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  1. #1

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    Anyone tried one of these bottom of the range Ibanez AF55 models and compared them to the higher end ones ? (AF95 AF155 AFJ95 etc)

    I'm interested because I like the look of the 55 and they're (very) inexpensive.

    If the AF (of various no) all come off the same Chinese CNC machines anyway how could a high-end AF155 be substantially different in tone / playability from the 55 ?

    They select the plywood? Unlikely...

    Surely the differences are just in the appointments , PUs tailpieces, etc.
    I can live with that (and maybe swap out the neck PU).

    They're available for £225 in the UK... Bargain!

    Ibanez AF55-ibanez-af55-jpg


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Interesting question. Check the comprehensive parts catalog that Ibanez has available online. From what I have seen there is a lot of common parts on most models save perhaps the signatures

  4. #3

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    They all say Ibanez but they could very well come from different factories. But you're right, the build quality all over is much higher than it was even a few years ago. Electronics will differ and if you change them out you can get really great sound.
    Differences also in care spent on things like fret leveling, stable neck and fingerboard wood, etc.

  5. #4

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    The better models have the Super 58 pickups. They definitely don't need to be replaced

  6. #5

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    I am also really curious if anyone has had the opportunity to try this model. I owned two Artcores in the past (AF75 and AF105) and one thing which really put me off is that they appear like dipped in plastic - really thick poly finish. The AF55 is the only one finished in a very light satin, which from my POV might well be an improvement ... On the other hand, I don't find the finish of the AF55 (I think they call in "Antique burst flat") particularly attractive. I don't get why Ibanez didn't just offer this model in plain maple (think Godin Kingpin in natural). The specs are right: one-piece mahogany neck, all maple body, nice and simple construction. With a swap of the neck PUP it might be a winner!


  7. #6

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    I might be able to help a bit; I did play these during a recent purchase run. I agree, they have a nice vintage look, and play extremely well for the price. As you run up the numbers across the art cores and compare, you're generally stepping up through better hardware, electronics, and finishes as you expect.

    The pickups are a big difference; the 55 has pretty low end pickups compared to the Super 58 customs and the Super 58s reserved for the signature models. I was very happy with how the 55s felt to play, but plugged in they did not hold up in comparison to the higher models or comparable Gibsons I played or PRSes. Pickups jump out right away as a differentiator between the cheaper and the more expensive. The good news is that its a no brainer with the price difference to purchase a lower end Gibson (like an Epiphone) and replace the pickups - a lot of music stores in the states would do that in house for you. With the Ibanez models, the price difference may not be worth the cost of additional pickups ($200 US or so for a good pair?) plus labor.

    After playing a lot and really leaning toward Gibson, I was gravitating to Ibanez Benson or Scofield models (Metheny was too single purpose), and purchased an AS103 which is kind of a budget Scofield model. I'm extremely happy with how it plays and about half the price. I also felt another big difference (I was looking at the AF75) was the 5 piece neck of the AS103 felt more substantial even with the same rosewood/geometry as lower end models. But, I wouldn't hold anything against someone choosing the AF55 - it felt as good to hold as the higher end models. Amp can come into play also - I was trying out with headphones where the electronic tone really came through in a direct way. Based on your original message I think you'll be happy - just sitting there playing an AF55 felt good, in my opinion. You can always change out pickups later, too.

  8. #7
    Thanks guys , thought as much .........
    shame they don't do a neck pickup only model even cheaper !

    It would be prettier , then just change that PU ......
    (I don't use a bridge PU anyway)

    Still it's got to be a bargain for £225 !

  9. #8

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    I've owned one since January 4, 2013.

    All I can say is "WOW"!

    It sounds great, even with the quiet, stock, hum/buzz-free pickups.

    The playability along the neck is great, due to the smooth finish.

