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Annual Report Card

 

 

 

 

last updated 4/7/1998

This section is pure opinion. It is a report card for each production year of Ibanez JEM and Universe guitars. We all know some model years had stellar JEM/UV lineups, while others did not quite compare. If you don't like my grading, I'm allowing you to give your own scores. Simply e-mail a grade and comment (a paragraph) for each year.

All guitars listed in numerical order by model number

 

1987

  1. JEM777LNG - Green JEM
  2. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  3. JEM777SK - Shocking Pink

Grade: C (1987 Grade A)

 

A terrific start to the JEM series. A perfect introduction of Vai's brainchild to the world. 1986 was a limited build year, to boost hype for the line and allow production to ramp up. An incomplete grade is given since no choices existed, production was very limited and availability was poor. Few guitarists at the time did not want this guitar. At the time the lineup seemed decent with the day-glow colors popular at the time being represented. Ten years later the lineup (sans LNG) is terrible, consisting of two of the most undesirable JEMs. Vai was already playing the prototype 77FPs by the time these guitars hit the market.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Great start, right away showing the world what to expect as far as colors color schemes, pizzazz, flash, and most important, a great sounding and well-crafted guitar. Again, continuing with the Vai-ish flash. Three great guitars - the DSY to become a classic, but Ibanez should have planned the paint job on the SK a little better. Everyone that I have seen has faded dramatically. Most don't like the pink but if you can find a mint, unfaded one... grab it! - Dave Weiner

1988

  1. JEM7RB - Root Beer
  2. JEM777VBK - Black w/ vine
  3. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  4. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  5. JEM777SK - Shocking Pink

Grade: C- (1988 Grade B+)

The JEM lineup was vastly improved over the previous one, but in retrospect was not too impressive. The Floral Pattern was the top model and was a great entry since Vai had been playing this regularly. To say the 77FP was impressive is an understatement. Unfortunately, the two additional JEMs did not compare favorably. The Root Beer JEM did not go over well at the time. The Black vine model did not fare much better. Their first attempt at a plain black JEM was not quite perfect. The Yellow and Pink models were already becoming outdated. An improvement over '87, but thankfully Ibanez was not satisfied.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Three more great additions. The RB with its old-style monkey grip and great sunburst finish is one of my personal favs. The FP is also a classic. A great, solid JEM. Very classy. The VBK is a little less flashy, still has some green. Maybe Hoshino got some calls for their great guitars but hold the pizzazz. - Dave Weiner

1989

  1. JEM7PBK - Black w/ pyramids
  2. JEM7RB - Root Beer
  3. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  4. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  5. JEM777SK - Shocking Pink
  6. JEM777VBK - Black w/ vine
  7. JEM777VDY - Yellow w/ vine
  8. JEM777VSK - Pink w/ pink vine

Grade: B- (1989 Grade B+)

Essentially the '88 lineup with the 7PBK added and the 777VSK leaked out. This model makes the lineup much improved in retrospect. The all black 7PBK was a huge improvement over the plain 777VBK. Lots of variety to choose from here... something for everyone. Many middle of the pack JEMs are represented here, but there are lots of guitars to choose from.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Two more additions, the 7PBK is great, I am currently looking for one. It is the only rosewood neck with pyramids (besides the UVs). Classic monkey grip style and solid black gave this guitar raves. The VDY is just a variation of the DSY, some color changes, but the rosewood neck with the vines is a plus! - Dave Weiner

1990

  1. JEM7PBK - Black w/ pyramids
  2. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  3. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  4. JEM777VBK - Black w/ vine
  5. JEM777VDY - Yellow w/ vine
  6. UV7PWH - White w/ pyramids
  7. UV7BK - Black w/ green
  8. UV77MC - Multicolor

Grade: B+ (1990 Grade A)

