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EVO M8M J CUSTOM 6 J CUSTOM 7 25TH ANNIVERSARY
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LATE AS USUAL!!
I apologize to all for the delay. It's Feb. 5th, over 2 weeks since the show, and I'm just starting to write this now [and just now finishing it 1/21/13, 3 days before the next show!]. I can't say I'm too disappointed because the delay is a direct effect of extreme sales volumes following the show, with a count of 44 guitars sold as of this day. Q4 2011 was poor, the phone was silent, with just enough orders to keep everything rolling, with basically no Christmas rush I've come to expect. The start of this year was no different which allowed me something I've never been able to do before, prepare all my New Guitar sales pages BEFORE the show, so all I had to do was publish the updated index and everything was done except dropping in the show pictures which I got done the first night. After all, bottom line, this is all done to drive sales by having real life pictures of the actual instruments. I wish I knew if the additional sales come from actually being ready [sure didn't hurt], the new product offerings, or the perceived boost the economy is having, Euro crisis off the front page, stock market melting up, and job numbers beyond expectations. Whatever the reason, people are spending money again and that is what it takes to get the economy really going again, so SPEND AWAY!!
Every cloud has one! But this silver is the kind you give your parents for their 25th.
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of several of Ibanez most popular models that still thrive today, the JEM, RG, S, and SR bass. In an effort to make these accessible to the masses, as they did with the RG20th, and to keep pricing down with the current state of the Yen, Ibanez has chosen to use Indo production, and give you lots of choices. Every Quarter will see 2 new models of each RG and S [not sure about the SR] and thus the first is the RG1XXV and S1XXV, both in the wildest throw back hallucination inspiring colors that were in vogue a quarter century ago. Evidently they've hit the nail squarely on the head as buyers are eating them up and the buzz has been nothing but positive. The RG's are Premium build with Dimarzio's and bottom line, these are just really nice guitars for the money! The S1's are straight Indo build but at a straight Indo price point. Limited to 300 RG1 of each color and 200 S1's to the US, with a supposed total production around 1000 and 750 worldwide. Some of you got a sneak peak at the RG2 and 3 when unprotected images were hot linked straight off of Ibanez' online dealer resources, and they MUST do a better job of protecting these in the future, but for the rest, you'll just have to wait to see what's coming. I will say, neither 2 or 3 are Premiums so for the better RG, buy one of the 1's if Fluorescent Pink and Yellow remind you of your misspent youth [I know mine was!!]
BEAT IT, JUST BEAT IT!
OK, that was lame, but, it does accurately describe Ibanez first, and possibly only, relic model. For the 25th Anniversary of the JEM, Japan decided to resurrect the shelved EVO recreation project that had long been on the back burner. Most of us has wished for a swirl as it's also the 20th Anniversary of the swirl models, but Japan decided against it. The Sugi built EVO comes in at a list price of $10,370.36, and just in case any of you wonder how they come up with these strange numbers, it's no come up with a Minimum Advertised Price that is the price point they want, in this case, $7777.77. Limited to 100 models built, 50 to the US, each will be signed by Steve and marked "1 of 100", and they've chosen to tape over the signature from the factory to protect it over the years. It is as close a recreation of EVO in it's current state today as they can make it, and it's been so long since I've seen EVO live I almost forgot how much "character" it has. Nick Sugimoto was in the booth preshow dreading the job of having to replicate this relic 100 times, and was seen adding even more crazing lines to the top before he left. Ibanez went so far as to have a run of 100 new Backstops made [believe me, I asked if I could buy a batch and was shot down] because we all know Steve has had one in it since the beginning. Mike Taft told me that the 25th has become Steve's main player, and that he believes it sound and plays better than the original, so we just may see EVO on the road again, but, which will it be? I scrambled up orders from other dealers and ended up with a total of 7, but I'm about out.
