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NAMM 2009

JEM/UV/JS   PGM20TH/PGMFRM1   PGM/REISSUE   EGEN/ST/PG/AT/OR   MT/APEX/MB/ND   GB/JSM/PM

RG/PRESTIGE/1   RG/PRESTIGE/2   RG/PRESTIGE/3   RG/TREM   RG/RGA/FIXED   S/SV/PRESTIGE   S

SAS/SA/SZR   SR7   MC30TH   AR/ARX   ART   FR/JTK/GIO   DT/XPT/IC   ARTCORE/CUSTOM   ARTCORE

 


 

Ibanez

has outdone themselves in catering to the requests and feedback it's gotten from customers. Not only is the line ripe with interesting color, but the Wizard makes a big return, as well as Maple fretboards. I don't think they have ever offered as much maple as they are this year, including the first maple board 7 string since the UVGR left in 1993. You will also find many new Left Hand models, mostly student and entry level, but the new 1550 keeps a quality Lefty in the lineup. This is probably the longest running streak of having a good Lefty available in their history, after a very long drought. Ibanez also abandons the Dimarzio IBZ branded pickups that turned buyers off with the IBZ branding even before they'd give them a chance, except on the RGT320. The current Prestige flavor combination is Tone Zone, True Velvet, and Air Norton. Ibanez has definitely been listening to you, so if these are changes you've been wanting, show your support by purchasing one of these new models! My favorites for the year, the RG3550M in Roadster Orange Metallic and the SR7 Hybrid 7 string bass. Make sure you check both out. Many of you will find this common knowledge since Ibanez Japan left an image directory unprotected and the images have been circulating the internet for a couple weeks now. But just in case you've been under a rock, you'll find plenty of new models to interest you.

The Yen

is absolutely killing the Dollar, as well as many other world currencies. A strong Yen means high prices on Japanese exports, and Ibanez makes their third round of price increases in a one year span. This increase, is the largest in recent memory, with some models reaching levels that put them at competitive disadvantage in their class, most notably the AR300 with it's $533 increase to $3866, a whopping 16%. JEM and JS prices go up $266 on average, and some of the new models coming in at a full $500 more than the similar models they replace, ie. the 3570 replacing the 2570 at $666 increase, with the Dimarzio pickup set and color matched head as the only notable difference. All new models come in at the new rates while all existing model increases take effect on 2/1/2009, so if there's an existing model you've been thinking about, grab it now! Not the best of news in uncertain times, but after a quick walk around some other manufacturers booths, seems like everything is on the rise. When was the last time anything went down, besides the value of your house?

Specials

were a real eye opener this year. No longer do we find a few interesting new RG models aimed at giving the average buyer a chance at something a little more interesting. Ibanez has chosen these show specials as an avenue to change the overall perception of the company. Evidently Ibanez in it's entirety has finally lost any last vestige of the inferiority complex that kept their pricing out of the stratosphere. Ibanez realizes that models like this increase the image of the company overall, which raises the perception that they are a company that can produce the highest quality. George Gruhn walked up to the Artcore Twin at the Nashville show 2 years ago and claimed "I never thought I'd live to see the day where an Ibanez cost $10,000.", and that is exactly the perception they are attacking. These models do not have to succeed in the marketplace, because by their existence alone, they succeed in the image they want to portray. Even if they only sell a few they prove their existent worthwhile, and if you have any doubts, Google search Ibanez S100SPL and you'll see that there are dealers buying into the $10,000 pricing of these Limited Editions. This marks a new age for Ibanez, but IMO they're going to have to improve their game if they want to stay serious about this direction.

  There were 2 S's, one was a take off of the 100HAM [S100SPL] but using more restrained silver body inlays, but with the same price tag of $9666, while the other limited above it was an SV using the same paint technique they used on the GB30th [$13,333], but much more attractive IMO and priced at a mere $7333 in comparison. The expected Fireman Paul Gilbert model also comes out limited to those few that decide to afford it, at $9333, I believe it is the first guitar Ibanez has ever released in solid Korina. Also shown this year was the 30th Anniversary of the Musician, oddly, a bass, with some of the nicest inlay work I've seen, and a $10,333 price tag to match. The S, Fireman, and MC are both products of their new pet Custom Shop they contract with, that have so far done the Artcore Twins and the JSBDG's, both proving in the best examples to be capable of the finest work, but overall, proving that they don't, as there have been several issues with the BDG's that shouldn't be found on a $600 guitar, much less one with a $6000 street price. If Ibanez is going to continue to push this envelope then they had better get these builders to produce an instrument that can match quality with the levels of pricing they've decided to shoot for.

