Cons:Slightly weak and microphonic pickups.
The Bottom Line: If you want a beginner jazz box, this guitar is more than capable, and with a few mods, a pro could do well with this model.
The Ibanez Artcore Series was designed to cater to the low end, like my Artcore AS-73, to the midline products, such as the AK-95.
Recommend this product?
Being a cross between the standard Gibson ES-175 full hollobody guitar and the Ibanez George Benson with all the trimmings, Ibanez filled a gap that Gibson was never willing or able to under their own moniker.
What Ibanez does is ports its guitars to China, Korea, and Indonesia to take advantage of lower labor costs, but still use suprisingly decent woods (mahogany neck, maple ply body, rosewood fretboard, and spruce top) and craftsmanship. Unlike cheap guitars of the past, Ibanez is able to make affordable necks on their guitars without making them too thick like baseball bats.
Some of the components like the ACH 1 and 2 humbucking pickups lack power and are somewhat microphonic and don't reach the level of Gibson's humbuckers, that is until it puts on its legendary Ibanez Super/Special 58s on higher end models. The better 58s are basically a very close pickup to a Patent Applied For humbucker from Gibson's early electric guitar era and found on the next level up in the Ibanez line.
Using the two pickup, three way switch with two tone controls and two volume controls, most users of this type of setup, regardless of company, will be familiar with how to utilize this instrument to its fullest potential.
Fit and Finish:
While the rosewood or ebony Ibanez uses on their Artcore guitars is of a decent quality, their inlays lack the flash factor of other makes like Gibson, ESP, and LTD. The frets are somewhat like the microfrets of the failed "fretless wonder" era Les Pauls from Gibson and would be better suited to have the medium jumbo and jumbo frets used on their very well regarded "Ibanez Wizard" necks. The medium-thin or thin frets are best when put on a "fretless wonder" reissue for people looking for that specific feel of a 70s era Gibson, or on pre-1985 vintage Fender guitars where the thinner frets were the norm for their instruments and added to the thin sound Fender is famous for. Thin frets for a jazz guitar, in a medium that often requires complex fretting, is not usually the best option.
The finishes on all Ibanez guitars is flawless and consistent, something that cannot be said of their main two competitors in this price range, Gibson and Fender.
Part of what makes Ibanezes cheaper offshore guitars' great quality control is that Ibanez was one of the first companies to both use robotics and the Demming Statistical Method of Quality Control.
This model can be found in the $500 dollar price range, or slightly more at small shops and is a far cry from having to spend a thousand dollars for a bare bones Gibson jazz guitar on sale, used. I kind of wish that Ibanez would beef up the frets, put a few more windings on their humbuckers for a little more midrange, and make a better inlay to put the entire competition to rest.
Epiphone guitars list for more, but are more often marked down much farther than the Ibanez guitars are so they are almost in the same price range. While Epiphone can make a real Les Paul and get the blessing from the man himself, or make a semi-hollowbody "Lucille" and get the endorsement from B.B. King, Ibanez lacks the big name legends as spokespeople, but has a slight edge over Epiphone on quality, dollar for dollar.
While not much can be done with the smaller frets, a really great upgrade to the Artcore Series' lower and middle end (like the AK-95) is a nice matched pair of humbuckers like the $130 dollar Seymour Duncan JB-Jazz set, or the dual Duncan '57s set. Both these sets will give more output and avoid feedback. An upgrade such as this would make this guitar totally worthy of both gigs (which it is already great for) and especially recording (not experiencing too low output or microphonic feedback).
To really pimp out this guitar, some may want to add coil tap switches, or locking Sperzel tuners, but the guitar as is stands is pretty capable of getting a glassy thin tone all the way up to a pretty strong hard rock crunch, but maybe not metal. The tuners are die cast and will hold up for many year.
For it's price, I have to give this guitar 4 stars.
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