With a name as fierce as their sound, Ibanez guitars have been a staple of the guitar community for decades. Played by some of the world's greatest shredders, Ibanez instruments are known for their sleek, stylish playability, and no-holds-barred craftsmanship. Beginning as a sheet music business known by the name Hoshino, the company began distributing a Spanish guitar called Ibanez, eventually purchasing the rights to that name and moving more fully into the guitar market.
By the 1970s, Ibanez guitars had found a home in the U.S., outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They became efficient at distributing inexpensive copies of more well-known guitars, which were accurate enough to infringe on the original companies' business. Motivated by a little pushback (pronounced "lawsuit") from those manufacturers, Ibanez began to pave their own way, creating some quality, innovative instruments of their own. That's when the Ibanez we now know was born.
The Mid-'80s saw Ibanez come into its own, signing on burgeoning rock virtuosos like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Paul Gilbert, to craft signature models which allowed them to unleash their furious rock creativity. Soon many players, who prided themselves on fast, technical, and heavy playing, were seen with an Ibanez in hand. With their success in that arena, it was a no-brainer for Ibanez to move on into other areas of guitar and bass design, including jazz guitars and acoustic models, all of which became successful in their own right.
Ibanez Electric Guitars
Ibanez solid body electric guitars have a few characteristics which set them apart from the rest of the pack. First and foremost, these guitars are crafted to be fast. They're highly playable and engineered so you never have to slow down. They also have powerful pickups, with high, uncompromising output. While this takes you to the edge of extreme playing, the designs also respond beautifully when you slow down and allow your playing to flow.
Ibanez has a number of excellent models, many offering six, seven, and sometimes eight string versions. Here are a few of the more popular:
RG Series: Perhaps the most recognized of all Ibanez electrics, the RG sports sharp curves on its double cutaway body and a 24-fret fingerboard with a Wizard neck. Built for fast, heavy playing, the RG is popular with metal guitarists and those who love to shred. It's available with a number of pickup configurations, fixed bridge or locking tremolo system, and a myriad of design finishes.
S Series: Showcasing a sculpted, lightweight body with smooth curves, the S Series guitars are available with dual humbuckers at the neck and bridge, or dual humbuckers with the addition of a single-coil middle pickup.
AZ Series: The AZ Series guitars are crafted for superior playability and musical versatility. It features a smooth oval neck grip, an asymmetrical body shape and an ultra-playable neck heel. The AZ Series models are available only in the high-quality Prestige and Premium Series designs.
Different Ibanez electric series are then broken down into different iterations or sub-series, which vary in material quality, features, and where they are made.
J. Custom: The J. Custom Series is crafted to the absolute highest standards by an elite group of luthiers using all the best materials and building techniques.
Prestige: Ibanez's high-end production Prestige Series is made in Japan, and couples traditional Japanese hand-craftsmanship with innovative and advanced manufacturing techniques.
Premium: The Premium Series is manufactured in Indonesia with select tonewoods, premier electronics, and excellent design for an incredible quality guitar at a slightly more attainable price point than its Prestige counterpart.
Iron Label: All of the features of the Iron Label Series are geared toward heavy, fast metal playing, including the high-speed Nitro-Wizard neck and American made EMG or DiMarzio pickups.
Standard: A well-made series with great specs, the Standard Series gives players awesome Ibanez features at an affordable price.
GIO: The most accessible Ibanez series, the GIO Series is stripped down to maintain entry-level, affordable pricing while still giving players Ibanez looks and sound.
Ibanez Hollow Body Guitars
Ibanez became a contender in the hollow body world when they figured out how to make these sturdy, elegant instruments with the same quality as their more established competitors, but at a fraction of the price. Before Ibanez did it, you had to take out a second mortgage to afford one of these classic jazz or blues machines, and that just wasn't happening for most players.
Ibanez has continued to step up in this guitar market space, crafting excellent models suited for many types of players that want hollow body tone in an electric guitar. Here's a few of the best-selling Ibanez hollow body electric models out there:
AS Series: The AS hollow bodies are one of the most popular Ibanez hollow body electrics. Sporting classy looks and refined sound, the dual humbucker pickups are mounted into a sustain block, creating lovely, versatile tones suitable for jazz, blues, and rock. Dual F-holes, a double cutaway body, and slim neck with block inlays along the fretboard, define this model, not to mention some really great finishes.
