Price paid: $ 399
Purchased from: GearTree (from Reverb.com)
Features — 8
My AF71F is a 2014 model with glossy black finish. It has 21 frets, mahogany neck, maple body, rosewood fretboard. It is a beautiful guitar, with a super classy tuxedo-like vibe with its shiny black finish and white binding all over the body, neck and headstock. It look like a Gibson L-5 at first glance, and looks like a much more expensive guitar than it really is (these go for $399 US new). It is a full hollow body guitar, and you can tell immediately if you play it through anything more than a 5 watt amp - it produces booming, howling feedback on even lower volume settings. It's got the old school jazz box configuration of one just one pickup in neck position, and one volume and one tone control attached to the pickguard, and that's all you really need for this guitar. Tuners are generic Ibanez tuners with metal kidney buttons, but they hold the guitar in tune well. It has a floating tune-o-matic bridge, which is just awful, as I'll explain below.
Sound — 8
Before you even think about purchasing an AF71F, you have to come to grips with one key thing about this guitar: this is an EXTREMELY old school jazz box. What I mean is that this guitar will give you the tone you want, but you will have to WORK FOR IT. Put another way, if you're the kind of player that relies on pedals or digital processors to get the tone you want, then this is NOT the guitar for you. Don't expect to plug it in an instantly get a smooth Ibanez-y George Benson/Norman Brown tone. It will not knock you over with beautiful tone right away. You will need to spend time with the AF71F, not so much fiddling with the its tone control (which works superbly, by the way) or the amp settings, but more learning how to play this particular guitar to get the tone you want. It is a very temperamental guitar - your picking style, the amount of force you use in plucking the strings, the type of pick you use, etc. Will make the difference between sounding like Barney Kessel or shattering the windows in your house with crushing feedback and bridge buzzing. Playing an AF71F is like playing a Telecaster - it'll do whatever you want it to do, but you need to treat it with respect, accepting its old school simplicity and learning how to play around its inherent limitations.
You can get a whole bunch of different tones out of the AF71F, thanks to the great volume and tone controls on the guitar, which work as well as those on any $1500+ priced guitar. The tone is sensitive and responsive, to the point where turning it to the 3 o'clock position will give you a significantly different tone than if you set it to the 4 o'clock position, for example. The volume works equally well, and if you roll it down just a tad, you clean up the tone significantly, without having the volume plummet to nothing. So the electronics are excellent in this box.
Tone is pretty old school '40s/'50s style for the most part, sounding almost like an electrified classical guitar with nylon strings. That's the sound I like, though I know it isn't for everyone. The type of pick you use will have a HUGE effect on tone. Use a thick, hard pick, and you'll get a warm, midrange, fuzzy tone. Use a thinner, medium gauge pick, and you get a sharp, crisp acoustic tone, reminiscent of some of the old guitarists from the 1930's. Oh, and I have to tell you that if you don't use a pick at all, the AF71F sounds INCREDIBLE if you use fingerpicking. The tone is beautiful, crisp, light and totally natural sounding. Wes Montgomery probably would have liked the AF71F.
Now for the bad stuff. First off, the tune-o-matic bridge is HORRIBLE! It is a rattling, buzzing menace, and it will practically drive you to murder, it's that bad. Unless you know how to tweak these bridges to eliminate the buzzing, I say plan on throwing it in the trash immediately, so you can buy a solid, one piece bridge like a Compton.
The other negative is that, like most hollow body guitars, this box creates a lot of feedback. Granted, I use a Fender Hot Rod DeVille (60W), which is bigger than you need for most jazz gigs, but putting the volume over 3 creates awful, crackling, explosive feedback. I also have a 5 watt Bugera V5, and the feedback is much less severe, so it may be that my Fender is just too powerful for this guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I don't expect guitars to be set up well out of the box, as long as it ultimately CAN be set up. My AF71F was set up poorly out of the box, and I had t spend a few hours setting it up. I found this to be a very difficult guitar to set up. I must have spent two hours going back and forth between adjusting the floating bridge, adjusting the action and adjusting the truss rod just to get the strings at a reasonable height from the frets without a ton of buzzing. Ultimately I got it pretty much set up as I like it, but it was frustrating. I know guitars with floating bridges are tough to set up, but I've owned many Gretsch hollow bodies with floating bridges that were a lot easier to set up than this.
Despite this, however, THIS GUITAR FEELS GREAT TO PLAY. I totally love the feel of the neck, which is fairly slim but still extremely comfortable and intuitive in my large hands. I never feel like I'm fighting with the guitar. I also like the depth of the body - some hollow body jazz guitars are so deep, they feel like I have a hat box sitting under my arm. The size of the AF71F's body feels just right, and fits like a glove. Although this guitar takes some time to get used to, I can't stop playing it. It feels that good.
Reliability & Durability — 7
I'm not a pro musician, so I can't say much about how durable it is in a gig. The pickguard is nice and solid, the tailpiece looks solid and durable, and I see no blemishes anywhere on the finish or the binding. I can't say I've done a Pete Townshend on this guitar, but I've had it bang around on tables and shelves here and there a few times, and there isn't a scratch or dent on it. I've yet to have anything on it go wrong, and Ibanez's reputation for durability is pretty good. Everything on this guitar looks and feels professional and solid, except for that god-awful bridge. The bridge is so bad, I have to give this category a less than stellar rating (I give the bridge a 1 rating, where everything else gets a 9 or 10).
Overall Impression — 9
Despite my criticisms and the numerical scores I gave above, I TOTALLY LOVE THIS GUITAR! The most important feature I look for in a guitar is whether it feels right and has MOJO. The AF71F is teeming with mojo, a bad-a-s old school jazz box for guitarists that don't need to rely on digital processors and pedals to sound good. It's a guitarist's guitar, and I love it for that. It's beautiful and it feels great, making me always want to pick it up and play it. And with some time and persistence, it will be good to you and create the tone you want.