Taking adaptability to new extremes, the AZ series has established itself and carved out a place that spans everything from the warmest blues licks, to the most intense, shred-heavy metal riffs. Carrying this ethos forward, the AZ line embodies time-tested Ibanez innovation and player-focused features like a smooth, oval neck grip, a well-balanced asymmetrical body shape, and the neck heel allowing for unrivalled playability. Nick Jennison reviews the Ibanez AZ240 7F Prestige.
I remember the launch of Ibanez’s highly successful AZ line of guitars well. They dropped at the first NAMM show I attended amidst a huge buzz. Cut from the cloth of the “California Customs” that defined the late 2010s (particularly among the “online guitar” community), these thoroughly modern instruments represented a more “grown up” alternative to the much beloved RG series.
For some though, the AZ was just a little *too* grown up. For these folks, the AZ2407F represents a perfect “bridge” between AZ and RG. It features many of the best elements of both series: It’s a 24-fret, HSH design that’s distinctly “RG” in terms of functionality, but with the slightly rounder roasted maple neck, non-locking tremolo and less outrageous aesthetics of the AZ line.
Let’s start with the neck. It has the same “AZ Oval” profile that made the original AZs so popular, along with a 12” radius (as opposed to the super-flat, super-thin “Wizard” necks that Ibanez is famous for). It’s beefy enough for “thumb-around” styles (something that’s challenging to say the least on a Wizard neck), without being overly thick. The 12” radius makes concessions to more flat-fingered styles, while still allowing for a very comfortable paying action without choking out on big bends - although, I will say that both guitars I tried came set up with a pretty “stiff” setup. Nothing that a few turns of a hex wrench can’t overcome though!
As we’ve come to expect from Ibanez, the fit and finish on the AZ2407F is absolutely first class. This is every inch a Japanese Ibanez in this regard, with immaculate stainless steel fretwork, rolled fret edges and a well-cut bone nut that - while an unusual choice for a guitar with a two-point term - offers fantastic tuning stability. Speaking of which, the tremolo is a very welcome alternative to the double-locking designs typically found on RGs. It’s smooth, precise and offers a ton of travel, and doesn’t require a trip to Kwik Fit every time you need to change strings.
Tones come courtesy of a set of DiMarzio pickups - an all-time classic combination of Tone Zone, True Velvet and Air Norton. Wired in the classic “JEM-style” 5-way configuration, his combination dates back to the good old days of the Jemsite and the culture of pickup swaps that was part and parcel of being an RG owner back in the early days of the internet. The Tone Zone (Paul Gilbert’s bridge pickup of choice in his Mr Big and Racer X days) is a super fat and thick sounding bridge pickup that perfectly compliments a bright and aggressive high gain amp, while the Air Norton (an early favourite of John Petrucci) is smooth, bubbly and highly articulate - a perfect neck pickup soloing voice. In between these two beefy humbuckers, you’ll find three split single coil tones that are surprisingly authentically “Strat”, from percussive funk in position 4, to Hendrix-y chime in position 3 and Texan twang in position 2.
Available in two very attractive finishes - “Sodalite” and “Brownish Spharelite” - it does feel a little like Ibanez is trolling us by pairing a model name like “AZ2407F” with a borderline-unpronounceable finish name. They both look gorgeous though, and show off the flame top very well without being too “showy” in a way that might draw the ire of more conservative musicians. As such, this feels a little like an “RG in disguise” - the four-octave range and powerful tones of the ‘80s shred legend packaged in a more contemporary form. If you’re torn between AZ and RG, this is the perfect compromise.
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