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If you are a part of the guitar world or even if you are not odds are you know the Ibanez brand. Typically, these guitars feature a sleek body, slim and triangular headstocks, fingerboards which are flatter, some of the first ever locking tremolo systems, and slim necks with pickups in various options and styles. These are guitars played by metal progressive rockstar’s Steve Vai and Tim Roth, and other famous names like Joe Satriani, Curtis Chambers, Dave Weiner, and more! In the last 25 years, their catalogue has exploded, there are now so many different Ibanez guitars that reading a comprehensive guide like this one really is the only way to pick the best Ibanez guitar.
Our review only includes the best and therefore we viewed each feature of these guitars with much consideration before deciding which ones made the cut. These features are one of the most important parts of our process because how can you judge a guitar without knowing about how different dimensions – length and width – affect its sound? Or how many chords can be played on what number of strings? How can you judge a guitar without knowing about its fretboard, pickup, and bride system? We approached all of these features and more before coming to you with the cream of the crop. In fact, further along in our buying guide, we discuss each of these features in more detail so that any customer can find out exactly what they’re purchasing.
Our research included talking to the musicians who play these guitars as well as the manufacturers, asking both parties what they liked most about different models and why. We also asked manufacturers why they chose to design certain guitars certain ways and how that has affected the sound and overall playability of the instrument. Per advice from musicians, we steered clear from some models and are only trying to promote the best from the Ibanez brand. Our guide features a detailed chart examining each guitar and listing its details as well as noted pros or cons. Additionally at the end of this guide please find an organized features guide with a more detailed history and answers to frequently asked questions. It’s our hope you’ll easily be able to pick the best Ibanez guitar.
Here we have – in our educated opinion – one of the best Ibanez jazz guitars from their catalogue. It features an amazing 58” custom pickups which will deliver all those sounds associated with jazz music from the smooth melodies to the biting growls and nuanced tones of old Smokey bars in the 60’s.
A bone nut, coupled with an ebony fretboard, allow the musician to create rich lows and highs while under control with the tight response of left-hand fingering. Purchase include a custom tailpiece, the body style in either natural colours or the vintage yellow sunburst, and a hard-shell protective case.
The neck features arstar mahogany with a beautiful maple set-in piece, the bridge incorporates an Art-1 system that comes adjustable with both metal and wood. No, you couldn’t go wrong with this hollow body electric jazz guitar, and you’d be hard pressed to find any other jazz guitar like it. It has six quality made strings, a unique spruce top, six adjustable ebony tuners, and is only 44 inches tall.
This was the ideal choice for George Benson, one of the finest jazz musicians ever.
What do we love it for?
Ebony fretboard, mahogany neck, and maple set-in all feature Arstar treatment
More features: ultralite tremolo arm included, master volume, master, 3-way toggle controls
At a glance this is just a solid body electric guitar, although that’s definitely not all there is to it because this was the signature guitar for Joe Satriani. That name alone should tell you this guitar is good for pop, rock, and even progressive metal music.
It features a DiMarzio pickups with 24 frets and six strings for an extra extended pop-rock scale. The body of this guitar incorporates a maple and bubinga neck with an alder body and complimentary rosewood fingerboard with mother of pearl inlay.
From the neck down the bubinga stripe provides added body stability and will even assist you in sustaining notes for a longer time. This guitar has an exemplary edge bridge that has been prestige treated. Hardware includes a chrome colored hard shell case a and lightweight carry bag.
Master volume control is built into the guitar with a push/pull system and a coil-tap switch offers added tone and sound variations for both pickups.
What makes it special?
Ultralite tremolo arm included
Joe Satriani Guitar - ideal for progressive rock and heavy metal
Three types of incorporated wood
Master volume control
What cons did we find?
