Price paid: $ 450
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 6
I play many styles of music, from blues, to jazz, to rock and metal, and this guitar can deliver on all of them with some success. The pickup characteristics are slightly compressed with a moderate output, and slight growl in the mid-range. The clarity is below average, and on the B string there is a lack of clarity and boominess that makes a pickup upgrade worth considering. The neck pickup is also boomy and with a greater lack of clarity, though can still be conducive to lead playing in mid to upper registers. I was satisfied with the ability to dig in with both pickups to get some soulful bluesy rock leads. The first thing to know about how this guitar sounds is how it sounds unplugged. It's about as resonant as if you made this guitar out of a cinder block, by which I mean it isn't resonant at all. The upper register is particularly disappointing and anemic sounding. After owning this guitar for a year and a half, I upgraded the pickups to a Duncan Distortion in the bridge and Bare Knuckle VHII in the neck. With the higher quality pickups the sound of the wood tends to Shine through, and the total lack of fullness in the high end is noticeable on both. There is a chance that I lost the lottery and just got a particularly bad sounding piece of wood, but in comparison by PRS Santana SE guitar is between 2 and 3 times louder unplugged.
Overall Impression — 7
To quickly summarize the most important points, the neck and cutaway on this feel amazing, the stock pickups deliver an okay sound that could be more defined in the lower end, but the guitar is so unresonant - especially in the upper register - that I don't think the guitar will ever sound like a top shelf instrument. The setup and quality control on mine was horrible out of the box, so if you're interested in buying this instrument I might encourage you to go into guitar center and actually play it first, however I've played these at guitar center and none of them had the issues with the nut or binding that mine has. What sets this guitar apart from so many other 7 stringed instruments is the classy shape and look of the instrument, and that alone might be worth it to some guitarists.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The guitar feels like a tank; other than having to occasionally tighten the strap buttons like I have to on every guitar, I have nothing to complain about. The potentiometers feel solid, the stock tuners do a fine job and don't feel cheap, the finish seems like it'll last a long time. I have normal wear and tear scratches on the back from playing, but I don't think that you'll have to worry about this guitar breaking mid-way through the set list of a big show in front of a thousand of your biggest fans.
Action, Fit & Finish — 4
The setup on this guitar was really poor all the way around when I got it, quality control shouldn't have let it get out the door. The nut wasn't well carved so the strings were a few millimeters higher than they should have been. The strings wedged in the nut also caused tuning problems because while tuning, it would take more turns of the tuner to overcome the friction of the string being wedge in the nut, so after several turns where the string's pitch wasn't rising at all, suddenly it would be sharp. Sometimes it wouldn't overcome the friction until a minute after tuning while playing a song with my band. The binding job was has some cosmetic flaws. The neck wasn't quite straight, and there's some catch on some of the frets, meaning the aren't entirely level. It was very frustrating to play and I really need to get the frets leveled out, but with medium frets I worry a fret dressing would leave almost nothing left. On the other hand, every time I go into guitar center and see one of these guitars I pick it up and inspect it, so far all the others I've seen and played don't have these problems, so this could be an isolated incident.
Features — 8
What drew me to this guitar in the first place was it wasn't another silly-looking super-metal guitar, it has a very classy and tasteful Les Paul shape. Mahogany body and mahogany set neck, rosewood fretboard with 24 medium frets (I prefer jumbo but you can't win them all), tune-o-matic bridge, and solid tuners. This guitar has two medium output hex-pole ceramic pickups stock, and they are four conductor wires with the north and south coils soldered together, so if you wanted you could put a push/pull potentiometer (metric, not US sized) in to switch from full humbucking series to cut-coil or parallel wiring. The neck is thin but has a very nice shape that allows easy access to all frets, and the cut out doesn't get in the way of playing in the upper registers at all. Though the control cavity cover on the back is large, Ibanez didn't remove as much wood as it would leave you to believe, so in theory the guitar should be more resonant. If it had separate tone knobs for the two pickups and jumbo frets I would have given the features ten out of ten.