What is the HUGE DIFFERENCE (or even small) in parts, material & labor quality (not styling) between a MIJ Prestige RG vs JEM/JPM though?
Are you sure it's always TOTALLY WORTH IT to pay much more (maybe a paycheck or few more?) for the JEM/JPM vs RG?
Please explain more if you're mythbusting.
Well, if we talk about what makes it different in terms of material and parts only, then we could also say that a Fender and a Gibson is made out of wood and they have a bridge made of metal and should basically sound the same if you put the same pickups in it... which is definitely not the case AT ALL. I`m sure you get the point here!
It`s the sum of its part, really. With the JEM, there is quite a bit of difference actually with the body being alder and the neck feels completely different than any other RG neck I have ever played. It`s smoother on the back due to how they treated it, it has a very different tone and feels very different due to the smaller frets (6105 IIRC) and the whole guitar has a somewhat slightly chambered-like tone. It`s audible when playing it unplugged (I noticed the same with my Universe btw) and If you knock on the neck, it sounds more like a "hollow knock" (as if there was a chambered part in the neck). It doesn`t feel or sound like a typical RG neck which has more of a "dense" feel and sound. Needless to say that the guitar sounds very different than an RG with Evolution pickups (I have a RG550 with Evos and it sounds COMPLETELY different). That being said: I don`t like the sound or playability of the JEM that much hahaha! That`s mainly because of the frets but that`s just my opinion, so let`s move on to the JPM.
The JPM is "more" on the RG spectrum but still very different. Thicker neck and although it has more of an RG feel when I make the "knock-test" (sounds stupid, eh? haha) it sounds so much different than when I do the same thing with my 550s or 2550s. Fretwork feels dramatically better than on my 550s/2550s and the guitar intonates significantly better. I have a J-Custom and the JPM feels and sounds like the J-Custom: Very balanced and fat yet very tight. All my other RGs have a kind of unbalanced, mid-honky, barky tone. Think about mud in the 300hz and 750hz area. More noise than tone there.... And I have a Steve`s special in one of my 550s, so it`s not the pickup. It would be way easier if you people would be here and could lay your hands on them and judge it yourself since it`s hard to describe it with words. In the end it`s just wood and metal, but the sum of its parts make a big difference.
Is it ALWAYS worth it? All in all, I would say it depends on the shape of the guitar and how much you care about detail and how much you notice them (Eric Johnson syndrome says hello) but given that the guitar is new or at least in great shape, then I think it is worth it IF ONE WANTS TO HAVE THESE GUITARS!
Definitely not trying to say that they are WAY better guitars. They are just not overpriced RG550s and only share look and similarities, but feel, play and sound totally different than your average 550s with upgraded pickups.
I have to point out that I am very serious about guitars and guitar playing in general, so to me it is and was worth it. If someone plays the guitar 2 hours in 2 weeks then I would say go with a lower end guitar. I would even say get a Premium model.
And now the reply to mike570 (since I don`t know how to add another quote and try to avoid a double-post):
Pretty sure another one will come across and you will have another chance then!
A good friend of mine had or still has one and I played it and loved it. It was the reason I put Paf Pro in one of my 550 and it didn`t even sound close. The PGM had a very smacky sound and sounded super clear under tons of gain and my 550 with the Paf Pro sounded...well... like an RG with a Paf Pro. It didn`t and still doesn`t sound ****, but definitely not like a PGM at all and it sounds kinda dead. I felt like the PGM had a somewhat bigger body and had a wider neck, but not too sure about that. Would need to check the specs to confirm tbh :/
I agree to what you say about signature guitars. It`s the reason I solely use them for studio work and again: I think best is to discover your own tonal preferences. Furthermore, I would like to add that I am not biased since I am not a JP or Vai fan AT ALL and the look of the guitars - well - let`s say there are prettier guitars out there. I had the chance to buy those guitars at an awesome price and I just love Ibanez and felt like trying out these guitars and I was totally expecting them to be overpriced RGs. Glad I discovered the opposite.