Single side tuners take some time to get accustomed to
More features: master volume, tone, 5-way lever controls, soft-case included
Ibanez never only designed guitars, but they also worked with musicians and based their methods of play on their newest projects. While teaming up with Steve Vai in 1987, Ibanez created this double cutaway body type with a full rosewood body, mahogany finish, right-handed neck shape, and a neck that incorporates maple and walnut joints with extra strength titanium rods.
Many people refer to this short body and long neck as the ‘wizards neck’, and the neck itself incorporates an impossible 15.75 inches of the entire instrument. Today this guitar, the JEM, is an iconic instrument that’s immediately followed by, ‘That’s a Steve Vai guitar!’.
It features a solid body, six strings, elegant tree of life inlay along the fretboard, and a master volume with 5-way lever controls (and yes, that is complicated, but you’ll quickly get used to it!). The 24-fret rosewood fingerboard features an Edge Zero II bridge system that is one of a kind and high quality with quick reach to the volume controls for switch over onto two different pickups.
Why did it make our list?
Impressive rich sound
Sounds best for progressive metal and rock
What is not ideal about it?
Short body takes some getting used to
Large learning curve for 5-way lever volume and tone controls take some time to get accustomed to
More features: volume, tone controls, individual trim pots per string switching
Another double cutaway body that features the extra-long ‘wizards neck’ – taking up most of the guitar in the stylish way that dates back to Steve Vai – with all neck elements made from unique jatoba and bubinga woods.
Another unique feature is the fact that this thin neck only uses 4 strings with individual trim pots per switching. The fretboard is ultra-smooth rosewood with 25 frets, and all facets of this guitar are finished with a standard satin finish.
A two pickup system features active or passive playing over a Piezo preamp. What’s most unique is that this bass guitar utilizes a semi-hollow body that increases the power of its low notes and lends them an added richness. Sleek and compact this guitar is quite lightweight and comes with a soft-shell carry case for easy traveling to all of your gigs.
The rosewood fingerboard features black fret lines for guided positions while learning the bass, but also allows the fretboard to blend in more where this setup would normally feature a fretless layout. Additionally, the added stylish contoured neck heel creates a deep neck joint for the musicians increased access to upper frets.
What do we love it for?
Design allows better access for playing upper frets
Great learning bass guitar – features black fret lines for guided positions
Body: solid mahogany, flamed maple top with white binding
Fretboard: ebony with 24 frets
Neck: 3-piece maple, bubinga
Bridge system: Gibraltar Standard II
Pickups: DiMarzio Fusion Edge
More features: master volume, 3-way toggle, coil-split switch controls
With more of a modern look that screams full body electric guitar, this is also one of the longer guitars with a wide and tall body that features a mid-length neck.
The body itself incorporates solid mahogany with a flamed maple top and stylish white binding – first for added class and second for added structure. The fretboard is ebony with 24 frets and the neck itself features three-piece maple and bubinga.
Currently many fans are converting their style over to this best Ibanez series guitar with its Iron Label presence in underworld shredding rock and heavy metal. The famous S series body is very present in this guitars body style (from the chassis upward), and it’s this shape that many musicians swear adds to the speed and intensity of their performance.
The Bridge System uses the Gibraltor Standard II for sustained controlled tone while both playing and changing the volume or using the coil-split controls for both pickups. This guitar comes in the above featured electric blue color with a faded interior design, or in a deep purple with a similar central fade.
All styles feature the flamed maple top, unique six black strings, and reinforced nitro wizard neck.
What do we love it for?
An easily affordable guitar
Reliable no-break bridge design
Suits for playing metal
Coil-split switch controls
What were we disappointed with?
Ebony fretboard is not smooth to play so it might need to be accustomed to
More features: AEQ-SP1 preamp, balanced 1/4″ output
This acoustic-electric guitar is designed with a hollow body in the traditional and balanced guitar shape with more of a tangerine colour; this is easily the lightest guitar on our list and only weighs 7 total pounds. Unplugged or through an amp it offers that acoustical six-string sound that is powerful but balanced. The fretboard and bridge are both made from rosewood, but the body top is spruce with sides and back and neck crafted from quality mahogany.
