Price paid: C$ 800
Purchased from: MusicPro
Sound — 9
I play across the middle range of the stylistic spectrum: Heavier modern rock (short of metal) through softer semi-acoustic styles and fingerpicking. Most of the playing I do is in church related events. I run direct into the PA system through Line 6 PODFarm software for amp and effect modeling. It has built in gating, but even with it off, I've never noticed much in the way of noise. The neck pickup is capable of a lot of warmth and doesn't tend to mud the way I've found Strat style single coil does. The Bridge pickup has a lot of bite and really cuts through a mix. I've found that anything less then a 5 on the tone loses so much high end as to be unusable for me, though, and I keep it between 8 and 10. It sounds fantastic through almost any emulated amp combo I put it through. While it excels in heavier/harder styles, there's nothing that it's incapable of doing.
Overall Impression — 10
I'm far from a fantastic guitar player, but I've been playing at a moderate level for about 15 years. I've always played instruments at the mid-high level price range, and this hangs with any of them. I couldn't be happier with this guitar for the price I paid for it, and without price as a consideration, I would still have chosen this over anything else in the (very well stocked) store, short of a beautiful Les Paul Studio sitting in at around $2,200. I wish it had come with a case, but I can't complain too much given the bang for the buck already in this guitar. In the other sections I rated on a scale of useless to ideal. My "Overall" rating is based on what you get for what you pay, and this isn't anything short of a 10 in that regard!
Reliability & Durability — 10
Everything seems solid and well made. At this price point I wouldn't expect anything less.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
As I've found on most Ibanez guitars, the factory setup was sorely lacking. The strings that come with it are too light for what it is, the intonation was barely close, and the low E buzzes like crazy. The buzz doesn't really change the plugged-in sound, but I judge the base quality of an electric on how it sounds acoustically, so that's a negative for me. The action and pickup adjustment was fine from the factory, but could be improved with some tweaking. Everything is fit and finished wonderfully and the craftsmanship was excellent with no noticeable flaws. The body finish is worth a special mention, as it's gorgeous. It ranges from a deep crimson/wine with subtle quilting in low light to a bright, deep red in bright light. It's incredibly eye catching and will get a lot of attention anywhere you play.
Features — 9
I got picked an ARZ800 up new a couple of months ago and have run it through the stylistic ringer since then. It's not a Les Paul ripoff as some say, because Ibanez got sued a couple decades back by Gibson for producing too close a copy. This is actually a PRS ripoff, as they are attacking ESP's market share with this guitar. It's a 25" (PRS) scale mahogany set neck with a 12" radius rosewood fretboard and medium-jumbo frets. There are no inlaid markers on the fretboard, but the side binding has Dot inlay to help with playing position. It's probably one of the most playable necks I've had the pleasure to enjoy, and it keeps getting more comfortable as I continue to use it. The body is also mahogany with a thinly laminated quilt maple top. I chose to go with the translucent red finish, as of the two in the store, the quilting on the red was better figured than the black, although both were beautiful. It's a single cutaway carved top guitar, which is where people get "Les Paul ripoff," but the size feels closer to a Nighthawk and it's noticeably lighter. The Bridge is a nicely adjustable tune-o-matic style "Tight-Tune"(hardtail, unlike what an idiot posted) and is very comfortable for palming. The pickups are active humbucking EMGs (60/81 combo), which do have a tendency to be growly, but with the tone knob in the 8-10 range are very articulate, and not nearly as HOT as people seem to be afraid of. They're operated with a simple 3 way switch, master volume, and master tone. There is no coil tap to let them act as single coils (hence only 3 Switch positions). The guitar does not come with any accessories included. I hated that it didn't come with a hard case, but it's pointless to trust even a moderately expensive guitar to a gig bag, and a hard case would have definitely driven up the price. The tuning machines are the one weak point of the guitar. They're very touchy and (while quite usable) don't hold their tuning as well as the Grover heads on my other guitars. A higher gear ratio would have been nice.