What can I say about John Petrucci that hasn’t been said a million times before? His technical prowess knows no bounds. As the main brain behind prog-metal pioneers Dream Theater, he has trod a path that few axe-men dare (or bother depending on who you ask) to tread and his reputation as proprietor of one of the finest beards in music history definitely precedes him. One fact that many overlook is his discerning taste and eye for detail when designing a guitar for shredders who want to follow in his footsteps. His long-standing relationship with Ernie Ball and Music Man has given rise to no less than ten, if not dozens of variations on the JP theme, each with its own nuance to offer where speed and agility are the chief concern. Interestingly enough, the JP160 I see before me plays and feels like the least ‘out of this world’ of any of the JP branded builds I’ve laid my mitts on. This is by no means a negative.
The JP160 spec sheet seems to counter the above preposition. It boasts all the lightening rod trimmings a sweep-picker could want. Its road kill flat, ‘C’ profile neck is as roomy as they come without sacrificing on the leanness that helps you tear up your callouses. Its CITES certified rosewood fretboard is inlayed with the great man’s instantly recognisable shield logo. The solid mahogany body is scalloped at the butt to allow your forearm ultimate access to all 24 frets and it is the first model to feature a super low profile push/pull Floyd Rose tremolo system. On top of all that there is the fact that the noiseless pickup system is active, offering up an extra 12dB of juice to really get the input stage on your amp cooking. It is fast, light and lean, and looks stylish in its ultra modern smoky silver sparkle finish.
Put it in your hands, though, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a more classic rock-focused build. When I closed my eyes it reminded me of some of the more luxurious PRS guitars that I have played in my time. Maybe it’s just me but compared to some of the other Petrucci models I have reviewed previously in these hallowed pages, the JP160 seemed a little less tense and frenetic. It’s as though of all of Dream Theater’s oeuvre, this particular model is aimed at ballads like ‘Wither’ et al, with their elongated and elegiac overtones, than any of the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet stuff that Guinness World Records are made of. This is the after dark, emotional shredder that comes out when no one else is around to impress which, in my humble opinion, makes it much more of an all-rounder.
The problem I find with most metal and speed inspired guitar designs is that many of them are, to a point, one trick ponies. They afford you a certain amount of accuracy and high-octane handling but in doing so lose a sense of expressiveness. It’s nice to find a model that offers the best of both worlds: a lean, mean shredding machine that is in touch with its sensitive side.
Hits and Misses
Comfortable, smooth neck profile with an expressive sensibility
Active pickups make it difficult to lean back on the output