This guitar features a single Fishman Sonicore pickup with an included AEQ-SPI preamp that gives a balanced ¼ output. Depending on your gig or concert, you may want a preamp with better output, but that’s our only complaint with this stylish electric acoustic guitar.
Other features include extra strong nylon strings, and onboard tuner for sonic manipulation, and even settings to include or remove feedback reduction. If you’re wanting to get back to the classics and move away from the current high tech modern looking guitars, this is an excellent choice from the Ibanez catalogue.
What do we love it for?
Features a lightweight 7lb hollow body
Easiest guitar to self-tune
Strong nylon strings
What were we disappointed with?
Nylon strings quickly go out of tune when heated or cooled
Can’t switch out to metal strings or they will damage the neck
The Artcore line covers the wide range of hollow and semi-hollow bodies for which Ibanez is often known, and this guitar is part of that style and unique blended tradition.
It offers a sapele top and side with a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard all finished in a ‘tobacco flat’ (smoky brown) color with a completed semi-hollow body. At 45 inches it’s typically electric acoustical with 6 strings and the necessary ART-St bridge system for semi-hollow models.
A more detailed look at the Fretboard reveal rich Laurel contrasted by white dot inlays that lead up into a slim mahogany set-in neck which is typically seen in most Artcore semi-hollow designs. Infinity R pickups give this guitar a warm and balanced articulation with excellent response and playability for various music genres.
This guitar lends itself especially well to jazz music, and can create those grating and barking noises along with smooth collected ones. Musicians especially love this instrument because it features the traditional shape without being to thick or thin but still playing acoustically with the option of blasting music over an amp.
What makes it special?
Hybrid semi-hollow body
The action is of top-notch quality
Makes excellent acoustic and electric sound
What cons did we find?
Does not have locking tuners
Pickup stocks are uncovered and feature ceramic magnets
Very flat-finished look
Things to Consider
The remainder of this guide is designed to explain the history of Ibanez guitars, the purpose of certain guitar features and how/why these features work, and other guitar related subjects you might not understand or might be concerned about. The purpose here is to make everything totally transparent for you so that your buying process becomes quickly uncomplicated.
This guitar company started out as a Spanish brand which focused on designing and selling stringed instruments – not just guitars – during the years from 1908 to 1935. As stated at the beginning of our guide this company was eventually purchased by a Japanese brand that began producing acoustic guitars under the Ibanez name. Eventually these instruments – exported mostly to America – were just associated as ‘Ibanez guitars’. In 1957 the design shapes, number of strings, neck and body works, all began changing drastically and people began to comment on the ‘weird Ibanez designs’. Around the late 1970’s and into the 80’s Ibanez really began exploring and selling electric guitars – they even teamed up with Steven Vai and gave the world the very unique and wildly popular JEM guitar design with its squat body and tall neck, like our Premium Series pick the Ibanez JEM77WDP guitar.
Today this company still produces other gear, but mostly they’re known for their guitars and the wide range of guitar series they put out. They also offer hollow and semi-hollow options which are unique to their brand, as well as bass and acoustic guitars. An amazing range of artists has used these guitars and swear by the excellence of this brand. We can only attest to this, and add that Ibanez guitars have changed not only the instrument but the way guitar music is played all over the world.
Put simply, a guitar series is a group of related instruments designed and sold at the same time. For instance, the RG road gear series which is Ibanez’s most popular model and has a base that looks like a flame (curving on both sides before the neck) and then continues into a long neck with single-sided tuning pegs. For reference, the above guitars in the RG series are the Ibanez JS2410 and Ibanez JEM77WDP. However, these can be difficult to distinguish from the Prestige S series guitars like the Ibanez SIX6FDFM.
