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Review

Ibanez AZ Prestige - 22 & 24 Fret

Issue #57

They called it the AZ as they believed it could do everything from A-Z...(or ABBA to Zappa as I like to say!).
Lee Wrathe

 PROS


Ibanez AZ2402-ICM Prestige

An incredibly flexible guitar for the modern player

Understated, classic looks

Ibanez AZ22204-TAB Prestige

Super versatile axe for the modern player

Classic, S-Type looks


Cons


Ibanez AZ2402-ICM Prestige

Not for players who prefer typically wafer thin necks

Ibanez AZ22204-TAB Prestige

Not for those who want 24 frets


SPECS


Ibanez AZ2402-ICM Prestige

Alder Body

Maple Fretboard

Seymour Duncan Hyperion Humbucker Pickups

GUITAR INTERACTIVE STAR RATING:  5 STARS

Ibanez AZ2402-ICM Prestige - MSRP £1779 (UK)  $2666 (US)

Ibanez AZ22204-TAB Prestige

Flamed Maple top

Alder body

Roasted Maple neck

Seymour Duncan Hyperion Humbucker Pickups

Guitar Interactive star rating:  4.5 Stars

Ibanez AZ22204-TAB Prestige - MSRP £2229 (UK)  $TBC (US)


Ibanez AZ Prestige - 22 & 24 Fret

For 2018, Ibanez has introduced a brand new line of solid body electric guitars called the AZ series. Lee Wrathe takes a closer look at two of these new additions from the Prestige range, in the form of the AZ2402-ICM and AZ22204-TAB

The AZ series carries with it all of the hallmarks of these tried and tested Ibanez qualities: the smooth oval neck profile, the well balanced asymmetrical body shape, and the neck heel allowing unrivalled playability an upper fret access. It also features a new tremolo bridge, as well as newly developed Hyperion pickups, produced in collaboration with Seymour Duncan. All of these elements help the AZ push the existing boundaries of playability and sound to the next level for modern cutting-edge players, while also providing a touch of classic styling.

Ibanez AZ2402-ICM Prestige

Okay, so let’s be super clear from the get-go. This isn’t your typical review where I pick up the guitar for the first time and give you my verdict on its pros and cons. Having been involved in its development, I am bound to tell you that I love it! Regardless, I hope you find the details and the History behind these fabulously hip new guitars, interesting and dare I say it, enjoyable.

When Ibanez first approached me regarding a new range of axes, around 18 months ago. I was one of their Worldwide endorsees and very happy playing my various RG’s and S series guitars. Using a variety of current Ibanez guitars I was able to create the cross-genre Music that I like and indeed, need to play in order to fulfil my ‘demo guy’ day job.

However, Ibanez had other plans…

How it started.

The back story of the AZ is interesting and a bit of a departure from the traditional method of bringing a product to market. From a design and marketing perspective.

Ibanez recognised that today’s “players player” (as they coin it) have different needs from players from yesteryear and as such were interested in garnering the opinions of some of those people to find out why they weren’t using, say, a high end RG to play their blend of modern fusion.

(Many of whom had adopted Suhr as their weapon of choice to achieve their sound).

They approached players like myself, Tom Quayle, Martin Miller, Marco Sfogli. In addition to legends such as Andy Timmons and the venerable mr Jan Cyrka.

Travelling around the globe with a very basic idea for a new guitar, Ibanez visited each of us and filmed the whole thing too.

We all talked independently and extensively…feverishly discussing neck feel, upper fret access, hardware, pickup configuration and tone, looks/vibe, jack socket angles...absolutely everything!

In their utter humility, Ibanez didn’t simply make a guitar that they thought might fit with us, they asked us and then delivered exactly what we all suggested. The result was a prototype that seemed capable of everything from Country, funk, Jazz right through to high gain modern Rock gymnastics. All in a package that was unassuming and dare I say, “grown up”.

They called it the AZ as they believed it could do everything from A-Z...(or ABBA to Zappa as I like to say!).

They sought a design that would suit professional side(people), session players, guitarists playing function gigs covering a wide range of styles and of course the generation of YouTube-born players who have gained a massive, yet under the mainstream, following too.

That’s an important factor here. For me to be included in the list I mentioned above alongside the “household names” of the likes of Andy Timmons, is down to influence on YouTube and that is something that Ibanez recognised.

By allowing a few of us to play the prototypes in various videos (without giving away any specs etc) it created a buzz, long before the release date of production models. That helped them measure public opinion whilst also helping their promotion.

My prototype is a truly stunning instrument and the wonderful thing is that the production Prestige models match it in terms of quality too. It’s such an honour to have been part of the design process and ultimately produce a guitar that will be useful to so many incredible guitar players.

18 months later, I am now the brand ambassador Ibanez…so I ought to get on with the job of telling you about this guitar!

