Price paid: £ 250
Purchased from: Bought 2nd hand, 1 month old and totally unused
Sound — 8
I play a range from almost entirely clean Ballady songs, to proper thrash metal. I play it through a Peavey XXX (with JJ6L6GCs) and a Bugera 333 Combo (which I've put JJE34Ls into). This guitar is EXTREMELY versatile, the stock neck pickup is very warm and full, sounds excellent through the XXX's clean channel, and is perfect for getting a really warm round clean sound. I find the neck pickup too fat to put any distortion on it however. The middle pickup has an almost acoustic tone, it's got a lovely high end, giving a very nice glassy sound, also only really any use for Clean sounds though. I have never found much of a use for the 4 position in my guitar (if we call 5 neck and 3 middle) as I never much liked that position in my old Strat, but for those who like a nice warm, slightly quacky Strat sound this will be perfect. The stock bridge pickup is Okay. That's all. It is nice clean, not much to say about it. But if you start putting it through any heavy distortion you can expect it to get fairly muddy. It's not unlistenably muddy, but it's noticeable. It's got a fairly high output (more than the BareKnuckle Painkiller I replaced it with, which is just shy of 16KΩ) but that's about it's only real good point. If you buy this guitar with the intention of playing Rock or Blues (with not much gain) then it's fine, It'll do the job, but if you want a lot of gain then this isn't the pickup for you. I'm talking about it a lot because I think it does have it's merits (clean sound is very nice) but certainly for any lead sounds it's just a bit mushy and not very tight. I would not advise it for anything chuggy either. With the BareKnuckle Painkiller in it this guitar ABSOLUTELY screams. It has as near as any soloist will need to infinite sustain (I exaggerate a little) and with such a fast neck, solos really do sound incredibly through it. To anyone looking to buy this guitar and change pickups, assuming you're sticking with Passives (which you must because there really just isn't enough wood to find somewhere to stick a battery) it's a doddle. The only place you can go wrong is having the two wires the wrong way round and reversing polarity (which is what I did) but even that gives a very nice out of phase sound in the 2 position (especially as it splits the humbucker). Noise wise not much to say. The neck pickup is fine, the bridge pickup is fine, the middle pickup is a single coil, so if you expect to use it on distortion you'll need a noise gate, but even my 18 Behringer NR300 does the job for that. The 4 and 2 positions are a little noisy considering they should be humbucking, but still nothing that will be show-stopping.
Overall Impression — 9
As a player who plays in a lot of genres, and likes to experiment with different sounds, this guitar is a winner. It has some exceptional cleans, and this thing shreds like nothing else. What with being in the dangerous position of living 3 minutes from my local guitar store I've played some top range guitars of almost every other thinkable metal brand (Jackson, Schecter, ESP, Gibson) and none of them play quite like this guitar. I've been playing about 4-5 years now, and gigging for only 1. I own a Peavey XXX and also the Bugera copy of it the 333. (The 333 has E34Ls in and the XXX has 6L6s in) and this guitar sounds awesome through both. If it was lost/stolen I would Definitely buy it again, although maybe in white this time, because I think it looks cooler. I love how thin and fast (and light) this guitar is. I hate that the stock Bridge pickup was not that great for a proper metal sound (even though this is clearly a metal guitar). My advice with this guitar, if you have the money to buy it, DO, but only if you can afford to fiddle it. You will want to upgrade the Bridge pickup at the very least, and probably look at upgrading the neck and middle as well. (I'd get an SD rails style thing so you can get rid of some of that hum) If you intend to get active pickups put in, DO NOT get this guitar, it is too thin and the space inside the electronics cavity is too small to fit a battery. And if you go routing any more holes in the poor thing it'll just float off into space it's so light. I wish it came stocked with better Strap pins, and pickups (but then it wouldn't be as cheap, cause Ibanez would think it was one of their premium guitars and charge you a grand for it) That's all. It's a really excellent guitar, especially if you want to mod it a bit.