Knowing what series a guitar comes from will also assist you in finding similar guitars to one that you’re currently looking at because you can type in the Ibanez series name and see what other options in the series pique your interest. Be careful though, some series fit into a ‘prestige’ classification, like the RG prestige guitars above which are still RG styled but were made at a different time. For more details on certain series differences, please view the ‘body’ and ‘neck’ explanations where the differences are further explained.
How to choose a proper Ibanez guitar
First, if you don’t know them, learn the basic components of electric and acoustic guitars (also decide if you’d rather play the bass guitar or not). Learn where the pickups are placed – under the strings where the guitar is plucked – and how many volume knobs you’ll have the tone knobs, the location of the output jack, etcetera. Next, decide what body style you want – this will actually majorly affect your decision depending on your skill level; fancy and weird body styles are great for professionals, but the standard traditional body shape lends itself to easier learning of the guitar. You might also consider the different tones associated with different wood types, or just choose based on what your favorite musicians have played in the past. All of these are factors which should be analyzed and included in your decision-making process.
Tips on taking care of your Ibanez guitar
With an electric guitar, frequently loosen the strings so you can remove the dust that will likely gather around the pickups. For acoustic guitars also loosen the strings though only for removing dust by the bridge. Gig bags are a great investment which will protect your guitar from the elements – remember that the temperature (cold or hot) can cause your guitar to quickly go out of tune. Invest in an electronic tuner that clips to your guitar, it will make the tuning process 100% easier. For restringing, a tool called a ‘string winder’ actually makes the process quicker and causes less breaking tension on your strings.
Features to consider while choosing an Ibanez guitar
The following features have been listed above for their select guitars and they feature in the remainder of this guide so we can explain them to you and give examples of what features work the best for certain guitars and why.
Length and width
The length and width of your guitar might not seem all that important at first glance, but it has more to do with your own height and hand size than you’d think. To measure this, take the dimensions of your hand span and then consider this: the ideal hand span – from extended pinky to thumb – for a 24-inch guitar scale is 170mm. If your hand span is smaller or larger than this, adjust with a smaller or larger scale (otherwise you’ll be doing a lot of extra reaching). Next – and this isn’t as important – guitar experts say the ideal height for your guitar (from end to end) is the measured length (not span) of your hand multiplied by 9. So, if your hand is 200mm from the base of your palm to the top of your middle finger (times 9) your ideal guitar size is 180 centimetres or 1800mm.
Width of your guitar is arguably more of preference, but you might choose a different width based on your body size rather than on the guitar body shape you most like.
Hollow acoustic and electric guitars typically weigh less than full body electric guitars and hybrid guitars with semi-hollow bodies. For instance, the Ibanez AEG10NII with a hollow body only weighs 7lbs, where the full body Ibanez JEM77WDP weighs 18.6 pounds. The main difference is sound, where weight is concerned, is the type of wood used and the different tones which are associated with different wood types. For instance, Rosewood offers a lighter sound than ebony, and both will drastically change the weight of your guitar.
Ibanez offers two main body styles from the RG and S series and both are very similar in quality and added features. The main difference, the RG series comes with a 24-fret standard, whereas the S series has a 22-fret standard. Prestige models are somewhat different, where the Prestige S series model actually as 24 frets as of 2007. Additionally, you can usually tell an RG body by its curved base that looks a little like a flame.
The Ibanez RG and S series – where we get most of the guitars on this list – features four main neck types that can be difficult to distinguish from each other. The ‘wizard’ neck type is extremely thin and very long; the ‘super wizard’ is still just as long but a little thicker than the wizard; ‘prestige wizard’ is more natural and not as thin as the previous two, and ‘wizard II’ is very hard to tell apart from the others as it is the thickest neck but often hard to find unless you’re specifically looking at guitars listed MIJ (made in Japan).
