Ultimate Guide to
Ibanez Guitars

Ibanez is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electric guitars, with a diverse range of instruments. Synonymous particularly with metal players, Ibanez build their guitars with performance, precision and power in mind.

Today, the brand’s catalogue has never been bigger; encompassing an enviable range of shapes and series’ that accomodate all budgets. However, if you’re in the market for a new guitar then it can be difficult to know where to start with Ibanez, as there are so many models to choose from.

That’s why we’ve put together this extensive guide - to help you to discover which of their guitars will suit you the best!

Ibanez Guitars Comparison Guide
Written by

Elliot Stent

Ibanez is among our most popular brands here at Andertons Music Co. The company’s appeal is understandable when you consider the huge amount of high-profile artists that have used their instruments in the past, as well as those on their current roster. With virtuosos like Joe Satriani and Paul Gilbert having endorsed their guitars since the ‘80s, modern masters such as Jake Bowen (Periphery), Tom Quayle and Polyphia axemen Tim Henson and Scott LePage also rely on their Ibanez instruments to pioneer their ground-breaking sounds.

Another reason why Ibanez are so well-known, as we’ve already alluded to, is because of their massive instrument range. While their electric guitars are the most popular in terms of demand, Ibanez also manufactures basses and acoustic guitars, as well as compact pedals and even amplifiers.

In this guide, though, we'll be focusing solely on Ibanez’s electric guitars. These alone are extremely varied and split into distinctive lines to suit players of all styles; not just metal. Use our tiles below to skip to a particular model or series, or scroll further to learn about the history of Ibanez guitars.

History of Ibanez Guitars

Early Years

The history of Ibanez is rich and extensive, but what is regarded as the Japanese brand’s “modern era” began in 1957. It’s fair to say that the company didn’t get off to a flying start though, as their early guitar designs were considered too eccentric and divisive by most in the guitar community.

As a result of this, in the ‘60s and ‘70s Ibanez started to produce instruments that closely resembled the designs from more established companies; broadening their appeal. Ultimately leading to a lawsuit, Ibanez’s design team was forced to become more creative. Such models that were released during this period included their distinctive Iceman and AR shapes; the former of which later became synonymous with Paul Stanley of KISS.

Growth in the 1980s

Ibanez’s reputation truly blossomed in the ‘80s, thanks to its association with super-shredder Steve Vai. Developing the JEM, Vai’s signature guitar truly represented his flamboyant style and was unlike anything seen before. Emblazoned with a vibrant fluorescent pink/green finish, the original JEM featured a pointed Strat-style body, a super-thin 24-fret neck, high-output DiMarzio pickups, a double-locking tremolo system and the famous “monkey grip”.

This guitar took many by surprise at the 1987 NAMM Show where it debuted, but its reception was overwhelmingly positive. Still in production and largely adhering to the same early formula, it's worth noting that this instrument also inspired Ibanez’s RG guitar; arguably the brand’s most recognisable and popular model. These were released in ‘87 too, along with the lightweight and ergonomically-shaped S series guitars.

In 1988, Vai’s former teacher Joe Satriani started using Ibanez guitars; developing the JS signature model. As a successful instrumental songwriter in his own right, Satriani’s endorsement deal gave Ibanez even more exposure. This helped the brand to grow and become more accepted among aspiring guitarists.

Modern Appeal

Vai and Ibanez collaborated once again in 1990 to develop what would become the first mass-produced 7-string electric guitar; the Universe. Essentially a JEM with an additional string, this game-changing instrument found popularity with metal musicians; most notably Munky and Head of Korn. Taking advantage of its low tuning, these guitars were employed to pioneer the “nu-metal” sound, with Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit) and Dino Cazares (Fear Factory) also using Ibanez 7-string guitars later in the decade.

Since their explosion in popularity in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Ibanez remains one of the key players in the guitar industry. Now boasting an enviable catalogue of models and ranges, the company continues to innovate and design new models that allow players to express their musicianship to the fullest.

In the rest of this guide, we're going to break down each of Ibanez's main guitar models by shape, as well as the different series' that form their overall lineup.

