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Review

Ibanez Iron Label 7-string

Issue #28

Ibanez has a long history of giving its guitars indecipherable model numbers but this one has surely got to take the award for the wackiest name of all time. RGIX27FEQM-TG? Really? Fortunately that might be the only real criticism I have for this excellent guitar that excels in almost every field and offers outstanding value for money.

The RGIX27FEQM-TG is one of the new models in the 2014 Iron Label line-up, a range Ibanez originally launched in 2013 aimed squarely at Heavy Metal players. The Iron Label series has been a raging success primarily because Ibanez got it just right, stripping back their classic RG and S-Series guitars to their basic features and then souping-up the hardware with quality components to ensure maximum appeal for the most tinnitus-inducing guitar players around. Such has been the popularity of the Iron Label series that this year Ibanez has expanded the line further, adding quilt tops, gold hardware and other blinging features to the most popular models for a more luxurious line of metal war machines.

The body of this model is made from basswood as is standard with all Ibanez RG guitars, but it features a gorgeous quilted maple top. It’s only a veneer but it looks fantastic and is finished brilliantly with a 'Transparent Grey' paint job that really makes the wood ‘pop’. The finish is also transparent on the back, so the grain of the basswood is visible through the paint. I thought that was a really nice touch, adding some texture and maintaining the luxurious feel of the instrument overall. The body also features an immaculate abalone binding which really adds to the visual impact of the guitar and is a beautiful touch for a guitar in this price bracket.

The aesthetic of the guitar is mirrored perfectly by the headstock, featuring the same Trans-Grey quilt veneer, abalone binding and an oversized white Ibanez logo.

The neck of the RGIX27FEQM-TG features the famous  Ibanez Nitro Wizard-7 profile, the slim flat neck carve that offers supreme comfort and access for guitarists of the shredding persuasion. Here it’s a three-piece construction: maple with a large bubinga strengthening-stripe that protects the thin neck from warping due to climate changes. It’s teamed with an ebony fretboard - a quality wood for this price bracket - jumbo frets, the standard Ibanez radius of 400mm (roughly 16 inches) and a black fretboard binding, another luxury feature for the money that was again finished to perfection.

Overall, I found the neck on this guitar to be superb, one of the most comfortable and playable 7-string necks that I have ever come across, with great upper-fret access thanks to the All-Acces Neck Joint (AANJ) and great, low sting action straight out of the box.

The bridge is the Ibanez Gibraltar Standard II-7, a quality string-through-body fixed bridge with saddles that felt smooth under the picking hand, a low profile and a solid, comfortable feel overall. Unfortunately the intonation was out on our review model on the high E and B strings, but this was easily fixable with Allen-key adjustable saddles and really wasn’t too much of an issue for a guitar in this price bracket. The bridge is finished in gold, as is all the hardware on the guitar. Gold might be a polarising choice for some but I felt it matched the abalone body binding and finish of the guitar and tied the aesthetic of the instrument together well.

The pickups, controlled by a three-way blade selector switch, are EMG 707s, the classic EMG active 7-string pickup that was the leading pickup of choice for 7-string metallers for many years and is considered a classic. There’s a handy battery compartment on the back, making battery changes a doddle in the middle of a gig, and the pickups are wired with one volume control and a killswitch. For some reason Ibanez has decided to use a latching switch as opposed to a momentary switch which pretty much voids it of musical use. Still, being able to switch the guitar on and off at the flick of a switch will allow Metal guitarists to talk to their bandmates between songs at rehearsal without being drowned out by screaming feedback, which will surely be a novel experience for some!

Tonally the guitar is obviously aimed at high gain sounds and the 707s absolutely excel in this area. The bridge pickup offers biting clarity and an overall smoothness to the distortion which is perfect for Heavy Metal rhythm guitar and screaming leads, remaining articulate even when performing fast low-B string riffs and palm muted chords. The neck pickup offers similar levels of clarity, with enhanced smoothness and a warm, singing sustain that’s perfect for lead guitar shredding. The guitar also sounds great clean, with a flat, dynamic response that would lend itself well to the variety of effects and processing that is common in Metal guitar clean sections. The addition of a tone knob would add to the guitars versatility when clean and some players may opt to add one in place of the killswitch, but to many Metal guitar players this is a versatility that’s simply not required for their music or playing styles, so it’s understandable why it’s been left off the Iron Label series.

All in all this is a stunning guitar. Although the gold hardware and abalone binding may be a little flamboyant for some Metal musicians, for many the finish upgrades will prove an enticing offer from Ibanez. The specs of the guitar are fantastic at the price, it plays like a dream and sounds brilliant thanks to a savvy choice of classic Metal pickups. Importantly, it also represents outstanding quality and value for money and would be a great investment for a player serious about playing extended range guitar. Overall this is an inspiring guitar that any Metal player could be proud to say they owned, even if actually saying the model name may prove a challenge!

Issue 28 Cover

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