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Review

Ibanez PGM80P Paul Gilbert signature guitar

Issue #38

Ibanez has been producing guitars for shred picking legend Paul Gilbert for around 25 years now and the PGM80P is the latest model, based on the mid '90s PGM800 and sitting in Ibanez’s affordable Premium range of instruments.

Just like the PGM800 before it, the PGM80P features a solid ash body in a natural gloss finish with Paul Gilbert's signature f-hole inlays finished in matt black. The neck is a five piece construction with three pieces of maple and two thin strips of walnut for extra stability matched with a rosewood fretboard with white dot inlays. For extra strength Ibanez has employed KTS Titanium rods through the neck offering much greater stability in different climates, making it ideal for travelling musicians or those in particularly humid climates. The headstock is of the traditional RG variety with six locking Gotoh machine heads and a glossed ash veneer to match the body. Ibanez has wisely chosen a satin finish for the back of the 22-fret neck to keep things smooth and fast with a large, solid neck joint with subtle sculpting for access to the upper frets.

Hardware is high quality thanks to a trio of DiMarzio pickups - a PAF Master humbucker in the neck and bridge position and a PGM single coil in the middle, matched to a five way switch and single volume control. In true Paul Gilbert style there is no tone control on the guitar as he simply never uses one. Unlike the PGM800 that featured a fixed bridge, the PGM80P has a Wilkinson WV6-SB, a vintage style six screw variant that is set-up flush to the body from the factory but could be made to float if required. It feels nice and smooth in use and is well made if not particularly exciting but it works well and stays in tune helped by those locking tuners.

The guitar is very well made and lives up to the impressive standards set by Ibanez for the Premium range. The fretwork is particularly impressive with rolled fret ends and beautifully polished frets, offering a very smooth playing experience that is comfortable for the left hand across the range of the instrument. General construction and finishing is very good indeed with nothing obvious to indicate that this guitar falls in the mid to affordable price range for Ibanez. The factory set-up also seemed very good with a nice low to medium action and very easy playability all the way up the neck. The only issue is that the middle pickup is set really high out of the factory and can easily get in the way of your picking but this is easily solved by lowering the pickup to taste.

The PGM80P features a very comfortable neck width and depth that is a little thicker than most of the Wizard necks you’ll find on RG models. It feels more vintage in nature but retains the fast feel and playability that Paul Gilbert is known to exploit so well. The radius is around the 400mm/16” area so is nice and flat for fast leads but still feels comfy for chordal work and riff based playing.

Acoustically the guitar is surprisingly resonant and loud with a ton of sustain thanks to the ash body and large neck joint. This translates beautifully through the DiMarzio pickups once plugged in and the five way switch offers a range of versatile tones with both thick humbucker tones and Strat-like single coil position two and four sounds on offer. The PAF Masters offer lots of detail and pick attack, perfect for Paul’s aggressively picked style but never sound harsh or over the top here. Clean tones are dynamic and almost vintage in nature, with a good balance between lows and highs but the detail on offer is superb with great note separation that translates very well with high gain sounds too. The middle pickup is quite bright and also vintage voiced, offering great Strat tones in position two and four that have plenty of bite and honk. It’s hard to pull a bad tone out of the PGM80P and it’s far more versatile than you might imagine given the man it is designed for. I have even heard some superb Jazz tones out of this particular model, a great achievement considering the lack of a tone control!

The PGM80P is another superb addition to the Premium range from Ibanez. These guitars represent very good value for money and with the upgrade in hardware that they’ve been receiving recently they truly can be considered professional instruments that can be owned by almost anyone. Even for someone who isn't a dedicated Paul Gilbert fan this is a great looking and sounding instrument that is very versatile and a joy to play. If you want a great playing Ibanez with a slightly more vintage vibe and a thicker neck then the PGM80P is well worth checking out and of course it also comes with a great hard case and accessories. 

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