Price paid: € 700
Purchased from: Trimmis Greece
Sound — 10
This is the strongest point. It sounds fantastic both on cleans and on gain. Pups are absolutely noiseless, in regard to the noiseless-est passives I can think of. I am using the guitar via a Boss ME-25 multi-effect pedal. (sounds fantastic). In the middle switch position, and tone tuned in 5, it has a very good classic jazz sound. Also very bluesy as well. I can play ethno/jazz or even classic blues (the kind of ZZ Top "Blue Jeans Blues", or Peter Green "Slabo Day") and it sounds great. Of course with the pups lifted up closer to the strings, I can do the job it is marketed at doing: drop-tune nu-metal, post-hardcore riffs, slipknot, disturbed, SOAD kind of sound. Solo-wise, the EMG 81 clearly excels. Same for EMG60 in the neck. Keep in mind, tho, that these are not the loudest pups around. Both my DiMarzio Seymour Duncan and the Bill Lawrence l500 are louder than the EMG's. Actually there are a lot of passives out there hotter than the said EMGs, but the EMGs just sound... Better! And because they are Ultra quiet, one can play with the gain as much as he/she wants. Also the sustain is very good.
Overall Impression — 9
I play nearly everything, from Balkan jazz, ethno, blues, rock, heavy metal, nu-metal, post-hardcore, thrash, you name it! I have been playing since 1981. Before getting this product, I wish I was warned about the tailpiece problem. If it was stolen, I would buy this again (after thorough inspection). Now as it is, I love everything about it. I hated the previous one with the problematic tailpiece. My favorite feature is the sound/wood and the pups. Also it is very light weight, which makes it nearly un-noticeable that you have it on your shoulders! I could compare it with Epi LP's and Gibson LP Studio's, and I think it can easily outperform both.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The guitar seems pretty solid. The only weak point might be the fretboard binding, although I didn't have to be there in the first place. Also the Chinese rosewood in the fretboard came more than dry. But I will not deal with this, after the buzzing nightmares I went through. (I think maybe lemon oil would make frets loose, etc...) Coming from a Fender Strat camp, this guitar might not outstand as the benchmark for reliability, but it feels more robust than most Epi's or even Gibson studios I have played.
Action, Fit & Finish — 5
The setup was as described by the book. 1.5mm action at 12fret high-E, 2.0mm action at 12th fret low-E, about 0.25mm of relief. Pups were very low, tho, taking into account that those EMGs need to be as close to the strings as possible. I adjusted the action (finally, read further for the whole story) at about 1.2mm and 1.8mm at 12th fret, high and low E respectively. There was a major flaw tho. The tailpiece was just installed wrong. Actually the problem is that the hole for the bass-side bushing of the tailpiece was so loose that the bushing slipped in and out without *any* resistance. A major problem. The guitar because of this was buzzing at the start BADLY, especially in the low-E. Down tuning was just impossible. I tried 0.011s, 0.12s (with standard tuning) and the thigh would not just stop buzzing. So, I decided to return this and get a new replacement guitar. The new one was just fine. Everything correct. But the agony for me was about 1 month. Also the sales people were far from easy at doing the exchange, no matter that it was their product's fault. I didn't like their service, had to threaten them legally, etc... Ibanez must improve both its quality and the services. Letting defective units out of the factory is just... Bad.
Features — 9
It is China made, 24th frets, Mahogany/maple top body, mahogany/maple net, rosewood fretboard. 25' scale, deep red finish, tight-tune Ibanez bridge and tailpiece (read further about it). It has active EMG pups (81/60 combo), 1 volume, 1 tone, 3-way switch.