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar will DEFINITELY withstand some serious abuse. I like to throw my kit around a bit live, so it's been smacked in to things with some force before, and not even dented. The finish is very hard to chip or dent, it has got a few scratches, but mostly from my belt while playing, and Nothing that is noticeable without a bright light and very good eyesight from 10 Cm away. The strap buttons are terrible, Replace them instantly. Get some strap locks or your guitar will get dropped. But saying that, I've never liked any strap buttons that aren't strap locks because I like to chuck my Shit around. I would absolutely gig on this guitar without a backup, it's never failed me yet, and I can't see it ever doing so unless I set it on fire or blow it up. It's really well made, especially for the price I paid, my only occasional worry is that the pickup which I put in may come loose, but that's just because I'm paranoid, and it was a first time job. Never has yet though.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I can't tell you how well the guitar was setup from factory, because I got it second hand (even if it had only been played twice, it was still set to the guys preference). But honestly with the help of a few YouTube videos this guitar is extremely easy to setup. Ibanez have made everything very simple. With the same allen wrench you use to lock/unlock the nut, you can change the action at the bridge. They supply a little screw in the bridge itself (it looks like a fine tuner stuck into the bridge, but it's actually an intonation adjuster. Simply unscrew it from the bridge, screw it into the back of the saddle, and then unlock the saddle, (you don't even have to detune) and you can set the intonation while it's still in tune. Very useful. The spring tension wheel at the back is also very useful, it helps you set the bridge level much more easily that having to whip out a screw driver and do it by hand. And more accurate too. The truss rod adjustment is simple too. I'd say Ibanez have probably created the most easily customisable guitar I've ever seen actually. I have no other complaints about this guitar, the only flaws I've found are that my pickup rings are a bit oxidized, but be that because they're a bad metal, or because the guy who had it last left it around in his (rather damp/smelly) apartment for a month, I'm fairly sure it's not something anyone who will look after this thing well will find a problem. That being said it proves that the guitar can cope very well with mistreatment, as despite being left in a damp room for ages, there's not a single other thing wrong with it. Only one small complaint of the bridge is that (although the intonation tool is very useful mostly, ) I've found it can't do the bottom string, as it needs to be further out, and the tool gets caught on the edge of the route.
Features — 9
My Ibanez is a 2011 model. It's got 24 frets, with a very thin, fast neck perfect for any metal player. It's got a beautiful Quilted Maple top on a mahogany body, maple neck. It's finished in blue and looks beautiful for it. It's got a very very thin body, which is the first thing I noticed about it. It is extremely light (My guitar before this was a Strat and compared to this it's almost half the weight) but doesn't loose any sustain for it. It has passive stock pickups with INF1, INFS1 and INF2 (from neck to bridge). It (of course being an Ibanez) has an Ibanez floating bridge, but this one is very nive, It stays in tune extremely well, and it's very easy to set up with inbuilt string tension wheel and intonation tool. It has a 5 way selector which functions as normal in 1, 3 and 5, but in 2 and 4 splits the humbuckers and combines the middle pickup with the near coil of each humbucker. It also has a master volume and tone control, both of which are a bit noisy when operated, which is a pain, but only to the extent that you get a little hiss when you move the knob. Solution to that is just to be a true metal head and keep it all on full tone and volume all the time. The tuners are 'own brand' Ibanez ones, but with the locking nut they work very well, and are fairly accurate (not as accurate as my old Gotoh locking ones though). This guitar for me did NOT come with a case, and I would advise anyone getting a case for it to get a hardcase, the headstock (as cool as it looks) has a habit of being quite sharp, and has made holes through the many gigbags I've bought for it. The guy I bought it from also gave me a s#! * tonne of picks, and several leads. One final piece of advice the Stock strap pins are not that good (certainly wouldn't advice using them live) so I replaced them pretty fast with some 9 Schaller Straplock copies off amazon, these are absolutely brilliant. I can even do proper guitar flips with these (especially seeing as how light the guitar is). I've seen several reviews of the ZR bridge in this thing which say that part of it broke when they abused it. This is no longer the case. Ibanez have totally fixed it in the new model guitars (but any case if it does break I've taken a look and they've made it VERY easy to swap out the bit for a new one off StewMac) The bridge is otherwise fantastic, very very smooth even with the stabilising ZPS springs, and because it's ballbearings, you know it wont wear down and end up being out of tune after a year.