    I ended up taking out the two stock pickups & replacing them with S/D antiquity jazz humbuckers.
    I also installed Gotoh 501 tuning machines.
    New amber-speed knobs.
    New yellow Emerson yellow-paper-in-oil cap, with the CTS 250k tone pot, and a 500k-NS Design Jackpot-poteniometer (to bypass the tone circuit).
    Now it really, really sounds like Russell Malone

    I mainly bought it because I despise glossy-finish guitars since they don't look appealing on stage with all the fingerprints & scratches. After all, who wants to spend time cleaning/polishing all the time when they could be jamming?

    Maybe if I get a second to crap, I will post a pic or three...

  10. #9

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    I've tried the AF55 (without plugging in) and wasn't knocked out by it. It sounded and played like it looks - meh. It is a little like the 5th Ave, but the Godin has a much richer tone and is meant to be an acoustic. The AF55 isn't. I've heard one plugged in through a PA and it was muddy and undefined as compared to my AFS75.

  11. #10

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    I definitely stand by my statement, no matter what anyone says about the AF55.

    After all, a lot of guitar snobs on the Ibanez forum site mentioned all sorts of ridiculous negative stuff about the AF55.

    I'd put money on it that they likely haven't even tried the guitar.

    Most of the members were judging it based on it's looks & they had preconceived notions, right off the bat.

    I'm certain that nearly all of you have heard the old saying... "The jazz sound you're looking for is in your fingers".
    I stand by that statement as well.

    Nonetheless, I firmly believe that there are a multitude of jazz guitarists out there who have developed "their own" sound, on many different electric guitars with many different pickups, so there you go.

  12. #11

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    Oh, also, I forgot...
    I have a Henriksen Jazzamp 110ER, and used both the original stock pickups, and it sounded similar to Russell Malone's sound...
    Nonetheless, when I installed the Seymour Duncan Antiquity Jazz pickups, it really sounded better.
    If you get the guitar, you'd have to try the unit with a good amp, and test out the guitar with the stock pickups.

    The only thing I didn't care for was the amount of feedback, but with a hollowbody, that's to be expected.

  13. #12

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    I sat down yesterday at GC for a minute with the AF55 and a few other low-end Ibanez electric hollows unplugged. The ASF55 had the best acoustic volume, and had that 50's Kay tone. The best tone overall was the Ibanez AFJ, but didn't project as well. I picked up an Ibanez AG75 and AF75 and neither had any volume or decent acoustic tone in comparison.

  14. #13
    Wish I was a better player, but well...

    Picked up the AF55 on sale at Guitar Center for $250. Reading posts above, I had to chime in. As an low-mid level jazz player, I have been happy with it. Can't afford a gibson. Ha!

    I'm playing through a roland cube 30, and can get a perfect tone for that joe pass sound. The pickups are a bit boomy, and heavy on the low end. Kept amp eq at 12 o'clock, but had to pull bass way back. Bass at apx 6 or 7 oclock, and mid & high at noon, I then use either both pickups or the neck, and keep tone around 5. Most guitars I've checked out I turn the tone almost all the way down, and use only the neck. All this to say, you can get a great sound out of the guitar. Plays well, and finish feels good down the neck. Some will like the body finish, some won't. Pictures are accurate, but doesn't tell about initial rough texture of satin finish.

    Cons: Tuners are loose. A centimeter give in a couple of them. Ridiculous. Pickups could be swapped out, likely will do that. Pots are fickle, I've found. Can give that electric rattle at times when adjusting. Rare, but have noticed it in my heavy use. Have swapped out machine heads for schaller. With a charlie christian humbucker in it, and I could have paid for a different guitar.

    Overall, get the tone I want, legitimately like joe pass, and plays well. Other than not having the high end name appeal, I'm happy at my level. This guitar will keep me sated for the time being. Plenty of tone, vintage look, and like any guitar, relies on my ability to make it sound good

    Hope this helps.

  15. #14

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    Surprised about the problems with the tuners. I owned the next model up (AF75) in the past, and the tuners were as good as any Grovers that I have had on other guitars...

    So, here is my wishlist (Ibanez, are you listening?): release an additional model (perhaps AF45?), essentially same specs (mahogany neck and maple body are a great combination), but lose the bridge PUP (and maybe put a chrome cap on the remaining neck PUP). Just plain maple rather than the weird antique burst, but with the same satin finish (avoiding the gloopy poly finish on the higher models). Keep the price at or near £200. This would be the ultimate "disposable" working instrument, with potential for strategic upgrades (PUP, tuners, pots, etc.) when needed. Just my 0.02£. N.