The RG is Ibanez’s flagship guitar - and arguably their most recognisable. If someone hears “Ibanez” - 9 times out of 10; an RG is probably the first thing that would come to mind. Introduced in 1987, this bold-looking instrument is distinctive for its sharp and stealthy looks, as well as its deep cutaways that allow for exceptional upper fret access.

With over 30 years of heritage, it’s worth mentioning that the RG has undergone many facelifts and changes in that time. There are several different styles of RG in the current lineup, but the majority of them share the same fundamental formula.

Ibanez RG Series - Construction

Most Ibanez RG guitars feature Basswood bodies, a material that is admired for its forgiving weight and balanced sound. The standard RG body is typically flat, with a curved lower bout that provides greater comfort for a player’s forearm; akin to a Strat’s body. The RGA is a more modern take on the classic RG shape, and features an arched top made usually made from exotic woods like Flamed Maple or Walnut. The RGD body is also slightly different; predominantly flat but with ergonomic contours around its cutaways.

Ibanez RG models generally adhere to a bolt-on construction, which contributes to their snappy and immediate sound. Their necks are also made from Maple, which is known for its bright tonal qualities. Most importantly, though, that signature Ibanez feel comes from the RG’s necks, which are carved to the brand’s renowned “Wizard” profiles. Although there are variants of the Wizard shape, almost all are adored by shredders for their thin and fast feel.

RG necks also boast flat 24-fret fingerboards that provide a full 2-octave range per-string. These are usually made from Rosewood, Ebony or Maple. Fitted with either medium-jumbo or jumbo fret wire, these larger frets allow players to have greater control over vibrato and string-bending techniques; another quality that shredders admire. And speaking of strings, the tension on an Ibanez RG should feel quite familiar to most, with a generic 25.5” scale length. However, Ibanez RGD guitars feature slightly longer 26.5” scales; making them more apt for drop tunings.

Ibanez RG Series - Electronics & Hardware

As Ibanez RG guitars are designed primarily for metal players that use high-gain amps, most that you’ll come across will have dual-humbucker configurations. While cheaper models will be fitted with Ibanez-designed pickups, those from the high-end Axion Label and Prestige series’ come equipped with premium aftermarket pickups from the likes of DiMarzio, Fishman and even Bare Knuckle.

In terms of hardware, Ibanez RG electric guitars often come installed with Edge double-locking tremolo systems. Letting you perform crazy divebomb effects and flutters without knocking their strings out of tune, tremolo-equipped RG guitars also have recessed designs that enable players to raise their pitch too. You can also find Ibanez RGs with more straightforward hardtail bridges, if simplicity is preferred. Some high-end RGs are fitted with modern Gibraltar bridges, which have a high-mass design that can yield more sustain and fullness.

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The S Series is another popular Ibanez model that came to the market in the late ‘80s. Originally named the Saber, this instrument fully displayed Ibanez’s ethos to innovate and push the boundaries of guitar design, with its sleek ergonomic curves and ultra-thin body.

Used by the likes of Herman Li (Dragonforce), Kiko Loureiro (Megadeth) and Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper), the Ibanez S Series is synonymous with super-shredders that seek optimal performance and precision.

Ibanez S Series - Construction

As Ibanez S Series guitars feature such elegantly thin bodies, most models are constructed from Mahogany rather than Ibanez’s favoured choice of Basswood. Mahogany is known for its deep and harmonically-rich sound, compensating for the loss of low-end that occurs with less body mass.

At the time of its release, the Ibanez S series was groundbreaking for its heavily contoured body; considered the thinnest production guitar on the market. Today, it still remains one of the lightest and most comfortable instruments available. With the top and back of its body tapered from the centre to the edges, it’s curved design sits wonderfully against your body when sitting down or standing. The more affordable SA series guitars have flatter backs, meaning that their bodies are slightly thicker and more conventional.

Much like Ibanez’s RG models, the S Series guitars also feature bolt-on Maple necks carved to Ibanez’s trademark Wizard profiles; designed to enhance your agility and fingerboard dexterity. Some of the more high-end models, though, boast multi-piece necks that are comprised of Maple and exotic woods like Walnut, Panga Panga and Purpleheart. This layered effect adds strength to a neck, making it less susceptible to warping in varying climates.

Standard S Series guitars come installed with 24 frets, however the more traditionally-styled SA models feature 22 instead. And whereas Maple fingerboards can be found on RG models, S Series guitars almost exclusively use warmer-sounding woods like Rosewood and Ebony; another means of enhancing low-end.

