Ibanez Artcore Custom AF105F: Boutique Guitar Looks, Cheap Price
Apr 17, 2007 (Updated Jul 9, 2007)
Review by ahand
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Nice package, lots of features, very upgradable.
Cons:In stock condition, it's a rock player's jazzbox.
The Bottom Line: This guitar will be a natural upgrade for Artcore players.
My first reaction to seeing one of these was that it was a new Epiphone, although something about it didn't look quite right. The AF105F is part of Ibanez's "Custom" line and it's configuration and price point put it up against the Joe Pass and Zephyr Regent.
Recommend this product?
It's configured in a similar fashion to a Regent. It has a old class "New York" style body, sports a single neck mounted mini-pickup controlled by knobs mounted in the pickguard.
It's the differences that count here, though, as it has a wooden tailpiece (very attractive) and a floating bridge with a tune-o-matic top instead of plain wood. It's a guitar designed to emulate a vintage jazzbox, but with features that modern guitarists find more comfortable (like the bridge).
The body and neck are all maple, and it's as attractive as any plain finish Joe Pass. The inlay looks nice and everything about the guitar radiates class. Something the Ibanez press releases emphasize.
However, playing it will be a mixed experience for many Ibanez users, particular those upgrading from a standard Artcore jazz guitar.
The combination of an all maple body (Epiphones use spruce on the tops), tune-o-matic bridge, and wooden tail (not a good sound conductor) make the guitar very "electronic."
That is to say, how you handle the pickup will determine your tone. The archtops with wooden bridges did a better job of transmitting a warm tone to the body. Tune-o-matics tend to send a edgier sound downwards, and you'll get no help from the wooden bridge mounting.
You'll get a more vintage 60's style tone, with a heavy acoustic undertone. Many who have played an earlier type Artcore might find this frustrating. Also, there is a double humbucker version, and my guess is that it will be the more popular of the two. This type of box is for the specialist unless they know how to upgrade it.
Also the earlier Artcores were overbuilt, which killed some of the acoustic tone, but stopped a lot of the feedback. A New York style guitar with a neck pickup is a feedback machine.
Although I've pointed out some small flaws, to their credit, Ibanez has created a pure jazzbox here.
Personally, I didn't like the acoustic-jazz tone as much as I do on my Regent or ES-125T. The Ibanez has a nice pickup, but the setup and body wood make the sound a bit too sharp. It does much better when you turn it up a bit and go for a fatter tone. It still sounds a bit thin, but that can be easily adjusted with heavier strings. The one I was trying out had what seemed to be 10 gauge and not really suited. However, I've played enough middle range jazz guitars to know that your best ones can make ten gauge sets sound good.
In stock configuration, this guitar is a great new start for a new model line. It's got great looks, and it's workmanship is superior. It's not as good as a Joe Pass or a Emperor Regent, as using maple to create a specular look does involve some compromises.
However, using maple does do one thing, it increases sustain combined with the modern bridge. That's something a modern guitarist will notice and like while trying out the guitar. An experienced jazz player actually prefers a little decay in the note, as that permits faster runs with rich tone. That's the reason for wooden bridges.
I eventually changed out the pickup on the Regent and put in a Benedetto, which transformed the guitar into a monster of a jazz box. Ditto for the Joe Pass, which I added a alnico II Burstbucker to the neck. These guitars all respond well to improvements.
The configuration which makes the AF105F just a bit edgy and thin can be easily changed. The Hohner HS-40 is an all maple Byrdland copy that uses a Kent Armstrong vintage humbucker, and is as warm sounding as anything around.
Change out this pickup to a warmer one, like a Benedetto or Bartolini, and this guitar will become an Epiphone killer.
And they didn't even have to copy Epiphone to do it.
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