  16. #15

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    ... in fact, I wonder how hard it would be to strip an AF55 down to just plain maple given the finish is so thin. Then, just wipe on a few coats of of Tru-oil, which has given me great results in the past...

  17. #16

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    I'm seriously considering the AF55. The price point can't be beat and I do like its look and design. Many diss it as a "plain Jane", but I love that about it. I think of it as the archtop equivalent of a Telecaster; not aestheically great but very functional (two pickups, two controls, a selector switch). And I agree the fact that it doesn't have that dipped in plastic look very appealing, which probably accounts for its good acoustic vol/ton. What can I say? In some respects it's an unconventional instrument. I'm an unconventional guy - this is right up my alley, and as stated, you can upgrade the hell out of it.

    Say what you will, but if nothing else with this guitar you have a good platform to work with and alter if you choose.

  18. #17

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    Never played one, but saw one sell in NJ. off Ebay for $157.

  19. #18

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    I picked up an AF55 at GC (30 day return, so I can check it out). Put my strings on it, set it up, played through my modded blues jr. It sounds pretty good to me, I like a jazzy, Benson kind of sound... plays well, and I like the finish on the neck and body. For $329, can't go wrong.

  20. #19

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    Looking at prices in the UK and USA, I think the AF71 might be in your price range.
    The AF71 is a floater.
    I bought one and I can tell you that it is a very impressive guitar for the price.
    Its glossy black in colour, it looks flat black in the Ibby pics.

    I lapped the bridge to the body contour and put a set of Chromes,50 bass I think
    and now that it has been played a bit , it's really sounding good.

    I put a 12 pole handwound Kent Armstrong on it and the tone is big and round.
    All who have played it comment on the sound.
    The neck seems strong too. I found the truss nut to be about a third of a turn loose
    and no appreciable bow.
    Might be worth a look.

  21. #20

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    Sounds ok, even when played left-handed

  22. #21
    OK yeah thats warm enough for me ..... result !

    Note guys ..... this is the 20 fret neck version
    PU is under the 22 fret area

    I've seen 22 fret versions around too with the PU under the 24 fret area
    Last edited by pingu; 04-20-2015 at 11:07 AM.

  23. #22

    interesting cheapo comparison vid from same left hooker
    nice blowing !

    and Misty

    OK I'll stop now .....
    Last edited by pingu; 04-20-2015 at 11:16 AM.

  24. #23

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    Hey Rob...nice playing....that is unbelievable that u can play left handed, with the guitar upside down and not restrung! I've never seen that before....I had to do a double take of your video again lol. That's Guiness Book worthy!!!

  25. #24

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    That's not me playing, wesmont! For a start, I'm right-handed. Sounds good, though, so I might pretend it is me

  26. #25
    just tried out an AF55 tobacco flat finish
    for 10 mins in a shop

    very impressed , played well , solid ,
    neck , straight , good fretwork , played
    in-tune all the way up , nice sound (considering the 10 guage strings on there)
    nice bit of zing to the sound
    quite lively acoustically ....

    plugged in , yes the pickups are too bright for me as i expected
    I would put a decent humbucker in the neck for sure
    tuners, and hardware all seemed ok ...
    other than that ... yeah cool

  27. #26

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    I have one of these. I swapped out the Tuners for grovers because they would not stay in tune. Also the Volume pot is too far forward. If you play alot of country you'll keep hitting the volume pot. Good place for a locking pot knob. Other then that it plays well and sound good in a Hall environment.

    Ibanez AF-55
    Gibson Les Paul Studio
    Fender Strait
    Fender Tele

  28. #27

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    I contemplated buying one as they're so cheap.. even though I have an AKJ95.. but I can't help but think it would be a step down. I do like that satin brown kind of finish and the simplicity of it though. Plus I could mod it and keep the AKJ stock. I have a few too many guitars so I haven't bought one as yet. Space/storage is becoming an issue, haha.

