Price paid: $ 850
Purchased from: Barry Clark's Music (eBay)
Sound — 8
I was skeptical about the pickups, but the bridge is pretty good. The IBZ/USA F2 is the best DiMarzio made Ibanez pickup you'll find. However, I thought it was a bit shallow, so I swapped the ceramic magnet with an Alnico 8 Magnet. I would not dream of changing it out! In my RG520 I've had both the DiMarzio Super Distortion and the Mo' Joe in the bridge, and neither can compare to the F2 with an A8 Magnet. I hated the C3 in the middle. I typically don't like that position anyway, but the C3 was just a poor choice to begin with. It was too quite compared to the humbuckers. Switching between them was annoying because of the volume drop. At first I put a ceramic MIM Strat pickup in there, and it worked well with the other pickups, but I eventually bought an HH chrome pickguard and ditched the middle pickup all together. The F4 in the neck is pretty good, but not as good as I'd like. I typically don't use the neck for much other than some leads and sweeps, so it's not terrible, but I may upgrade one of these days. The PAF Joe in my RG520 blows it away.
Overall Impression — 8
I play metal, usually thrash, but branching into progressive and metalcore. I love the way 80's glam-metal guitars look, but I don't care much for the music. I saw this one online and had to have it. I'm glad I did because it's likely to be the only guitar that I never sell. I would probably try to replace it if it were stolen, but I feel like I've bonded with this guitar, so I don't know if the replacement would ever feel the same. My favorite feature is definitely the looks. The maple fretboard with color matched inlays is stunning. The color itself is so awesome. I didn't care much for the clear pickguard or middle pickup, but putting a custom chrome HH pickguard on it fixed that problem. My next favorite feature would be the F2 in the bridge. I won't even contemplate changing it, it's perfect! Some people don't like it, but think it's easily as good as any DiMarzio I've tried since I've changed it to the Alnico 8 Magnet. I'd say it's like a Super Distortion with more clarity and dynamics. If there was one feature I could change, it would definitely be the square neck heel. I don't know what Ibanez was thinking with that! The AANJ is one of the best improvements they've made over the years. I understand that it's a reissue and they wanted to be true to the original, but they did use a 5-piece neck, which isn't what the original had. If I could rate the guitar as I have it right now, it would be a 10 in every category(except for features because I can't upgrade the neck heel to an AANJ). The stock guitar was definitely not up to my expectations. Fortunately though, it only needed some tweaking to get it there. And one last thought... I know some people hate the way it looks. It is pretty flashy, and people often tell me that it's "very blue". But those are generally not the people that this guitar was made for. Basically, if you don't like the way it looks there are plenty of more conventional guitars out there to choose from, this just isn't for you.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Everything seems pretty durable and like it will last. The output jack has begun to short when I put pressure on the cable, but that is after several years of good use. Flush mounted output jacks don't last, and it would be unrealistic of me to expect it to since they are notorious for wearing out and needing to be replaced. Anyone buying a guitar with a flush-mount output jack should expect that.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I've tweaked the action a bit to get it super low. That involved shimming the middle saddles with Floyd Rose shims from all parts. It just seems like the middle strings were buzzing more than anything when I lowered the action. Now it's perfect, super low with little buzz. Playing this guitar is a breeze. I've owned several other Ibanez Japan guitars, and this one beats them all in terms of how low I can get the action. The neck is pretty thin and it's not as stable as a thicker neck (which is to be expected). I've never had issues with it bowing from weather changes, but when I lean back on the couch and play, it goes a little sharp(however, it's not as bad as my RG520). I changed the pots out as well, they were too stiff. Some people like that, but I don't. I think the pots were a linear taper because when I changed them to a log/audio taper, they rolled off so much more smoothly. I also changed the switch to a 3-way when I removed the middle pickup.
Features — 8
I have a reissue, made in 2008 in the Fujigen factory(Japan). - 5-piece maple/wenge wizard neck - Maple fretboard with blue inlays - 24 frets - Basswood body - Clear pickguard - Laser blue finish - Dimarzio made IBZ/USA F2/C3/F4 pickups - Gotoh tuners - Lo-Pro tremolo (Gotoh-made) - Team J-Craft hard-case I love the specs on this guitar. The only things I don't care for are the square neck heel and the neck and middle pickups(I just don't like middle pickups to being with).