You wouldn’t expect me to write about two guitars I’d never buy, but… actually, if I were to see a used Sterling JP anything I’d take a serious look at it. I recently spent some time with the terribly named Earnie ball 662BV5000 WC JP16 guitar, which is basically a $2,500 version of John Petrucci’s guitar. John Petrucci, for those guitarists who live under a rock, is the guitar player for prog-rock band Dream Theater. After playing around with it for a while, I decided to try out the “inexpensive” Sterling JP150, which is a $700 version of the same thing, minus the locking trem. My conclusion? Both guitars are too expensive. But as long as we’re here, we might as well discuss them…
There’s a difference between a steak from Outback and a steak from Shula’s. The steak at Shula’s is four times the money, and it tastes better. That’s a pretty decent analogy for these two guitars.
$700 is a price range where you’ll find some very good Korean guitars and some mediocre American guitars. The JP150 is Korean-made, and it’s good. On the used market, the Sterling JP series is worth a good long look, if you like that sort of wide-thin-ish neck profile. If someone were to buy a JP150 off the shelf, here would be my opinion – really good guitar, mediocre pickups and trem system. If you want to do a lot of trem work, you might not be super happy with this. But if your trem use is minimalistic, this’d be fine. The real hilight of this guitar is the neck – it plays like a very good copy of the Ernie Ball original. It’s definitely close, similar. Maybe 88%? It’s very hard to quantify. But it is a great playing neck. The guitar itself is lightweight and the controls are easy to use. I would snag one of these used pretty quickly, I think. Again, the downsides to me are the pickups and the hardware. And they’re not bad – they’re just not what I like. Still, what an instrument! I really like the JP neck profile – it really opened my eyes. Korea is making top notch instruments and copies. Blindfolded, I think novice guitarists would not be able to tell the difference between this neck and the Ernie Ball version. But I’m not a novice guitarist…
I refuse to type in all of those Ernie Ball model numbers/letters more than once. The JP16 is one of the finest guitars I’ve ever played. It’s a remarkable instrument. Much like the PRS guitars, this thing felt like it was set up perfectly down to the atomic level. Extremely low action, but no buzzing on any fret. No dead spots on the neck. The trem worked wonderfully. The sound was very detailed and clear even when distorted. Just an amazing guitar. I didn’t want to put it down. And if I were a pro guitarist who played in a Dream Theater touring cover band, I’d buy one. But as you know, I don’t like to spend more than $500 on a guitar. The real question: Is this guitar more than 3 times as good as the JP150? No. I think it’s better, but it’s hard to justify the difference in price for the average person. I could definitely tell the difference between the two necks, but honestly the Korean version is fairly close. But man, if you want that “down to the atom” level of quality, the JP16 is amazing.
Oh well. Back to Budget Guitar land.