Price paid: $ 299
Sound — 9
The sound is similar to a Les Paul since it is a similar guitar. The pickups sound surprisingly decent and are slightly on the on the crunchy side, but seem to handle clean sounds well too. No noise or humming. So far, I've only played hard rock and blues on this guitar, which it handles very well. I see no reason why it wouldn't be well suited for other styles of music. The guitar could definitely benefit from an Ibanez Gibraltar locking bridge that was used on the Vintage models.
Overall Impression — 9
First off, I want to say that I also own a MIJ 1983 Artist AM-50, a 1998 Gibson Les Paul Classic and a 1998 Epiphone SG doubleneck and that's what my comparisons are based on. I bought this guitar because I didn't want to gig a Vintage Artist and I'm probably going to sell the LP before long. The fit, finish and playability are damn close, if not on the same level of the Vintage Ibanez and LP and blow the Epiphone out of the water. As I said, I was concerned that the Korean Artist wouldn't deliver. With the exception of the tuners, it does. With $100-$150 in hardware upgrades, this guitar will compete with Vintage Artists and Les Pauls easily. Not too shabby for a guitar that'll end up costing me under $500 after the hardware upgrades.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The guitar is a tank. I don't see having any issues down the road with reliability. The strap buttons seem to be anchored well. Like I said above, the finish is spotless. I don't see any issues with it down the road. As for hardware, I plan on upgrading to Gotoh tuners and a Gotoh 510 locking bridge, so hardware reliability shouldn't be an issue.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The bridge was set a little high and the pickups were a little low when I received the guitar. Other than that, no adjustments were needed. The control cavity was fully shielded, both in the cavity and on the cover. The neck is identical to my Vintage Artist and very similar to Gibsons slim taper neck. The finish is beautiful and flawless. The gold top sparkles in the light and is very glossy. Build quality is top notch and extremely solid. The binding is flawless and has a nice aged took to it. I was a little worried about how the build quality of the made in Korea Artists would be, but this guitar is a good example just how good the Korea QC has gotten. My only complaint is that the tuners are mediocre at best and occasionally a string will slip slightly out of tune. Again, this guitar would have benefited from Ibanez using aset of their Smooth Tuners. The tuners are the only reason I didn't score a 10 in this category.
Features — 9
2005 Artist AR200 Goldtop. Made in Korea, 22 large frets, rosewood fretboard, solid mahogany body with body, neck and headstock binding, slim maple neck, double cutaway LP style body, set neck, chrome Tune-O-Matic style bridge, Ibanez quick change stop bar style tailpiece, dual Ibanez AH humbuckers, 3-way toggle, two volume and two tone pots, no name tuners.