Even if you're only into vintage-style guitars, I'd defy anybody who truly loves the instrument to pick up one of these Ibanez RGs without being impressed. It's a great deal more sophisticated and accomplished than just a pointy metal machine – and it owes little or nothing to traditional US lutherie.
As you'd expect with a guitar of this price the materials are top-notch, and the build and finish quality do them full justice. This is the long-established Ibanez take on the archetypal Strat theme, and despite being longer and somewhat more angular it's just as graceful and, in some quarters, equally iconic.
The mahogany body with its maple cap is a well-proven formula, but the beauty's more than merely skin-deep: the maple is a 5mm solid slab rather than a veneer. It's easy to tell because the edge hasn't had the Arctic Blue Burst treatment, and you can trace the grain lines over the edges. The matching headstock is veneered, but nevertheless it's a substantial slice.
The mahogany's grain is clearly visible through the glossy blue finish. The body looks very like a one-piece job to us, while the maple is joined down the centre and lives up to its AAA grade billing. Obviously visual impact is a major consideration with guitars of this sort and the abalone strip complements the blue as well as the charcoal chrome. Perhaps Ibanez should have gone the whole hog with abalone fretboard dots, because the white pearl looks slightly insipid in this context.
One thing: the quarter-sawn maple top appears to have been stained to make the flame pop out. It works a treat, but you don't get that almost holographic illusion as light hits the top from various angles. Instant gratification rather than sophisticated subtlety, perhaps.
Under its satin finish the two-octave neck –a super-strong sandwich of three strips of maple with wafer-thin lines of walnut in between – is utterly shredtastic. This is no palm-filling modern rock profile, or even a slick vintage C – it's wafer-thin, and the back feels almost as flat as the 17"-radius rosewood fingerboard. One warning: if you play with a tight thumb-over-the-top grip, your hand will tire quickly. This neck is built for speed and it rewards a lighter touch, preferably with your thumb against the back. I found my fingers moving a little faster than usual… which isn't saying much.
An angled headstock is an uncommon feature with bolt-on necks but the strip construction method allows the neck and headstock to be cut out without recourse to any scarfe jointing, and a crisply-carved volute protects the vulnerable area beneath the nut. It always amuses me to see high-quality tuners on a guitar with a locking vibrato: here, they're a set of classy Gotohs in charcoal chrome, just like the knurled volume and tone controls, the oversized strap buttons and the Edge Zero Tremolo.
The Edge Zero is Ibanez's newest generation of knife-edge vibratos. It carries over all the features of the ZR Trem that preceded it, and it makes the early Floyd Rose design look almost agricultural. Intonation adjustment is a no-hassle procedure because the saddles' allen bolts are offset, so you can get at them without having to remove strings. A special intonation tool is screwed into the base of the bridge next to the low E saddle; this unscrews from the base and screws into the bottom of each saddle for adjustments. Things are even more impressive under the spring cover with the Zero Point, a system which employs a stopper mechanism to maintain pitch even if a string breaks. The system can even be adjusted so it's fully floating or, at the other extreme, it can work as a fixed bridge. Don't worry about screwdrivers, because the tension is adjusted using an easily accessible thumbwheel. It's all there in the manual… but good luck getting your head around it.
The pickups are DiMarzios. Rather than fit high output ceramic metal models, Ibanez has selected an alnico DP155 Tone Zone for the bridge and an alnico DP193 for the neck – and they're both screwed directly into the wood of the body.
Thanks to some clever wiring and a five-way switch the RG3620Z is more than a mere two-trick pony. Starting from the neck the coil combinations are regular humbucker, both neck coils in parallel, both pickups together in humbucker mode, both inner coils in series and, lastly, the bridge pickup in regular humbucker mode. Two metal plates cover the electronics cavities, and decent quality components are combined with super-neat wiring.
Description: Electric guitar. Made in Japan
Price: £1999 inc. case
Build: Solid mahogany body with AAA maple cap, bolt-on 24-fret maple/walnut neck with rosewood fingerboard, diecast Gotoh tuners
Electrics: DiMarzio Tone Zone and Air Norton humbucking pickups, five-way switch, volume & tone controls
Finish: Atlantic blue burst, Himalayan black
Scale Length: 648mm/25.5"
12th fret 52mm
Depth of neck:
First fret 17mm
12th fret 19mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 2.5mm
12th fret bass 3mm