Ibanez S Series - Electronics & Hardware

Regarding electronics and hardware, Ibanez S Series guitars don’t stray too far from the typical RG blueprint. With most examples boasting humbuckers that can cope with copious amounts of gain, you’ll find either Ibanez-branded or aftermarket pickups from DiMarzio and Fishman fitted in these guitars - depending on their price. It’s worth mentioning that Ibanez SA guitars have versatile H/S/S pickup configurations instead, letting you attain genuine single-coil tones that are perfect for clean tones.

There’s plenty of variation when it comes to the hardware you’ll find on S Series guitars. Double-locking tremolos are common, but most modern examples are equipped with the ‘Edge Zero’ model. This is a tweaked version of the classic Edge tremolo, known for its low-profile design that is less obstructive for the picking hand. Highly-adjustable Gibraltar hardtail bridges are also fitted to selected models, while Ibanez SA Series guitars feature the brand’s very own T102 tremolos; more akin to classic Fender trems.

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The AZ Series is a relatively new addition to the Ibanez catalogue; launched at the 2018 NAMM Show. With a far more understated look than many would perhaps expect from Ibanez guitars, this instrument is designed to offer unrivalled versatility and lush playability.

Although the Ibanez AZ was perhaps crafted with traditionalists in mind, it has actually found popularity with many modern virtuosos. This includes Tim Henson and Scott LePage of instrumental progressive rock band Polyphia, as well as Mario Camerena and Erick Hansel of Chon, and jazz-fusion supremos Tom Quayle and Martin Miller. All of these incredible players have their own Ibanez signature models based on the AZ shape.

Ibanez AZ Series - Construction

Ibanez’s high-end Prestige AZ guitars predominantly feature Alder bodies, as you’d expect with most S-type guitars. Alder is arguably the most common body tonewood used by electric guitar manufacturers, but for good reason; it sounds balanced and has a moderate weight. The more affordable Premium AZ models come with Basswood bodies instead, meaning that they feel lighter without sacrificing much in terms of sound and resonance.

The most appealing feature of an Ibanez AZ Series guitar is its neck. Made from Maple, these necks undergo a “roasting” process which ensures that moisture is fully removed from the wood texture. This guarantees better tuning stability as the wood becomes more stable and rigid, making the necks less likely to warp or develop any curvature from exposure to differing temperatures. These necks also typically have satin finishes to provide a fast and slippery feel.

Jumbo stainless steel frets add to the exceptional feel of Ibanez AZ guitars too. While their size gives players superb control over vibrato and string-bending techniques, the stainless steel material minimizes fret wear to ensure a fresh and “like-new” feel for years to come.

Ibanez AZ Series - Electronics & Hardware

Ibanez AZ guitars are unique for their electronics, featuring Seymour Duncan Hyperion pickups that are designed exclusively for the AZ Series. With medium outputs, these pickups are sensitive to your playing dynamics and thus allow for open and expressive tones. Ibanez AZ guitars are available with either H/H or H/S/S configurations, with the latter being slightly more versatile as you get the combination of a single humbucker with two single-coils.

As Ibanez AZ models are made to look slightly more conventional than their RG and S Series counterparts, their hardware appointments are catered for those with more traditional tastes too. This means that Edge double-locking tremolos are out of the question! AZ guitars are equipped with high-quality Gotoh T1802 or T1502 tremolo bridges instead. Paired with Gotoh locking machine heads, you can expect excellent tuning stability despite the non-locking design of the aforementioned tremolos.

Ibanez AZ Series Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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Ibanez’s FR Series model is based on the classic T-type shape, but boasts some ultra-modern refinements that make it a true shredder’s delight! Featuring a slightly offset body style and Ibanez’s sharp, iconic headstock design; the FR screams contemporary from an aesthetic perspective without looking overly extreme.

Fitted with super-charged pickups and featuring a wickedly-thin neck, the FR delivers the goods sonically and feel-wise. We think it’s an underrated superstar!

