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This article was originally published in issue #44
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Ibanez is already the master of all things shredtastic but has this Japanese-made introduction actually raised the bar for the entire genre? GI's own shred king, Sam Bell, finds out.
I simply couldn't wipe the grin off my face when I opened the hard case containing this guitar. The Ibanez RG337ODX is a newcomer to the company's renowned RG series and sits right at the top of the pile, being a genuine Japanese-made model in the Ibanez Prestige series – which means you won't find one in just any old guitar shop, only the ones that are Ibanez Prestige dealers.
In essence, this is a return to the ground where Ibanez really made its mark as a major guitar maker, thirty years ago when it first rode the crest of the shred wave. That RG tag on a guitar meant it was a very significant instrument at the time and the company has decided to once again offer Japanese crafted versions, the result being this, which is, as far as I can make out, more or less a direct reissue. I have personally always wanted this particular RG and now I have had the chance to handle one, but enough of that - let's get into the review!
Available in Candy Apple Red or Laser Blue with shark tooth neck inlays that complement each colour, the RG377 features the trademark Super Wizard HP five piece maple and walnut neck which is super thin with 24 jumbo frets. Notes just pop off this machine with the soaring sustain and dynamic of the HSH configuration pickups. The pickups come in a classic passive combination of DiMarzio Air Norton in the neck, DiMarzio True Velvet single coil in the middle position followed by The DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucking pickup in the bridge. These come in cool colours to complement the blue or red finish on the guitar and are connected to the body of the guitar, not the transparent pick guard that really completes the look of this guitar.
These pickups are medium to high output and combined with Ibanez’s classic five way switching system allow you to conjure up a wide array of classic tones you are bound to have heard on many records. But is it a shred-only guitar as its looks might suggest? Well, while this is undoubtedly built to be a shred machine, there is nothing to stop you making full use of this guitar's considerable tonal versatility. You can get superstrat style funky cleans with the pickups set in position two or four, which combines one half of a bucker with the single coil in the middle, for example, and with a bit of gain you can get lovely articulate sustain and attack on our rhythm and lead playing with the bridge position pickup or a warm but present throaty tone with the neck pickup. It's actually a lot more versatile than you might think.
In fact this is a guitar of hidden depths. Delving deeper, it’s really worth noting some finer details that perhaps aren’t noticeable immediately. This guitar features a floating locking whammy bar unit, based on the design Ibanez used in the '90s. It’s a little more ‘blocky’ looking than the modern ones but it stays right out the way of the picking hand and features a very sturdy bar which doesn’t compromise on size. If you are into whammy bar vibrato, dive bombs, harmonics this is THE best whammy bar bridge you can hope for when you set it up properly!
Another detail that I need to stress because it’s SO cool is the neck joint heel area. Ibanez has used a backplate on this which, if you are familiar with the more recent Ibanez models, isn’t used any more. The back plate is embodied with the Ibanez Prestige logo and is slightly recessed into the body so you can access the higher frets without the heel getting in the way. This gives the guitar a little bit more weight and balances it nicely when sitting down with the guitar or standing up.
Now onto what makes a Prestige a Prestige and sets it apart from other ranges of Ibanez guitars. They are built in Japan, each guitar is quality tested and uses the best hardware, woods and pickups. Does this make much of a difference? Yes, it really does affect how the guitar feels and sounds. There is more presence, low end response and mid-range detail that comes through. Notes pop off the fingerboard and sustain in a way that I feel only Ibanez RG guitars can. There’s a reason why guitar legends like Paul Gilbert, Andy Timmons and Steve Vai love this particular model so much!
I loved this guitar. It's an unashamed metal speed machine but it has those hidden depths, too, and is far more tonally versatile than you might expect. True, you'd feel a bit odd turning up with one of these to play in a Blues band, but you could. And if you didn't want to do that (just to see the look on people's faces!) using it as speed machine, you can still get more tones and more subtle sounds out of it than you can out of the average shred guitar.
This RG's unique looks and the playability are unparalleled in my opinion. The build quality is fantastic, Ibanez Japan really prides itself on making these Prestige guitars fantastic and it shows. This one gets four and a half stars without any trouble. For a guitar that sells for over £1,500? Yes, of course! It's a match for boutique guitars costing a great deal more. Sadly, readers in the USA apparently can't get these yet. Time to start lobbying Ibanez USA because you are really missing out.