Price paid: $ 600
Purchased from: Andy Owings Music
Sound — 8
I play a widely-influenced brand of metal. Honestly, the only label I can apply comfortably to it is progressive, although that word gets thrown around so much it's really meaningless these days. This guitar covers every base I need competently, although it does some sounds better than others. I usually use my Vox-VT30 or my Hohner H1040 with this guitar, both of which are solid state amps. The sound is good from both and compares evenly with the sound that I've gotten from more expensive amps. Normally, I use a tight distortion for rhythm parts and a mid-and-reverb-heavy tone for leads. This guitar does both perfectly well. The clean tones that I use are a little sharp, so I do have to roll the tone back somewhat to really dig in. I think this guitar is a shrill for my taste to keep in E-standard. Everything from Eb to C Standard has sounded just fine on here. The mahogany body really sounds good with those lower tunings without losing note clarity.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing for two years. My style has changed a lot, from thrashy metalcore to wannabe progressive to death metal to neoclassical to all of that thrown together at once. All in all, this guitar makes every sound I want it to competently. If I lost it, I wouldn't buy another. I would find the jerk whodunnit and get it back from him (I'm not Bruce Wayne-rich or anything like that). I do hate changing strings, but that's the case with any guitar that has a non-fixed bridge. I compared this to similarly priced Ibanezes, ESPs, BC Riches, and a Fender Showmaster. Obviously, I chose the S420. It's comfortable, good for the money, and it does anything I try to make it do.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I dropped this guitar on its face once (completely by accident, I assure you). I put a small dent in the lower horn, but even where there was a small yet sharp indent, there was almost no chipping in the finish. The strap buttons have not given me any trouble yet. I would use it live, but not without a backup. I'm not that confident in any piece of gear. I have noticed that the control knobs are coming loose, although I've owned the guitar for nearly a year now, so I doubt that is symptomatic of poor handling at the factory. Otherwise, it plays like a dream and isn't overly difficult to adjust to new strings/tunings.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The action was perfect when I got this guitar. The store had ordered it for me and they took it out of the box for the first time when I came to claim it. The action was playable, although it was a little bit low. The pickups were set up competently and are neither too high nor too low. I will say this, however: because the neck is so narrow, it takes a little time to get used to the small distance between the strings. If you don't warm-up to it, your hand will become cramped uncomfortably very quickly.
Features — 9
My guitar was made in Indonesia in 2010. It has 24 jumbo frets, all of which are easily accessible even when attempting 6-8 finger tapping. The guitar is obviously a solid body, although as part of the S-series, it has little there to speak of. The finish is called "Weathered Black" on the Ibanez website. That turns out to be a non-glossy black finish with a natural-wood texture. The neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard. The body is a Mahogany Super-strat shape with two passive double-coil pickups: an Infinity 1 in the neck position and and Infinity 2 in the bridge. There are two controls: volume and tone. There is a five way pickup selector, giving the player several sound options to choose from. The bridge is a Zero Resistance (ZR) tremolo system, which Ibanez (accurately) claims will hold tuning very reliably. The locking tuners at the nut help in that regard. There is new feature on this model, the Zero Point system, which allows the player to change the tension on the bridge more easily, limiting the necessity of a hex wrench or a screwdriver. All in all, a good set of features. The controls are comfortably out of my way when I'm playing and strumming, but they're easily in reach for changing my volume, tone, or pickup on the fly.