You can spend years and thousands of dollars chasing John Petrucci’s combination of molten gain and precise articulation.
Thankfully, Sterling by Music Man has provided a shortcut to the finish line with the newly released JP100D John Petrucci Signature Series model.
Based on Petrucci’s own Music Man Ball Family Reserve JP6 and featuring his signature DiMarzio LiquiFire and Crunch Lab pickups, this new guitar practically duplicates the tone, response and feel of his high-end guitar at a street price well under $1,000.
From a hands-on perspective, the five-bolt maple neck and aggressively contoured basswood/quilted maple body are the JP100D’s highlights. The neck is particularly narrow along its entire length, and it’s topped with a 16-inch radius rosewood board, which really makes it comfortable to stretch across some of Petrucci’s more difficult scale patterns and multiposition sweeps.
Its D-shaped hill is well rounded and substantial, so there’s no loss of neck resonance, and at the same time it combats the hand strain that often results from modern, thin and wide necks. Fretwork is absolutely as good as you’ll find at any price range: the 24 extra-jumbo frets are side filled for an extremely smooth fretboard edge, beveled to eliminate sharp protrusions and perfectly leveled to allow for buzz-free action at any string height.
Of course, if you’re really going to nail Petrucci’s sound, you’ll save yourself a lot of time by using his pickups. To that end, Sterling loaded the JP100D with the same DiMarzio LiquiFire neck and Crunch Lab bridge pickups that he uses in most of his guitars. These are the real deal, not mass-produced OEM versions. Their tone is notably focused by way of direct mounting to the body, and they’re controlled with a standard three-position toggle and master pots for volume and tone.
The recessed Sterling tremolo works in tonal unison with these pickups. While the trem may at first seem like a price-reducing compromise, its low mass is key to creating sharp note definition through Petrucci’s famously midrange-heavy high gain. No worries for stable whammy action either, as it’s paired with locking tuners.
When played through the high-gain channels in my Mesa Mark V and a solid-state/tube hybrid Marshall AVT, the JP100D produced tones that were simultaneously crisp and fat—a rare achievement for even the priciest guitars. My sweeps never sounded cleaner or more soulful through such heavy gain, and the brownish crunch complemented chords. Even the most extreme shredding was delivered with a ferocious beauty.
List Price $1,185
Manufacturer Sterling by Music Man, sterlingbymusicman.com
Genuine DiMarzio LiquiFire and Crunch Lab pickups deliver searing, controlled explosions of high-gain tone, even-tempered clean notes and superb definition.
Narrow neck width, a rounded D-shaped hill and extra-jumbo frets on a 16-inch radius create an ideal platform for technical and fast finger work.
The Bottom Line
Near-perfect Petrucci tones and budget price notwithstanding, the Sterling by Music Man JP100D is a real contender for one of this year’s top shredder guitars, offering a deep midrange, an easy-to-manhandle neck and tight, brown crunch.