|Period||1990 — 1994, 1996 — present|
|Neck joint||Bolt-on neck|
|Fretboard||Rosewood, rarely maple|
|Bridge||Ibanez Lo-Pro Edge 7|
|Pickup(s)||H-S-H: DiMarzio Blaze II|
|White, black, multicolor swirl, green|
The Ibanez Universe is the world's first modern, commercial seven-string electric guitar, developed by Steve Vai and manufactured by Ibanez. The Universe is a seven-string version of the Ibanez JEM series, Vai's signature model. It slightly differs from the JEM due to the absence of a "monkey grip" cut-out handle on the body.
The first Universes, the UV7 and UV77 appeared on the market in 1990, though Vai had played prototypes in live performances before that. The UV7 was available in white (UV7PWH) or black with green appointments (UV7BK). The UV77 was available in a swirled multicolor finish (UV77MC) and is now considered a collector's item. The production UV77MCs were swirled first in Japan. Steve Vai had agreed to only allow the guitars to be produced if they were swirled at the same place his prototypes were: About Time Designs. After a brief period, the UV77MC Japanese Swirls were aborted in favor of the ATD-Swirled ones. The ATD swirled models were done at the ATD factory by Darren Johansen on Long Island N.Y.
In 1991, Ibanez also introduced the UV777. The most expensive Universe at the time, it was available in green with a black (white pearloid on some models) pickguard and green/yellow appointments (UV777GR). It also featured a maple fingerboard as opposed to rosewood.
The UV7PWH and UV77MC were produced from 1990–1993, the UV777 from 1991–1993 and the UV7BK from 1990-1994. No Universes were produced in 1995 due to low demand. But the UV7BK returned in 1996 largely due to usage from bands in a variety of musical genres: Korn, an alternative metal quintet from California, Dream Theater, a Progressive Rock 5-piece from New York, Fear Factory, an industrial metal band from California, as well as Meshuggah, a progressive metal band from Sweden and death metal legends Morbid Angel. In 1997 Ibanez introduced the 'all black' -version of Universe-series named as UV7SBK. Which - instead of the green details used in UV7BK - had silver dots on the rosewood fret board and silver Ibanez logo in the headstock. The pickups, knobs and pickup toggle were black as well. The UV7SBK was in production only in 1997 and the manufacturing quantities are unknown.
In 1998, the UV7BK was replaced with the only Universe still available today, the UV777BK. It has been through some minor changes since its inception, but currently features a 5 piece maple/wenge neck with bound rosewood fingerboard, bound head, 24 large frets, a basswood body, DiMarzio Blaze pickups, "disappearing pyramid" fingerboard inlays, a "Light without Heat" pyramid logo below the bridge and black finish with white binding and mirror pickguard. The UV777BK also is the first Universe to feature Ibanez's AANJ (All Access Neck Joint), a rounded heel that replaces the old Strat-style plate attachment to the body. The AANJ makes playing more comfortable and increases the sustain of the upper frets, since they are located over the neck itself, instead of an extension.
In 2010, Ibanez reissued the UV77MC as the limited-edition UV77REMC to celebrate the Universe's 20th anniversary. Only 100 examples will be made with only 60 of these guitars available in the United States.
Many of Ibanez's competitors soon began to add 7-strings to their lineups, and in 1997 Ibanez removed the green knobs, dots, and pickups from the UV7BK in an effort to make it more stylish, thus the UV7SBK was being introduced. Around this time, Ibanez also added 7-string guitars to the RG series, its standard line of hard rock guitars.
- 1990 - UV7PWH, UV7BK, UV77MC
- 1991 - UV777GR
- 1997 - UV7SBK
- 1998 - UV777PBK
- 2010 - UV77MC Reissue
- 2011 - UV77NW to be continued...