Average Price: 1940€
Overall Rank: 95 out of 100
Links to buy the Ibanez AZ :
The Ibanez AZ has been introduced in 2018 in two different lines: the Prestige, made in Japan, and the Premium made in Indonesia. It is probably the most successful Ibanez Guitar at the moment. In this review, I will explain to you why you should look after it and why it’s a great guitar (yes, I am not neutral right now I know 🙂 ).
This will be a review from the eyes of a musician that uses this guitar professionally every day.
Here you can find the specifics for the Prestige models 24 frets that I took directly from the Ibanez website:
- neck type AZ Oval C S-TECH WOOD: Roasted Maple neck
- top/back/body: Alder body
- fretboard: S-TECH WOOD Roasted Maple Black dot inlay
- fret: Jumbo Stainless Steel frets
- bridge: Gotoh® T1802 tremolo bridge
- string space: 10.5 mm
- neck pickup: Seymour Duncan® Hyperion™ (H) neck pickup Passive/Alnico
- bridge pickup: Seymour Duncan® Hyperion™ (H) bridge pickup Passive/Alnico
- nut: Bone nut
- hardware color: Chrome
The Pros & Cons
PRO #1 Versatile guitar, it will let you play any music style out there.
PRO #2 High-Quality built, even in the Premium versions
PRO #3 Good luck, easy to set up (strings change, truss road, bridge accesses)
PRO #4 Easy to play, fast and accurate neck
CON #1 Pickups are average-quality even if sounding good. You need an upgrade to have access to the full potential of the instrument.
CON #2 Not so many colors to choose from every year.
The Guitar to rule them all?
I received my first Ibanez Prestige directly from Hiroky in 2018. I have been honored to take part in the development of the project among some of the best guitar players in the world like Andy Timmons and Oz Noy. For me, it was a dream becoming true.
When I first got my hands on this instrument, I have been completely kidnapped by the quality, the sound, and the tonal voice coming out from that simple “piece of wood”.
Since then, this guitar became a huge part of my sound, practically my main guitar so far, I recorded all my entire latest album only with this one guitar
Let me explain why I think that the Ibanez AZ can be a very good choice for the many that, like me, want an instrument with character but versatile at the same time.
The woods and the overall construction
Different from the RG line, for example, the AZ models are made to have that sound character that the RG misses a little. The RG lines are made literally to run, and if from one side that super thin and precise neck is a killer for sculpting every note and make them sound clean as razors, on the other side I personally miss that “vintage old bluesy feel”. The AZ takes the best of both worlds, using woods that give you the impression of being “living” under your fingers, while at the same time you can be a modern shredder sounding guitarist without missing clarity and agility in your fast lines.
The oval shape roasted neck becomes an important part of the sound for this purpose, and it lets you have the necessary sound and stability to sound clean enough to play both modern and vintage sounding solos and rhythms.
The alder body gives the instrument the correct range of frequencies, without sounding too dark or too high-frequency. I personally think this is the perfect balance for a super strat guitar in therm of tonal range.
The woods and the overall construction is maybe a little better in the prestige version than the premium version, but honestly, the first time I tried the premium version, I was not able at all to make a distinction in therm of sound and playability. The premium version can really also be a big money saver at first if you don’t want to go directly to the prestige, and you will eventually make the upgrades in the future.
The pickup combinations are a strong point in the Ibanez AZ, and the particular wiring will help you to achieve the classic Tele and Strat sounds, from Mark Knopfler to David Gilmour, passing through Andy Timmons, Guthrie Govan, and Wayne Krantz.
I personally use the 22 frets version of this guitar, and I have been able to achieve tones for Blues, Rock, Metal, and Jazz. During my last Jazz gig, it was amazing how I could achieve easily with the split-coil switch the sound of a classic tone-closed jazz box guitar only with a simple variation in the tones and the switched neck pickup position. The sound reminded me a lot of the one from Ed Bickert, one of my Jazz Guitar Heroes.
The Seymour Duncan Hyperion pickups are a good choice for this guitar, even if maybe not my favorite one if I can give my personal opinion. They have the right combination of tonal character, clarity of sound, and they are the right meeting between classic and vintage sound.
I might probably suggest an upgrade in these pickups if you need something more personal. I guess these pickups are created to have a neutral range and tonal character, but they miss a bit of personality.
I have to say that this guitar sounds great already as it is tho.
Luminlay side dot inlays
This feature will also allow you to see your neck during the darkest gig, and indeed I found this as an advantage.
I like to be able to see where my hands go while the stage lights are not flashing. It gives me a feeling of more security.
Gotoh® Magnum Lock machine heads w/H.A.P.(Height
Adjustable Post) and Gotoh bridge
This is probably the feature I like the most.
The Gotoh bridge allows me the same stability and possibilities of a Floyd Rose but without the overcomplicated mechanisms of it.
Floyd rose bridges can be great in many cases but for sure it takes a ton to be set up, especially when you have to change your strings and you have to do it between a gig and another one.
The Gotoh bridge will allow you to have the same (or almost) freedom, fun adventures, and tuning stability of a Floyd but without its complications. You will have to put the strings in, set them on the blocking machine heads, and in 2 minutes the string is ready. Very easy.
I love this.
How does the AZ Sound?
Well, very good.
First, the AZ is a very ergonomic guitar, you feel it easily as a part of you while you are playing and it is lightweight enough to stay with you for a long-standing up 4 hours gig without your back starting to hurt.
The sound is very rich and warm, and I find it very easy to play once it is set up properly. The neck is in line with the Ibanez tradition: easy to play, comfortable, and fast.
The wide tonal range and the different pickup combinations let me play from Steve Ray Vaughan and John Mayer to ’80 heavy metal rhythm guitars and solos in a matter of a second.
It is always inspiring to play with an instrument that is able to follow your ideas entirely, and I feel that the AZ is perfect for this purpose.
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