some point you stop and ask yourself the most basic question when you pick up that guitar to play… “why”?

Surely old habits die hard

After months (years?) of dust collecting I resurrected the only “Ibanez JEM” remaining in the stable. I own it for just two reasons. First my daughters love it and constantly remind me to “keep that one” or “this guitar is going to be mine”. The other reason I keep it is out of great respect for Herc Fede (RIP) as this was his first ever swirled JEM a 777DY. He was always a student with a passion for his art & swirls and this was the online launching pad.

js_jem_profile

Of course it was a major PITA to restring, re-tune & readjust the tremolo angle of the 777. A labor of love to rekindle an old flame? Nah. The tedious process of getting all 6-strings to pitch (each string effecting the other), then adjusting the claw spring, tune, adjust, tune, adjust, tune was completed over a few evenings as the new strings & old springs stretched and equalized simultaneously. Eventually this created the 90-degree knife edge angle on the tremolo post as desired. As you all know, this gives the most tuning stability and the desired range of flattening & sharpening of the strings/notes. Twenty or so minutes after plugging in reconfirmed the reason for the break up, why I moved on from superstrats (and signature-superstrats) long ago without looking back.

I have to think anyone reading has played a Fender Stratocaster at some point. I did, I just never had a desire to own a Strat… or a JS for that matter. Maybe my thirst for the superstrats was germinated at a time where you knew what you wanted improved over the Strat (or copy guitar you were stuck with) and Ibanez fumbled around with Roadstars and 540s the RG/JEM ultimately changed all that and came first. No more parts-kit guitars needed to get what you wanted as a player. Like drinking water from a garden hose or drinking ice cold San Pellegrino. No going back.

Perhaps the only axe I regret not buying was the one that would spark ibanezrules.com… a JS rainforest that went unsold on the Jemsite.com classifieds for weeks at an absurd low price. As fate would have it in 2016, this 2007 JS1000BP would be my first prolonged experience with the JS series, with a fresh perspective to like or dislike (maybe a bit of both), keep or unload. A reintroduction to the Ibanez double-locking tremolo guitar arena with a clean slate & no expectations with the simple mindset of not getting the same old superstrat.

Why the JS though?

How about a further look at the S (Sabre) series? Other options? Why the JS1000? Why a signature model? Good questions!

Signature model is completely irrelevant. CAPS LOCK, non-factor. Any Ibanez axe not made in Japan (Fujigen) with a real Edge tremolo (if has a tremolo) is also dismissed at the door. DEADBOLTED. While the EdgePro would have been my last choice for JS models in equal condition & price, it’s moot since I have plenty of locking studs handy if needed. And Rich at ibanezrules.com makes up insert inserts to pair with the locking studs. What other features are desirable though? 22-frets oh yes since I don’t need 24 frets & prefer the neck pickup placement on the 22-fret guitars. There is a reason all that great rock tone came from neck pickups on LesPauls, Strats, etc. Embrace it.

Another must have for me is a shorter fretboard radius, 375mm radius or less. See above where the JEM/RG necks are just annoyingly flat. Unfortunately, this crosses out the Sabre and virtually all Edge-equipped Prestige Ibanez 6-string guitars. How about scale length? 24.75″ would be sweet but you can’t have it all right, the JS is 25.5” like most Ibanez 6-strings not Artists (my favorite Ibanez line oh yes indeed). So that makes the JS series a really strong candidate, but there are other choices. I want (refuse to not have) coil-splitting on any guitar I play. This gives you choice of the humbucker or single-coil sound at the flick of a switch (or pull of a knob as in the case of the JS). The artistic and sonic masterpiece Led Zeppelin I was recorded with Page’s Telecaster folks… the one he’d probably have never put down except a pal refinished it as a “gift” wrecking its tone.

