The monumental success of Ibanez’s AZ series restored the brand to its former glory in the virtuoso guitar community. Those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s know that Ibanez was once the go-to for guitar gods but, over the past two decades, the emergence of other boutique S-style builders and the meteoric rise of PRS has seen the pointy headed vanguard of rock instruments become almost passé.
However, when Ibanez launched its AZ range in 2018, the boutique, less angular look sported by the guitars in the range flaunted an appeal much more contemporary than that of its increasingly outmoded shred machines.
This model originates from the Japanese-built Prestige line. The Hazy Rose Metallic finish contrasts nicely with the dark roasted maple neck, which has been subjected to Ibanez’s patented S-Tech process. The procedure involves placing the wood in a pressure-resistant container filled with nitrogen and then heated to 200 degrees Celsius.
It’s similar to the roasting techniques employed by many modern manufactures to strip wood of moisture, thus creating a lighter yet more stable neck that is less susceptible to the vicissitudes of climate conditions. The neck sports a stunning hue, with the oil finish emphasising the grain and providing a truly worn-in feel.
Gotoh locking tuners with height-adjustable posts allow you to set the optimum height of each string for perfect balance over the top nut, while the Gotoh T1802 vibrato system has a recess underneath that permits a three-semitone uplift.
Ibanez’s oval C neck dimensions are generous and far from the slim C profile associated with most modern S-types. It’s very comfortable indeed, though a little luthier TLC is required around the high frets to rectify some choking on extreme bends. Thankfully though, grabbing those high bends is simple given the extended cutaway behind the slim heel.
Plugged into our Deluxe Reverb and accompanied by a switching diagram, things get interesting. The medium-output Seymour Duncan Hyperion pickups with alnico V magnets have been built specifically for the AZ range.
Nestled between the tone and volume control is the Alter switch, which controls Ibanez’s dyna-MIX9 switching system. This switch, in conjunction with the regular five-way, offers nine distinct sounds by combining the single-coils in series to provide hum-cancelling or splitting the humbucker and combining coils with the neck and middle. Practically every configuration is available.
The neck pickup has been voiced to provide Strat-like snap but with extra power. It’s fairly overwound, so it’s not too bright. But, in search of more girth, we flick the Alter switch, et voilà – the neck and middle are now wired in series with hum-cancelling.
What’s particularly impressive about the circuitry is that the volume remains consistent over every setting, even when switching from the meaty bridge humbucker to the middle single-coil.
Ibanez has a knack for sensing what’s going on in the shred world – and for providing those in it with their exact requirements. Tonal versatility and playability are paramount to today’s fusion-led guitar virtuosos, and the AZ series continues to tick both boxes and then some.
- PRICE £1,799 (including hard case)
- DESCRIPTION 6-string double-cutaway electric guitar, made in Japan
- BUILD Alder body, roasted maple bolt-on neck with 12”/305mm radius, roasted maple fretboard, 22 jumbo stainless-steel frets
- HARDWARE Gotoh T1802 vibrato bridge, Gotoh Magnum Lock machineheads with height adjustable posts
- ELECTRONICS Seymour Duncan Hyperion humbucker (bridge) and 2x Hyperion single-coils (middle and neck), 5-Way Super Switch with coil-split, volume, tone, dyna-MIX9 switching system with Alter switch
- SCALE LENGTH 25.5”/648mm
- NECK WIDTH 42mm at nut, 51.69mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 20.5mm at 1st fret, 22.5mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 52.94mm at bridge, 35.7mm at nut
- WEIGHT 3.3kg/7.28lb
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- FINISHES Ice Blue Metallic, Hazy Rose Metallic (as reviewed)
- CONTACT ibanez.com, andertons.co.uk