What are Ibanez Guitars Reviews
Test: Ibanez Prestige AZ2204 / AZ2402
Hardly any other guitar manufacturer does such a facelift like Ibanez. Modifications and adjustments are made every year, the latest trends are taken into account and the latest paintwork is presented. On the other hand, Ibanez offers series that have been in the program for several decades, such as the RG series, the AS and the JEM, as well as many endorser models. For 2018, the new AZ series is coming into the program, which has what it takes to be a classic and is sure to delight us for many years to come.
The Ibanez development team took a close look at the current market and found that the number of "players" is increasing. Guitarists who not only play exceptionally, but also place extreme demands on their instrument that an off-the-shelf guitar cannot meet. Musicians who are at home in many styles from rock, fusion to jazz. So it was analyzed, questioned, tested, developed and designed, and prototypes developed, which were put through their paces by many guitarists. The result is the new AZ series: AZ stands for, everything has been revised from A to Z, no stone has been left unturned. There are two basic models: one with 22 frets, one with 24 frets. The AZ Prestige is manufactured in Japan by Fujigen, the AZ-Premium in Indonesia. In December we were able to look at the complete series at Ibanez's Meinl distributor, and shortly before Christmas we received the prestige models AZ2204 and AZ 2402 for testing.
- The most important features:
- new headstock
- changed body shape
- advanced hardware
- exclusive Seymour-Duncan pickups with an extended circuit
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Neck: The Prestige models have a one-piece, steel rod-reinforced maple neck with a glued-on maple fingerboard with a 648 mm scale length. The maple is heat-treated, known as roasted. Ibanez calls his patented technology, which is used for the Prestige models, S-Tech. A vacuum chamber is filled with nitrogen and heated. The wood treated in this way becomes more stable and insensitive to climate changes, offers an excellent attack, more sustain, a sound like an instrument that has been played for years and an extraordinary dark look. (Editor's note: The color is created by the caramelization of the sugar contained in the wood.)
The Ibanez-typical RG headstock has been rounded, the necks are slightly narrower on the saddle than usual with Ibanez, and the fingerboard radius is 12 "(305 mm) flatter than on vintage instruments (7.5"), but not so flat like many shredder guitars: a good middle ground for all styles. The neck itself has an oval C-shape, is thicker than you are used to with Ibanez and fits perfectly in the hand.
A special feature are the dots in the edge of the fingerboard, they are luminous and help orientation in poor light. The necks are matt lacquered and give the feel of a guitar that has been played for years.
The Prestige are equipped with Gotoh HAP-M locking mechanisms, with which the shaft height can also be adjusted so that the optimal angle of the strings can be set. The locking mechanism works automatically, you insert the string, and when you turn the string locks itself. The strings are passed straight over the bone saddle, and only the e and h strings are pressed down a little with the string retainer. Everything for optimal tuning stability.
The distance between the saddle and the mechanics of the E6th is larger than normal: a string damper can be attached behind the saddle, which either dampens the strings behind the saddle or is pushed directly over the area between the saddle and the 1st fret for tapping.
The AZ models are equipped with stainless steel frets that are perfectly processed, a special feature of Prestige models are the particularly rounded fret ends, which enable ultra-comfortable play. The necks are attached to the body with four screws. The neck-body transition is shaped in such a way that effortless gripping is possible even in the highest positions: The Ibanez Super All Access Neck Joint. All body edges are rounded, and the top and bottom are ergonomically shaped so that elbows and stomach can adapt perfectly.
Body: The 22-fret version has an alder body with a thick maple top, the 24-fret version has a solid alder body. The asymmetrically shaped bodies have the same external dimensions, but in the 24 version the neck is offset a little further in the body, so that the body there is approx. 2 cm shorter. This also means that the 24 version is a little lighter than the 22 fret version. The AZ2204 has a high-gloss finish in Transparent Aqua Blue, the AZ2402 has a satin finish in the very beautiful tri-fade burst. (Alternatively, both models are also available in Ice Blue Metallic).
Hardware: The AZ series guitars are equipped with a modernized vintage vibrato. Ibanez has developed a new model with the manufacturer Gotoh based on the well-known 510 tremolo. The T1802 tremolo made exclusively for Ibanez has massive titanium saddles - adjustable in height and length - and a massive steel block. The string spacing is reduced to 10.5 mm (distance E1 - E6: 53.2 mm), the insertable vibrato lever can also be locked. The base plate rests on two adjustable bolts with minimal friction; the vibrato is milled under, so that you can tremolate far upwards. And all of it is vocal-stable.
A special feature: small rubber hoses are put over the springs on the back of the body, which provide counter-tension to the strings, which prevent the springs from resonating. For Strat players initially acoustically unfamiliar, but extremely practical. The cover plate of the spring chamber has three slots so that the spring tension can be adjusted from the outside and the plate does not have to be removed when changing strings. Small detail: the belt buttons are oversized so that a conventional belt also has a perfect fit.
