NAMM 2014





NAMM Report


Many of you have noticed the lack of Edge Zero and Zero Resistance trems in the US offerings. But what you've been missing is what they have in common,


This is a US story.

The back story, sometime mid Summer I was notified the ZPS3's I had ordered were discontinued and no longer available. When questioned further how you can discontinue a part on current generation guitars, it was revealed there was a patent infringement on the device, which normally means, an infringement lawsuit. Evidently this reaches even further back as you may remember I reported last year they had removed the ZPS from the lower level models and gone with the typical 3 spring/claw setup that were using on the UV70's. Reported at the time to keep costs down, with these later developments, it was an omen of things to come. As soon as I saw the complete 2014 line, I knew there was alot more to the story than the official line, that "this is what the Artists wanted on their guitars so Ibanez was giving it to the masses" in a major product shift. But, this is too *major* a shift. Yes, there was a US Patent on something in the device, yes, there was a lawsuit, yes, it has been settled, but I believe the punitive Royalty settlement made it a necessity to revamp nearly the entire line of guitars, and that is the true reason behind such a massive changeover.

 Everything that was ZR2 or Edge Zero, is now equipped with the best Ibanez trems ever made, the Edge and Lo Pro Edge. Everything that was ZR-V1.1 is now Edge Zero 2 with the typical 3 spring/claw FR setup. Everything Edge 3, is dead, thankfully, [except Signature models ie. JS100, EGEN8, where the artist has the control] and has been replaced with the EZ2. The bug of the stiffer fine tuners on the EZ2 is far outweighed by it's superior knives and locking studs that make it a rock solid performer. [EDIT - Today I noticed they have changed the fine tuners on the EZ and RZ2 with new FT's with nuch deeper cross hatching making them much easier to grip and turn] But, there are a few stragglers. The 36 fret RG550X still has the ZPS3, as does the RGD's. It is a probability that the RGD's will convert over to Lo Pro [as the not yet finalized Dino Cazeras model will have [I talked to Dino at the show], and that with such massive changes, there just wasn't time to convert everything. Also sporting the ZPS is the 3 Premiums left in the 2014 line. Another real surprise of the year was the restriction of the recently created branded lineup that has shrunk from near 15? model and color combination, to - 3, which do retain the ZPS to give them a desirable feature to compete with the lowered price point of the Prestige models. These will probably all stay with EZ2/ZPS setups and not convert, leaving these as what will probably be the only guitars that they will offer in the US with ZPS to help their status in a crowded price point space.

So all the "missing the forest for the trees", and "it's what you're not seeing" hints I was dropping, was clouded as most of the early leaks were Euro, Japan, Canada, rest of world, which are not affected by the US Patents and the rest of the world is still getting the trem Japan loves, Edge Zero, and I think still some ZR's? But the US is getting its strongest catalog from a technical standpoint, possibly ever. Whatever the hidden, or visible reasons behind this move, it is welcome! With them comes old school numbering systems that will take all of us some time to get used to, confusing, yes, but it does make sense, in a way a little different than the norm.

Will there ever be enough strings?

As I reported last year, the writing was on the wall there would be production 9's coming. They've given you a budget Indo model and a Prestige version, although the later being on the expensive side for a Fujigen build, and a bit on the cheap if it's Sugi. I haven't been able to get those answers yet as, frankly I blew it. I never even noticed the pricing until I was back in the hotel the second night, but I'll get the info up as soon as I get it. The real question is, where does this stop? Or does it. It's almost a race to see who can build a guitar with the most strings, which Chapman won years ago. I have no doubt we'll be seeing a 10 before you know it, then 11, and we'll be back to a new 12 our fathers could never have imagined.

You will also notice an explosion of 7 and 8 string models in RG and S variants. They even introduced a 7 and 8 string Classical this year, so this has evidently eclipsed the "fad" stage and is gaining mainstream traction. I asked if there was sales data to support this expansion and was given an unequivocal "Yes". I'm definitely not selling as many as I should then, so I think I'm going to have to start hanging out at SSO much more often!!