Many Ibanez guitars (typically without DiMarzio branding come with humbuckers with less than 4-conductors if coil-splitting & parallel switching isn’t pre-wired at the factory. For example the JS100 has 2-conductor (to allow coil splits) only as this allows  a slight cost saving. On this guitar both coil-splitting and high-pass (tone and volume pull-up knobs respectively) wiring is included right out of the box . The JS1000 thankfully includes 4-conductor humbuckers (an omission the fine folks at Hoshino USA just remedied on my beloved AR2000 thank you guys!) which allows wiring modifications without changing the pickups.

I consider this next point a positive, but ninety-nine out of 100 people who see the “Ibanez” hanging in your home probably would have no clue what “JS Series” indicates (if they could even read it). I LOVE THAT! This not a Les Paul or Stratocaster and thus has almost no identify-ability. No preconceptions either. It is modern yet timeless and won’t be sized up (pigeonholed) as “vintage”, nor does it scream out SHRED. It thankfully lacks the dated 80’s visuals, has no animal grips or wacky features that invited thoughts “grow up already”. The real bonus is that guitar hoarders and fanboys devalue these players (they were produced for years and the 24-fret models are the new shiny object of their desire).  Your banal purchasing allows this to cost far, far less than artist endorsed Indo-made signature superstrats. Thank you!

Back to this particular guitar

As the store clerk began the unboxing I was pleasantly surprised to see him pulling out a “like new” original Ibanez hardshell case. Score! Upon opening the case, the axe surprisingly looked newer and cleaner than most of those hanging in the showroom being sold as “new”. In fact, upon seeing the case and opening it, the salesman thought it was a new guitar shipped in from another store! The original stuff, J-craft bag, thick instruction book, tremolo arm, tools… all there, even a nice bonus strap that will work well on my LesPaul. This one gets a DiMarzio ClipLock of course as the JS is a relative feather weight (7lb2oz) easy on the neck, shoulders and back. While still at the store I quickly gave a once over, plugged-in to check everything. There was good intonation on all strings and no overt issues, no fret problems, no risen frets or unexpected twists. A very pleasant surprise. The tremolo angle was way off – a common occurrence because these are tedious to setup especially as the springs stretch over time – but the axe was in tune. This would allow a few hours of playing time before having to dig into a proper setup. So driving away I’d say the JS had already surpassed my expectations.

js_front

The overall aesthetics of the JS1000BP is an eye pleaser, the sparkly “Black Pearl” finish makes this JS a looker. Black Pearl has a slight 3D appearance as if tiny sparkles were cleared over making it classy, not gaudy. The BP finish stays clean – not a fingerprint magnet – with its subtle prestige (pun intended) look of to it. A classy rocker that would be suitable in just about any live situation from biker bar to church hall. The fine sparkly finish hides scratches and small dings which tend to stick out on some other guitar finishes unfortunately.

At home I plugged the JS1000BP into my Line6 Spider IV 150. I know how that modeling amp sounds relative to various premium axes (not Ibanez “premiums” but actual guitars a non-biased player would describe as premium quality *rimshot*). Words do mean things folks, a mistruth told over and over is still a lie. The JS sounded as expected, it’s overall tone is pleasant and controllable which is no surprise. Never harsh, maybe sometimes dull or “lacking” in definition versus an instrument with 10lb mahogany body & maple top of course. But that is to be expected, don’t buy the wrong size shoes then complain they are too tight like your spouse might do. While I don’t particularly like “American Basswood” body guitars for their tone, I do like the FRED (bridge) and PAFPro (neck) pickups with these type Ibanez guitars. With the JS Series you get more tone possibilities thanks to the really useful combination of controls including the 3-way, coil split, hi-pass, volume knob & tone knob. The standard JS controls allow the player to get a wide assortment of tones, unlike many similar axes that force the wiring with the typical Split-5 wiring and forced high pass.

