Pros: Under $400 super bargain with quality parts
Cons: Slightly small frets
I bought an Ibanez Artcore AS-73 in transparent cherry as a solid backup guitar a few years ago. For a street price just under four hundred dollars, I only expected a guitar that simply would get the job done and nothing more. It's a beautiful guitar in deep, shiny transparent cherry but also looks gorgeous in vintage brown sunburst and gloss black. Ibanez is able to achieve a $1,000 dollar type instrument for half of that by making them in China using high tech manufacturing equipment.
This guitar is not one built for start to finish by a master luthier and is not meant to be for this price. It's also not the Ibanez John Scofield model or the Heritage semi-hollowbody but then again neither is the Gibson ES-335. What one has to remember is that you can find the Ibanez AS-73 online for $400 dollars and its highest list price is just $550 dollars. From head to toe, this guitar is one of the best achievements by Ibanez in many years.
As time went on, I found I like it as much as my more expensive go-to guitar and can gig and record with the AS-73 exclusively if I chose to. When the previous decade introduced a budget priced, true hollowbody/semi-hollowbody line from the the likes of industry giant Ibanez, everybody took notice. This guitar has all the right specs without getting too expensive.
Laminated maple body with bound top, sides, and back
22 fret bound mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard and dot inlays
Covered Ibanez ACH humbuckers
Two volume, two tone, one three way toggle switch
Chrome hardware including quick change tailpiece and die cast tuners
The AS-73 is a thin bodied guitar with a moderate, but balanced weight while standing up. The glued on medium thickness, 24.75" inch scale neck has a very solid joint and its 12" inch radius allows for low action if desired. The bridge and tailpiece are heavy duty and when I strum a chord or notes unplugged, the semi-hollowbody construction lets the guitar ring loudly.
When plugged in, this guitar has the sustain and presence of a solidboby electric guitar. The white body, neck, f-hole, and headstock binding look nice but understated along with the glossy, rich, transparent cherry finish.
The medium, vintage style frets are good for chording and are decent enough for lead guitar work all the way up to the 22nd fret. While I can lower the strings on the nice rosewood fretboard, I choose to have a moderate action allowing for a deeper, more sustaining string vibration. At this price, a mass produced fretjob can be hit or miss, and Ibanez does a decent job at delivering on a quality neck. While this isn't on par with the highest end Ibanez Wizard necks with shallow depth and jumbo frets, it's still an Ibanez and they put their pride into the neck's workmanship.
Weight and balance:
This style of guitar with hollow cutaways requires that the strap attaches either on the back of the neck or on to a string around the headstock like some old jazz guitars. While I much prefer a strap button on the upper cutaway, this can't be done on a hollowbody or semi-hollowbody. That being said, the guitar has a slightly neck heavy feel due to back of neck strap button but not nearly as much as some Les Pauls and most SGs out there. With a tall body with a 16"inch lower bout, this guitar sits rather high while sitting down and I prefer this as it feels like an acoustic guitar to me on my knee and renders playing in the most ergonomic position.
The pickups, while not the top of the line Ibanez Super/Special/Custom 58s or DiMarzios, are good and get a somewhat vintage sound, I didn't expect a lot from them at this price. Some low price pickups lack output and can feedback easily but I found the stock Ibanez ACH humbuckers to be quite a nice suprise avoiding unwanted feedback and producing a nice midrange humbucker growl. With clean tones and with the use of the tone knobs, I can get any sound I am looking for in the humbucker realm of sound. As for distortion, the pickups do lose some definition but this may be more attributed to the semi-hollowbody construction as dealing with distortion than the pickups themselves. A slightly higher output pickup would be nicer when driving a level of natural distortion but any semi-hollowbody does this better than the full hollowbody alternative so I can live with these pickups for my hard rock needs.
Almost any guitar is controllable at low volumes on small amps, but I have put this amp to the test for a few years with a 50 watt Marshall halfstack and a pair of 100 watt Marshall full stacks and this guitar drove those amps famously. They got a great rock and roll tone with nice round wound strings but also were able to get a great sound with the jazz roundwounds I sometimes put on. I was surprised to see this guitar flow so effortlessly from jazz to rock to heavy metal without skipping a beat. As with this semi-hollowbody design, it's made to be versatile and the AS-73 is definitely that and then some. Any thought of changing out the original pickups to ones with more dynamic range and higher output were quelled when I saw everything worked well just as it came from the Ibanez factory.
Quick change tailpiece:
I never really had a guitar with a quick change tailpiece, but the notched and thus top mounting technique that this allows makes changing a string or a whole set as painless as possible. The extra large tuning keys on the three to each side headstock make attaining tension on string easy and tuning a piece of cake. Many an expensive vintage or reissue semi-hollowbody have a weak point in their tuner's stability but this guitar does not have that problem.