Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: California, USA
Re: RG550: 1990 vs 1997?
The differences will be minor:
The '90 will have the original Wizard which is slightly thinner (literally a mm at the 12th fret) than the three-piece Prestige Wizard that came on the '97. The '97 will have the AANJ, though I've never really found that it helps me play any faster. The consensus seems to be that Ibanez moved to multi-piece necks specifically to produce more stability.
The '90 will have V1-S1-V2 pickups; the '97 will have V7-S1-V8 pickups. Neither are spectacular, but a lot of folks think the V1 and V2 are a lot better than the V7 and V8.
One totally cosmetic difference that some might really like--the '90 probably comes with a matching headstock. The '97 would be a standard black.
Now, to your question, which would I prefer? I think all things being equal, I would prefer the '90. My personal, totally subjective opinion is that the original Wizard necks play fastest and feel best. There's so much superstition and nonsense in the guitar world--people attribute mojo to everything from capacitors to nitro finishes. I doubt that I could tell the difference between a '90 and a '97 in a blind test.
One complication--it may not be that these are actually equal guitars. I say this because one is clearly older and, therefore, comes with the concerns that come with age, even if the guitar has been babied. 1990 was a quarter of a century ago now, and that means that guitars from that era may be more prone to issues with fretboard humps, neck twisting, fretboards shrinking, and so forth.
So I would encourage caution and, if you can, playing both before choosing. But if they really are equal in terms of condition, I'd take the '90.