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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Well, after 30 days soup-to-nuts my Custom Jem Jr. project is complete. It looks, sounds, and plays like a 3000k Jem. I'll start with a few pictures and then explain all the parts and strategy that went into it. I did it for fun, so I actually put more money in it than the purchase price of the guitar. The goal was to create a professional Vai guitar for half the price. I believe I got there, but give me your thoughts.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/bUYfPNXTcJw1ivex6
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
I did all modes at home with no help from a Luthier. I did however research this site, youtube, spent hours on Reverb.com, Ebay, and Amazon searching for correct products.

Below is the recipe I followed:

Purchased from Sweetwater.com
Chose Plek option -- this ensured i got perfectly level and polished frets from day one and I did. The guitar actually played and sounded pretty good though it wasn't set up quite right.

Functional Strategy - improve the bridge, and electronics. The pickups / electronics combo is not good. They seem to design bad sound into the cheaper guitars on purpose. In particular the neck pickups are terrible in almost every low cost guitar I have played. They purposely engineer the wrong mids in the neck, which gives it that cheap woody tone, and this guitar was no exception. The middle and bridge pick ups were not horrible but not great either.

All new Dimarzio Evo Chrome pickups used
Replaced electronics with custom 920D Vai setup (I had to keep the original input jack, which actually works great)
Replaced Tremelo with a chrome Original Floyd Rose - I transferred some of the cosmo parts over to the Floyd for cosmo-chrome design
Added FUTone 32mm Brass Tone Block
The original nut stayed but i added chrom parts for cosmo-chrome design

Looks Strategy - The theme is cosmo-chrome, and pearloid
Pearloid Truss cover - the one i got required me to drill one hole
Pearloid pickguard - the one i got fit perfectly
Pearloid/chrome knobs
Chrome switch knob
All screws chrome

Other - Faraday Tape
Dimarzio Faraday Tape used to ensure limited interference with all the wireless lighting stuff in my home automation. This worked great. Planning to do to all my guitars now.

I left the cosmo tuning keys unchanged as part of the overall cosmo-chrome theme
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
In terms of cost of the items: Total $851.00 + 499.00 Guitar = $1,350 Total Project Cost
Dimarzio Chrome Evo Pickups $320.00
Original Floyd Rose $200.00
Fret Plek Pro from Sweetwater $190.00
Custom Electronics $60.00
Brass FuTone Block 32mm $30.00

Cosmetics
Truss $13.00
Pick guard $10.00
knobs $18.00
Chrome Screws $10.00
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
While not directly relevant to the upgrades themselves, used this rig to play the Jem Jr. before and after the upgrades. The results are quite amazing.

I use an AXE FX II coupled with a Torpedo Live for Cab simulation. That part isn't important, but the before and after sound. As mentioned earlier the sound is all around better. I attribute that to the pickups, electronics, bridge and tone block upgrades. While I can't really play exactly like Vai for all his the solo parts, I can play some exactly like him, and the ones i can do sound exactly like him playing. They did not before the upgrades even with my nifty Fractal and Torpedo set up.

I would say the biggest difference is the neck pick up sound. For example the entry for to the song "For The Love of God." The neck pick up is used there and on the original Jem Jr sounded bad, but now is perfect. The guitar sustains better and the bridge and middle pickups sound great. Volume rolls off much smoother and tone knob seems more functional. Also, before the guitar was noisy, but now quite. Probably mostly due to the Faraday tape job i did to filter out wireless noise from the electronics.
 

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