The decent '89 lineup sans Rootbeer & Pink JEMs with the impressive Universe series added. Vai's 7-string guitar would finally be available to the masses. We are now approaching the JEM/UV heyday with many quality models to choose from. Sadly this era of JEM/UVs will never again be realized. It is almost mind boggling that nine JEM/UV guitars were available and the selection would improve next year.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Ahhh, the year of the Universe. The year many Vai fans' lives changed. A mad search for these guitars didn't last long. For some reason, they weren't very popular when they came out. Times and trends were changing to the more plain colors and guitars. However, I wish I would have gotten a few while they were plenty. - Dave Weiner

1991

  1. JEM77BFP - Blue floral pattern
  2. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  3. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  4. JEM777VBK - Black w/ vine
  5. JEM777VDY - Yellow w/ vine
  6. UV7PWH - White w/ pyramids
  7. UV7BK - Black w/ green
  8. UV77MC - Multicolor
  9. UV777GR - Green

Grade: A- (1991 Grade A)

This is the pinnacle year for Universe guitars. What an array of choices! Can you imagine going into a local music store today and seeing this arsenal of JEM and Universe guitars on display? Unfortunately, PRS and Gibson reissues fill the walls of mega stores of today for yuppie buyers to put in their museum. This UV lineup will never be surpassed... sorry. The Green Universe was added, and if that weren't enough, the JEM lineup was improved too. The Blue Floral was added while the Pink model was canned. This was a great trade.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] The addition of the BFP and another UV was a great move. I love the vines on the maple necks. This was one of Ibanez's finest years. - Dave Weiner

1992

  1. JEM77BFP - Blue floral pattern
  2. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  3. JEM77GMC - Green multicolor
  4. JEM77PMC - Purple multicolor
  5. JEM777VBK - Black w/ vine
  6. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  7. UV7PWH - White w/ pyramids
  8. UV7BK - Black w/ green
  9. UV77MC - Multicolor
  10. UV777GR - Green

Grade: A+ (1992 Grade A+)

This was definitely the year to buy new JEM/UV guitars. This overall lineup will never be surpassed... ever. The only flaw was that perhaps too many nice guitars were made available at once. Unfortunately a year later Ibanez cut the models way back. This lineup is loaded with hall of fame candidates. It's the who's-who of JEM and UV guitars. It still boggles the mind that this many quality JEM and Universe guitars were available at once.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] The year of the MC JEM. This was probably Ibanez's best lineup. The MC JEMs are the rarest made (271 PMC, 366 GMC). These were the glory days!! - Dave Weiner

1993

  1. JEM77BFP - Blue floral pattern
  2. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  3. JEM77GMC - Green multicolor
  4. JEM77PMC - Purple multicolor
  5. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  6. UV7BK - Black w/ green

Grade: B (1993 Grade B-)

Does anyone have any smelling salt... give it to Ibanez! What happened to the UV? If you were gonna let one UV remain available the Black/green one was definitely the worst possible choice. Considering only the JEM guitars, this lineup is very impressive, yet non diverse Two Florals, two swirls and bright yellow was not exactly giving consumers many choices. The quick canning of the top shelf Universe was a crucial mistake that will forever haunt Ibanez. No Universe fan was happy that only the UV7BK remained. Luckily '92 leftovers were abundant for those who did not get their '92 model guitars in time.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Say buh-bye to the UVs. WHAT!!! This was the start of the downfall. It had to do with the public's negative response to all the flash and no need for the 7th string made them go away. However the MC JEMs managed to survive. - Dave Weiner

1994

  1. JEM7VWH - White w/ vine
  2. JEM77BFP - Blue floral pattern
  3. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  4. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  5. JEM555 - JEM Jr
  6. UV7BK - Black w/ green

Grade: B (1994 Grade C)

The swirl is dead... long live the swirl. Nothing lasts forever and honestly, be thankful they had even a two year production run. While trading the multicolor JEMs for the 7VWH at the time seemed like a bad move, I think that it was an excellent idea in retrospect. The 7VWH set a new standard for JEMs. It had improvements galore... better wood, nicer neck vine inlays, better alder body, updated, non-gaudy looks. The JEM7VWH was a true hit. What on earth were they thinking with the 555 however... Lo-TRS tremolo on a JEM?

