Price paid: $ 395
Purchased from: Axe Music
Sound — 8
I was very impressed with the tonal scope of each pickup when played individually. The bridge humbucker is packed with great brash highs and had the power to sweetly overdrive the valves in our test amp. But equally the single-coils have a great depth of tonal complexity, the neck pickup on its own produced a monster tone that had me twiddling with Texas Rock riffs and heavy blues. With such excellent single-coils as a comparison I pulled the coil-tap with anticipation. And, yes, the tapped 'bucker joined in the fun on equal sonic terms with its sisters. From classic rock to heavy metal, this guitar will do it all, with the right amp and possibly pedal.
Overall Impression — 10
Another bulls-eye for Ibanez. A lovely neck, excellent pickup voicings and drop-dead-gorgeous to boot. One amazing thing about this guitar is how comfortably it sits on the strap when you're standing. It almost seems to vanish into your body, leaving no distractions between you and the strings. At the price this is one kick-ass guitar. If you were thinking about buying a Fat Strat type of guitar then I would strongly suggest you buy the Ibanez SA260FM.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The wide tonal palette means you won't need any other axe for the gig. As for the durability, providied that you don't smash it on stage, it is practically indestructable. As I said before, the finish is just superb. It will get the job done for a good long time, given proper care is taken and it is not abused.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Action is very good from the box. Finish is the flame-maple top glows seductively under the sapphire finish. Constructed from two pieces of maple, the top is nicely book-matched. The back of the body is finished in black but the edge of the maple top is visible, giving the impression of a wooden binding. The finish is excellent throughout, and provided that there is no deliberate scratching, the finish will hold up.
Features — 9
Tuners are sealed unbranded mini-tuners that are smooth and accurate. Headstock is distinctive scalpel-shaped six-on-one-side that is faced with veneer of the same flame-maple that covers the body. Nice touch. Nut is a neat and tidy black plastic nut abuts the rosewood of the fretboard. Neck is the maple neck is slim and very playable, a feature of Ibanez guitars on which you can rely. They seem to use the same neck across many models, enjoying economy of scale and uniform stringency at the quality control stage. Fretboard is medium-chocolate rosewood with an attractive grain. The traditional fret markers are white pearloid on the face, while the markers on the side of the neck are a more eye-catching abalone. Frets are the medium frets are nicely polished for a smooth playing experience. Body is the mahogany body, Stratoid shape with a carved maple slab on the top. The carving is quite pronounced and seems to make the body "fall away" from the strings, making for a very comfortable and uncluttered playing experience. The back of the body is finished in black but the edge of the maple top is visible, giving the impression of a wooden binding. Bridge is the Ibanez SAT vibrato unit, balanced very well on the three springs visible through the access panel on the back of the body. The individual string saddles are actually made in two pieces. The main saddle unit moves backwards and forwards on an allen screw to adjust intonation. The string itself rests on a separate component held within the saddle which is adjustable for height. This arrangement gives increased stability to the intonation of the bridge, an important plus for a vibrato equipped guitar that lacks a locking nut. The vibrato arm itself is a slot-in, removable type. Pickups are one SAT30S humbucker sits at the bridge and is teamed up with two AS2 single-coils. The humbucker is labelled as a True-Duo humbucker, so when the coil-tap is engaged Ibanez claim it produces a true single-coil tone rather than the half-hearted, "half-a-humbucker" tone found on some other coil-tapped guitars. Controls are master volume and master tone with a five-way selector switch that gives all the familiar Strat-style combinations. Unusually it is the volume control that acts as the push-pull coil-tap. Strap-buttons are medium sized in the standard locations. Output jack is situated on the face of the guitar at the bottom of its very own little rabbit burrow.