Price paid: $ 475.8
Purchased from: Evilbay
Sound — 6
My musical style ranges from progressive metal (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment), to plain ol' thrash metal (early Metallica), to 80's shred metal (Racer X), to just plain wierd shredding nonsense (Steve Vai), and this axe plays all of those with no problem at all. I'm not too fond of the stock pickups at all however, especially when you consider Ibanez are sticking DiMarzio's on their latest Prestige reincarnation of the RG550, but that aside, they do the job fine. However, swapping them out for some DiMarzio's will really bring out the tone from this guitar. Played unplugged, it sounds rather pleasant and dark. That's the basswood tone coming out. The sustain isn't brilliant, I blame that on the trem, in my experience floating bridges eliminate the sustain significantly. With a DiMarzio ToneZone/AirNorton set, it deserves 9/10 but to be fair I'll rate it based on the stock pickups.
Overall Impression — 9
As I've said in the "sound" paragraph, I mainly play prog metal, thrash metal, '80s shred metal and "wierd" shred, and as I also mentioned, it's perfect for that. I've been playing for countless years (I really don't know, but for quite a long time I'll put it that way), and own many similar guitars (ESP M-II, custom-shop Jackson SL and a couple of other Ibanez) and this is my favorite to play. It plays just as well as any expensive Ibanez I've played (with the exception of J-Customs, American Customs and other rarer models), and it's far cheaper too. I just love the neck, it's a bit uncomfortable at first if you are used to thicker profile necks, but once you've adjusted you'll never wanna go back. If it were stolen, I wouldn't be too financially bothered, but this guitar is still very precious to me, so I'd probably hunt down the thief, kick the living crap out of HIM, take the guitar back from HIM, steal his wallet and buy another 550 to go with this one. Only thing I'd change about it is the stock pickups, but that doesn't matter really, as it's not much trouble to swap them over to a set of DiMarzio's.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is a very reliable piece of gear and should withstand live playing and abuse no problem. Aside from the obvious Ibanez weaknesses (neck joint cracks and neck cracks near the nut, the latter usually caused by careless setup), the whole thing is pretty durable. I can't comment on the original strap buttons, as I replaced them with the DiMarzio ClipLock system, but I've got the original ones and they look reliable enough, but I'd still only trust a straplock system these days. I wouldn't gig it without a backup, as it has a floating trem, and with the huge pullup range it has, it'd be all too easy to snap a string if you weren't careful, and believe me you wouldn't have time to replace a string mid-song on a floating trem, but aside from that it's definately suitable to gig with. The finish is pretty durable too, I've dropped screwdrivers, allen wrenches, and all sorts of tools on it before during setup (I'm pretty clumsy with tools) and there aren't any paint chips on it all aside from the ones around the jack socket, which is inevitable with any guitar that has a jack-socket at the bottom like that, so that doesn't really count.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I can't comment on the factory setup since, as I've already mentioned, I bought it second hand, but the setup it had when I recieved it was pretty good. There was almost no fretbuzz, yet the action was comfortably low. The pickups were just right, too. There were a few flaws, specificly a bit of oxidization on the bridge (though not in the saddles, fortunately), a little fret oxidization (though for the most part the frets were perfect), a slightly loose nut (which was causing a few tuning problems, though still loose, I've improved it significantly with a bit of handy work), and a couple of paint chips near the jack socket, but all of which were mentioned in the auction listing by the seller when I bought it, so that didn't bother me in the slightest. At the moment it plays like a dream, the action is superlow with no fretbuzz, and decent tuning stability (I say decent because the wound strings go out slightly when I dive, but go back in tune when I pull up very slightly, which is related to the nut problem I mentioned). Aside from the minor flaws I mentioned, which I was aware of when buying the guitar, it plays near perfect and looks great.
Features — 8
It is a 2001 model, made in the Japan (or more specificly, the Fujigen factory). It has a 3-piece maple Wizard neck, with a maple fretboard that consists of 24 jumbo frets on a 25.5" scale which is connected to the body via an AANJ (All-Access Neck Joint). The body itself is made from Basswood and has a Sangria (a kinda dark-red, glossy metallic finish), and of course, being an RG, it is your usual superstrat shape. It is equipped with an original Ibanez Edge trem, which, despite being a pain in the butt to setup, is incredibly stable when setup right and will stay in tune no matter how much you abuse it, especially in combination with it's Ibanez Top-Lok III nut. It's loaded with Ibanez V8, V7 and S1 pickups in an H/S/H setup, nothing special, but for stock pickups they get the job done. And of course you have your usual RG controls, 1 tone pot, 1 volume pot and a 5-way pickup selector. The tuners are non-locking (no need for that with a locking nut anyway), and are made by Gotoh. Since I bought mine second-hand, it didn't come with the original Ibanez goodies, but I got a nice Ibanez hardcase with it. Overall I'd give it 8/10 for features. It may just be a superstrat, but it's an incredibly high-quality superstrat with an excellent bridge and an amazing neck.