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] This year sucked!! Except for the 7VWH. One of the most beautiful JEMs made!! The 555's should never have been made (decreases the credibility of the whole JEM existence). Now, alternative music has taken over and popular guitarists suck. Everyone wants to play grunge and three-chord bubble gum songs. In other words, HELL!! The guitar solo has been eliminated because of the lack of skill of most popular guitarists. Ibanez sold-out and created plain boring guitars to meet the demand of the masses (morons). No one wants the "high-performance guitar." - Dave Weiner

1995

  1. JEM7VWH - White w/ vine
  2. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  3. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  4. JEM555 - JEM Jr

Grade: D (1995 grade D-)

Where did the Universe go? Were we not supposed to notice that the 7-string was missing. Only the JEM7VWH prevented this lineup from being an "F". Having two 8+ year old guitars covering it's back was an abomination. Did Ibanez think that this JEM lineup would really compete in the marketplace. Perhaps on the clearance rack, but aside from the 7VWH nothing existed here that was worth purchasing new. Why does the Floral still have the older neck instead of the All-Access-neck? The worst JEM year ever if not for the mighty 7VWH.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Nothing new here, the UV is totally gone and music still sucks. - Dave Weiner

1996

  1. JEM10 - 10th Anniversary JEM
  2. JEM7BSB - Burnt stained blue
  3. JEM7VWH - White w/ vine
  4. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  5. JEM777DY - Yellow w/ pyramids
  6. JEM555 - JEM Jr
  7. UV7BK - Black w/ green

Grade: A- (1996 Grade A )

Stop the press... after a lackluster 1995, Ibanez released the anniversary JEM10 which is the ultimate JEM ever built. Surprisingly another new addition emerged... the Industrial JEM (7BSB). The 7BSB made the '96 lineup an impressive one. The lineup was bolstered further since the stellar 7VWH was still available... yes! The Floral still lacks the AANJ... did Ibanez have too many leftovers or what? The reintroduction of a 7-string was a terrific idea, even if the least desirable UV was chosen to be resurrected. If only Ibanez would have considered modernizing the Universe with an all black scheme and white pyramid inlays.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Hello, what's this?!?!? A new JEM? And what is that thing with 7 strings. Oh my God, its a Universe!!!! Well, music is getting a little better. Don't worry, the cycle is turning back around and as people get sick of grunge and alternative music, a different kind of music will become prevalent. It will actually have some worth and skill involved. The need for a better guitar is coming back.!!! Yeah!!! The JEM 10 needs no introduction. By far the most beautiful guitar made. Get 'em while they're hot!! - Dave Weiner

1997

  1. JEM7BSB - Burnt stained blue
  2. JEM7VWH - White w/ vine
  3. JEM77FP - Floral Pattern
  4. JEM555 - JEM Jr
  5. UV7 - All Black

Grade: C

Nice guitars, but as you can see there is nothing new or extraordinary here at all. Finally the Floral has the AANJ, but few will buy this guitar new. The un-Vai'ed '97 UV is totally overmatched by the cheaper & better RG7-620 and still lacks the pyramid inlays. Does Ibanez not understand the fact that UV buyers prefer the pyramid inlays on expensive guitars? Unfortunately the JEM10s are long gone which hurts this lineup.

 

Second Opinion

  • [A+] Well, nothing new. JEM/UV demand has risen again, but some want to horde them and sell them for ridiculous prices, you people suck!!! But this year, many JEM/UV fans have pulled together and as Hoshino slowly (but surely) realizes that the JEM/UV line is in high demand, they will bring them back. I know it. We want it, they will build it. It is called business! - Dave Weiner