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This article was originally published in issue #69
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Wide range of sounds.
Quality of the build
More colour options would be a bonus
Roasted Maple Neck & Fingerboard
Gotoh T1802 Tremolo
The Ibanez AZ Series was one of the most hotly anticipated new lines of 2018, fusing super high end spec and classic design, these guitars are built to withstand the creative and technical demands of today's premier player's. Phil Short reviews the latest new release for the Japanese guitar giants, in the form of the Ibanez Prestige AZ2204-GD
Ibanez has been a long-time household name within the guitar community. Since the 1980s Ibanez has been the go-to brand for all kinds of legendary artists over the years, covering everyone from Steve Vai to George Benson and everyone in between.
They’re probably most well known and loved for their now legendary RG model, originally co-designed with Steve Vai at the conception of his signature “Jem” series guitars, the most successful signature model in history!
The last ten years have seen a progressive shift within the guitar community going in two directions, on the one hand, music has become heavier and more technical with more and more bands wanting hi-precision instruments capable of handling up to 8 strings with clarity and stability under the pressure of high-gain and fast attack. The other half has gone back to a more vintage voiced era, seeking the subtle nuances of vintage instruments from the 50s and 60s, but with modern playability and reliability. Whilst these instruments have been popular they’re usually accompanied by a hefty price tag.
With many major guitar brands catering to both camps, we were excited to see what Ibanez would bring to the table, and we were not disappointed when in 2018 we saw the launch of their now highly acclaimed AZ series, represented by two of the guitar industry’s most highly respected modern guitarists, Guitar Interactive’s very own Tom Quayle and Martin Miller.
The AZ series offers all the tone and playability that we’ve come to expect from Ibanez but with a very different vibe. You won’t find any skinny necks here or any double locking trems. Rounder, more vintage style C shaped neck profiles, made from roasted maple, alder bodies and single coil pickups.
Whilst it’s a nod to the vintage style guitars still widely loved around the globe, the AZs feature tall, stainless steel frets for easy bending and vibrato and a custom designed 2 point tremolo from Gotoh, providing great sustain and tuning stability. It has that familiar vintage feel to it but it really gives back when you dig in and easily accommodates today’s modern playing styles for fast legato and two hand tapping antics.
What’s really impressed us the most was the pickups from Seymour Duncan. Specially designed for the AZ series, they have the warmth and sparkle of vintage pickups, but they’re much better balanced than many vintage voices pickups and offer just a touch more punch. The addition of the Alter switch gives you 9 very useable and musical pickup options to choose from, a real tonal Swiss Army knife which will particularly appeal to the working guitarist.
They’re light weight making them ideal for long shows and touring, helping to reduce fatigue that comes from holding heavier instruments for hours on end.
They’re not cheap instruments and are very much in that high end category, but are more affordable than many of the boutique brands offering the same thing. With new colour options being announced all the time, the AZ looks set to stay and become a staple amongst professionals and amateurs alike.