Price paid: £ 299
Purchased from: PMT Music
Features — 8
This guitar features a slim mahogany body, with a 3 piece maple set in neck with a bound rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets, 2x True duo humbuckers with a 3 way switch, Ibanez SAT ProII tremolo bridge and one volume (coil tap neck) and one tone (coil tap bridge). The finish is a black lacquered finish with a pearl binding, and polished to a reflective finish. There is also a white version, which I want so badly! I believe the tuners are just standard Ibanez tuners, non-locking, and a nifty hinged truss rod cover, which comes in handy. I only give this an 8 because the retailer never included a case or allen keys etc.
Sound — 9
OK so first of all... If you want to buy this guitar for metal, be prepared to add labour, however keep reading, there's something in it for you. Now im primarily a heavy rock/metal player, although in my spare time i do like to indulge in other styles (blues, country, hard rock etc).
For the ORIGINAL setup, its perfect for country, blues and pretty much any genre of music that doesn't require insane amount of distortion. The reason for this is the amazing pickups, technically they are stacked single coils, with a 3rd coil wired in for a fatter humbucker sound. They have a pleasant amount of output, meaning they sing when you want them to without ripping out your eardrums, perfect for those hard rock and blues solos that possess more feel and dynamic. When you coil tap these, you truly are getting a single coil sound, I'm honestly astounded at the variety of sounds this guitar can produce. However because of the mahogany body, you wont get that "Fender bright" tone, even the slim body does not compensate. I play this through a Blackstar HT50h, and preset some EQ's, compressors and digital FX through my Boss GT8 with the 4 cable system. At high gain these pickups are noisy as hell! And somewhat microphonic. Now for the METAL HEADS...
METAL PLAYERS, do not off load this guitar! After a while i switched out the pickups for a DiMarzio Tone Zone in the bridge, and an Air norton in the neck, which completely changed the the way this guitar sang. It cost me around £120 for the pickups including delivery, and an hours work swapping them out, and boy was it worth the effort. The guitar simply transformed into a riff eating monster. The dense mahogany really adds chunk and sustain to the sound, but the slim body brightens the sound a little, so you can leave the treble tone in the middle;) Keep reading however, it gets interesting ;)
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
For a production line guitar, it's set up so beautifully, with an impressive low action without fret buzz and dead frets. The balance in the string height from nut to bridge was very well set, and to top it off the angled headstock meant it kept its tuning very well. As with all Ibanez guitars you get a sense of high build quality, and a tight fit from all the components. Nothing was loose or misaligned, the colour was exactly what the picture advertised, and everything was adjusted to a great standard. Obviously i did some extra setting up myself but nothing that made me question the quality of the guitar, just general servicing stuff (strings, pickup height, intonation etc). The only flaw was the volume and tone knob, it took no effort to turn them, now this sounds petty, but when you're strumming away it was too easy to accidentally adjust either one if you were to catch them, or to confidently set them with ease. METAL HEADS KEEP READING!
Reliability & Durability — 9
Now I've had this guitar for 3 years, and I've abused it immensely. I'm not the lightest player in regards my picking and fretting, nor do I stand still. Also I play live often, at least twice a week, and I take this guitar everywhere with me. I've dropped it, knocked it, hit people with it (unintentionally), hit myself with it, its fell over, been thrown into a van (in the case obviously) spilled my beer and other beverages on it and its even suffered at the hands of a toddler. After 3 years of punishment there is barely a scratch on it, other than the standard buckle rash and pick scratches. The hardware is still all original, excluding the nut, as a standard most production guitars come with a plastic nut, which eventually wears out and cause binding/tuning issues and action issues too (fretbuzz n shizz), so I swapped it for a graphite nut. I have abused the tremolo system a lot, and this thing holds its tuning like a dog to a rag toy, it will handle the odd dive bomb or trem flutter, and even some Van Halen style treatment, but if you start Herman Li'ing this trem system then be sure to run into problems fairly quickly, it simply isn't built for that. This is my go to guitar in both live and recording situations, and often play without a backup.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall this guitar is fantastic for the price, the only upgrade is the premium version (SA960). I'm after the white version and possibly the SAS36 as well. The original pickups hold such a dynamic sound there isn't really a genre they can't do, other than metal (wait for it!). After 3 years of abuse it still has the same reflective finish that I remember, and other than the standard servicing, it is practically indestructible. It comes well set up, with a high build quality and perfectly fit hardware.
METAL HEADS! If you swap the pickups out for something more your style, I promise you wont be disappointed. The neck on this guitar is amazing, not so slim that you have to play with fragility, but slim enough to shred with the best of them. The neck joint is shaped and recessed for better access to the higher frets, and the balance in the action means you can shred all-over that mutha! The mahogany body adds chunk and sustain to your sound but the slim style means its lighter and more comfortable, with a slightly richer tone. You can wear it high for your more technical stuff, or lower for some badda-sery! Either way, it still looks mean! It will handle lower tunings provided you have the right gauge strings, but you may have to add a spring in the back.
So it looks beautiful, sounds amazing, pretty much immortal and somewhat cheap. If you love your country, blues, hard rock, pop or anything in that end of the scale, this is your guitar. If your a metal head? don't spend thousands on that custom shop if you haven't got it, just grab some Duncans or Bareknuckles and slap em in this, it has the typical Ibanez shredder shapes and comfort but with a smaller price tag. But that's just my opinion!