With its lightning-fast 7-piece Wizard neck and stunning poplar burl top, the Ibanez Premium RGT1221PB is a showstopping speed demon. An American basswood body provides a balanced tone, and a gorgeous ebony fretboard—punctuated with jumbo stainless-steel frets—sings out with lively projection and miles of sustain. The Ibanez RGT1221PB's DiMarzio Air Norton and Tone Zone humbuckers are voiced for metal, brimming with aggression and ready to howl. All this adds up to a solidbody electric that's a rock 'n' rolling, metal-making machine. Nick Jennison reviews.
Since the launch of their AZ line of guitars in 2018, Ibanez has been at the top of the list of "guitar brands to watch" for much of the guitar community. Understandably so, since the AZs were a paradigm shift for the legendary Japanese brand. With a conservative, modern silhouette and a wealth of high-end features like baked maple necks, stainless steel frets and innovative switching systems, the AZ series offer the outstanding performance Ibanez are known for in a package that's less visually ostentatious than their most famous model - the RG.
But what if (like me) you love the RG shape and the "golden era of shred" looks encapsulated? Well, Ibanez has the guitar for you, and my word, it's good. The new RG Premium line boasts the same high-performance features as its AZ cousins, but with the crazy-fast neck and bold aesthetics of an RG. As if this wasn't a tantalising enough prospect, these new RGs also boast neck-through construction and gorgeous burled poplar tops. You'd be forgiven for thinking these guitars were from the high-end "Prestige" line, and the fact that a guitar of this quality is being offered in the mid-priced "Premium" range is frankly mind-boggling.
Let's start with the tones. If you were an Ibanez player in the early 2000s (as I was), you'd remember the practice of swapping out the pickups in RGs for DiMarzios, and these new RGs come loaded with the "holy grail" set from that era - a Tone Zone in the bridge and an Air Norton in the neck. I absolutely love these pickups, especially the Air Norton, which remains one of the best next humbuckers ever made - it's clear, vocal and articulate, and sounds open and well-rounded both clean and distorted. By contrast, the Tone Zone is fast, aggressive and tightly centred in the midrange, with incredible harmonics when you crank the gain up. These pickups are paired with the "Dyna-MIX10" switching system, offering a huge range of tones from fat humbucker sounds to a whole rainbow of single-coil tones. Whether you want sparkling cleans, punchy country tones, wiry fusion sounds or all-out shred, the RGT1221PB delivers in spades.
RGs are synonymous with fast, easy playability, and the RGT1221PB is no exception. The neck isn't quite' 87-era skinny, but it's still very thin and flat with a 16" radius and 24 huge stainless steel frets. The action from the factory is super low, and the play feel is absolutely effortless. If you have the chops to handle a guitar like this, you'll be rewarded with unparalleled playability that feels completely transparent under the hand. The neck-through construction and deeply scalloped cutaways offer supreme upper fret access, and despite the lower-than-low action there isn't a choke or rattle to be found anywhere on the neck.
Visually, the RGT1221PB is stunning. The Deep Twilight Flat finish over the burled poplar top and exposed neck-through results in a "rainbow of black" that's reminiscent of a starling's wing - the more you look at it, the more subtle colours reveal themselves. The RG body shape is unashamedly aggressive, but it also results in a guitar that balances beautifully on either leg or on a strap, with a very comfortable body and incredible upper fret access. You might get funny looks taking a guitar like this to a funk, jazz or country gig, but the tones will silence the doubters.
If you want the versatility and high-end features of an AZ, but with a more ostentatious look and an even faster neck, the RGT1221PB is the guitar for you. Trem models are available too!
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