The JS line is far less popular than the RG/JEMs from my experience so I won’t assume that anyone reading has extended time on a JS.  Still many reading have probably picked up a (made-in-Japan) JS over the years and knows that it’s ergonomics are simply fantastic. This JS has a low body weight (just over 6.5 lbs) and great balance which makes it comfortable to play for short or extended sessions when standing. I get the impression many players in good health practice and play mostly sitting, which is a head scratcher but the JS is highly playable in a seating position too.

What about the EdgePro trem?

Those 5 words are both a question and its answer. I haven’t given it much thought after setting up the tremolo angle and tightening the “arm holder and nut” (with a short handle large edge flat screwdriver and 10mm deep-well socket so you don’t have to remove the tremolo). The EdgePro works well, very well, perhaps better than expected even without the locking studs and insert inserts installed yet (thanks Rich!), for now I’m ok without them. By now we all know and love the Edge double-locking tremolos & their recessed routing. These have been unrivaled since they were recessed into Ibanez bodies back in 1987 (the Edge tremolo was first featured on some 1986 models such as the ProLine but without the body recess).

EdgePro_front

EdgePro_angle

With the JS your fret hand and pick hand fall naturally into place making it effortless to play. The EdgePro looks and feels good, but the ergonomics of Edge or Lo-Pro never mattered to me. I always felt it was a silly and pointless change Ibanez made moving away from the original Edge to begin with. Grown dog chasing its tail. Sometimes you have to know when to say when and have impulse control. Like keeping this hands-on-report under 5,000 words! Thankfully Ibanez has since learned that lesson, hopefully for good (when does the Floyd low profile patents expire LOL)?  I guess the only concern could be future parts availability for the EdgePro since the Edge & LoPro Edge won’t retrofit into the EdgePro body cavity.

The Sweet JS Neck

One feature added to the “real” JS guitars (Fujigen made) since 1997 is the multi-radius neck (not fingerboard). This simply means the bass and treble side of the neck (not fingerboard) are not symmetrical, but slightly different to replicate Joe’s favorite.  Which exact favorite? LOL. To be honest I can’t feel the radius change but maybe that is the point, not to notice or be tripped up by the neck’s feel. The back of the neck feels really good and is super player friendly. The poly finish on the rear of the neck is barely noticeable – can’t call it sticky – but that can be remedied with 0000 steel wool if desired (this one will stay as-is).

The player has a grip-able and usable neck that is not too wide, not too narrow, not too thick, not too thin. What really jumps out is the excellent (smaller) 250mm radius (9.84”) fretboard and tall/thin frets. These are Warmoth 6105 with dimensions 0.095″ wide, 0.045″ height, 18% nickel/silver. It’s important to recall that that Joe wanted the JS series to have a fretboard similar to his 80’s era kit & real Strats. These have a 9.5” (241mm) radius like the modern Strats of today, whereas the vintage Stratocasters from 1950s-1980s were 7.25” (184mm) radius. Personally I feel this decision was brilliant and a real boon to those lucky enough to play a JS. The smaller radius of the JS allows for comfortable chording and thumbing the low-E, yet as Satch has proved it’s a capable shredder with extreme tap-ability, hammer on and pull off. The JS fretboard & frets allow full on bends that don’t choke out the notes like cheap strats or copy axes of yesteryear. Simply put the JS neck is refreshing to pick up and play versus an JEM, RG & other Ibanez superstrats. Why did I wait so long on a JS again?

The 250mm (9.84”) radius fretboard differentiates the JS from pretty much every other Ibanez Made-in-Japan (MIJ) double-locker. It would be nice to see this choice extended into other model Ibanez prestige instruments with locking trems. Just as Ibanez has realized not every player wants a double-locking floating tremolo, they should realize that not every floating-trem Ibanez player wants a 430mm (16.93”) radius fretboard. Choice is good. Offer the same quality with choice of features and choice of prices. Prove yourself to customers old and new. Since the Edge(Pro) trems are set for 430mm radius, shims are required under the G & D string saddles and were already installed on this axe.