FINALLY Ibanez makes a budget workhorse JEM that has all the goods. The much maligned 555's and 333's will have to move over and let the JEM70 take it's rightful place at the top of the budget JEM food chain These are an expansion of the Premium line and feature the Original Edge trem, EVO's, Premium fretwork, Premium woods and built quality, and a dandy new retro SFG Sea Foam Green, that still looks fresh today. SURF'S UP!! Grab your board and Hang 10!! This is a JEM that is being accepted with open arms with brisk initial sales and lots of positive buzz. I have 7 on order, due in April. I anticipate a JS Premium to follow soon and replace the 100.
POUR SOME SUGGAH ON ME!!
The new Meshuggah 8 string. No Artist has even gotten a first signature release at this end of the spectrum, but the M8M will be a Sugi built monster, limited to the few that will pony up the price as high end as the guitar. This is a niche model and the reasoning may be they didn't see sales would be strong enough to support a Fujigen model that would still list at $4k+, but with the ability to build on spec one piece at a time from Suji they don't have to batch order but can order only as orders come in. Or the business model says, buyers see this and want, but the price pushes them into the 2228 or budget model RGA8, increasing sales of this other models. Whatever the reasons, this is a first, and the guitars, are fantastic instruments. You either get what they're doing or you don't, as public reaction falling firmly on both sides of the fence.
Ibanez finally imports 7 string J Customs to the US for 12', and for the 6 string model decides to import the dual Duncan equipped RG20126 [RG8520ZD] without continuing the HSH models from last year. These are now limited to 2 colors for each model, but no fear, I still have several of the 2011 models left in stock! Of course the prices are climbing again as the Yen continues to kill the rest of the world, but analysts are saying they believe this will be the breaking year and it will start to reverse direction, which will hopefully bring some welcome relief within a few years. Slight rant but I wish they would knock off the different model numbers just for the US, if they're intending to make it confusing they definitely are, just use the same model number we all knows these guitars by, the numbers they use on the Japan site.
GOING, GOING, GONE!!!
I can't remember a year when Ibanez discontinued so many different models, some of which were replace, but not as many are replaced with more being discontinued 2/12 and 3/12. Especially noticeable in the RG line where anything below the 3000 Series basically doesn't exist anymore, with Premium models left to fill that niche. At least they do fill that market very well, and many would argue that the Premiums were better guitars than the 1500 series anyway, whatever side of that argument you fall to, you cannot argue that the Premiums are better crafted guitars than the lower Prestige range with most of it IMO not even qualifying for Prestige badging for several years now. Prestige was always touted as the "6 extra steps of hand finishing that made a neck feel broken in, like an old shoe", and bottom line, this finishing has been on the downhill slide for many years, currently in a state where anything maple board has virtually no fret end finishing and no fretboard edge radiusing except on certain signature models still made by the better old school luthiers [ie. AT100] The necks still don't feel quite as good in profile or clearcoat feel, but the enhance comfort of the fret and board finishing is definitely making a huge difference to swing favor in their direction. At any rate, discontinued models sales are also brisk as those not thrilled with new offerings buy the last of the old, probably 10% of this current sales rush.
It's been a long time coming, since 1998 to be exact, but J CUSTOM SHOP guitars come back to the US, and the best news is, they're back to stay! This isn't a market test, or a teaser, it's a commitment to marketing their finest to the US for years to come. There is talk that as time goes by there may be opportunities for "Store Models" like the ones available in Japan, built to the spec ordered, and if this comes to pass you know I'll be doing something quilty, with ebony, and an EDGE of course!! But, those days are not here yet, so let's concentrate on what is.
To start, we will get RG8570Z's in 5 colors [although I suspect these are the same colors offered in Japan, all the color codes are different, but, so is the model designation so anything is possible] using the US model number JCRG2011Z. Make no mistake, these are pure 8570Z's in every way, whether the colors are exactly the same or not. The pricing will seem high to most at first, just realize what LIST and MAP pricing terms actually mean and you may conclude these may be available for less than what they can be bought for on a particularly well known auction site, from a particularly well known flipper of any and everything available in Japan. Who, BTW, you can blame for taking so long to become available to our shores again. Some of you may have noticed his pricing greatly increased over the last year [as well as his listing tactics] as Hoshino Gakki has gone after his suppliers in the attempt to level the playing field. Some may point your finger at me as I started out as a rogue independent, but I never broke Hoshino's pricing policies so, while I was a prickly thorn at times [mostly about quality issues, which I'm still a prick-ly about], it's quite different to break all of the companies policies to the point they couldn't export JC's to any other countries with an expectation of success.
