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This article was originally published in issue #24
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With acoustic guitar continuing to enjoy a well deserved revival, more people are taking it up and looking for a good instrument to get started with. Gone are the days (hopefully...) of your first guitar being some terrible nylon strung acoustic, with the bridge half-hanging off and a high enough action to store a small town under. Many of us will remember guitars like that and they left the unfortunate owner with no choice but to tough it out, or quit until he had saved enough money to buy a half decent one - and if your pocket money was anything like mine back in the day, that was roughly around four years (all together now - aww! Ed). In recent years manufacturers have finally realised that entry level shouldn’t mean down right terrible and there are now some really quite decent guitars on the market for beginners. For 2014, Ibanez has thrown down a very sizeable gauntlet however, with the brand new PC12MH. Frankly, is so cheap it raised our collective eyebrows at GI Towers. Can any guitar this cheap be much good?
The Ibanez PC12MH has an impressive spec sheet. With a (laminated) mahogany back, sides, top and neck in a beautiful open pore natural finish, the guitar looks fantastic. Machine heads are traditional three a side chrome open gear tuners with butterbean knobs. These look great and worked well, they were however a little small, and if things started to get a little stiff they may become quite hard to turn or tough for smaller fingers. The mahogany neck is topped with a rosewood 20 fret fretboard that was a breeze to play. No problems with action of doom on this guitar, tricky chords and stretches were possible anywhere on the neck, with no fret buzz or intonation issues!
The fret edges were smooth and the neck shape nice and comfortable, thin enough for smaller hands. The Grand Concert sized body makes things even more easy going if you are just starting out as opposed to a Dreadnought bodied guitar and this also makes seeing what you are doing easier too, as you don’t feel like the guitar is a mile in front of your body, with your right arm up by your ear! X bracing is used throughout and the overall finish and attention to detail is excellent.
Add a rosewood bridge set with Ibanez bridge pins to keep the strings in place, a tidy looking scratch plate and faux tortoiseshell soundhole rosette and you have a thoroughly classy looking instrument.
It's true that this isn’t an electro-acoustic and that some manufactures do offer electro-acoustics in this price range, however, I often feel they cut corners elsewhere - choice of wood, neck finish etc. You don’t get that feeling with this Ibanez. In fact it feels like a lot of thought and care has gone into it, rather than a “that will do” attitude that other makes can be guilty of as its “just” an entry level guitar. The all mahogany choice means a solid tone throughout yielding low end depth, and mid-range definition. Easy to play straight out of the box.
It's easy for companies to cut corners with their entry level instruments, but the fact is that if we wish to inspire the next generation of players then they need an instrument that’s not constantly fighting them. It needs to look great, not cheap, be well finished, sound great, and most importantly be easy and a joy to play. Ibanez has ticked all the boxes with this guitar. It's not just a great starter instrument, it's also a great acoustic guitar that puts a lot of other high end acoustics to shame, and could just as easily do for a more experienced player who wanted a guitar that he wouldn't mind getting knocked around a bit. This is a tremendous bargain and after some serious thought we've decided to award it the extra quarter of a star which elevates it into some very rare company indeed. That's how good it is. Well done Ibanez!