  • Neck Width at nut: 42mm
  • Neck Width at fret-22: 56mm
  • Neck Thickness at fret-1: 20mm
  • Neck Thickness at fret-12: 22.3mm

Joe uses Rosewood fretboards exclusively as he likes the tone and durability of sound & appearance for “years and years”. Rosewood adds to the character of the JS guitar and of course it has a great feel under the fingertips. There is no point nitpicking the wood quality, grain, etc. only to say it’s just what you expect from an Ibanez Prestige guitar. It’s real wood that looks & feels good.

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Rosewood fretboard & nicely dressed factory fretwire

 

Fretboard_rosewood_AR2000
Ibanez AR2000 Rosewood fretboard & abalone inlays for comparison.

The JS Series all have what Ibanez calls the Tilt Neck Joint with neck plate. This remains unchanged from the 90s original models as the JS series did not switch to the “all access neck joint”. The Tilt Neck Joint is a vast improved over the original Strat and even the JEM/RGs Tile Neck (old style non-AANJ neck). I dare say the JS upper fret access is as good as needed. Just like the JEM/RGs with the Tilt-neck (non-AANJ) the heel starts at the 16th fret but the JS body heel is much thinner (front to back  with the same taper, thinning as it goes from low to high-E. Combined with the 22-fret length the JS makes for a sweet player in the upper register whereas the RG/JEM old heels (featured again on the JEM77FP2) feels really clunky chunky by comparison. At the 16th fret the JEM heel is 2.0″ inches thick from wood back to front, whereas the JS is 1.6″, a half inch thinner. The JEM and JS tilt-neck difference is vast so I wonder how many players overlooked the JS Series for RG/JEM/S series guitars simply due to the lack of all-access-neck?

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js_heel

 

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Tilt-joint thickness at start of the joint: JS 1.6″, JEM 2.0″

 The control (3-way, vol & tone) placement are just right

The tilted output jack on the side is a fantastic touch – like the JEM – designed for & welcomed by the player since stepping on the chord won’t abruptly cutoff the sound. This is a great feature, even if you are wireless the cable tucks into the strap almost hidden from view instead of extending 90-degrees out of the edge of the body.

js_jack

The volume pot (knob closer to neck) controls both pickups and has a pull-up feature which turns on a high pass filter (which also works on both pickups). When on, the circuit goes thru the 3CP1J331 0.033Mf (330pF) capacitor which allows the high frequency sound to be heard (pass thru) when you roll back (lower) the volume. When the volume knob is down in the standard position the high pass filter is off and the capacitor is bypassed. Many guitars omit this capacitor so it’s typical that high frequency sounds are filtered out as you lower the volume.  Note the JEM/RGs includes the same high pass filter (capacitor) that cannot be disabled with its switching.

js_wiringcavity

The tone knob also effects both pickups and the pull-up enables the coil-split of both the neck and bridge pickups keeping the inner coils turned on. See diagram below for a visual. Position-2 with the coil-split on leaves the inner two coils on since the neck pickup is reversed 180-degrees. This gives more “middle pickup” color getting the active coil further away from the neck.

js_controlsThe 3-way toggle in neck position with coil split off (tone knob down) enables both coils of the neck pickup only. The middle position enables both coils of both neck and bridge pickup whereas the bridge position turns on both coils of bridge pickup only. The 3-way toggle with Coil Split on (tone knob up) gives these possibilities: bridge coil of the neck pickup only, bridge coil of neck and neck coil of bridge pickups, neck coil of bridge pickup only.

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Knobs down (high pass & coil-split off)
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Knobs up (high pass & coil-split on)

I just don’t want to have to put down a favorite axe because it won’t get the subtle tone changes I want. Thankfully the JS controls and pickup switches provide a wide range of color and sonic variations which are beneficial to me on an artistic level. With a modeler like the Line6 you can warm up or just jam out spinning thru artists & songs and match “the tone” instantly and then further dial in the JS. Some of us need all the right-brain creative help that we can get. Simply put the diverse tonal landscape can inspire the player. Who doesn’t welcome that?

