Review: Music Man JP15 John Petrucci

The latest in an ever-expanding series of John Petrucci signature guitars, the JP15 is the first to feature a “roasted” maple top, neck, and fretboard—the last detail being significant as Petrucci has always shredded on rosewood or ebony fretboards.
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The latest in an ever-expanding series of John Petrucci signature guitars, the JP15 is the first to feature a “roasted” maple top, neck, and fretboard—the last detail being significant as Petrucci has always shredded on rosewood or ebony fretboards. Music Man tells us that John was pleasantly surprised by the snappier sound of the maple-on-maple combination, and this circles back to the roasting process, which removes moisture, hardens the wood, and also gives a brown-ish hue to the grain pattern that looks very cool under a finish of gunstock oil and hand-rubbed wax. The Sahara Burst maple top is beautifully quilted, and you can also order this guitar with a flame top, as well as with a 7-string neck (sorry, no lefties). Cosmetics are furthered by shield-shaped pearl fretboard markers that include a larger, black-outlined “15” inlay at the first fret.

The neck attaches with a 5-bolt joint, and the heel is sculpted to make it easy to zip up to the highest of the 24 mirror polished stainless-steel frets. The satin-finished medium-thick neck feels very smooth and inviting along its course, and playability is enhanced by a great factory setup that keeps the strings nice and low with no fret buzzes. The wide-ish string spacing over a flat 17” radius fretboard will be familiar turf if you’re used to guitars from other well-known makers of shred-metal axes, although Music Man has, of course, optimized the formula to suit Petrucci’s specific requirements.

Made of chrome-plated hardened steel, and outfitted with stainless-steel saddles, the Custom John Petrucci Music Man Piezo floating bridge has a precise, silky smooth action. It’s a very solid system, and working in tandem with the locking Schaller M6 tuners in a 4 +2 arrangement that keeps the string path arrow straight over the slippery melamine nut, it’s possible to wrench on the push-in arm quite aggressively without going out of tune.

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In the electronics department, the JP15 is outfitted with an onboard Music Man preamp that can deliver up to 20dB of boost when you press on the Volume knob. There are two 3-way toggle switches: The one on the upper bout selects between magnetic pickups, mag + piezo, and piezo only, while the lower toggle selects the DiMarzio Illuminators individually or combined. You can split the coils of the humbuckers (inside coils active) via a push-push function on the Tone control. Lastly, the knob closest to the output jack is Piezo Volume. On the back of the guitar and accessible though holes in the aluminum cover plate, are screwdriver-adjustable trimpots for Mag Boost, Mag/Piezo Mix, Piezo Treble, and Piezo Bass. Power is supplied by a 9-volt battery that’s easy to change courtesy of its swing-out holder. One small complaint: The location of the mono and stereo jacks so close to the strap button makes it necessary to use a cord with a right-angle plug—particularly if you like to lean your guitar against the amp when taking a break.

The JP15 has a resonant and sustaining acoustic sound that is translated well by the Illuminator humbuckers. Designed for Petrucci and originally fitted to the JP13 model, these pickups have a quick attack and upfront presence, and through a high-gain amp such as the Mesa/Boogie Mark Five: 25 we used for testing, the JP15 sounded badass—delivering chunky lows and a buttery bite on the bridge setting and becoming smoother and rounder but without losing clarity in the neck position. The singing tone with both pickups on is cool too, as the pickups complement each other to create a balance that works well for rhythm playing when the Volume knob is rolled down. Wick the volume up and the combined Illuminators yield rich sustain that goes easily into the creamy zone with some roll-off of the Tone knob. The split-coil tones proved crisp and chiming, and they sound very cool for funk or anything else where a skinnier single-coil texture is needed. And with boost available at the touch of a knob, you never have to suffer any loss of level when splitting coils. Very cool!

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The other sounds available from this guitar range from acoustic-like in the full piezo setting to the wide-ranging mag-plus-piezo mode, where you can adjust the blend of the pickup systems to obtain much airier sounds than the mag pickups alone can muster. And, with the humbuckers in split mode, these “hybrid” tones can be spectacular—even more so when using the stereo output jack to feed the mag and piezo signals to separate amplification systems for a wider soundstage and greater control over the mag/piezo mix. All said, the JP15 is an impressive instrument that’s superbly made and designed to do exactly what the musician who inspired it wants it to do. Petrucci fans will love it, but the JP15 is specialized enough that it’s worth spending some time with it at your local store to get a feel for how it will work for you.

MODEL
JP15

CONTACT music-man.com
PRICE $2,800 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT Width 1 11/16"
NECK Select roasted maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Select roasted maple, 25 1/2" scale, 17" radius
FRETS 24 medium-jumbo stainless-steel
TUNERS Schaller M6 locking with pearl buttons
BODY African mahogany with roasted maple top
BRIDGE Custom John Petrucci Music Man Piezo floating tremolo
PICKUPS DiMarzio Illuminators; piezo bridge pickup
CONTROLS Volume with push-push boost for magnetic pickups, Tone with push-push switch for custom 2-pickup configuration, Piezo Volume, 3-way selector for magnetic pickups, 3-way piezo/magnetic selector
FACTORY STRINGS Ernie Ball RPS Slinky, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.54 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Impeccable build quality. Huge range of sounds. Switchable boost for mag pickups. Active piezo bridge pickup. Mono and stereo outs.
CONCERNS Position of output jacks necessitates use of right-angle plugs.

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