Sterling by Music Man Silo 30 and JP50SBK

November 1, 2010

gp1110_gear_2125SINCE 2009, STERLING BY MUSIC MAN has provided guitarists with lower cost alternatives to the U.S.-made models in the Music Man line. Sterlings closely mirror the specs, look, and playability of standard Music Man guitars, but are built overseas in order to substantially reduce their manufacturing cost. On review here are Sterling’s new Silo 30 and JP50SBK models, which we tested with a variety of amps that included a Victoria Ivy League, a Mesa/Boogie Transatlantic (driving a 1x12 Bogner cabinet), a 65 Amps Tupelo, and a Fryette Memphis 30.

Based closely on the Music Man Silhouette Special, the gleaming white Silo 30 features a 22-fret maple neck with a rosewood fretboard (black version has a maple fretboard), a contoured, solid basswood body, a Sterling Vintage trem bridge with sheet-metal saddles, locking tuners in a 4+2 arrangement, and a hum/sing/sing pickup configuration on a pearloid pickguard.

The workmanship on this guitar is impressive. The satin-finished neck has a great feel, the frets are well shaped and polished, and even the nut is rounded off on the corners so it won’t nick your fingers. I like the curvaceous five-bolt neck joint, which, along with a deep lower cutaway facilitates access to the upper fretboard.

The Silo 30 intonated well and its playability was light and easy, but it arrived with a setup that was low to the point of being buzzy in the mid span of the fretboard. I introduced a touch of reverse bow in the neck to correct this, which was an easy adjustment to make as the trussrod tensioner resides in a small rout just forward of the neck pickup.

You simply stick a small metal rod (included) into one of the holes in the adjusting wheel to turn it in an appropriate direction to tighten or loosen the trussrod. The G string also pinged in the nut slot when I bent notes, so a little tweaking was needed there too.

gp1110_gear_2126The trem’s three springs are tensioned to return the bridge flush to the body, which means that a fair amount of pressure is needed to depress the bar. Nevertheless, the action of the two-point trem is very smooth. Once the strings were broken in, it was possible to work the bar aggressively without going out of tune.

The Silo 30’s combination of pickups provides a variety of sounds that range from round jazz timbres and bluesy wails from the neck pickup to chunky rock tones from the bridge humbucker. In between are lots of other cool sounds, including a middle pickup setting that’s great for rhythm playing or twangy Texasstyle blues leads, and those clucky sounding neck-plus-middle and middleplus- bridge combinations that are a benefit of having five pickup settings. The sonic range is roughly equivalent to that of a humbucker loaded Strat, so it was easy to get a broad spectrum of sounds from even a very simple amp like the Victoria Ivy League. The Silo 30 doesn’t lose its clarity when you turn down, and the well-voiced Tone control was useful for attaining browner textures when rocking out on a high-gain setting though our Fryette Memphis 30 or Mesa/Boogie Transatlantic amps.

All in all, the Sterling folks have created an impressive performer with the Silo 30. With just a few minor setup tweaks this guitar would be a totally gig-worthy choice in the sub-$500 price range.

Several John Petrucci Signature models already exist in the Music Man line, and now Sterling adds a low-cost alternative for those who want to wield a guitar that has been optimized for the high velocity style of the Dream Theater guitarist. The JP50SBK radiates a performance vibe with its black finish and hardware, and it offers outstanding ergonomics thanks to its curved five-bolt neck joint and the carve on the body’s upper rear bout, which allows your forearm to lie in a perfect position for picking. The relatively flat (16" radius) fretboard on a medium profile satin-finished neck, polished frets, and good setup combine to provide excellent playability.

The Sterling Modern Trem bridge sports solid-steel saddles and is adjusted to “float,” allowing upward bends as the rear portion of the bridge tucks into a rout in the body— a feature that makes the bridge appear to be flush with the body when the trem is in a neutral position. As with the Silo 30, the arm can be tensioned by turning a small screw in the bridge bushing that the arm pushes into (hex wrench included). The twopoint trem’s action is glass smooth and the tuning remained stable during hard workouts. Trussrod adjustments are done exactly the same way as on the Silo 30.

The humbuckers have a punchy response with a crisp, yet non-biting, attack, and what seems to be a PAF level of heat. Through the high-gain channel on a VHT Memphis combo the JP50SBK provided a heavy, articulate distortion sound with practically limitless sustain. Plugged into a cranked-up 65 Amps Tupelo combo, the JP50SBK elicited a juicy overdrive sound that was rich in harmonics with a ballsy midrange and singing highs. And without the benefit of any split-coil options, the JP50SBK also kicks down a cool selection of clear, open sounding tones when pushing a cleaner amp setting.

Answering the needs of rock players who want an affordable humbucker guitar with a 24-fret neck and a floating trem, the JP50SBK is also a very versatile ax that could be used for almost any style of music—a quality that is consistent with Music Man designs in general. You might earn more bragging rights by opening your wallet for a U.S.-made Petrucci Signature model, but this Sterling-made equivalent is a great guitar in its own right that offers a lot of bang for the buck.


CONTACT Sterling by Music Man, (714) 532-6657;

PRICE $499 street
NECK Maple, bolt on
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25 1/2”-scale (white finish only; maple fretboard on black finish)
FRETS 22 medium jumbo
TUNERS Die-cast locking
BODY Basswood
BRIDGE Sterling Vintage Style Trem
PICKUPS Two single-coils, bridge humbucker
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 5-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Ernie Ball .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.7 lbs
KUDOS Good sounding. Quality construction.
CONCERNS Some setup issues.

PRICE $549 street
NUTWIDTH 1 11/16”
NECK Maple
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25 1/2” scale
FRETS 24 medium jumbo
TUNERS Die-cast locking
BODY Basswood with custom forearm contour
BRIDGE Sterling Modern Trem
PICKUPS Sterling Modern humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Ernie Ball .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.7 lbs
BUILT Indonesia
KUDOS Good sounding. Quality construction. Great playing feel.
CONCERNS Someone forgot to tighten the ring on the pickup

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