Here are the pickup specifications for reference:

  • Bridge pickup DiMarzio Fred DP153 (Wiring: 4 Conductor, Magnet: Alnico 5, Output mV: 305, DC Resistance: 10.38 Kohm, Year of Introduction: 1989, Treble: 5.5, Mid: 6.0, Bass: 5.0)
  • Neck pickup (installed 180-degrees in reverse) DiMarzio PAF Pro DP151 (Wiring: 4 Conductor, Magnet: Alnico 5, Output mV: 300, DC Resistance: 8.4 Kohm, Year of Introduction: 1986, Treble: 6.0, Mid: 5.0, Bass: 5.0)

Ibanez Prestige = Made in Japan

The JS Series has the “Prestige” level of treatment which in marketing terms simply clarifies this is an Ibanez guitar made in Japan at the Fujigen factory. These are the ones that made Ibanez relevant and a household name. The ones that made people care about Ibanez and keep caring about Ibanez. The Prestige models are the ones Ibanez has been trying to emulate and manufacture elsewhere with the same QC and consistency to allow cost savings for cheaper models. Good luck. The Prestige axes notably contrast from the “more affordable” Ibanez stuff from Korea/Cort, China and Indonesia/Premiums.

jcraft2

Ibanez literature says “there are three principles behind our Ibanez Prestige line: Precision, Performance, and Playability. The combination of high-tech manufacturing techniques with old-world Japanese craftsmanship, true innovation in design and construction, and the incorporation of ideas and suggestions from musicians from around the world are the cornerstones of the Prestige production process.”

A 4th P should often be added to the Ibanez Prestige guitars… PRICE. You all know the Ibanez Golden Rule of Pricing: “keep raising prices as much as possible and offer non-MIJ alternates to those who can’t afford the price increases”. The hidden desire is for people ultimately to not know any better, blending models and manufacturing into one continuous price scale from ultra affordable starter to serious $$$ collector. This has brought the exact result that was intended, customer justification of buying lesser-quality Ibanez logo’d “Prestige substitutes” to fit any budget. Thankfully some Prestige guitars slip thru the cracks and sure enough the JS1000BP flew under the radar holding a fair price for a long time. Still in 2016 the new 24-fret JS JS2410MCO ($3,332 list) is $1,200 above the Prestige S5570TKS & S5520KKB ($2,133 list) yet remains $668 below the JEM7VWH ($4,000 list).

The fit and finish and parts on the JS are par for the course

If you’ve seen and played an Ibanez Prestige guitar you know exactly what to expect. It’s all there. The tuners, knobs, switch, etc. are all fine quality as we’ve seen in the MIJ models since even before the RG & JEM line was born in 1987. The w6105 frets mentioned earlier are finely dressed and round on top with the fret ends smooth, rounded and burr-free, probably exactly how Joe mandated before he committed to Ibanez. You’d be surprised how many expensive axes do not have this level of fret dressing. The fretboard inlays are said to be Mother of Pearl and they do look good against the rosewood, neither detracting from the appearance or attracting undue attention from the guitar as a whole.

In terms of fit & finish, I’m not a guitarist (or buyer) who scrutinizes the instrument under a magnifying glass and 200w LED lights. Never have, life is too short. It’s totally pointless unless you pack away a possible collectible and never touch it for years until sold. Why would I buy a quality axe and put a diaper (cover) over it and spend more time looking at it and wiping it clean and worrying about getting a battle scar when playing it? I find that perplexing. Either way you don’t need that level of OCD to identify that the Ibanez JS1000BP fit and finish is top-notch, as good as is to be expected from any Ibanez guitar at any cost. The covers, routes, knobs, screws, etc. all are placed exactly where you expect without deviation or glitch. Just what you want.

