Re: The Jem Jr is an RG450 in disguise
I'm fortunate to own MIJ & Premium Jems. I also used to own a Jem Jr-WH but after a bit of fun modding, it was gifted to my youngest son and he's loving it (as I did..).
Original point. Jem Jr is an RG450 in disguise. Sure it is. So what? The same argument can be levelled at Jems & RGs throughout the Ibanez range. If you want the Jem look/Steve Vai association the Jem Jr is the best way to get it on the lowest budget. No question.
My Jem Jr was a used buy. Absolute bargain price. I buy all my gear used. Much more 'bang for the buck'.
If you want a better constructed cheaper guitar they are easy to find. I also own a 2011 MII RG370DXZ which has the 3-piece laminate neck & the EZ2 Trem. The neck profile is also more to my liking than the Wizard 3 on the Jem Jr. I digress...
I wanted to see how the Jr compared to it's bigger brothers. Build quality (e.g. Paint, fit, finish) was immaculate. The Jack Socket was better painted than that in my 777 30th Anni(!). Fretwork was amazing - no leveling required or sharp ends to deal with. A beautiful slab of dark Rosewood for a fretboard too. So, the basics were very promising.
The Quantum pups are pretty decent. Absolutely no need to change them. There are comparison videos on YouTube vs Evo's. I prefer the tone from certain configurations to Evo's. The tuners operate smoothly and do the job. Not worth upgrading due to the Locking Nut. Pots, Switches & wiring are budget stuff but are still functioning as intended after two years.
The usual perceived weak spot is the Trem. The Standard DL Trem is the thing most people change. I decided not to. I swapped in a 33mm Brass Block to enhance sustain (huge improvement and 30% better than my Edge equipped models) and added softer noiseless springs to give a smoother action. After a bit of set-up, tuning stability has been excellent. I'm sure the knife edges/posts will not be as durable as higher quality trems but, again, 2 years of abuse by a teenager and the Std DL is still performing perfectly. Certainly good enough for most bedroom/casual players.
The Wizard 3 neck didn't feel right to me. Personal thing. YMMV. So, I attacked the back of the neck with a sander and thinned/reprofiled it to feel like the MIJ neck but thinner. Finished it with Tru-Oil. I also scalloped frets 21-24 - an easy 30 minute job with a round file and sandpaper. As you can probably tell, I love tinkering with guitars...
Finally, I created/printed a few decals, changed the scratchplate to pearloid, made a pick holder and fitted a quick release strap (cliplock clone..). Voila! Evo Jr. Great fun to do. A solid playing, fun guitar for little money.
My issue with spending a lot of money on mods to the Jr is that you are unlikely to recoup your costs if you ever need to sell. For equivalent money, I'd suggest save a litte longer and buy a gently used Jem70V. If you can live with the colour, the 70V is an amazing guitar and IMO the best value (ex)production Jem. My 70V has been used daily since 2013 and is still like new. It's easily my favourite Jem and still my 'goto' despite strong competition from my MIJ models.
Phew! That was a bit a a diatribe. Bottom line: the Jem Jr can be a great guitar, stock or mildly modded. I wouldn't recommed spending too much on upgrades though...