RGA121 review by Ibanez

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Sound: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.8 Good
  • Users' score: 7.5 (78 votes)
Ibanez: RGA121

Price paid: $ 700

Purchased from: Musicians Friend

Sound — 7
This guitar has been reviewed as a metal beast, a fact which I can't disagree with. Has a very heavy tone because of the mahogany body but the stock pickups made it very muddy, almost inarticulate with faster picked notes. Also at times it was bright, and really high on the treble side with the stock pickups, but rolling back the gain and the highs to 12 o'clock helped out. It will sustain for days, and with high gain, it transitions to a nice harmonic sounding feedback. I won't rate the guitar based on the mods that I have done to it because not everyone has the same taste that I do. From the factory, the neck pickup was the better of the two. I Could get some decent tones for soloing if the amp and effect set up was correct. I have played it on many amps, ranging from a Peavey Valve King 212, a Peavey 5150 Combo, a Krank Krankenstien head with 1960a Marshall Cab, Line 6 Spider III half stack (not my favorite), a 70's Fender bassman, Fender hotrod blues jr. 40, and a Vintage 5 watt Fender Champ (which was my favorite of them all after I put the Duncan Jazz pickup in the neck with the different caps in the tone control). So I can honestly say that this guitar WILL sound good on just about any amp you play it through. I've never played it through a Marshall MG LOL but I'm sure the guitar would sound good through that as well. It's not too noisy because it has some sort of shielding in the control cavities, but if not properly grounded if you replace the pickups it will buzz. I mainly play it through my Valveking 212, and was using a EH linear power booster, Arion compressor, and a Boss NS-2 with a PodXT Live through the effects loop and it screams metal but can be coaxed to play other genres. But this guitar is mainly for playing heavy metal, punk, or rock. You could play blues with it, but will never sound like a Strat or Telecaster which is why I bought one of those. I would rate it higher for sound, but since not everyone has a Vintage Fender Champ lying around I have to be realistic. Not the worst sounding guitar by any means, but with some carefully chosen pickups and modifying the switching configuration and tone controls this guitar will surprise you. I can't describe my music style, because I just jam with friends and play open mic nights, but I've used it for leads over acoustic guitars, dry through a PA, played metal with friends and even let a friend that is a Jazz performance major use it with his group and it has gotten much praise mostly by people saying that they did not expect an Ibanez to sound so good.

Overall Impression — 8
I play mainly classic rock, metal, a little blues and some classical stuff and practice Jazz scales and stuff like that. I would say that it is a perfect match for rock, and heavy metal. For everything else, it definitely lets you know, "hey, I'm an Ibanez, and I'm here to shred!" But with different pickups, and modding the tone circuits you can open it up to make it more diverse, but will always have that heavy crunch and low end that it was designed to be used for. I've been playing for 14 years and I have owned other Ibanez guitars and this model is by far my favorite. It's no frills, everything you need and nothing you don't (except better pickups). I actually bought this guitar sight unseen because of how much it was. I saw it on MF and was like, yes, I'll have that one. But as I stated, it just can't do Strat tones, close, but not close enough. If it were lost or stolen, I would be very upset because I can't find one in the color I have anywhere, and because of the type of finish, another one would not have the same character as mine. That's what I love the most about that guitar. Ibanez offered a great template to expand on and a great entry guitar into the prestige line. I don't have a favorite feature on this guitar because I love it. If I had to, it would be the archtop. There's something about the way the light reflects off it on stage that just makes it look so cool. The one thing that I wish it had one of the edge zero trem or something similar to it. But now Ibanez makes an RGA with one, but a flamed maple top but is 3 times more expensive. I have it an 8 for overall impression because it is a quality guitar. It scratches easy, and doesn't have the greatest stock pickups, but if you replace them it's a whole different animal. This is a guitar you can keep forever and you'll know its yours because it takes on all the battle scars and gives it character. It makes it unique.

