Price paid: $ 300
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 10
I play classic rock, blues & jazz on the piano, and classic rock on the Acoustic guitar. This is really my first foray into electric guitar, and I wanted something that will help me explore rock and blues, maybe a little jazz down the road a bit. I spent a lot of time researching and reading reviews before landing on the AS73B, and WOW did that pay off. I'm using it with a Vox VT15 that I purchased for its ability to provide me with a wide variety of sounds and styles. Coupled with the insane versatility of this axe, I'm a kid in a candy store. I CANNOT put this guitar down, and I'm a newbie at electric. It does SO many things SO well, I shudder to think how much fun lies ahead of me. I would still be just as elated if I'd paid twice or three times the price. But for $300 (on sale)?? Fuhgeddaboutit. It makes me want to have kids just so I can give them one for Christmas. :) Fine, you may say I'm being dramatic, and I am. But really... When I plug this in and put some headphones on and just... Play... I literally catch myself smiling. A lot. I'll leave it to more seasoned players to discuss its nuances, but for the reader who shares my trepidation at learning another (or a first) instrument, buy the Vox VT15 with one of these, and I guarantee you'll start making some nice sounds fast. And the potential to mimic the sound of most any guitarist you can think of is a great way to explore all sorts of styles.
Overall Impression — 10
I was looking for something with a ton of versatility, while leaning toward the rock/blues side of the rock/blues/jazz spectrum. I think the AS73 models generally hit that mark perfectly, and the AS73*B* model in particular, with its exposed coil humbuckers, give it that extra edge in the rock department that I was looking for. I didn't want a jazz box, per se. I wanted a blues box that could handle B.B. King, Metallica, and every point in between. That's a tall order for any guitar, and absurd to ask of a $350 guitar. And Ibanez has earned more than a few loyal fans by somehow pulling it off. And I wholeheartedly endorse and applaud their efforts here. Would I replace it if it were stolen. Hah. It won't get stolen. ;)
Reliability & Durability — 9
Too early to tell, as far as durability is concerned. I can say that the demo model I'm using seems to have held up like a champ for whatever its tour of duty has been. And I've generally read positive things, with a few lemons here and there, notably some bad output jacks. But as much as I'd like to have the same one for years to come, at this price, I don't have to worry about it like it's a Faberge Egg. But the build-quality strikes me that, handled with the respect any instrument deserves, it'll fare just fine. The strap buttons, I was pleased to learn, work well with the StrapLock straps (which didn't fit an Ibanez AF75 I tried).
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The AS73B I took home from Guitar Center is actually a display model. They didn't have any new ones in stock, so they let me bring home the display to play with while I wait for a new one to arrive. Great salesman -- kept me happy and made the sale. While he said the display model hadn't been 'set up' beyond what they did at the factory, the action on it is perfect for me -- nice and low, yet somehow without buzz. The frets are nice and low as well, and sliding is a joy, even for this unpracticed hand. Aside from one minor scuff that's really hard to see, in fact, the display model is exactly what I want. I almost wonder if it's worth risking getting a brand new one that might not be set up as well. But I know I'll wind up going back to get the new one -- I've read from many that these are typically set up very well straight out of the box. I'll likely bring it to a luthier regardless, just to adjust intonation and generally inspect it with an expert eye. This is going to be a very long relationship, I can tell. There's something about this guitar that tells me, even when I've moved up to fancier, pricier models, I'll always have a soft spot for the guitar that really lit a fire and got me started.
Features — 9
I'm ambivalent about the fact that these are Chinese-made guitars. On the one hand, it's 2010 and I would certainly like to support American craftsmen, to say nothing of my utter distaste for Chinese policies, both at home and abroad. On the other hand, the craftsmanship of the AS73B, along with its *extraordinary* value, is undeniable. I'm part of the problem, I know, but knowing is half the battle. I won't list the features of this guitar, as it's redundant information that can be found elsewhere. But I will say that the matte black finish is just fantastic. It's not everyone's cup of tea, perhaps, but hey, black is about as timeless, tasteful and sexy cool as it gets. It is the quintessential color of ROCK. And the flat finish, it just feels great. This is the guitar version of the Ducati Monster Dark, and that's a high compliment. You're not going to find a lot of inlaid pearl, or gold knobs on a $350 guitar, which is precisely why the matte black works so well here. It's understated and elegant, and doesn't skimp where it counts.