S520EX review by Ibanez

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  • Sound: 6
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.2 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.7 (309 votes)
Ibanez: S520EX

Purchased from: World Of Music, Pietersburg

Sound — 6
Sound wise it is quite versatile in tonal range. Adjusting the pup height will allow you to play with the sound a bit, but only a bit. Raise them too high and you'll be left with a tone that resembles that of a entry level Ibanez. For my style of music (Progressive/math) it's well suited, For the shred guitarist, its very handy. The dives, pinches and harmonics that can be produced will make you realize that this guitar stands out from the rest in its price range. I run it direct through a Peavey Valve King all tube 50watt and with the lead setting, I've gotten some of the cleanest and brightest of tones. So much that It was solemnly used to record my previous bands album with. There is no noise... Unless you sit very close to your amp while practicing (But that is normal) In distortion mode live on stage I've seldomnly received feed back or any buzzing. Overall a quite guitar when you need it to be. Variety in sound is limited, my experience with the guitar is that it can provide blues tones and a slight hint of jazz. But this guitar is really made to shred. It has a bright clean tone, but not as bright as I'd like it to be but that is only player preference. All in all for metal, this is a great step forward if you'd like to get a reasonably priced guitar that will out perform higher end models.

Overall Impression — 9
I play progressive/math metal and I dabble in soundscapes as well. It's a great guitar to experiment with. I use no effects, It's direct to amp them mic'd and then effects are added in recordings. I've been playing for roughly 13 years now and this guitar has sold me so much that I have no issue with having to get another guitar, although I would like to get my hands on a Ibanez RGA prestige 7 string. I currently own the Ibanez 520EX as well as a Ibanez BTB 4 string made roughly around the same time as the S. Both are solid and have gone through many, MANY gigs. If it were to be stolen or lost, no questions asked, I'd find another one and buy it straight away. I love:

  • The action and feel of the entire guitar
  • The sound and sustain it produces
  • The overall build quality for its price range
  • The ability to wow me even after all these years with regards to playability. I hate:
  • The dead notes I get at the 12/13 fret, but It is an easy fix
  • I've compared this guitar to a LTD 1000 and it may be sub par in the sound dept, but it's much more comfortable and fun to jam. Overall if you are looking for a good prices, reliable as hell guitar for your metal needs, get the Ibanez S520EX *make sure it's built in Korea haha.

    Reliability & Durability — 10
    Reliability wise... It's been my main and only guitar for live performances. I've replaced the standard strap buttons with Dunlop strap locks just in case I find myself twirling the guitar around my neck. (Haven't yet)But the standard ones were on for a good 3 to 4 years without issue. I've never broken a string on it, It's never gone out of tune, it's stayed in drop C in my case for over 3 months unplayed and it was not out at all. The ZR bridge is by far the most stable thing I've come across. Besides the trem arm route (I seldomly use the trem arm) the bridge is solid. All hardware has lasted for 8 years of my playing, touring and neglect (I no longer neglect my instruments due to financial crisis haha). Finish is rock solid with no flaws, although I have seen a few 520EX in green with some finishing flaws (Could be the fact that they were Indonesia built). Would I gig with it? HAHAHAHA I wouldn't leave for one without it.

    Action, Fit & Finish — 8
    Set up was and still is incredible. Like I've said, I have had this thing for 8 years now and I've only had to send it in for intonation once (Only due to changing of string gauge). The action has always been beautifully set and has made it possible to throw blistering solo's without busting your fingers. Play-ability is the main reason I've kept this guitar all this time. I have never experienced a more comfortable guitar yet. All routings are neat and professionally done. There is absolutely no flaws with the craftmanship of the body or neck. One problem I have had, and continue to have is poor fret filling around the 12/13 fret, it produces dead notes from the higher e string. But I'm sure a guitar tech can easily file it down to stop this. That is about the only flaw with my guitar. The bridge did oxidize around the 4th year of ownership. But I've solved that by regularly cleaning the entire guitar with Dr. Ducks Axe Wax. Since this, no oxidation has occurred whatsoever on any of the hardware. My pick up covers have seen better days paint wise, But that is mainly due to my playing style and the amount of sweat I produce thanks to the South African heat in summer.

    Features — 8
    I've had the S520EX for about 9 years now. My bro passed it on to me because he saw that I had a greater interest in the guitar than he did. My model was made in Korea around 2004 (I could be wrong). It is the Gun Metal Grey finish, which was a matt colour, but after about 2 years of jamming the entire paint job became glossy which still looks great. It has 22 jumbo frets, 3 piece wizard 3 neck and rosewood fret board. The body is Mahogany and is undoubtedly the most comfortable body on the market. The ZR (Zero Resistance) trem is a magic piece of hardware, I've gigged with this guitar extensively for over 8 years as my main and only guitar, The pups are a tad bit droned out (Passive INF1 & INF2), but like Ibanez said, It's built for metal, and that's what they were made for. It has a 3 way toggle switch that sends the tone from bright and twangy all the way to a muddy tone, which is always fun to mess around with. Since the Guitar was a gift, I got it with all the allen keys and a custom case I bought for my old Washburn Mercury Series.

  • 4 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Anyone has experience from present model, S520? Plan to buy it from Thomann but there's no reviews or tests anywhere in net. (thomann.de/fi/ibanez_s520_wk.htm)
      I do not agree with the high marks awarded for this Ibanez guitar. I am the owner of a S520WK Ibanez guitar and I can assure that this is terribly bad guitar. I would not recommend to anyone. The tone is monotonous and sounds hollow. On the G string, between the 9 th and 12 th fret, tone is suppressed and distorted because the neck resonates on a harmonic frequency. Also, all notes played on the E string, from the 18th fret onwards are suddenly suppressed for the same reason.
      This is a great guitar, Ive had them OEM and with EMG's also. The guitar is ok stock..the pickups are ok at best...they do cleans pretty well and crunch a little better. I didnt like the actives in it...at all! My last one has a SD Hotrod Set in it and folks, the mahogany loves the JB/59! Keep the original 5 way switch and wire them up the same and on #4, that parallels the neck pickup.....absolute heaven!