Re: Signature Prestige vs Premium
Well, I retract that after reading it. I'd have written alot of that myself. I'll correct some errors and add commentary though.
Ignoring the price and style, objectively speaking the Premium JEMs electric 6-string & UV 7-string guitars have decent hardware, feature set, build quality, Dimarzio made Ibanez pickups, sound… backed by Ibanez warranty available new from authorized dealers.
Since we're talking JEM's they are not Dimarzio/IBZ pickups, only the first run [and possibly some current models available outside the US] had those, all current Premiums in the US are Dimarzios [just as the Dimarzio/IBZ's were, they were just made specifically for Ibanez by Dimarzio] and the same pickups they use in Fujigen models.
The fact that Made-in-Japan RGs featured real Edge tremolos at a much lower cost than Premium JEM/UVs creates a source of conflict if not disappointment. Ibanez methodically altered the body routing so you can’t directly swap an Edge into the Edge Zero II routing of the Premium JEMs without extensive body routing & modification. Ibanez used the same playbook as it did with the old & scorned Korean 555s with TRS-equipped tremolos that did not accept the Edge trems. This is intentional.
You couldn't put an Edge into a TRS rout because the TRS rout was made to fit the TRS, not an Edge. Yes, it is intentional to make the rout fit the actual trem being used. That is not to say you don't have a valid argument with the wider stud spacing on the current EZ/ZR variations.
(-) Overpriced vs other similar non-signature Indonesian guitars (i.e. Indonesian RGs)
Ibanez imposes a rather high “signature model” tax on the Indonesian JEMs. $750 upcharge (50% price increase) vs similar Indonesian RGs. This is where the Premium JEMs becomes questionable in terms of value relative to similar non-signature models.
• RG950 list price $1,408 vs JEM77PBFP list price $2,133. Both guitars are made in Indonesia with comparable parts/hardware. $750 upcharge for plastic vine inlay, monkey grip & lion’s claw (removes wood, decreases tone/sustain).
For comparison of like-Prestige models the JEM7VWH list price is $4000 vs RG655 list price $1599. This represents a $2,401 upcharge for the tree of life inlays, Monkey Grip, Lion’s Claw, possibly better Rosewood fret board and angled input jack.
This has always been the expected signature upcharge for 30 years now, why would we expect anything to change? In 87' the JEM was $1299, the RG550 was $659. They were double the price from the beginning.
Interjecting subjective commentary to clarify this point, strategically it’s obvious that the arbitrarily high pricing of Indonesian JEMs reflects & drives the desired Ibanez pricing for Prestige (MIJ) JEM/UVs which remain costly in comparison. For Ibanez the result is exactly what is intended… to maintain overall high prices for all Signature JEM/UVs regardless of where they are made relative to similar non-signature model guitars. This is not only a revenue generator for Ibanez but highly profitable.
I seriously doubt the pricing is arbitrary. It's intentionally set where it is as what the market will bear combined with what profit margins they need, and of course Steve's cut, which, I'm starting to believe is fairly significant, and possibly more the reason he's behind the Premium model as opposed to making fewer more expensive models in Japan.
As a result ultimately Ibanez does not maintain full control over their luthiers, what they produce nor the production cost. Ibanez controls only the cost of raw materials.
Ibanez does not control the costs of anything. Fujigen sells all the wood to Ibanez they use for manufacture, not in Ibanez control, Gotoh [and others] are contracted to make the hardware, not in Ibanez control. Any smart company is going to try and negotiate those costs as to their benefit, but they have no control. They would have no more control if they owned the factory and built the guitars themselves. They still have to pay the going rate for everything, including labor, benefits, raw materials, etc which they get to avoid by just paying for the completed guitar.
By trying to blur the lines between Premium and Prestige instruments over time Ibanez feels it is in a win-win position pushing prices higher for Prestige instruments with limited audience and production capability. The strategy Ibanez is using to solve it’s production problem is the complete opposite of Gibson, Fender & PRS. The long-term ramification of Ibanez’s strategy will play out before our eyes.
This strategy has been theirs from the beginning so it is not new, and it has worked for them thus far, not giving them many reasons to change the model. And bottom line, Ibanez' long term survival is not in Japan or Premiums but in the models with high sales, the 450's and Chinese built everything, as well as the cheap acoustics, where volume is the key.