  29. #28

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    I did not plan on buying a new guitar, nor did I really need one, but stumbling across an Ibanez AF55 advertised for $280 at Bax Shop plus having a voucher for a 10% discount made me give in..... I just was too curious to see what you would get.

    So I went against all my principles and ordered it online unseen. I figured they have a good return policy so why not.

    The excuse was to have a platform for experimenting: my parts drawer is filling up and I wanted to see if I can upgrade this guitar with some nice hardware and see how it turns out

    It arrived yesterday:

    (Note that the ABR bridge is already changed out for an ebony one in this picture)

    First impressions:
    An absolutely stunning looking guitar. Flawless finish, I could only spot a minor flaw where the finish rubbed onto the binding a lilttle bit. I have never seen a cheap mass product with such a flawless finish. Eat your heart out Gibson.....

    Out of the box it played already very well, they went through the trouble of actually giving it a proper set up! It was set up with heavier roundwounds, 0.011s or 0.012s I think. Intonation was spot on and the top nut was cut at the right depth. Very impressive for this price.

    The sound was not quite to my liking though: pickups are very hot. The overall sound was not bad, but kind of meh. A bit clanky and over-blown.

    So: away with the roundwounds, on goes a set of 0.013 TI flatwounds. Off comes the ABR tunamatic and on goes an ebony wood bridge. Pickups are lowered at least 1/4 inch. Trussrod is tightened (it had no tension at all to my surprise, but still the action was pretty low). Nice detail, trussrod cover can be opened without unscrewing it, and gives instant access to the trussrod:

    I always set my necks almost straight with very little relief and a pretty low action.

    Ebony bridge:

    Second impression:
    Wow, just wow.... this sounds like a jazz guitar, plays like butter and looks very good to me. It even has “thunk”!

    But of course I can’t just leave it at that, next phase will be the electronics. Now that the pickups are lowered, they sound a lot better, but they are rather dark and lack ‘openess’ to my ears. One thing to consider is that the neck is 20 frets and the neck pickup sits right at the fretboard, so this differs from a standard ES-175 or ES-335 where the pickups sits closer towards the bridge, more where the 24th fret would be. Also the P90 of my ES-125 sits about in that position. So the neck pickup of the AF55 picks up the sound from a different part of the strings and will therefore by definition sound a bit darker and rounder as the same pickup on an ES-175 for example.

    I have several nice pickups laying around:
    - a Gibson patent nr bucker with chrome cover (late 70ies or early 80ies)
    - an SD 59 classic
    - an SD Antiquity P90
    - a Lollar underwound 50ies P90

    I think I will first go for the buckers:

    Let’s see if this guitar turns out to be serious competition for my ES-333 and ES-125! So far I am very, very impressed.

    To be continued!
    Last edited by Little Jay; 11-24-2017 at 05:50 AM.

  30. #29

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    Glad to read that it turned out to be a worthwhile basis for some tinkering. That sounds like you have some fun ahead of you - looking forward to your proceedings!

  31. #30

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    Thanks for posting.

    I am very curious about your general feelings about the Neck Pickup at the 20th Fret ..

    I am thinking about ( but can not find one to Play ) a Korean 25.5" Scale semi with a 20 fret Neck kind of like a Long Scale 335 from Prestige Canada.

    I am also looking at the Jazz Hawk which DOES have the Pickup at the same position as a 175 and it sounds great on the Fat Jazz Hawk but thinking on the Thinline Version ..if it's not expensive to have them move the Neck PU to the Fingerboard.

    A nicer sound requiring less or no Rolloff on the Tone knob perhaps ?

  32. #31

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    Yes it’s a very fun project and very promising. I will report back after the pickup swap. Might not be this weekend since I have gigs to play, so hopefully next week!

  33. #32

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    I’m planning on doing some recordings as well.

  34. #33

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    Thanks Jay...Looking forward to it.

    Also any observations you have on pickup location
    right near 20th fret versus ES 175 location will be interesting.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robertkoa
    Thanks Jay...Looking forward to it.

