Price paid: C$ 550
Purchased from: Local music shop
Features: This is the base model of eight-string guitar offered by Ibanez. This Indonesian-built RG8 is a pretty no-frills instrument, adorned with very basic features and built inexpensively, but it by no means feels cheap. It features a maple/walnut Wizard-II neck, a very standard Ibanez feature, and a 24-fret rosewood fretboard. The scale length is 27", and I find that it does make a big difference for keeping the low end tight. I've had no issues tuning this guitar down to drop-E. According to Ibanez's website, the body is mahogany, but I've heard from others that it's basswood. Either way, the tone is pretty decent and though I've never really noticed on any other guitars, it still feels like a pretty solid, hefty piece of wood. Mine came in a gloss black finish with a matching headstock, but a white version with a black headstock is also available. I've only lived with this guitar a little over a month but I haven't had any issues with the finish yet. The bridge is a very simple fixed bridge, absolutely nothing special about it. The pickups are passive stock Ibanez humbuckers, IBZ-8 models according to Ibanez's website. They appear to be routed to accomodate active pickups like EMG 808s or Seymour Duncan Blackouts. Control-wise, it's a very simple volume, tone, and three-way selector switch setup.
As far as features go, this is a very simple guitar. This means there are some drawbacks for people who are looking for a lot of tonal variety or cool features like a whammy bar or coil-tapping, but at the same time, the no-frills setup of this instrument makes maintenance a breeze and really lessens the worries about much going wrong with it. In a lot of ways, this guitar is a very good first eight-string. Even though it's built inexpensively, there's not too much that feels genuinely cheap about the guitar. The 500k pots feel smooth and solid and have no issues with noise from being gunked up yet, the stock Ibanez tuners on my guitar have held up extremely well, there's a neat truss rod cover, all the electronic cavity covers have foil shielding, and there are even nice little touches like the very classy looking mother-of-pearl logo inlay on the headstock. // 8
Sound: You would expect the stock Ibanez pickups to be pretty horrible, and when you stack them up against the likes of Lace or Bare Knuckle pickups, they kind of are. But for passive stock Ibanez pickups, they're actually not too bad. I run my guitar through an old 65-watt Peavey Express 112 solid-state amp, and for effects I'm either running just a Tube Screamer copy and an EHX Small Stone phaser, or a DigiTech RP200A multi-effect/amp modelling processor. On clean settings, the bridge pickup is very snappy and bright, while the neck pickup has a very warm characteristic to it. On distorted settings, kicking in the overdrive pedal really brings out some of the brightness of the bridge pickup, but it adds a very nice treble boost that even makes the neck pickup suitable for rhythm tones. The pickups can be rather muddy on the low end if you're not careful in setting up a good EQ, but rolling back a bit of the mids and bass really makes the low B and F# strings sing out. The pickups are not very noisy at all, and they're routed to accommodate active pickups, so if you wanted to swap them out for a set of EMG 808s or even something better like Lace or DiMarzio pickups, it's an easy swap. The tone is pretty good for progressive and death metal, like what I play, though I imagine that with some tweaking of your amp settings, you could probably passably play many styles of music on this instrument. // 8
Action, Fit & Finish: The action on the guitar when I purchased it must have been set up by the owners of the store I bought it from, since it was pretty much perfectly setup. I did have to raise the action on the low F# string a bit to get rid of a little string buzz, but that was a very, very simple fix. I'd say everything on this guitar ws set up perfectly. The intonation? Perfect. The pickup height? Perfect. The truss rod? The neck on this thing is straighter than Ted Nugent. I know a lot of people throw the word "perfect" around a lot when describing guitars, and that it's especially annoying when it pertains to cheaper guitars like this one, but I could not fault anything with the setup when I bought it. Nothing was loose, nor threatening to become loose, the finish was flawless, everything was fit together perfectly, none of the controls felt like they were going to fall apart, and the only fix I had to make to anything was almost as much a personal preference thing as it was anything else. // 9
Reliability & Durability: I only purchased this guitar about a month ago, and it hasn't left the house much, so I haven't got a clue how it's going to truly hold up to a gig. But given how solid the hardware on this guitar feels, I'd say it will probably hold up pretty well to a few gigs, maybe even a small tour. Ibanez seems to be pretty good at building solid guitars, and even their cheaper instruments seem rather well-made. The finish is about the only thing I worry about. Even though I'm pretty sure it's not too thin and I haven't had any issues with it like belt buckle rash or dings or scratches yet, I've been pretty much babying this guitar so far, so I can't really comment on how well the finish is going to endure until I actually take it out to see some road action. // 8
Overall Impression: As a prog-metal and tech-death player looking to get into the world of eight-string guitar, I have to say that this Ibanez was a very successful introduction to that world for me. While I can acknowledge where its flaws are (somewhat muddy stock pickups, very basic features, the potential that I got a good copy of a guitar that may have some hit-or-miss quality control instead of consistency), for a budget-minded guitarist looking to buy their first eight-string, I can't recommend this guitar enough. When I was purchasing this instrument, I had a chance to try a couple of other eight-strings, including an LTD and a Schecter, and they just didn't stack up compared to this. They either sounded worse, didn't quite feel right in my hands, and the LTD only had a 25.5" scale which actually did cause a little trouble tuning down to drop-E. The Ibanez is a great bang for the buck. If I could add one feature to make this guitar even that much better, besides swapping out the pickups, it'd probably be a cool top and a different finish, though there's now a model with a poplar burl top in a transparent blue finish that looks absolutely smashing! I also had the chance to try the Iron Label RG8, and it had really classy-looking binding and a killswitch that, while I wouldn't use it very much in my own playing, is still a really cool feature that I wouldn't mind including on my RG8.
Overall, this guitar is a very impressive instrument for someone on a budget who is looking to get into playing eight-string guitar. I know there are going to be some people reading this review thinking "ugh, he just totally called a budget instrument "perfect" and he rated it way too high! It shouldn't have been rated any higher than a 6!!!", and maybe you're right. But given that this is a budget guitar, and it feels like a solid, reliable, well-built guitar with tone from the stock pickups that is not as awful as some would have you believe, it definitely feels like this is a very good guitar to get players started on playing eight-string guitar. Trust me, you could do much worse than buy an RG8. I definitely recommend this guitar, and I'd buy another if I could. // 8