Korea

no longer exists in the World of Ibanez. The show buzz was that Cort Korea had closed it's doors, whatever the story is, Ibanez is no longer making guitars in Korea. Quite honestly, I won't miss them. With Indonesia picking up the extra work, their quality was at least on par with that of Cort-K, and the matte clear they use on the necks is a close equivalent to the clear they spray in Japan, and a much better feel than the "sticky" clear they used at Cort-K. The same hardware that would have been on the MIK models moves along with production.

Quality

has been on the decline since 2002. The Quality I'm referring to is the "Prestige" quality, which is the touted "6 extra steps" done to the neck that makes it feel like slipping into an old shoe, specifically, fret end and fretboard edge finishing. Fujigen is quite simply not putting out the quality of work Ibanez is paying them to build. During 2008, finishing sunk to an all time low, and on the first 4 RG1550's I got in the week before the show, showed no treatment at all [include the first 2 1527M's just received]. Absolutely not Prestige by any means. The 1550's at the show were late 2008 JEM standard, which is pretty much bare minimum. The 3550GW was finished but not sanded or smoothed and left in the filled state, and the 3550GK was the only unfinished example I could find, just like the 1550's I have. This was the main topic of conversation with the guitar specialist as he wasn't aware of these recent developments. He's in a position that has to oversee alot and many times in that position, you miss the finer points. The UV777 sitting underneath the new JEM7FX was a prime example of how much Prestige finishing has changed. It was a 2005, the FX a very late 2008, and displaying the minimalist approach. This was extremely helpful for him as he could show representatives from Hoshino Gakki and Fujigen clear examples of the issue, and it's decline. This was just one of the many QC points discussed in the 3 1/2 hours together, including the step cut nut routs leaving nuts mounted .2-.3mm from the end of the fretboard [that I always shave flush with a razor to bring the nut back into correct position], neck pocket alignment on JS's, and bridge/string alignment on the set and thru necks, the flat pullup return seen on many ZPS units, the lack of pullup on the SV's because of the cavity routing and how redundant the FX stop bolt really is considering, many issues dealing with the parts department including bringing knife edges into the US as they've started to discontinue many of the older trems, then revisiting most of the points discussed in the near 4 hour meeting we had in September, including the persistent problems with JS bout contours. The largest positive from that meet and 07' NAMM was they are finally routing most nut routs deep enough to require shims [still not all, but massive improvement] which has been an 8 year battle, and sorting out the hyper stressed neck problems that plagued RG's and JEM's most of the year, as well as the stud profile on the EZ's, and the many other issues discussed that day. Needless to say it was quite productive and I'll be seeing him again in a couple weeks when I take a few other examples over to Bensalem.

I would expect to start seeing improvement in the Prestige finishing in the next batches built, unfortunately those are 60-90 days away, not that there have been that many complaints on the finishing level in 2008, and since most of what I sell is Platinum Level packages, most of my customers would never have known there was any issue to begin with as they're receiving J Custom type finishing included in the package. Unfortunately I don't think the factory has any interest in changing the stud profile on the EZ's, or lengthening the string lock screws on the EP to be able to use the Edgeadjust3 intonation tool on them. Also discussed was the companies infatuation with the EZ and their push to use it on more and more models, and my plea to please bring back the EP in force once the FR Lo Pro patent finally runs out. I argued my case, but I'm not sure that force can be persuaded into doing anything other than what they want.

Authorized

Dealer!! Now that HUSA has taken the leap of faith to legitimize Ibanez Rules, I can flip guitars just like every other dealer does, and be backed by the factory warranty. Because of this, I can give you the best price on any guitar available in the US today. I only stock what is shown on my New page, but I can order any new model, usually already in distributor inventory. I will restrain from doing setup packages on anything but Prestige level except for rudimentary setups, but the guitar will pass my tough incoming inspection that assures you a good guitar. Because I don't stock these models, they are not returnable, so make sure you truly want them before you commit.

ENOUGH BABBLE, GO CHECK OUT THE WOOD!

 

 

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