Ibanez FR Series - Construction

The FR Series is fairly limited in terms of the amount of guitars available, but there’s quite a lot of variety when it comes to the tonewoods used between models. Coming with either Mahogany or Nyatoh bodies, these materials are similar in terms of their density and grain; yielding deep and rich tones that accentuate low-end frequencies and boost mid-range punchiness. Topped with either Ash or Quilted Maple, these woods not only look fantastic but they also introduce some crucial top-end brightness.

As we alluded to, Ibanez’s FR guitars come installed with supremely thin bolt-on necks. Carved to Ibanez’s “Nitro Wizard” shape (one of their most slender profiles available), the level of playability offered by an FR Series guitar is hard to beat, especially if speed is your ultimate goal as a player.

However, a thin neck is generally more susceptible to warping, which is why Ibanez has constructed its FR guitars’ necks with three pieces of wood to add strength. Mostly made from Maple with strips of Bubinga or Purpleheart in the middle, this layered effect improves stability while offering a premium look.

Ibanez FR Series - Electronics & Hardware

Ibanez FR guitars come armed with high-output humbuckers that emit the most intense, fire-breathing tones imaginable. Made by the likes of EMG and Dimarzio, these pickups can handle copious amounts of gain should you wish, yet remain articulate and detailed with clean amp settings too.

These deadly instruments also come equipped with aftermarket Gibraltar Standard II hardtail bridges. With their high-mass design ensuring optimal string vibration transfer for piano-like sustain, their smoothly-machined saddles also provide great comfort for the picking hand.

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The AR Series is one of Ibanez’s earliest original guitar designs, making its first appearance in 1974. With its symmetrical double-cut body shape and old-school trimmings, including block inlays and a “Quik Change Classic” tailpiece; the AR is far more traditional-looking than Ibanez’s popular RG and S Series models but still has its plaudits.

Ibanez AR Series - Construction

Ibanez AR guitars feature the timeless tonewood combination of Mahogany and Maple, for their bodies and necks respectively. Clearly influenced by the Gibson Les Paul, Mahogany offers a warm low-end and a thick mid-range, while Maple introduces lots of high-end sparkle to give notes and chords some essential cut in a mix. Depending on the specific model, Ibanez AR bodies are also typically adorned with stunning Flamed Maple or Ash tops.

In terms of construction, Ibanez AR Series guitar necks are attached via the set-neck method; another feature that is reminiscent of Gibson’s approach to guitar design. This makes the AR Series fairly unique within the Ibanez range, considering that the majority of their models adhere to a bolt-on construction. A set-neck joint yields more sustain as there is more contact between the neck and body.

Ibanez AR Series - Electronics & Hardware

Ibanez AR Series guitars feature dual humbuckers for a powerful yet balanced sound, making the AR Series a surprisingly versatile instrument that can cover plenty of styles. With current models equipped with Ibanez’s own Super 58 pickups, they also feature the Gibson-esque 2 tones/2 volumes control configuration for precise sound-shaping.

A classic tune-o-matic-style bridge is fitted to Ibanez AR Series models, in-keeping with the traditional aesthetic and offering players a way to easily adjust their action and intonation.

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With the exception of their LA Custom Shop and j.custom divisions, Prestige has been the highest tier of Ibanez’s guitar manufacturing infrastructure since 1996. Models from the Prestige Series are crafted in Japan by Ibanez’s highly-trained and talented luthiers, constructed with the finest tonewoods available and featuring high-quality hardware and electronics.

Most of Ibanez’s core guitar models have Prestige versions available, including their flagship RG, S, AZ shapes. And even though all of Ibanez’s instruments are made with the utmost attention-to-detail, Ibanez Prestige guitars just have that extra sense of finesse and precision that makes them feel and sound superior to anything else. It’s no wonder why so many of these incredible instruments are used by thousands of professional guitarists worldwide.

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The Premium Series is the range that sits just below Ibanez’s Prestige line, and was first introduced in 2011. With all models crafted in Indonesia rather than Japan, these guitars are still made with excellent attention-to-detail and feature high-quality pickups and hardware to meet the demands of even the most fastidious of players.

With most Ibanez Premium guitars priced at just above £1000, they are quite reasonable when you consider the high-end appointments that they boast. This includes Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio pickups, Gotoh hardware and even 5-piece laminated necks on selected models.

