Price paid: $ 480
Purchased from: Daddy's Junky Music
Sound — 8
This is honestly one of the most versatile guitars I think I've ever played for the money, it handles everything. In my personal life I play and record melodic metal akin to BDM, Dimmu, as well as Viking and Folk-style metal. I'm also in a 90's rock/pop/alt cover band where we play everything from RHCP to Alanis Morrisette to Rage Against the Machine to Gin Blossoms to Metallica etc. I bought this axe new in 2002 and kept it completely stock and, though the pickups aren't the highest output, I've really never had any complaints about the tonal range I can get out of it. Each note in a single note run comes through clearly, chords sound full, tapping and pinching is a cinch. The sustain on single notes with no effects or simple distortion is probably a 7/10 IMO, but that's more to do with the pickups just not being that high-output. If you're running any sort of compression or delay etc the sustain will last for days. I want to make a note that if you're playing by yourself or recording into a mixer or you stay static with your volume then the volume won't be a problem at all. It only interferes when trying to solo, for instance, over the rest of the band, but even so a simple inline db boost pedal negates that issue entirely. I tend to only use the 5-way switch in the main 3 (neck, middle or bridge) positions as the intermittent positions don't quite have the volume to make it worth it. The tone from the main 3 positions more than suits my needs. As a side note I'm currently playing out of a Line 6 Spider III HD150, a Mesa dual recifier and a Marshall AVT 4X12 circa 1992. Planning on picking up a Line 6 Valve MKII head, a Peavey 6505+ head and building a custom 4X12 and 2X12 soon.
Overall Impression — 10
I think I've said it already. This is an awesome axe that can and will last for years. To be completely honest there was a long period of time when I didn't even take care of it properly; leaving it in damp basements, in the trunk of my car in the New England winter, etc., and there's never been a single problem. I play almost daily, practice with my band every week and play one or two shows a month. If this were stolen I would probably go out of my way to try and find this exact same model year to buy it again.
Reliability & Durability — 10
+ Will this guitar withstand live playing? - I've played this guitar at probably a hundred shows over the past 9 years that I've owned it, and don't plan on stopping any time soon. It will withstand the living shit out of live playing. + Does the hardware seem like it will last? - The only possible gripe I could give with the hardware is that the licensed FR is a bit noisy compared to the real deal, but that's not Ibanez's fault. In terms of quality, again I've had this for 9 years and kept it stock and have had no hardware failures at all. + Are the strap buttons solid? - Never changed out the buttons to StrapLocks because the horns come to too sharp of a point, but I've never had a single problem. I tend to flail around on stage like a moron and have never once worried about dropping it. + Can you depend on it? Would you use it on a gig without a backup? - Have gigged plenty of times with no backup and have no qualms about continuing to do so. I have a secondary guitar I use for Drop D tuned songs (FR's don't care for -tuning ;) ), but if we're not playing drop D stuff I don't even bring it with me to shows and I use just the Ibanez. + Is the finish good enough to last, or does it seem thin and easy to wear off with lots of playing? - I'm not one to slam on the guitar really, but I play hard enough and there's not a single visible scratch on the paint unless you go out of your way to look for it, and even then they're hairline at best. I do play using .47mm nylon picks which would probably have trouble scratching a stick of butter, but I play with a belt on all the time and the back of the guitar looks as good as the front.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The initial setup was OK, though I did end up having to fix some buzz on the high e string. After that though no problems. Action was set nice and low to make the thin neck even better suited to fast playing. Bridge and neck setup was solid, perfect intonation. No flaws or issues to speak of at all.
Features — 9
- 2002 neck-thru model - 24 XJ frets - Rosewood fretboard - 5-pc maple/walnut Wizard II neck - Mahogany body - Solid red sparkle finish on the body, neck and headstock - Licensed Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo - Passive INF-4 humbuckers in bridge and neck positions - Master volume, master tone, 5 way selector - Non-locking tuners - Ibanez standard hardshell case