S420 review by Ibanez

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.4 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.6 (113 votes)
Ibanez: S420

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.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Great, great guitar. I'd go with a slightly higher model, but for the price it gets the job done.
    1nSingularity wrote: i'm now put off buying this as the pickups seem rather poor quality. Someone compare the muddiness to an Epiphone SG so I can get the picture
    I have the S420 and used to own a SG. I hated the SG and love the S420. The sound is great if you like to play all styles. It's very diverse. Also, for those about the jack issue...it is too thin to have it on the side.
    evan-simpson22 wrote: I actually like these jacks cause this way when you sit down and play it, if the guitar is leaning on the chair it isnt bending the crap out of your string, and i happen to have played this guitar, there was no inlays, i didnt like that..
    There is an inlay at the 12th and there are dots on the top part of the neck as well. I thought I would get lost but it turns out it's fairly easy because I was only looking at the top and going by feel. It is hard if you've only been playing maybe 2 years or less but past that is not that big of a deal. And it makes you seem like you know your way around the neck by feel to the audience. lol
    You can pick up this guitar in a blackberry sunburst finish (which I've seen online and it looks remarkably stunning) although I don't know how much the glossy finish affects the tone of the wood? Iv'e been looking at this guitar for some time now as a second guitar. I've only been playing for 5 months now and must admit I was initially spoilt as my partner started teaching me on his Ibanez prestige. My first guitar which I currently play is an Ibanez RG350EX and as much as I love to play her I'm desperately after another guitar with a floating bridge so I can stick a stop in my RG and drop tune for those 'I really wanna learn that but I can't be bothered to set up my guitar again every time I change the tuning' moments. I first came across the S420 when in a local guitar shop searching for my first axe and after playing a few different guitars fell fairly emotionally in love with the s420. Being ont he hunt for a first guitar I figured it was excited enthatuation and when I found the RG for a fraction of its retail price I was over the moon to be able to play something that I can call my own even if I had to compramise on desire vs price. Sicne beginning the quest for the seccond guitar I came back to the s420 wondering if the love affair could continue several months down the line. Yes it most certainly can. I tried a few simple sweeps I'd learned (Am, G, F, G arpeggios over 5 strings), some scales I was working on and the handfull of licks and solos I'd become aquainted with and suddenly, on this innocent lookign machine, my playing felt smoother and more relaxed, my accuracy improved and even my mood lifted! As I have such small hands the neck dimentions made my RG feel like an entire tree in comparison. I walked away from it still wondering if I'm just dreaming and played another in a different shop - set up differently (insanely high action and missing locking nuts...not impressive) and yet the guitar still delivered, laboured perhaps. After repeating this process in two other shops and then finding one set up inccredibly I knew it was the one for me. I've played a PRS Tremonti Signature, another RG, a Yamaha (can't remember the model) and even an S570 and came back to the s420 each time. I loved the feel, the tone, the weight and if you have small hands like me I thoroughly reccomend!