Bare Knuckle Brawlers!

Ibanez forms an alliance with the very popular Bare Knuckle Pickups for several new models this year. The aptly named "Uppercut" models include an RGD7 and FR6, both sporting blank ebony boards and using Aftermath pickups in 6 and 7 string versions, that are being well received by the reviews I'm reading. They're also using the cleverly named Canine pickups in the new Prestige 9 string RG90.  And if that wasn't enough, as there never is, they've introduced 2 J Custom models for 2014 with BKP's, the RG614 will mount Aftermaths and the JCS614 will mount Nail Bombs. All of the metal covered BKP's are distressed and extremely cool. No doubt these are just the first punch in this new relationship.

25 Again.

Paul Gilbert has always been a real fan of Ibanez guitars. In an age where artists jump ship regularly for any number of reasons, the old guard of Ibanez rockers have proven their loyalty, and deserve every Anniversary model that comes. The Limited FRM250 takes the FRM to a new level, adding Humbuckers in an HSH configuration, a "Maple Flame" top [Paul is such a comedian!] and a bound neck. See Paul in a lengthy video gushing over his new toy here. Unfortunately the expected Japanese built FRM is going to be a Japan market only, Sugi built, no doubt expensive. So you hardcore buyers know you will have to import from the motherland. Expected production of 15 pieces.

20 to Life

Munky has been another loyal Ibanez user since long before he was endorsed, and celebrates that important 2 decade mark with the new APEX200. Reaching back old school with the block and plate neck joint many artists are going back to for the added tone and sustain, he stays with the HS configuration of the 100 but adds a very cool 2 color star pattern 12th fret inlay. These guys show no signs of slowing down and I don't doubt we'll be seeing an APEX25 when that time comes.

The Young Guns

3 new artist were to debut their new signature models this year, Kiko Loureiro of Angra, Jake Bowen or Periphery, and Dino Cazeras, long time endorser, of Fear factory. Sadly the DCM was not yet finalized for the show, and according to a recent tweet from Dino, might not happen. But the JBM100 and KIKO100 and 10P were both front and center. I'll have to admit, I'm not young and hip enough to know who these guys are, and I haven't been young and hip enough for a long time now, but I have heard some clips and I can see why they've attracted enough attention to warrant their own models. As with everything new this year, the KIKO comes with the EDGE, and the JB with the Lo Pro. Thankfully this shouldn't be an issue to those up and coming artist as it was with Herman Lee, who wanted the Lo Pro but was only given the option of ZR or EZ. I also gave Rob Balducci the good news at the show and I think he was planning his next order with Lo Pro while we were talking!

Late to the party.

A hopefully expected high profile signature model just couldn't be finalized in time to be debuted at the show. They may possibly do a media blast release on it sometime during the year, possibly even SNAMM, honestly I'd rather see it get a proper WNAMM15 release, it's that good. Another "why did it take so long to do that?" model, I'm betting it becomes news before release as the artists are the biggest source of leaks, whether intended or not.

The Tone Is Back

After what seemed like an eternity, the intonation problems with the JEM7VWH have finally been resolved with the first good batch being in high 2013 serial range of 31,000 [which should make them first batch 2014's]. Unfortunately this was not solved before the VWHL's made it out of Fujigen. Along with the VWH, the FRM's that have experienced the same problem are now also good guitars again. I tone tested the 100 and 250 at the show and the low E string over 1/2 scale had none of the obnoxious overtones that have been their plague. This leaves the JEM70's still in question as the one at the show was aweful, I didn't take note of the serial number because I still can't easily translate them yet, but I will be checking the next production batch to see if the problem still exists or if it's finally been kicked across the lines. But I will be stocking the VWH and FRM's again now after a long layoff.


Copyright 2014 Ibanez Rules    All Right Reserved