    Also any observations you have on pickup location
    right near 20th fret versus ES 175 location will be interesting.
    So far, my impression is that because of the pickup placement it always sounds a bit as if you are picking the notes higher up the neck.

    But I have the impression that the current pickups enhance that effect or even sound like that by themselves, so I’ll answer again after pickup replacement. I’ll keep your question in mind!

  36. #35

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    Great stuff LJ - I've looked at that model with interest myself, so it's good to get some proper insight from a jazz guitarist. If it has a good acoustic resonance, then I have to think it's a great buy with a view to modding and upgrading, and the satin finish and no-frills looks are actually kind of cool also.

  37. #36

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    I choose this one because it has a solid mahogany neck, but obviously it’s not one piece (black overspray hides the head joint and composite heel). But it resonates pretty well. My test is always to give a good tap on the head and feel the vibrations in the neck. The decay of the vibration is shorter than in my ES-125.
    Last edited by Little Jay; 11-30-2017 at 05:50 AM.

  38. #37

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    I tested one in a shop and I thought the same: with a pickup swap it would be a nice axe. Finally I bought a AKJ95 (always wanted a florentine) and changed stock ones to humbucker sized P90s. Now we are in love...

  39. #38

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    It looks like you are going to get your money's worth in fun alone! Just a suggestion re: pup placement - you might try flipping the neck pup assembly 180 degrees so that the adjustable pole pieces are closer to that imaginary 24th fret node. Lower the body of the pup and raise the polepieces substantially. This may well give you a "sweeter and cleaner tone with no loss of highs" to quote Bill Lawrence. A little twiddling of the tone knobs in the signal chain wouldn't hurt. My guess is you can make it sound mighty fine with the stock units, and even better with any of your fine spares. Congratulations, and have a modding blast in good health!
    Last edited by citizenk74; 11-25-2017 at 09:03 AM. Reason: Capitalization

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    Just a suggestion re: pup placement - you might try flipping the neck pup assembly 180 degrees so that the adjustable pole pieces are closer to that imaginary 24th fret node. Lower the body of the pup and raise the polepieces substantially. this may well give you a "sweeter and cleaner tone with no loss of highs" to quote Bill Lawrence.
    That was my plan! Good to see my thinking confirmed! I will do just that. I think I will put the patent number humbucker in the neck position. That one was installed in my ES-125 when I got it and sounded pretty darn good in there. I will definitely try the polepieces also.

    Yes, it is a fun project indeed!

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jay
    I choose this one because it has a solid mahogany neck, but obviously it’s not one piece (black overspray hides the head joint and composite heel). But it resonates pretty good. My test is always to give a good tap on the head and feel the vibrations in the neck. The decay of the vibration is shorter than in my ES-125.
    Does sound like it's a goer - got me thinking if I can justify getting one myself - if honest don't need one at all, but you know how it is. Like your thinking re the mahogany neck too, and looking forward to seeing what you finish with once modded, and the gig reports.

  42. #41

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    The reviews I read on the AF55 are mostly positive, but some mention bad tuners, but I can't find anything wrong with mine. I expected to have to widen the string slots in the nut, but it accepted the 13s without any problem.

    Played acoustically it sounds pretty good! With quite a bit of volume too.

    Mine is made in Indonesia according to the label. I don't know if Ibanez has the same model made in China as well and if they differ (although I am pretty impressed with what comes out of China nowadays).

    It does have this slight 'modern' or new sound acoustically that All my new guitars have. All my older guitars sound deeper and sweeter (I am talking laminates, I have no solid top archtops). Maybe the Ibanez will age like that too, only time will tell).

    Still very impressed!

  43. #42

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    Hey El Jay, nice turnaround.

    Nowadays mass produced guitars fit and finish make for great modding platforms without too much investment.

    Yes, strumming the guitar to feel if it vibrates through the neck and body is a great way to instantly know whether you have a diamond in the rough or a dud. Mahogany and its derivatives should resonate and with time 'open up'. Modern poly lacquer can stop this as it traps moisture in the wood. But a good piece of wood will always be a good piece of wood.

