Here's my NGD/review of the awesome new AZ series!
Prior to getting this Ibanez, I did pull the trigger on the latest Charvel Guthrie Govan model, because that seemingly checked off all of my boxes as well. It was very tough for me, but I ended up sending back not 1, but 2 of them because of various issues. Issues that a lot of people would be complaining about if they were on an Ibanez Prestige, let alone a $3k signature model built in the Fender/Jackson custom shop (Iím pretty sure). Iím mentioning this to let anyone who reads this know where I was coming from when I set these expectations and that I know people are going to be comparing the Prestige AZ series to those types of guitars, since they are really pushing the ďboutiqueĒ aspect of the instrument's roots.
Personally, I love the shape of this guitar. It has such a good balance too it along with its ergonomics. First, itís nice because of playing RGs for so long, the way the body sits on me is very familiar and I donít have to adjust how I play. Sure, its ďjust another superstratĒ but the Charvel honestly felt a little different in this regard. Not much, but this one is better for me as far as that is concerned.
The neck is great. PERSONALLY it is just a hair thicker than I would prefer. Its very comfortable but I donít have giant hands and I do notice that wider legato licks are a bit harder than on my RG, but I am adjusting to it. If about 1mm was taken off, Iíd be happy. Specs say itís just a bit thicker than the Suhr modern elliptical shape and it feels very similar in shape. The shape is great, like I said very comfortable and great for chords, bends, anything else.
Frets are done really nicely. Very smooth and even. The ends are just fine, not J custom ball ends, but I don't think anyone will have a problem with them. No sign of any terrible tool marks either like what other people say Ibanez has done with maple boards in the past, even at a Prestige level.
Oh and luminescent side dots are always a great feature.
The new Gotoh bridge is a simple 2 post trem so there isnít much to go in depth about. It has titanium saddles and steel block which I canít comment on how much they change about the guitar. Some people prefer the sound of bent steel saddles and without swapping some onto this one (I donít have any to do this with anyway), I canít tell how different it would be. One thing I can make a negative comment on there is the corner of the low E saddle does dig into my hand a bit when palm muting. Nothing terrible but I may file it down a bit eventually.
It works just like you would think. You can beat on it pretty good and tuning is stable. Itís not a double locking system and I donít expect it to retain tuning like one but it works as good as most of the Gotoh bridges do I would assume. Of course something like the original Floyd style one of the Charvel is even better but I have no complaints here.
I did change the springs in the back because the string tension was a lot tighter than I like so I just put some All Parts springs in that were just slightly like tight. That really helped. Installed a tremol-no as well and modified the back plate to access it. It was a bit of a hacky job, but I wasn't too worried about that part.
The arm just pops in and then you tighten the locking thumbscrew. There is grommet in there that tightens as you tighten the thumb screw so you can adjust how loose the bar is. I imagine you can get a replacement if it wears out, which is always nice.
I can say that Iím not a huge fan of the Seymour Duncan Hyperions. Its always tough to explain pickups to the point that anyone reading this will know what I mean at all because so many of the same words get reused when describing them. All I know is that compared to the Crunch lab/liquire combo Iím used too, they are not as tight and not as hot. Even though there output is rated at like 14k, they are not a searing metal pickup at all (not they I want them to be). Of course they are alnico 5 and not ceramic magnets, but I thought they would be a little hotter. They do rock rhythms well but a still a little mushy and less defined in some cases. They have a nice pick attack but again still not as defined as Iíd prefer, especially on palm muted legato type stuff. Its still a nice sound, but its almost like they are sort of dull and harmonics donít bloom as much? This is with my main Friedman patch on the Axe Fx 2. Now if I go to something like a Dumble or Fender, they definitely do a little better. Certainly a chewier sound than the Dimarzios. But them being a little thicker and mushier makes them seem like snappy on the split coil sounds. Position 2 and 4 sound good, but you will not mistake it for a Fender, thats for sure. I love the idea for the alter switch but I havenít found myself loving as many of the tones it makes when switched on. Different pickups should help here.
I like the tone and volume pots. They are smooth but not frictionless, which is great in my opinion. Of course you donít want them to be hard to turn, but why would I set a sound and then want them to move if I accidentally breath on them? On top of them, they are very good at creating different usable sounds by manipulating them. Its not just up to 10 or nothing with them. You can get a great smooth jazz tone by rolling the tone down.
Iíve already changed out the volume and tone knobs. The originals were a little bigger and I already donít like how close the volume pot is so the current ones help. They are a little classier, are numbered, and made by Luminlay so they glow in the dark like the side dots!
Tuners are great. Ratio is fine and they lock. Not much more to be said. Also these Gotoh Magnum tuners donít have the knobs on the back so all you do is wind up a new string and they are locked. Could it be any more simple?
A nice touch to note is the strap pins are the larger diameter flat type, which are different than the typical Ibanez ones so you could use a strap and the beer bottle grommet to hold it on like a lot of people seem to like to do. Iíll probably replace them with Dunlop dual designs since its what is on my strap now.
Now since this guitar is obviously heavily influenced and being compared to other boutique custom brands, I have to look at it in that way and share my opinion on how it stacks up and any issues I notice. First thing is neck pocket gap. There is enough of a gap on the bass side to fit a piece of paper it. Not much on the treble side, but its there slightly. Iíve seen other posts of these with no gap, so itís not impossible for them to do. Even my Premium doesnít have any gap, but thatís not nearly as good of a guitar, so it is what it is. Next is neck alignment. You can see in one of the pictures that is off slightly towards the treble side. With the slight gap in the pocket, it could probably be evened out. It came set up fairly well. The intonation was spot on but the action a little higher than I prefer but I tweaked it and now its to my liking. No fret buzz. Thatís honestly about it.
It really is a well made guitar that certainly has the expensive guitar feel too it. Call it mojo, call it whatever you want but I donít think these will be a huge disappointment. Sure if you want an absolutely immaculate guitar, there are companies out there that will do that but as far as a guitar that feels, plays, and sounds great, this one definitely fills those shoes.
If anyone has any questions about it, just let me know and Iíll be more than happy to help if I can!