For those of you that have always complained about them not being available here, stand up and make sure they are a success story in 2011. BUY THEM! It's that simple. While they proclaim these great intentions of making these a staple in the US, if nobody buys them, you will see those plans change. This is a business to them and business is still all about the bottom line. These can be ordered by any Ibanez dealer until the end of the month, all ordering will cease 1/31/11. If you love your local Mom and Pop, you'll have to tell them you want one and have it ordered, but be prepared to pay a substantial down payment, there are no order cancellations!! I ordered 15 in total, and may add more depending on interest. Guessing which colors customers may want is easier to throw a dart at a color wheel. I know what I like, I just wish everybody else thought the same way! My pick would be the bursted brown [OK, BGA!!] but the Trans Violet [OK, VAT!!] was what I was asked about most last year. If I could find my dart I'd come up with an answer!
I can say, thank you Ibanez. These are fantastic instruments that needed to be available here, again.
Due, sometime Summer-ish.
Now this ain't a story about a man named Jed.
"Made by Ibanez Premium Factory - Operated by Prestige team of Fujigen and Hoshino. Located in Jawa Timur, Indonesia."
This was taken directly from the promo sheets. On the back of the headstock -
"Proudly manufactured by Ibanez Premier Factory, Jawa Timur, Indonesia."
What exactly does this all mean?
Ibanez has partnered with Fujigen to purchase part of this factory in Jawa Timur!! Fujigen sent supervisors and staff to train the employees, several of whom have stayed to run the operation to the standards Fujigen and Ibanez set. And, they have set a high standard. I've ordered Indo guitars Special Order for customers and I've always thought they were a step above Korean, especially in the finishes used. The neck clear feels like MIJ, the body clear looks like MIJ, the MIK's just never were right to me, on several levels. My only complaint with the MII's has been some attention to detail, small blems that shouldn't be, etc. Well, hang on to yer britches.
American basswood, select rosewoods, maple neck bindings, thick headstock sandwiches, balled fret ends, tight tolerances, the new Edge Zero 2 trem [without the bathtub rout found behind the original EZ, more on this later], and a variety of 5 decent colors [OF ONE MODEL!!!] on nice quilty tops! Of course at this price point, the tops are decorative veneers, anything with a solid figured maple top would be MIJ and have a price point near triple. Otherwise, these have the goods. The guitars, were better than Prestige in many ways. You can also say that about the Chinese Artcore Customs, but, these are better than those too. Make no mistake, they are still Indo, but I could find little to complain about. There was a little brush over of shielding paint on the neck pickup rout on the orange one, rolling over onto the top just off the edge, again, this small attention to detail that I have no doubt should improve over time. The ends of the fret were already slightly exposed and needed to be shaved back, to me this translates into there's a bit too much water content in the wood when built, but I don't know when these were built. They could have been built as samples months ago, and it is Winter which is the time for shrinking necks. I shave alot of MIJ fretwork back this time of year. My last gripe would be the hardware. Of course it's not to the level of Prestige, but is still of good quality. The EZ2 is not a cousin to the EDG3 or Edge Pro 2, but more a brother to the Edge Zero. It is at heart, an EZ without the intonation bolt [or bathtub rout behind it] but, with differences. It does not use a single screwed on knife plate like the others but has individual pressed in knife edges like the entire Edge family. It also shares the same locking studs and anchors as the EZ [which I usually swap out for Lo Pro studs], but is not made in the same facility as the EZ. The EZ is finished to a higher degree, the EZ2 mold [especially noticeable on the saddle molds] is not as finely finished leaving a rougher less refined surface. It uses the ZR-V1.1 arm holder system that replaced the older cast [prone to braking] ZR1 holder which is not quite as nice as the EZ/ZR2 holder, but functions the same, and is available [unlike the EZ/ZR2 holder system Japan refuses to sell, even if you break it, you buy a new trem!]. My last complaint about it is the fine tuners have very little knurl on them making them tougher to grip to turn [one of my gripes about the EZ also], but either can be replaced with ZR fine tuners which are far superior in my opinion, and a relatively cheap upgrade!. All in all, it will function as it should, but the compromises cut cost enough to be profitable on the Premium line. These will be using nearly the same ZPS3 unit as the Prestige, the ZPS3Fe which I'm guessing refers to a less exotic metallurgy than the ZPS3 for in the Prestige.
