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This article was originally published in issue #55
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This is a guitar that feels exactly like a boutique superstrat in every way. It has modern, unique hardware and all the ergonomic design language that modern guitar players demand from their workhorse instrument.
Based on the fantastic new Ibanez AZ range
Supremely comfortable neck and body design
Stainless Steel frets
High end, custom designed hardware throughout
Natural good looks
Superb versatile tonal palette
May be too expensive for some
Roasted Maple neck
Seymour Duncan® Hyperion Pickups
Reviewing your own guitar is never going to be an entirely unbiased affair, but this is a pretty unique scenario here at GI magazine with Tom Quayle getting his very own signature Ibanez model, launched alongside the brand new AZ range at NAMM 2018 in January. So, take from this review what you want, but we literally couldn’t think of anyone better to walk you through his own guitar than the man himself – with that said, here it is, our Ibanez TQM1 review!
The launch of the Ibanez AZ range represents one of the biggest shifts in the company’s direction in decades. Known primarily for their iconic RG, Jem and S guitars, Ibanez has made waves and broken ground in the metal, shred and technical genres with an enormous army of dedicated players and fans and an artist roster that most companies can only dream of. However, a shift in the direction of guitar playing towards more boutique, do it all instruments for players who are highly technical but cover a wider range of styles and demand more versatility from their instruments both tonally and physically were moving away from Ibanez’s pointy guitars towards other brands who combined modernity with tradition in new ways. The AZ is Ibanez’s answer to this dilemma, a guitar that is incredibly well designed and engineered for precise, clinical technical approaches yet combines this with an eye for tradition with contoured visual lines, non-locking nut and a much more classic neck profile.
At the top of this new range lie a pair of brand new signature models, the Martin Miller MM1 and Tom Quayle TQM1, both based on the AZ series but with custom appointments that make them unique amongst the rest of the AZ models. The Japanese made, Prestige TQM1 features a beautifully contoured and highly figured Alder body with a thick Monkey Pod top utilising the same contoured body design from the AZ series. Based on a classic super strat design, but without the pointy horns of a classic RG guitar, the body features Ibanez’s new ‘Super All Access Neck Joint’ and belly cut for supreme comfort and upper fret access with a 4-bolt neck joint offering enough mass to ensure good transfer of vibration and sustain from the body to neck without getting in the way. The Monkey Pod top and Alder body are finished in a natural gloss that accentuates the beautiful and unique Monkey Pod grain without looking over the top or excessive.
The maple neck and fretboard feature Ibanez’s brand new ‘S-Tech’ technology where the wood is roasted in a Nitrogen-rich atmosphere, removing the vast majority of moisture from the wood, thereby rendering it almost impervious to climate changes no matter where you are in the world. A side benefit of this process is the darker colour of the wood which matches beautifully with the natural body and top, giving a stunning all wood finish that is unique among the AZ range. The headstock will be recognisable to any Ibanez fan, but has been rounded off to match the more subtle aesthetic of the AZ range and sports a vintage Ibanez logo and Tom Quayle signature. It was very important to Tom and Ibanez that the guitar wasn’t over laden with signature appointments such as logos and inlays and as such they guitar should appeal to a wider range of people than Tom’s fans alone.
The neck features a much more generous profile than the classic Wizard II or Prestige necks that we are all used to from Ibanez. The C shape features 22.5mm depth at the 12th fret and a 12” radius for a modern playing feel, suitable for cutting-edge techniques that doesn’t compromise long periods of chordal playing. The fretboard features 22 stainless steel, jumbo frets and an oil impregnated bone nut for a slinky playing feel, incredible longevity and excellent tuning stability. From a visual perspective you get Abalone dot inlays and luminescent side dots for a visual aid on dark stages. Fretwork is as good as it gets thanks to the Prestige fret treatment and the neck is finished in satin for that super smooth feel.
Hardware is cutting edge throughout. Gotoh Magnum Locking tuners with height adjustable posts offer quick and easy string changes and bolster tuning stability further. Gotoh and Ibanez have co-designed the T1802 bridge – an updated and improved version of the highly regarded Gotoh 510 two-point floating system, found on so many custom and boutique guitars these days. Ibanez has added Titanium saddles and a Steel trem block for added sustain and thicker lows and highs and even slightly reduced the string spacing to aid modern techniques such as hybrid picking and tapping. An improved, snap-in arm design allows for more control over the feel of the bar as you play and the trem oozes smoothness and precision with a routed cavity allowing for pulling up without bottoming out on the body.
Ibanez also collaborated with Seymour Duncan to design the exclusive Hyperion pickups – found on the TQM1 in a Humbucker, Single, Single configuration. These pickups are designed with a medium output rather than the high output pickups usually associated with RGs and S guitars and offer an incredibly balanced sound that is incredibly versatile, especially combined with the clever new Dyna-Mix 9 switching system devised for this guitar. The 5-way switch is combined with a new ‘Alter Switch’ to provide 9 unique sounds from this pickup configuration. You get your standard superstrat settings with the alter switch off and once switched on you can get fat, neck humbucker tones, telecaster sounds and more for incredible flexibility.
This is a guitar that feels exactly like a boutique superstrat in every way. It has modern, unique hardware and all the ergonomic design language that modern guitar players demand from their workhorse instrument. It happens to look stunning too thanks to the natural finish and gorgeous Monkey Pod top and sounds fantastic for a huge range of genres and styles. Ibanez has really hit it out of the park with the AZ range, and the TQM1 sits atop that range proudly. It’s an incredible instrument and even manages to represent decent value considering what is on offer here compared to the competition.