You could pay 5x more for an Ibanez and get the same or (or worse by chance) fit and finish. That is a testament to Ibanez Prestige quality coming out of Japan. This allows the sales & marketing department at Ibanez to have mastered getting maximum dollar out of its enthusiasts while keeping them coming back for more with a consistent quality at any price. With Ibanez Prestige you don’t pay for “better” you pay significantly more for “looks”, “limited availability” or both. That is probably why most reading like Ibanez, some want the better some also want the looks. Two valid viewpoints even if the cost differentiation of like Prestige models have been debated in the jemsite.com forum for almost two decades now with no end in sight.

One peculiarity of the JS is the fretboard side dots.

These distractingly fall half on the rosewood fretboard and half on the maple neck. It’s more a visual annoyance with no effect on the player but it is simply looks like they were installed in the wrong place from a design perspective. If the fretboard was maple you wouldn’t notice it, the dots would contrast only the maple. This is the only guitar I recall where the side dots are half on the neck & fretboard, the Ibanez Mikro and Fender Squire Mini don’t even do this. Ultimately, I’d be curious as to why this was done but an educated guess is a combination of the radius and fretboard thickness makes it safer to be done further away from the top of the fretboard. If so, I’d have preferred these to be on the neck than (totally off the fretboard).

js_neck_sidedots

One other peculiarity of the JS Series is the lack of a tilt-back headstock. It is almost straight but has a tilt forward effect on the nut. This is because the neck is one-piece maple (with thin bubinga stripe reinforcement covering the trussrod channel). From top to bottom, there is no scarf joint (spliced in headstock) or volute (bump to strengthen the one-piece neck behind the nut) on the JS neck. The straight headstock (tilt forward) is necessary but a bit of an annoyance in that it hinders using the machine heads due to the steep angle from the tuning pegs to the retainer bar to the Top Lok III locking nut. The retainer bar needs to be low enough so when you lock the nut the pitch is not pulled sharp.  Of course this guitar is expected to be used with the nut locked so the EdgePro fine tuners would be used much more frequently. Still, if I blocked the tremolo (I won’t) I’d probably just lock the nut and use the fine tuners which I’ve never done with a fixed JEM/RG. The added angle causes the strings to stick a little at the retainer bar especially.

js_jem_headstock_angle
Note the JS straight headstock compared to the JEM/RG
js_headstock_side
Note angle from locking nut to retainer bar. The retainer bar height must be set to allow the strings stay in tune when locking the nut. The strings must follow the same angle off the nut grooves all the way to the retainer bar otherwise locking the nut sharpens the string.

So is the JS1000BP a “keeper”?  Absolutely!

For such a closely watched line by a brand I’ve played for over three decades, my path to the JS Series is a surprisingly long one. In retrospect that was an oversight if not just foolish. Seduced by the Dark Side or maybe falling for the superficial looks & outgoing personality? Who knows.

Would I buy a JS new and at full price? Maybe, they’re priced OK for a signature model Prestige guitar. I mostly prefer used guitars but Joe has kept pricing reasonable for base models allowing for pricey limited production axes.

Would I buy another? Well the only guitar I have dupes is the Ibanez AR series. One is a heavyweight (AR2619) and one more a walterweight (AR2000) so I don’t consider them the same. New JS models are coming with 24-frets which I guess makes them different but I’d certainly buy another JS if something happened to this one or maybe wanted a change of color. Or if I ran across a JS6 or JS6000 at a reasonable cost.

The JS100BP is welcomed by these electric guitars in my stable: Ibanez AM200AV, Ibanez AR2000VV, Ibanez AR2619AV, Gibson LesPaul Std Cherry Burst, Gibson SG ’61 Std Desert Burst (factory coil taps), Ibanez JEM777DY Herc Swirl, GC Custom JEM Herc Abalone Swirl.

Bottom line is that the JS1000BP counts as “hit” in terms of excellent player that is limited by only your physical, mental and expressive ability to play the instrument. It can’t be a 7 or 8 string but it can do just about anything you want from a six and that is a testament to the JS series which is going strong since 1990. Gotta love that! Plug one in when you get a chance!