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Review

Ibanez Artwood Vintage AVD9 & AVD10 acoustic guitars

Issue #49

The AVD9 and AVD10 are exceptional guitars at the price Ibanez are asking for them
Tom Quayle

IBANEZ ARTWOOD AVD9

Pros:

Thermo Aged technology really seems to work for a smooth, aged acoustic tone
Subtle good looks
Very comfortable to play
Excellent value for money

Cons:

No hard case included
No pickup system
Not as tonally impressive as the AVD10

Ibanez Artwood AVD10

Pros: 

Thermo Aged technology really seems to work for a smooth, aged acoustic tone
Classy good looks
Very comfortable to play
Exceptional value for money
Thermo Aged back and sides adds even more smoothness and bottom end to tone
High end Grover tuners

Cons: 

No hard case included
No pickup system

Thermo aging, or 'torrefecation', of guitar tonewoods started out as a luxury item only. Now the technology has filtered down to the manufacturers who bring us the guitars most of us can afford.  However, Ibanez may have scooped the board with these two new Artwood models. Tom Quayle test drives two fascinating newcomers.


One of the current trends in the guitar world right now is the artificial aging of wood, in order to produce the tone of a vintage or ‘played in’ instrument straight out of the factory. Every company comes up with their own buzzword and unique method for the process, ranging from vibrating the wood for long periods of time to baking it at specific temperatures in an oven. Ibanez has coined the term ‘Thermo Aging’ for its particular process, where the wood is dried in a vacuum at high temperature (also known as torrefaction), in order to bring out more natural volume, especially in the treble and bass regions. The company’s latest ‘Artwood Vintage’ acoustic guitars use just this process and we got to check out the budget friendly ‘AVD9’ and higher end ‘AVD10’ to see what all the fuss is about.

The Artwood Vintage Thermo Aged guitars are all designed to represent classic vintage acoustic body shapes. Our AVD9 and 10 are dreadnought models with solid Sitka spruce tops and mahogany backs and sides. Both guitars feature solid mahogany necks with rosewood fretboards and bridges. The AVD9 has a ‘Thermo Aged’ top and x-bracing, whereas the AVD10 has the treatment applied to both top, bracing and back and sides. The AVD10 also upgrades the AVD9’s stock, chrome, open-gear tuners with higher quality Grover variants. The pair also features a compensated bone saddle and nut, plus Ibanez Advantage bridge pins for easier string changes and more secure string placement in the bridge.

Visually, the AVD10 represents an obvious upgrade over the AVD9, with its pretty Brown Violin Sunburst stain, herringbone purfling, grained ivoroid binding around the body, neck and headstock and mother of pearl fretboard inlays. The AVD9 sports a plain High Gloss finish, simple dot inlays, tortoiseshell binding around the body only and no purfling. Both are very good looking guitars though, fulfilling their vintage brief very well with clean lines and just the right amount of visual flair from the AVD10.

 

Considering the very modest asking price of these guitars, the build quality it exceptional. We’ve come to expect this from mid-priced or even low priced Ibanez offering these days, but the AVDs are beautifully made. Internally and externally the guitars are flawless with top-notch fretwork and finishing, well executed visual appointments and quality wood choices. Ibanez has chosen classic wood combinations but appears to have not cut corners with their wood selections since both guitars featured lovely grain patterns and healthy looking woods that give the illusion of a more expensive instrument. Both guitars also play extremely well with comfortable, V-shape neck profiles, featuring a lovely satin finish for a smooth playing experience and sensible body sizes for a dreadnought.

Of course, the real issue at hand here is how these guitars sound, since Ibanez is making such a point of their ‘Thermo Aged’ moniker. The interesting thing is that we could directly compare the sound of the AVD9 with its aged top, with the AVD10 where the back and sides were also aged. Almost every other aspect of the guitars remains the same, other than the tuners and aesthetic appointments, so it is very easy to compare the tone and response accurately. To cut a long story short, the Thermo Aging process does seem to have a tangible effect on the sound and response of the guitar with the AVD10 exhibiting a more open and detailed tone with a definite boost the low end and smoothness in the top end.

The AVD9 sounds great, especially considering the low price, but the AVD10 just adds more vibrancy and punch to proceedings, making the AVD9 feel a little ‘dull’ in comparison. Of course, what you should be comparing an AVD9 with is other guitars in its price bracket with no aging at all and if you do we are pretty confident you will find that its aged top makes it stand out tonally. Bear in mind that prior to the arrival of the AVD9 the cheapest guitar we have seen with a torrefied top was over twice its price!

It would seem that Ibanez is certainly onto something with this ‘Thermo Aged’ technology and it is to be congratulated for making this technology available at affordable prices. Baking the wood has the effect of drying it in a similar, albeit more extreme, way that natural aging does over far longer periods of time. It’s a well known fact that acoustic guitars improve with age and if Ibanez can produce this aging artificially and get such great results, these are exciting times for acoustic players.

The AVD9 and AVD10 are exceptional guitars at the price Ibanez are asking for them. Our money would be placed on the AVD10, thanks to its improved tone and response, but the AVD9 would make an excellent choice for those on limited budgets. Bear in mind that neither guitar ships with a case or pickup/pre-amp system built in, so those would need to be factored into your budget, but the AVD guitars should be high on your list to check out if you’re after a mid to low priced acoustic that gives you the best bang/tone for your hard earned buck and looks great too!

 

 

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