AM Series: Similar to the AS, the AM is a bit smaller and made for players who prefer a lighter, more manageable feel in this style of guitar. The AM has a great dual humbucker combination, double cutaway body, a smooth playing neck and 22 frets.
AF Series: The AF was made for jazz. This model sports a large, hollow body, with a single cutaway, and angled pickguard to protect its fine finish. Each AF boasts a special tailpiece suited to the model and its individual series.
Like their electric counterparts, Ibanez hollow body guitars come in a variety of sub-series, varying in build technique, finish, and material quality. Here's how they're divided up:
Artstar: The highest level series of the hollow body electrics Ibanez produces, the Ibanez Artstar line of hollow bodies feature top-quality materials, painstaking attention to detail, and premier electronics. These guitars truly shine.
Artcore Expressionist Vintage: The Artcore Expressionist Vintage Series combines vintage styling with excellent craftsmanship. These instruments are finished to look like they've been around for a while, without appearing beat up.
Artcore Expressionist: A beautifully designed series, the Artcore Expressionist Series puts a fresh, out-of-the-box look on an vintage-inspired guitar. This series doesn't have any aged aesthetics like the Expressionist Vintage, and despite being more reasonably priced than the Artstar, it's still excellently made.
Artcore Vintage: Made to look like it's been around for a few decades, this no-frills Artcore Vintage Series is all about old-school looks combined with vintage sound. This is a cool, great-playing line of instruments that won't break the bank.
Artcore: The combination of workmanship and affordability while maintaining the general style and character of these hollow bodies has made the Artcore Series incredibly desirable for many musicians.
Ibanez Acoustic Guitars
Ibanez acoustics stand up to the best of them. Their refined Japanese craftsmanship extends to the more delicate process of making acoustic instruments. With a number of wood combinations, finishes, and electronics, there are a lot of quality options for players to check out. Here are some highlights from the Ibanez acoustic models:
AE Series: The flagship Ibanez acoustic-electric guitar series has superior tone and playability, with all the Ibanez features that make the brand great. These AE models feature an AE body with cutaway, quality electronics, and a number of fine wood combinations depending on the series. With the AE's awesome specs at a variety of price points, this series has a lot to offer players from all walks of life.
Artwood Series: With a focus on blending traditional acoustic builds with modern updates, the Artwood Series has a look of quality and sound to back it up. It's a really great all-around acoustic guitar, at a very generous price. These models come in various configurations, some with cutaways and electronics. There are also Artwood Vintage models to add a worn aesthetic for the players who enjoy that look.
Ibanez Artists and Their Guitars
With Ibanez's amazing dedication to producing the most technically sophisticated guitars on the market, they've attracted some very impressive signature artists over the years. Here's a few who stand out:
Steve Vai JEM/UV/EP: Known for his incredibly fast and emotive guitar playing, Vai has been playing an Ibanez for decades and has numerous signature models to his credit, most notably the JEM and UV electric guitar lines and EP acoustic line.
Joe Satriani JS/JSA: As the guitar teacher of a young Steve Vai, it's no wonder they both gravitated towards the same soaring guitar style and are both inspired by the easy-playing freedom of Ibanez designs. Joe's signature JS model electric guitars have everything the Silver Surfer needs to shred—and his JSA acoustics are solid-build acoustics, too.
Pat Methney PM: Diving into the jazz world in his mid-teens, Pat Metheny was destined to become a staple of the genre. His first album was a reinvention of jazz, grounded in classic theory, but with modern sound and he's been captivating fans of jazz music ever since. Pat can be seen with his signature PM model Ibanez hollow body.
Noodles NDM: The Offspring's blend of punk attitude and hard rock sound landed them a lot of hit records. Their beloved guitar player Noodles is a big part of that. His NDM model varies nicely from many other Ibanez guitars in look and built, but keeps that powerful energy Ibanez has cultivated.
Paul Stanley PS: KISS' iconic frontman rocks his signature Ibanez PS Series guitar from stadiums in New York to arenas in Tokyo. It's got a unique cutaway-kickout and finishes that stand out.
Munky APEX: The famed Korn guitarist created some amazingly unique metal riffs with his APEX model. Korn's inimitable sound required the best 7-string guitars available, so of course Ibanez was there to supply the goods for Munky.
With all the incredible Ibanez options spanning different styles of craftsmanship, musical genres, and price ranges, rest assured there's something from this legendary brand for everyone. Whether you're an acoustic focused singer-songwriter, jazz master, or a metal shredder, there's an Ibanez guitar that will fit perfectly in your hands.
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