Electronics: Together with Seymour Duncan and his legendary employee Marciela "MJ" Juarez - she has been working with the pickup guru since 1976 and was his first employee - Ibanez has developed exclusive pickups and a new circuit concept: Seymour Duncan Hyperion pickups. They can be played very dynamically and have a very balanced tone across all frequency ranges. The AZ2204 has a humbucker in the bridge position and two single coils, the 2402 has two humbuckers. The pickups are slightly more powerful than conventional single coils, and the humbuckers also have more power and power in the bridge position, the neck humbucker of the 2402 is adapted, only slightly more powerful than a PAF, and therefore very nicely tuned to the other pickups. Both models are equipped with a 5-way switch and an additional switch that enables further combinations of the pickups, called dyna-mix. In the basic position, the 2204 offers the standard combinations:
2. Neck + middle parallel
4. Center + web SC parallel
In the dyna-Mix position there are four options:
1. Neck / middle in series
2. Neck + bridge SC parallel
3. Neck / middle in series + humbucker in parallel
4th bridge SC
5. as above humbuckers
With the 2402 this is a little different, there are 10 possibilities, the first 5 correspond to the Steve Vai circuit:
1. Neck HB
2. Neck SC + bridge SC
3. Neck + bridge HB parallel
4. Neck SC + bridge SC parallel
5th bridge HB
The following 5 variants are added to the dyna-Mix circuit:
1. Neck, a coil tapped
2. Neck SC
3. Neck, one coil tapped + bridge one coil tapped parallel
4th bridge SC
5th bridge, a coil tapped
Master volume and tone are adjustable. The volume controls are equipped with a 330 pF capacitor between the input and output, so the highs are retained when the volume is turned down. The jack socket is turned sideways in the frame, so the plug cannot be accidentally pulled out. The electronics compartments are perfectly shielded so that interference is minimal even with single coils.
The magnetic field of a pickup with bar magnets influences the vibrations of the string in such a way that they become out of round. Adjusting the octave purity is also more difficult. The sound of the stratitized string becomes undifferentiated. To adjust, press the low E-string down on the last fret and place the pickups about 5 mm away from the strings and start to slowly turn them higher. One observes the string vibrations of the string that was just struck. If this begins to vibrate out of round, you have reached the "stratitis zone" and set the pickup just below it. Since the stratitis effect is most likely to occur with the neck pickup (this is where the string swings out the furthest), it is advisable to start with the adjustment there. Put the pickup about 0.5 mm closer under the high strings. Because these are thinner, so contain less magnetic material and therefore need this volume compensation, but are also not so sensitive to stratitis.
The best known manufacturer of professional string stoppers / damper sets is the Californian manufacturer GruvGear. FretWrap effectively helps to dampen overtones, resonating open strings and resonances and is pushed behind the saddle when not in use. The Californian accessories manufacturer GruvGear has a license deal with the parent company of Ibanez Hoshino Gakki Ltd: Ibanez FretWraps by GruvGear are versions of the GruvGear string damper for guitars and basses branded with the Ibanez logo. (€ 15.90)
These new models are fun. You can tell immediately that a lot of ideas and wishes from musicians have flowed into this. The result are instruments that are super playable, that feel well-rehearsed and familiar, and that are suitable for many types of play. They also close a gap in the program: Anyone looking for an instrument that has many of the properties of a noble Strat could only fall back on the Andy Timmons models. The 2204 with the two single coils and the humbucker offers many of these properties to perfection. The 2402 with 24 frets and two humbuckers and enormous circuit variability is an all-round talent with noble Strat bonds.
Even when played acoustically, the guitars show an expressive tone, they reproduce the playing nuances in detail and dynamically. The alder body in combination with the treated maple of the neck ensure a fine-grained tone. This is not a heavy instrument, but really a classic tone that is reproduced in great detail by the electronics.
To get used to it, you will first start with the standard circuit on both models and explore the variety of sounds. And if you get the idea to look for other sounds, you will quickly find what you are looking for in the dyna-Mix version. For the 22-fret variant: single coil web, position 4; as with the Tele bridge and neck SC, position 2; or powerful neck humbucker, position 1; fat high-pitched tone, position 3; Humbucker bridge with the two serially connected single coils. I memorized the positions relatively quickly.
With the 2402 with 24 frets, the standard circuit is the same as with the JEM, here dyna-Mix offers slightly thinner sounds in the second level. B. the humbuckers with a tapped coil, which sound a little more hollow and finer (position 1 and 5), or both tapped humbuckers in parallel (position 3), and each a single coil of the humbucker (position 2 and 4). These sounds are very logical and easy to remember.
The workmanship of the guitars is excellent, flawless and perfect. Special praise goes to the frets, which are perfectly aligned and rounded. The string action is set extremely flat, I would turn it a little higher, this is good for the development of the tone. The .10 strings are a perfect match for the guitar; You just need a little more getting used to pulling the strings because of the floating vibrato than is the case with a purely vintage system. Since these are pure single-coil pickups with bar magnets, you should make sure that the distance between the strings and the pole pieces is not too small, otherwise stratitis symptoms will appear on the bass strings: either raise the strings or lower the pickups .
Perfect from A to Z. I have been accompanying Ibanez and his instruments since the mid-1970s, when they made the leap from good copies to their own creations. I really had countless different Ibanez guitars in my (tester) hands, and also followed many changes in trend. Many models are still current and timeless today. The new AZ series will be another milestone in the long Ibanez history. The two Japanese models are completely convincing. I also had the opportunity to check out the cheaper Indonesian versions in advance, and a lot of good things can be expected there too. The two test models here are completely convincing, thanks to their basic sound, which can already be heard without amplification and has been electrically perfected with the new pickups and the circuit. Handling and playability are terrific. Congratulations.
(published in Guitar & Bass 02/2018)
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