To my knowledge this is the first manufacturing facility that Ibanez has actually owned [even in part], breaking from their tradition of contracting factories to produce their products, and stepping into the realm of ownership. With this commitment, I fully expect this to become a core segment of their business and this line should expand over time. I will be handling them. I shutter to think I'm actually going to be stocking Indo builds, but I was impressed enough with the goods to put my money where my blow hole is. That should speak volumes on it's own. Like the 1420/21's and 1451's [which also use several Indo parts to keep costs down] Premiums come in Gig Bags instead of cases.
No, the proposed ultra JEM with the new trem system is still AWOL, but, I've been trying to get an answer to, will there be more than one pattern FP2? I'm still trying to get the answer, but there was an entirely new pattern at the show and I'm trying to stress to them, variety is a good thing! They need to be built in several versions of this pattern just to keep them fresh, like the originals. I guess we'll all know, when the March container comes in.
There might not have been any new JEM's, but there was a new Euphoria. Very nicely appointed, it's a thinline with solid top, back, and sides, and the electrics personally tweaked by Steve to get that sonic dimension he was after. It's got the vine of course, but it also has a cool gold toned pearlesque binding that gives it a rich look against the black body that the previous EP's have lacked. I actually decided to carry these also!! [I did handle the EP7's too} as well as the JS10 acoustic [just for continuity!!]
THE ROOF IS ON FIRE!!!
But, there was no Fireman in the house. I don't think this one is going to get pulled, I just don't think all the details were worked out far enough to be displayed yet [and like the JS20TH, I think they've learned to wait until it's ready]. The speculation continues, will it be Fujigen [with a big price tag!!] or will it be Indo [with a little smaller price tag!]. With the "affordable" label firmly attached, I'm still betting Indo!
There is finally an Apex everybody could love. No crazy inlays, no wild paint, and, the first alder bodied 7 built by Ibanez. It's very reminiscent of the PGM401 with the same TriFade finish, classic white pickguard, in fact the only thing unusual is the mismatched color pickups [which the single cover can easily be changed to black if so desired]. I actually ordered one of these also, and I've never stocked any of the K's or Apex before!
THERE'S NEVER ENOUGH!
After all, boys will be boys. The Show Special RG2011SCBK sports 30 frets that are actually playable! To make it playable the lower cutaway has been severely altered which, at first glance [especially in pictures] looks quite ungainly. Not so much when you see it in person, but no doubt this will be another of the "love it" or "hate it" models that crop out every few years. With a "sustainer" [excitable pickup?!], it's definitely one straight off the drawing board. Just crazy enough, I ORDERED 2!! I'm hoping, that wasn't crazy!
THE CARPET MATCHES THE DRAPES!
Almost everything New that is mid to higher range have color matched headstocks. Ibanez must have been listening as they are responding with what has been one of the biggest complaints about their guitars. And we all know how much better they look this way. Thanks for listening!
Now that the nickel is the new penny, yes, there are allot of price increases coming. Mostly to the low to mid ranges, but also some in the $3k range are seeing a correction. This was expected by most that follow exchange rates, but it doesn't help a recovering economy much either. They're also introducing some Fixed Map pricing on the lower Prestige models to help hold the line even though the List prices have gone up. This will take me a bit to get used to.
$3200 CHINESE DARKSTONE
Yup, I said it!! It is pretty cool, with some very interestingly textured metal scrolling thorn inlays in the body, and I do like the Darkstone outline overall, but I'm just starting to get my head around Indo, I'm not going here, yet!! I wonder if this is a portend of things to come? It was a show special and as all Darkstone's are MIC it makes sense this would be also. But even I did a triple take at the price point!
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