Price paid: $ 300
Purchased from: Musiciansfriend
Sound — 8
I play mainly hard rock and metal, and this guitar is definitely suited for that. The stock pickups sounded great (Ibanez recently switched from "designed by EMG" to their tried and true V7 / V8 combo), but I replaced them fairly quickly with DiMarzio DActivators. I bought this guitar as a cheapie to hack on and mess with, after all. I'm currently running it through the following: Boss TU-2, Morley Tremonti Wah, Morley Volume Plus, Voodoo labs Micro Vibe, Keeley DS-1, Keeley TS-9, Boss AC-3, Boss GE-7 (set flat for volume reduction to simulate "clean" channel on single-channel amp). That runs into a VHT Deliverance 60, Palmer PDI-03, Rocktron Xpression, Carvin DCM150, and VHT stereo 4X12 in that order. The guitar is dead quiet. I did a proper grounding job anyway and it's still dead quiet. The old pickups were rich and full, but I just wanted something even richer and fuller with a great metal "bite". The basswood + HardTail isn't as bright as you would think, but it sustains for days. Style-wise, I wouldn't recommend it for blues, jazz, or country (although it *can* do those in the proper hands). It's definitely a hard rock / metal guitar, and it oozes that vibe. NOTE: I actually get a fantastic clean / jazzy sound with my DActivators, using both pickup in parallel (middle position). Sounds almost like a fat Telecaster. Not the best Ibanez I own (that honor goes to my SAS32EX with DActivator X's) but it gives it a run for the money. I bought it mainly as a cheap backup / alternate for my SA. This guitar is living up to being it's own thing though. I love it.
Overall Impression — 9
I play metal and hard rock, and this guitar is perfect. I had tremolo equipped Ibanez guitars before, but I got burned out on the double-locking thing. That's why I switched to Standard trems (like on the SA series) and hardtails. I've been playing nearly 11-12 years now. There are no regrets about buying this guitar. The one thing I would change is having it come stock with DActivators and locking Gotoh hardware, but then it wouldn't be 300 bucks!
Reliability & Durability — 10
I would (and will) definitely take this guitar on the road. It's just too awesome not to. The stock hardware was decent, but the Gotoh stuff is killer. I always immediately replace my strap buttons with the DiMarzio Cliplock thingies, so I don't know. They seemed OK though. I know I could depend on it, and short of breaking a string it would survive a nuke. The finish is hard as a rock. I've dropped it once or twice while working on it and there's not even a scratch.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
It came with a fairly low action, but I set it even lower. Everything else was well adjusted, and the finish was mirror flawless. There were no misaligned pegs or frets, and the binding makes the neck oh so smooth. The stock tuners don't hold tuning as well as I'd like, so I dropped in some gold Gotoh lockers. It's solid as a rock now. I'm also looking at getting it Buzz Feitened, because like all guitars it has that finicky B/G string thing. Other than that though, it is perfection itself.
Features — 8
Action, fit, finish: 2008 / Indonesia, 24 jumbo frets, wizard neck, solid basswood body with glossy black finish and white binding on the body, neck, and headstock. Fixed Strat-style HardTail bridge. I upgraded to Gotoh locking tuners / bridge in Gold, and a Black Abalone custom pickguard. Electronics: passive pickups (upgraded to DiMarzio Dactivators), volume + tone + 5-way Switch (upgraded to 3-way). Hum-Hum configuration. Accessories: Cable.