I got a good deal on a second-hand Ibanez RGR321EX a couple of days ago. These things are made in Indonesia so my expectations weren't that high, but I wanted a cheap, moddable hardtail RG, so I decided to give it a shot. Apparently this model isn't available in USA, but I would guess the RGR421EX you guys have is at least somewhat similar.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box. This thing looks amazing, better than in those catalog shots. The body binding is a nice touch.
Reverse headstock goodness! The neck is probably best part of this, especially if you prefer the Wizard II profile (I have to say it's not my personal favorite). It was really well crafted, actually just as well as the MIJ counterparts I've owned and tried out. The frets are even and they don't stick through the binding. Also the tuners and nut seem to be pretty good since this thing stays in tune no matter what.
The "Designed by EMG" pickups were a complete mystery to me before this. I'm not completely sure to what to think of them yet compared to a V7/V8 set for example, but one thing that stands out is that the sound is bassy as hell. The bassiness and slight muddyness were there even when I EQ'd bass below 9 o'clock and boosted mids and treble.
I think the neck pickup is pretty good for leads, and the cleans are surprisingly nice in neck and middle positions. As for the bridge pickup, changing it probably wouldn't be a bad investment. Dropped tunings are out of the question because of the muddiness, and overall its sound lacks definition. Who knows, it might work in a body other than basswood though. It'd also be interesting to do some A/B testing and hear how identical these are to the passive EMG HZ series. I haven't tried those personally.
Other electronics do their job alright. There's not much use for the tone pot with these pickups though, you might as well wire it to have separate volumes for both pups. The control cavity was shielded throughout which was a nice touch.
The only finishing flaw I found was that the body binding isn't even, there are small chips here and there. Luckily they stick out only when you start looking for them. Also it looks a bit weird when the neck binding is snow white, but the body binding is cream.
Simon says everything is OK though. I'm glad he doesn't work at the J-Custom line :)
And finally, here it is with its cousins.
Overall, the guitar was way better than I expected it to be. What I'd like to do is swap the neck for a maple fretboarded Wizard and put a brighter pickup in the bridge. In cany case this seems like good bang for the buck, well worth checking out if you want a budget hardtail RG.