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This article was originally published in issue #8
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Ibanez has been a force to be reckoned with ever since Hoshino Gakki, the owners of the Ibanez brand, decided to move away from copying 'classic' American guitars and concentrate on creating its own original designs. The change paved the way for Ibanez to focus all of its efforts on creating a unique brand of instruments with innovative designs. This culminated in the 'Iceman' and 'Roadster' series guitars which were well received and which also led to their extremely successful superstrat series during the 80's and 90's. Couple that with an artist roster which reads like a who's who in music and it's clear that Ibanez is one of the most popular guitar manufacturers out there today.
For this review our attention is focused upon the GRG150DX which is a guitar from their entry level 'GIO' range, described on the website as being 'Ibanez quality in a more affordable package' and as an Ibanez user for most of my formative playing years, I'm very keen to see if Ibanez can still cut the mustard at this level!
The GRG series, which falls under the GIO range, has essentially been based upon the now classic Ibanez RG design but for a guitar to come at a fraction of the price of the original range it is inevitable that corners will have been cut - so what do we need to look for?
In terms of shape, the 150DX is a decisive as they come and with its unmistakable body and headstock design it oozes no-nonsense Rock attitude. Just like its big brother, the GRG body is a solid piece of Basswood however I doubt this can be quite the same grade to the wood used for the RG models - at this price, how could it be? The maple neck comes with a bound rosewood fretboard and a surprisingly neat job on the binding it is too. It's interesting to note that even though these guitars are budget instruments, they still carry the full 'Ibanez' logo on the headstock which other top tier companies don't do: they create 'sub brands' for their cheapest instruments. Not doing that implies real confidence in your products. In fact, the GIO series logo alongside the main Ibanez logo is the only feature which makes this guitar immediately identifiable as a budget model. Pickups are Ibanez's own and come in an H-S-H configuration, coupled with a five-way selector alongside volume and tone controls. The 150DX comes armed with a 'Fat 10' single-locking floating tremolo bridges in lieu of a double locking tremolo system that you will find on more expensive models.
On to the sounds and starting with a clean setting, the 150DX surprised me with its sheer versatility. This is a Rock guitar through and through but it is more than capable of holding its own, producing some lovely twangy bridge pickup tones to thicker, warmer tones at a simple flick of the selector. But gain is definitely where this axe shines through and after all, that's what these guitars were made for! Again, the pickup variations allowed access to some very nice tones indeed for both rhythm and solo work, following my playing dynamics with confidence all the way through.
Playing this guitar was a very comfortable experience and the set-up was remarkably good. The action was very low without any fret buzz whatsoever, which was mightily impressive especially for a guitar at this price. The bridge also felt great to use and was also very stable with little tuning needed after I put it through an afternoon's heavy usage - even despite our studio lights.
It's great to see Ibanez putting so much effort into their entry-level guitars. Particularly bearing in mind the street price of this guitar it's impossible not to give it our highest rating. The no compromise Rock looks might not appeal to everyone but that aside, the GRG150DX is pretty hard to beat.