Body and neck

Today we’re looking at the AZ2402-ICM. It’s a Prestige level guitar, which means it’s built in Japan. We’ve also produced Premium level Indonesian built AZ’s too with a few subtle differences. Both ranges are incredibly affordable given the hardware and build quality of the instruments.

Both the Prestige and Premium AZ’s come in 2 distinct ‘flavours’. A 24 fret double humbucker and a 22 fret HSS pickup configuration.

This 24 fret axe features a freshly designed Alder body, with a super all access neck joint and angled Jack socket…all features that the majority of us asked for during the design phase.

The neck is roasted Maple and being that this is the Prestige built guitar, there's an extra special tier to the roasting process, referred to as S-Tech.

Ibanez put a huge amount of research into finding the exact ‘Goldilocks’ temperature to bake the necks at and the Prestige model baking process has Nitrogen added to the mix in order to further dry/age the wood. The result is an incredibly stable, resonant neck with a ‘played in’ feel. The profile ranges from a C shape at the headstock to aid chordal work, through to a D shape at the upper frets for those, frenetic, solos!

The neck also features luminous side dot inlays, stainless steel frets and a bone nut.

Gotoh locking tuners adorn the traditional Ibanez style headstock and logo and even this has been redesigned to suit players who like to use fret wraps.

Hardware

Ibanez has completed redesigned a trem with Gotoh for the AZ range. They’re super stable and yet can gargle and dive bomb with the best of them. The prestige level guitars feature Titanium saddles, with the Premium level axes opting for stainless steel.

Pickups

Again, a completely new pickup set was designed specifically for the AZ range by Seymour Duncan. We asked Ibanez for pickups that were medium output and transparent in nature, to allow them to credibly perform a number of genres. That’s precisely what they’ve achieved with the Hyperion pickups. All the 24 fret guitars feature a HH configuration.

To further enhance the guitars flexibility, Ibanez developed the Dyna-Mix switching system, which, on the 24 fret guitars give you 10 possible configurations accessed via a small toggle switch between volume and tone controls.

Verdict

Well, as I warned you at the start of this article…I am understandably biased. These guitars are truly wonderful, playable workhorses capable of a huge range of styles.

They’re understated too, so it’ll only be your playing that turns heads down at the Country session you’re playing, instead of the inciting “why have they brought a pointy guitar to a Country gig?” …a stigma often felt by Ibanez players.

I highly recommend you go out and lay your hands on one to see for yourself.


Ibanez AZ22204-TAB Prestige

Body and neck

Today we’re looking at the AZ2204-TAB. It’s a Prestige level guitar, which means it’s built in Japan. We’ve also produced Premium level Indonesian built AZ’s too with a few subtle differences. Both ranges are incredibly affordable given the hardware and build quality of the instruments.

Both the Prestige and Premium AZ’s come in 2 distinct ‘flavours’. A 24 fret double humbucker and 22 fret HSS pickup configuration.

This 22 fret axe features a freshly designed Alder body, with a super all access neck joint and angled Jack socket…all features that the majority of us asked for during the design phase.

The neck is roasted Maple and being that this is the Prestige built guitar, there’s an extra special tier to the roasting process, referred to a S-Tech.

Ibanez put a huge amount of research into finding the exact ‘Goldilocks’ temperature to bake the necks at and the Prestige model baking process has Nitrogen added to the mix in order to further dry/age the wood. The result is an incredibly stable, resonant neck with a ‘played in’ feel. The profile ranges from a C shape at the headstock to aid chordal work, through to a D shape at the upper frets for those, frenetic, solos!

The neck also features luminous side dot inlays, stainless steel frets and a bone nut.

Gotoh locking tuners adorn the traditional Ibanez style headstock and logo and even this has been redesigned to suit players who like to use fret wraps.

Hardware

Ibanez has completed redesigned a trem with Gotoh for the AZ range. They’re super stable and yet can gargle and dive bomb with the best of them. The prestige level guitars feature Titanium saddles, with the Premium level axes opting for stainless steel.

Pickups

Again, a completely new pickup set was designed specifically for the AZ range by Seymour Duncan. We asked Ibanez for pickups that were medium output and transparent in nature, to allow them to credibly perform a number of genres. That’s precisely what they’ve achieved with the Hyperion pickups. All the 22 fret guitars feature a HSS configuration.

To further enhance the guitars flexibility, Ibanez developed the Dyna-Mix switching system, which, on the 22 fret guitars give you 9 possible configurations accessed via a small toggle switch between volume and tone controls.

Verdict

My honest favourite AZ is the 24 fret double humbucker. There’s no difference in hardware or feel, of course, I just simply get on better with 24 frets and I love the sound of a neck humbucker! Having said that the neck position single coil on all the 22 fret AZs when the Dyna-Mix is engaged, is truly wonderful! It’s also worth mentioning that this guitar is the basis from which the venerable Mr Tom Quayle’s signature is derived and if this pick configuration is good enough for him, it’s good enough for anyone!

For more information, please visit:

ibanez.com

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