Price paid: £ 395
Purchased from: Merchant City Music
Sound — 10
The thin body of the S series guitar may fool some into thinking it can't possible hold it's own compaired to the wide fat bodys of say a Les Paul. I must assure you however this is far from the truth! The S series bodys are designed to be thickest around the pickups which leads to huge tone that even I would not have thought possible from such a small guitar. I use this guitar for metal as it was designed for (the ex standing for extreme) I run mine through a Boss MT-2 metal zone primarily into a Marshall AVT150x. With the stock pickups the overall sound was nice however fairly loose. The pickups were slightly noisey however a wide range of tones was accessable. With the volume and tone rolled back slightly and the neck pickup selected a fairly reasonable blues sound was accesable all be it slightly too loose and inprecise. With the tone maxed along with the volume through the bridge pickup good metal tones can be accesed from Black Label Societys slightly heavier than rock through to At the Gates extreme death metal tones. With stock pickups a 7 out of 10 would seem fitting. This guitar however did not truly sing until I installed a set of EMGs. An 81 in the bridge and an 85 in the neck. With this set nothing less than a 10 is fitting. For me the metal tones through the MT-2 and the 81 in the bridge were nothing less than the exact sound any metal fan is after. This did not make it any less diverse however. The warmth of the mahogony body made blues, classic rock and even dare I say glassy clean accesable with the right eq settings. With EMG's a perfect ten, with stock pickups a 9 cause there good value for money.
Overall Impression — 10
I did not set out to give this guitar a ten but I really can't think of a valid reason why it deserves anything less than a perfect score! It plays nicer than any other guitar I've ever played including '60s Les Pauls and Original Strats and even this guitars bigger more expensive brothers which dare I say, would not cope with metal as well. I play all styles of music but this is my main guitar for my main genre. Metal. From old thrash through to modern tech metal. Anthrax to At the Gates to Madman is Absolue this guitar can handle it all. Couple it with EMGs and it's the pinacle of metal. That isn't to say it can handle the clean passages in my favourite maiden songs or my favourite old rocks songs, quite the opposite it does a brilliant job at these. This guitar will never be stolen because if anyone tries then I'll have to kill them in a horribly painfull way. However I do plan on buyin more copies of these (maybe in diff colour, maybe black this time) for different tunings live. The only minor annoyances I have with this guitar is maybe that the pickup selecter sticks out so much not that it really bothers me but other people have mentioned it, usually out of jealousy that there guitars aren't as good looking. I played other more expensive guitars but this is the one I kept coming back to so I bought it and I've never looked back once! Take my advice invest 560 and buy this guitar plus a set of EMGs!
Reliability & Durability — 10
This guitar would withstand Live playin even if I would not. I'm very carefull with it but it's solid as a rock! The strap buttons are not loose in the slightest and everything remains tight and in good working order. If I was ever crazy enough to gig without a backup this would be the guitar to do it with! As I said before the finish is solid even with thrash metal downpicking scraping away at it and the odd minor knock.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
An Ibanez quality set up from the box! That is to say it was set up very well for E Standard, action nice and low trem system in balance. It was out of tune but that's to be expected if you order from online. D'Darrio strings that most people will like. This however was not for me and after a brief fiddle about in E Standard I removed the d'darrios and installed EMGs, put on a set of 10-60 GHS and dropped it down to C#. Adjusted the truss rod, balanced the trem. Lowered the action to were I like it and then retuned it. From then on the behemoth of a metal machine was born! Out of the box you wouldn't have to do anything to it if you wanted to play in E Standard other than tune it which is nice and simple. The trem is easy to set up, even for people Who have never used a trem system before as very little technical know how is required such is the genious of the design of the ZR. The finish is smooth and consistent the whole way around it, even now almost a year on there is no places it has worn away. Everything that's metal remains rust free however some of the black paint on the bolt that holds the trem on has came off due to sweat, that's not a problem cause even if it does beggin to rust it can be replaced easily enough. Out the box perfect setup for E Standard.
Features — 10
Made in 2006 in Korea the S520EX has 22 jumbo frets on a Rosewood fingerboard mounted on a bolt on an ultra smooth Wizzard II maple neck. This neck is nothing other than a speed demon. The Super-Strat style body is made of a ultra thin and light pice of mahogony to be light with no loss of tone. My model came in the (MGF) metalic gray flat finish which has an odd cross between matt and metallic to produce a reflective grey colour that has an almost matte feel and look to it. The bridge has one of the finest tremelo system ever designed and created in it, the ZR Zero Resistance tremelo system which provides smooth tremelo action along with precise and quick return to pitch. The guitar comes with Ibanez' own INF1 + INF2 pickups which are designed to be passive EMG clones. One volume control and one tone control keeps things simple along with the 3-way selector switch which gives you acces to the entire range of tones possible by these pickups The stock pickups however are not the strong points of this guitar. The tuners are basic Ibanez own ones however they are good enough to get you in tune for the trem systems fine tuners which are extremely precise and smooth to balance out any inconsistancys after the locking nuts are bolted down. It came with a cable, which although it looks flimsy I have been very unforgiving with it for tuning and traveling and the liek however there's not even the slightest hint of fizz or crackle in it yet, very impressive.