The “Premium fret edge treatment” that all models undergo really sets them apart from their contemporaries. Producing semi-hemispherical fret ends, this process completely eliminates sharp frets and allows your fingers to glide super-smoothly over the fingerboard without any painful snagging.

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Ibanez’s Axion Label Series is fairly new, introduced at the 2019 NAMM Show. Encompassing a number of RGA and RGD guitars, these particular instruments boast extravagant finishes, multi-scale necks, powerful aftermarket pickups and even 7 strings. They’re truly designed for the new generation of modern metal masters.

The best thing about Ibanez Axion Label guitars is their relative affordability, with all models sitting at around the £1000 mark. Even with their amazing specs, including Fishman, Bare Knuckle and DiMarzio pickups, Gibraltar bridges, Gotoh locking tuners and Schaller strap-locks; these guitars remain attainable for most musicians. We absolutely love them!

Ibanez Axion Label Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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Much like the Axion Label Series, the Genesis Collection is comprised of RG models only. However, whereas the Axion Label RGs are designed for the most contemporary of metallers, the Genesis Collection guitars are made to recapture the essence of Ibanez’s original RG models from 1987.

Available in vibrant colours such as Desert Sun Yellow, Road Flare Red and Purple Neon, these guitars truly evoke a sense of nostalgia. Fitted with original Edge tremolo systems, Ibanez’s own “V” and “S” series pickups and “Super Wizard” Maple necks; performance is still at the forefront of their designs.

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We said it at the start - Ibanez guitars are most synonymous with metalheads. However, the company definitely has a softer and more traditional side, with its Artcore Series made up of classic semi-hollow and hollow body guitars. And to the surprise of many, the Artcore Series is actually one of Ibanez’s longest-running instrument ranges; featuring some of the company’s oldest guitar designs.

Most Artcore guitars adhere to a semi-hollow construction. This means that they combine the essential features you’d find on an electric guitar, like pickups and controls, with a light and resonant acoustic-like body that has a “centreblock” running through its middle. The majority of Artcore series guitars that follow this design will feature humbuckers, as they can counteract the hum that often occurs with hollow instruments.

The Ibanez Artcore Series does also feature electric guitars with full hollow bodies - the AFC range. These particular instruments are far more suited for jazz as their larger bodies can produce rounder, more acoustic-esque tones. Legendary jazz guitarists Pat Matheny and George Benson even have their own signature Ibanez Artcore guitars!

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Ibanez ensures that all players and budgets are catered for with their huge instrument catalogue. The GIO Series is their entry-level line, featuring affordable no-frills guitars that are perfect for inspiring passionate beginners with their cool looks and features.

In the 21st Century, guitarists that are keen to find their first proper instruments have never been so lucky. Ibanez have played a huge role in diversifying the beginner guitars market, offering a number of attractive models that are well within the reach of players starting their musical journeys.

The brand’s flagship RG and S shapes are available within the GIO range, letting beginners emulate their rock and metal heroes with instruments that are aesthetically similar to their high-end counterparts.

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With such an established presence in the guitar community, it's not surprising why so many renowned players rely on Ibanez guitars to carve their own sounds. The company is proud to support talented musicians with their incredible instruments, and those that are lucky and loyal enough have been graced with their own custom signature guitars!

Ultimately, the Ibanez Signature Series allows fans to purchase the exact same guitars that their heroes use. The majority of Ibanez’s Signature guitars are based on some of their most famous shapes, with the artist adding their own unique twist by selecting their favourite pickups, hardware and finish.

As we’ve already mentioned, the Ibanez endorsee list is comprehensive, and there are many players that have their own signature guitars. Steve Vai and Joe Satriani have officially endorsed Ibanez for over 30 years, and really helped in putting the company on the map back in the day. Their Ibanez signature instruments have remained in the catalogue since the late ‘80s, becoming legendary in their own right - particularly Vai’s JEM guitar.

Ibanez Vai & George Benson Signature Guitars on Andertons T.V.

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Want To Learn More?

For more information on Ibanez guitars, check out our related articles:

For an overview of Ibanez's current 2019 electric guitar offerings, our dedicated video from this year's NAMM Show features The Captain and Danish Pete walking through the entire Ibanez stand; highlighting interesting models and more!

Ibanez NAMM 2019 Range on Andertons T.V.

Shop All Ibanez Guitars!

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