Price paid: £ 250
Purchased from: GAK (instore)
Sound — 10
This guitar does one kind of sound well - metal and all it's variants; consider that the one pup that this guitar has installed was designed by Dino Cazares and Seymour Duncan to replace the Livewire active pickups made by SD, and to outdo EMG in the active pickup market. I think that they managed it very well; the Blackout is the direct competitor to the EMG 81 and it kicks it's ass in terms of tonal quality and charcter imo. The Blackout (like most SD pups) sounds more organic, has more mids, doesn't have that silly, vacant "scooped" sound - which only sounds good if you are playing alone. Dino himself acknowledged this and changed all his EMG 707 pups to SD 7-string blackouts. I'm uselss at describing the sound of a pickup, but if you want to hear what the Blackout in the bridge postion sounds like, listen to any of the recent Alexi Laiho, Mick Thomson, or Dino Cazares (for the 7-string version), videos on Youtube. On a side note - this pickup is sooooooooooooo quiet - absolutely no noise when you're not playing which lends itself perfectly to tight low-end riffing. in terms of variety, this guitar can only make the sound of this pickup fully cranked (bcoz it lacks a tone knob), so forget nice neck-style cleans or any sort of twang or subtlety. Basically it's so good at what it does, that even though it can only do one thing.
Overall Impression — 10
This is a perfect match for any sort of metal; I've been playing for 5 years and I also own an american made deluxe fat Strat; I love this guitar because it just exudes metal! gives a much more powerful sound than my Strat, and of course the killer feature is the absolutely banging SD Blackout! I compared this thing to various alder body Jackson superstrats with EMGs in them, I played them on the same day as this, and well, they sounded sterile and lifeless. I don't wish this guitar had any other features, bcoz the simplicity of this guitar makes you focus on your playing (nothing to piss around with).
Reliability & Durability — 8
I plan to use this live, and as long as I check the 9v battery powering the pup, it should be fine, even without a backup; change the strap buttons, just so that you have piece of mind (choose Dunlop or Schaller or something), I might install schaller locking tuners - bcoz my Fender american hss has them and they keep that in tune perfectly. The ibnez non-locking ones are ok, but just not as good as locking Schallers imo.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
It came with thin ass D'Addario 9-42s, which I switched to Ernie Ball beefy slinkies, and tuned the thing down to drop c, but even so the guitar was well set up from the store with minimal fret-buzz. Finish was flawless - does get grimy easily tho. A note about the neck -if you are used to playing any neck thicker than that on a Fender strat/tele then this will not suit you; it's soooooooooo thin it's untrue. I personally love the Wizard II for this reason bcoz it facilitates FAST playing, with predominantly, single note riffs, but not very useful for playing extended chord progressions (what I use my Strat for); I would reccomend Schecter superstrats to those used to playing Gibsons and the like, but wanting something more metal.
Features — 8
2008 model, Indonesain made, 24 fret wizard II neck (bolt on), black basswood body, reverse headstock, white binding on body, neck and headstock, Ibanez own string thru body bridge, 1 Seymour Duncan Blackout (active) bridge pickup, 1 volume, 1 toggle killswitch, non-locking Ibanez tuners, all hardware black barring the killswitch (chrome)