    A lot of people bemoan tweaking of cheapo instruments as they (rightly) say its a loss of money as you never get back the investment when you sell on the guitar, but I disagree with that sentiment.
    Y'see if one has the nous to change out the pickups you can always swap 'em back when you sell on the guitar, heck, I've a pickup that's been in three different guitars!

    The enjoyment of learning new practical skills is worth the admission price alone...

    But most of all having a guitar that plays exquisitely to one's touch and sounds flawless to one's ears is priceless. To get something like that made for you or to be mass produced to very fine tolerances will cost a fair amount of coin.
    All my trips to music shops for a quick twang and im comparing everything to my tweaked guitars. I always come away underwhelmed 99% of the time.

    I've just installed a roller bridge on me Squier JM Jazzmaster. It was fiddly coz all roller bridges are 12"radius but the guitar fretboard is 9.5". With miniature shims, pissing about with intonation using Allen keys to lock down the saddles and then having micro movements of Allen screws to lock the bridge to the body bolts I now have a trem system that can dive bomb and return to pitch with flatwounds! Har har har. It took me the best part of 2 hours to fiddle in the intonation at the 12th and 19th fret but it's within 4 cents overall and I'm dead chuffed.

    So best advice to all is teach yourself fret levelling and nut making and you'll reap rewards with cheapo hacks and proper dogs.....

  44. #43

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    Empty house this Sunday afternoon, so the perfect opportunity to work on the Ibanez....

    I buffed out the finish to a semi gloss. Took some elbow grease, but went fairly easy. Looks much better I think!

    While removing the electronics, I took some pics from the inside:

    First a little break, then on with installing better pickups.

    To be continued.....

  45. #44

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    Fine photos and thanks for sharing this project. The top seems composed of layers of different thickness, 3 thin 2 thick. I thought such plates were just layers of ply, with different grain orientation but otherwise identical.

  46. #45

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    This is a very smart project. I worked for Ibanez and I came to look at their guitars as very good to amazing instruments that had cost cutting "features" built in to make them marketable. Heh, they were "kits" that made great serious instruments with love and a little work. At the heart of most of them, was the makings of a really good professional workhorse. I bought a number of jazz boxes there and did what you've done, and each and every case, wound up with a totally inspiring and comfortable instrument I could play anything on. It was the bridge, pickups, sometimes tuner or tailpiece to wood that I switched out as a matter of course. What I then had was a professional instrument I'd pass on to friends who lived with instruments they'd lived with, many worth a lot more, and they thanked me for their guitar upgrade.
    There are collectors and collectable guitars. ' and then there are players and hard use instruments, some that can outplay a collectable, with the right mods.
    I will say that Chinese guitars got radically better over time, but watch out for the woods on the Indonesian ones, especially in regards to pickup set screws; they are made of cheaper softer wood and screws go through that wood like a drill. Maybe they've gotten better, but I learned that if it's not immediately visible, it's fair game for cost cutting. Wood plies are no exception.

    Nice job on the finish buff! I know an instrument I've worked on has a special bond with me. Make good music!


  47. #46

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    Budget Ibbys represent great values, to my ears and fingers. Even with all the corner-cutting they must do to deliver on budget, they stay focused on the non-negotiables -- playability, and accurate intonation.

    Enjoy your project and make 'er sing, brotha.

  48. #47

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    Had a chance to play one of these over the holiday at the local GC, and I must say that I was impressed by it. If I didn't need the snowblower Sears had on sale

    That buffed out nice. Looks much better. Well done!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  49. #48

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    Teaser! This is what she looks like now:

    For sounds you have to wait. I’m off now to jam. Tomorrow I work and have a gig at night, so no time for recordings. Wednesday, gentlepeople!
    Last edited by Little Jay; 11-28-2017 at 09:19 AM.

  50. #49

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    I like how you reconfigured the controls. Looks great.

  51. #50

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    Looks fabulous, excellent work. Neck pickup the wrong way round? or deliberate? Not that it matters. forgive me mentioning it, just curious.