I’ve previously compared several of Ernie Ball Music Man’s John Petrucci signature model guitars to sports cars for their style and fast performance, but another way that the company’s John Petrucci models are similar to cars is that since 2010 Ernie Ball Music Man has introduced a new model each year (or, in the case of 2015, two models—the JP15 and Artisan Majesty).
The big difference is that the new models are not replacements for the previous ones, but rather additions to a growing line of John Petrucci guitars as Ernie Ball Music Man has never discontinued a model to date. Ernie Ball Music Man currently offers ten different John Petrucci models, which include the original John Petrucci signature model introduced in 2001, the Majesty introduced in 2014, and this year’s latest addition—the JP16.
Compared to the other John Petrucci models, the JP16 is sort of the lineup’s equivalent of a Porsche Boxster Spyder—the design places high performance as its biggest priority, so certain extras are discarded while various essentials are upgraded.
As a result, it’s priced slightly higher than the original John Petrucci model but less than the other guitars in its family. Ernie Ball Music Man describes the JP16 as “a combination of the original John Petrucci signature model and later Ball Family Reserve models,” but it also could be described as a John Petrucci model designed for players who prefer more traditional features.
The JP16 has the same contoured body shape as the JPX model, and it’s 1.75 inches thick, like several of the new models. The body is lightweight slab of highly resonant basswood, which keeps the weight below eight pounds. The most notable difference between the JP16, which is available in six- or seven-string versions, is its black Floyd Rose 1000 Series Pro floating tremolo, which replaces the custom Music Man John Petrucci tremolo and its piezo pickup option. As a result, the JP16 is also further streamlined by the lack of a standard/piezo/mix selector switch on the upper bout and the piezo pickup’s corresponding volume control.
One significant upgrade is the roasted maple neck, which undergoes a heating process that dries and hardens the wood to make it more resonant, similar to well-aged wood. The neck has a smoky ebony fretboard, 24 medium jumbo stainless steel frets, a flat 17-inch radius (compared to the 15-inch radius on the original model), and 25 1/2–inch scale. The pickups are a brand-new version of DiMarzio’s Illuminator humbuckers specially voiced for the guitar’s basswood body. The master volume knob has a push/push function that engages a +20dB preamp boost circuit. The master tone knob runs both humbuckers in parallel with the knob in the middle position pushed down. With the tone knob pushed up, the master tone’s push/push function engages each pickup’s inner coils to produce a Strat-like, “out of phase” dual-pickup single-coil tone.
With its black hardware and Black Lava finish, the JP16 has a very stealth-like appearance that perfectly suits its streamlined, shred-worthy design. The neck has the slimmest profile of any Ernie Ball Music Man model I’ve tried, and thanks to the deep cutaway players feel nothing but neck no matter where they’re playing. Maybe the Boxster Spyder comparison isn’t apt after all, as the JP16 is also about comfort as well as speed. Some players may find the placement of the pickup selector switch awkward, but if you frequently change pickup settings in the middle of a song or solo you’ll love its convenient, easily accessible placement.
Tonally the JP16 roars like a Porsche too. The Illuminators deliver fat midrange and crisply articulated attack that makes even the fastest solos sound big and aggressive. It may seem unusual to offer only a split inner coil dual pickup setting instead of the usual coil split/tap function found on many other guitars, but actually this gives most players all the single-coil character they need and best of all the tone remains consistently noise-free (which isn’t always the case with coil splitting functions).
Like every other Ernie Ball Music Man model, the construction, attention to detail, fit, and finish are all world class and flawless. The JP16 feels rock solid thanks to its five-bolt neck attachment, and every detail from the recessed cavity for the Floyd Rose tremolo to the custom-designed knobs evokes a sense of luxury.
LIST PRICE: $2,499
MANUFACTURER: Ernie Ball Music Man, music-man.com
• The Floyd Rose 1000 Series Pro locking floating tremolo replaces the custom Music Man John Petrucci tremolo found on other John Petrucci model guitars.
• Pickups are a new version of DiMarzio Illuminator humbuckers with custom wiring that engages the two inner coils when both pickups are selected and the tone control’s push split function is engaged.
• A built-in preamp circuit provides +20dB of boost when the master volume control push boost function is engaged.
• The roasted maple neck provides resonance and dynamic responsiveness similar to a well-aged vintage guitar neck.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The JP16 may be a little more stripped down than Ernie Ball Music Man’s other John Petrucci signature models, but it’s still a high-performance guitar that delivers wicked, aggressive tones and extremely luxurious playability.