Also known as a transducer, this is a device which creates an electromagnetic field around itself that ‘picks up’ the vibrations from the guitar while you are playing. This works because steels and nickel guitar strings interrupt this field and they are conducted into an amplifier as an electrical signal which in turn plays an audible sound. All guitars on this list feature pickups from the S series and Dimarzio sounding IBZ/DMZ series, although Ibanez offers a few different pickup styles listed below.
INF series: Budget pickups, they tend to have more treble.
Powersound series: The oldest Ibanez pickups that tend to give a lot of feedback while playing. Maybe stay away from these.
V1-2 series: High-end guitars and offer very clear sound.
Guitar strings are differentiated based on the type of guitar and the style of music played on them. The type of strings used basically depends on their composition, the thickness and whether it is a wound string or an unwound string. The combination of these three factors determines the type of string to be used on a guitar to play a particular style of music. Base guitars like the Ibanez SRH500F feature 4 strings, while other acoustic and electric guitars typically feature 6.
Also known as the ‘fingerboard’, it is a long strip of material usually laminated to the instrument and allows the musician to press the vibrating strings against it to control the pitch that is being played. The best fingerboards are those which use dense woods like ebony for the most control while fretting each cord, for instance, the Ibanez LGB30 is a great pick for added control over the pitch.
The bridge is the device that supports the strings, so choose a bridge with strong wood that matches the strength of the strings that you use. The bridge also transmits the vibrations of the strings to the instrument, which is why pickups are typically positioned under or beside the bridge.
The Ibanez SRH500F is a great example of how controls work and add to the functionality and sound of a guitar. This guitar has 5-way lever controls which allow the musician not only to adjust the volume while playing but also the tone, bass sound, reverb, etcetera. If you’re choosing an electric guitar know that more controls are great if you know how to use them to improve the overall sound of your play by fiddling with the tone etcetera.
However, don’t just make your choice based on a high number of controls – often all you need is to control the volume and the tone.
Padded extras which might pique your interest are guitars which come with protective cases, like the Ibanez JS2410. Other extras are two pickups rather than one, including clip-on tuners, and guitar stands. You can also consider purchasing sound-improving amplifiers, that come in many models and budget ranges, for example, amplifiers under $300.
All Ibanez guitars sold in the USA come with Hoshino USA coverage which guarantees that the instrument itself is shipped to you without any defects. From the moment you’ve purchased an Ibanez guitar, you will have a limited 1-year warranty on any part of the guitar as long as it was not damaged by abuse. Also, if you have decided to improve your Ibanez guitar even a little bit – chances are high, that your warranty ends up there since no additional parts or equipment can be repaired and nobody can guarantee that you did not damage your instrument while upgrading it.
First, make sure your sixth string is in tune, then play the sixth string, fifth fret (A) and tune your open fifth string (A) until they sound the same. Proceed like this down your fingerboard: play the fifth string, fifth fret (D), then tune your open fourth string (D) until they sound the same. Next, you’ll play fifth fret (G) to tune your open third string (G) until they sound the same. Proceed with fourth fret B to tune second string B and follow with playing fifth fret E to tune First string E. It’ll be confusing at first, but it gets much easier over time.
Still having a hard time choosing the best Ibanez guitar? You can’t go wrong with any of these three highly rated options.
Ibanez LGB30. Easily one of the best jazz guitars, not only from Ibanez but also on the entire market, this guitar also has an amazing custom pickup that rivals most V1-2 series pickups.
Ibanez JS2410. If you’re looking specifically for a full body electric guitar, this option has a slick modern design that would look great on any stage and sounds even better. It has master volume control and great note sustainability.
Ibanez AM53TF. The budget pick for our list, if you’re a beginner looking at these guitars than this is a great pick for you! It’s not as professionally designed and won’t give you the hassle of too many extras you don’t know what to do with. It’s also a hybrid guitar which is semi hollow and gives a musician that electrical acoustic sound.
If you haven’t found an Ibanez model that suits your needs, consider another high-end brand, like PRS guitars – all-time musicians’ favorites.