Reliability & Durability — 8
This guitar is my workhorse, and was my workhorse until I got my Strat for a backup/2nd guitar for variety. I'm ashamed to say that this guitar has taken a beating over the years, because it was so beautiful when I bought it new. But it being an Ibanez, it's built to last. The hardware coating actually turned from cosmo black to chrome in some spots, but has not rusted even from being sweat on hour after hour. It give it some character in my opinion. I replaced the original strap buttons, but the ones that come on the prestige Ibanez have more surface area and and it makes the straps harder to get on, but I think they are better than others that I have seen. Could I gig with it without a backup. Of course. I did for a few years. I'm not a touring artist, but it's never failed me. The finish... That is the one part where I would have to knock it down. If you look at this guitar the wrong way you'll scratch it. No clear coat means it is it dents easier too. I've also noticed that it is very sensitive to climate and humidity changes, more so than other guitars I've owned. But the finish WILL wear off over time, unless it's a case queen. I bought it to play it. People spend thousands on getting "road worn" guitars. Why pay when you can do it yourself right? These guitars are beautiful though.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
When I received it from MF, it was set up perfect from the factory. The action was low enough to be fast and smooth, but not too low that it buzzed. I couldn't find any flaws with it other than the cheap Import pickup switch popped on occasion, but that wasn't a big deal when I cleaned it out. The pickups were adjusted well, not too close to the strings, or too low, but adjusting them really didn't effect the sound too much I noticed. Typical Japanese craftsmanship applies to this guitar as it was hard to find any flaw with it as far as misalignment, and or poor build quality. The frets were filied perfectly. I would compare the quality of mine to the hand rounded edges Ibanez claims on the Premium models. The nuts on the tuners do come loose over time, and they need to be tightened but I've never had a guitar that this didn't happen. It was a well built guitar there is no doubt about that.

Features — 7
This guitar is made by Team J Craft in Japan. Made in 2005 or 2006 I can't remember off the top of my head and the case candy is packed away, but it is one of the earliest models they produced. Many have probably read a review on this guitar but some were in accurate. It has the Wizard prestige neck, which is the 5 piece maple with a smooth rosewood fingerboard. The mother of pearl inlay that they used for the Ibanez logo really makes this guitar pop, and is a nice touch. This particular guitar I am reviewing has a mahogany body, and a maple top that has been stained twice it seems like the color was supposed to be black, but it seems to be more of a chocolate color. The finish is nice, the grains of the wood are apparent which under lights stands out nicely. With the curves of the archtop, make it a beautiful guitar for someone looking for an RG but with something special. The Gibraltar bridge is nice for sustain, but seems a bit clunky when playing, but over time one could adapt and won't notice it at all. The guitar came with standard rg controls, volume, tone, and a 5 way selector switch with phase switching in the neck and coil splitting for the inner coils of the two humbuckers. Locking Gotoh tuners came on this model as well as the standard team J-Craft case, as well as a manual and a wrench to adjust the truss rod.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Grassyknolls wrote: plus the cosmo hardware finish wears off fast, my bridge is now chrome, and is my volume knob, but i didn't buy this guitar to look at it.
    Same here. My bridge finish wore off within a week. But it's all chrome now, so looks fine. Ha. Most comfortable guitar I've ever played.
    TheFUBAR wrote: I'm Gassin fo 1 of these sooo BAD!!!!!
    GAS is over I now have two!
    anyone have a black one? i've seen the natural, violin colored one, and the sparkle red/purple color, and the rga321 that's the blue one. i'm wondering if i got a special one because i know the matt blanchard one is really close to the same color as mine... but have yet to find one the same color as mine.
    as for the finish wearing off, doesn't bother me either. i LOVE that mine looks so different. in 10 more years, the thing will be road worn. it will just look more menacing lol.
    I think it's just good that not every high end Ibanez has a Floyd Rose. Not everybody wants/needs a tremolo.