Sound — 10
I am primarily a metal player, although I do like to play classic rock and love to do some blues soloing here and there. Obviously, the Xiphos was created as a metal guitar, and in this area it definitely delivers. At first I was a bit disappointed at the lack of true active pickups, but as soon as I tried playing a few quick death metal riffs I could tell that Ibanez had accomplished incredible things with these passive pickups. Every note rings out loud and clear and the bottom string does not drown out any other strings. The same goes for soloing: every note is articulate and defined, and no notes will become drowned out. Chug-a-chug patterns sound great on this guitar as well. The Edge III locking trem allows for even more tonal capabilites, so metal guitarists everywhere can divebomb away and also hit those notes that lie somewhat above the 24th fret. I am running this through a solid state Crate 2X12", which is an amp that has some pretty satisfying distorion, especially for a solid state. I can only imagine what the Xiphos would sound like when plugged into a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier, or a Diezel or Krank half stack. But I just barely got a job, so give me a break. It sounds impressive enough through my combo amp. I also have a Korg Toneworks multi-effect processor, and the Xiphos plays nice with this as well. Altogether I believe that this guitar's sound will satisfy any metal player.
Overall Impression — 10
For a metalhead like me, this guitar is great. The kind of palm muting techniques involved in several types of metal don't become muddy and incoherent as on some other guitars. And don't get me wrong. Just because it's good for metal doesn't mean everything else sounds awful on this guitar. YYZ by Rush and Moby Dick by Zeppelin don't sound have bad on the Xiphos either. I've been playing for a year and seven months now, with about six years of background as a keyboard player prior to my picking up a guitar. I also own a Gibson Faded SG that I'm planning on using just for a more classic rock kind of guitar while I use the Xiphos for death metal kind of stuff. While I was searching for my new metal guitar, I also tested out several Schecters that didn't incredibly impress me, and some ESPs that played just as nicely as the Xiphos. I decided to go with the Xiphos, however, based on the overall look of the guitar, and the great deal for a guitar of it's caliber. If my Xiphos were stolen, I would be angry, but you couldn't really blame the guy who stole it. I mean, hell, it's a nice looking guitar. And yes, I would go buy a new one. This guitar has everything I want, and I couldn't really ask for anything more, because that would just be getting greedy.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This is a very solid guitar, and I would definitely take it to a gig to show off to the crowd. It would be a shame to keep a guitar like this hidden away exclusively in the studio, never to see the light of day. Take it out and awe the crowd. I wouldn't even go to a gig without a backup, but that's just me. I don't see anything going wrong with this guitar anytime soon, but sometimes things just break. As far as the finish goes, I haven't played it long enough to be able to say if the finish will wear off, but I can confidently say that the guitar will stay together and play just as well day after day.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Let me get the one negative aspect of the factory setup out of the way early so I can blather on about how great this guitar is for the remainder of this review. The strap buttons on the body are in a very awkward place right out of the factory, and as a result, the guitar is going to fit oddly when you throw it on. If you are any good with using an electric drill, this is no problem, since the strap button issue can easily be fixed by moving the right button further up towards the neck. This will bring the neck up farther and make for a much more comfertable playing experience. I rated the Xiphos an 8 in this category just because the odd fitting of the guitar initially worried the hell out of me until I sat down and figured out the problem. Besides that, I can find nothing to complain about. The action is nice and low so the guitar plays very fast, but the action wasn't lowered to the point of string buzz. The trem bar adjustments might be in an unusual location for some people. Pry up the bridge using the trem bar and you'll notice a little set screw that adjusts how freely the arm rotates, and another screw in the back of the guitar will adjust the bar height. The finish is perfect, the frets are all in order, and all around some great workmanship went into making this guitar.
Features — 9
Let me start off by noting that this is one beautiful guitar, and one would be inclined to buy it just from looking at the finish alone. The guitar comes in two finishes: Red Chameleon and Blue Chameleon, both of which change colors depending on the viewing angle. I personally bought the Red Chameleon, which changes from a deep green to dark red as you rotate the guitar. This guitar is an all-out metal guitar, so it has all the features any metal player could expect: neck-through, an Edge III locking tremolo, 24 frets, a maple/walnut neck, and a mahogany body shaped somewhat like a cross between a Jackson Warrior and a Dean Razorback. As far as electronics go, the guitar's two humbuckers are passive but were specially designed by Dimarzio to reproduce the sound of an active pickup. One volume knob and one tone knob, along with a three way Switch, control the pickups. Ibanez also recently started throwing in the case along with the guitar price, making this guitar a great deal.