Then there's the bridge. Ahhh, the original Edge. Is this the best bridge ever made? For me, it's either this or the Lo-Pro Edge, and I'd be happy with either. I prefer the look of the Lo-Pro but the feeling of the Edge. This particular Edge is exactly like the original, only it doesn't have the "Licensed under Floyd Rose patents" stamp on it now because the patent ran out a while back and Ibanez are not obliged to put it there. That's a good thing for Ibanez, finacially, because they don't have to pay a fee every time the install a Floyd-based bridge. Ibanez could have only included the original Edge on this guitar, and I sure am happy they did. Flutter effects are easy to achieve. The arm action, whether pulling up or pushing down, is very positive and solid. This thing comes back to pitch every single time no matter how much abuse it takes. When I received the guitar I noticed a vast pull-up range. I hit a 5th fret harmonic on the G string and pulled it up by a perfect fifth! For those who don't know basic theory, that's a D! This leads me to think the RG 20th tremolo cavity is possibly a little deeper than the old 550's. It's certainly deeper than the ones on my original 550 and the 750. EDIT:
/i] This has since been confirmed by own measurements and by Courtney at the official Ibanez forums. Thanks Courtney.[/i] Unfortunately, I had to go and spoil the fun by lowering the action height which is very low right now and there's barely any fret buzz. I can live with a little buzzing anyway, it's almost always a trade off for great action unless you're a master guitar tech who can achieve superbly low action with no buzz at all. Once the guitar is plugged in, any buzz is history anyway. Despite the decreased pull-up from a lower action, I still have a perfect fourth of pull-up. There's actually more pull-up available but it tends to fret out when the strings hit the higher frets, but that's OK, I can live with it!
One point worth mentioning -- the Edge has retained the locking studs (a set-screw inside the bridge height adjustment posts which locks the post into position), just like the original. This is a good thing, especially in a basswood-body which is fairly soft timber. Over time, the post holes can become slightly oval in shape, even if the guitar isn't being used. I know Rich Harris has/had a Loch Ness Green JEM777 sitting unused in it's case for around 15 years which suffered from ovalled holes, so the locking studs won't completely eliminate the possibility of this happening despite thelack of playing, but they will minimise any movement of the posts and ensure superior return to pitch. Thankfully, according to Tak Hosono, Ibanez have plans to bring back locking studs full-time. This will be an improvement to the Edge Pro or any future variations of the Edge using a similar design.
The V1 and V2 humbucking pickups installed in the RG 20th are adequate. I appreciate that many people are happy with these pickups, but let's be honest -- stock RG550 pickups were never exactly known as tone monsters, and they usually ended up being replaced by their owners anyway, but in my opinion, fitting anything other than top-of-the-line pickups is not such a bad thing because it helps to keep the total cost of the guitar down and they are easy to upgrade later if you are not satisfied. It may be my imagination, but these newer versions of the V1 and V2 seem slightly hotter and brighter than previous incarnations. I believe they have been slightly improved upon, although I just came from using my RG750 with a Bill Lawrence L-500 pickup fitted, and in comparison the 550 pickups are slightly dull, flabby, and have very little attack. After some tweaks to the amp's tone controls I am fairly happy with them for now. The neck pickup sounds very nice, actually, though they will all be replaced at some point when finances allow. No complaints about the single coil, it delivers some nicely beefed-up Strat tones when they are asked for. The rest of the controls are nothing out of the ordinary, just regular black Stratocaster volume & tone knobs and an average 5-way selector which would benefit from being upgraded to a Dimarzio model as found on the JEM. One thing I noticed after fiddling around with a screwdriver for a second -- the output jack is different this time. It's smaller than the old barrel jack. No big deal, just a small detail I noticed. Lastly, the guitar is quite noisy when in close proximity to my amp. I intend to look into this later on.
Some of you may have noticed the placement of the volume knob. It's further away from the bridge pickup than the original 550. This is a subtle tweak I am happy about. Actually, this is one way you can easily spot a 20th from an original (from the front view) -- just look at the knob placement and the visible screw heads in the front-mounted nut. The volume knob is now perfectly positioned, I feel, and now allows palm-muting of the higher strings with no obstructions. Yay!
The rest of the guitar is pretty much what you can expect. The trem spring cover bearing the RG 20th logo is a nice touch (and shall be removed for preservation!), as is the chunky black neck plate with the stamped issue number. I am glad these guitars are individually numbered, which, surprisingly, is something the JEM 20th lacks. This one is #843 of the 1,987 RG 20th's being made. See my own registration page here.
As for the matching case, well, first off it doesn't match! It's a regular, bright-ish red, but it does look quite attractive. It is actually a cheap, Chinese-made case, though, including latches don't quite line up perfectly and a lid that doesn't like to stay open. Some of you may also possibly find bumps under the tolex covering, as reported by one owner. To be completely honest, I don't care. I bought the RG 20th for the guitar only and I would have been happy with that alone. The case is a bonus, and one wasn't included with my original 550. What would have been nice is a decent quality case like the one supplied with the Prestige RG guitars, maybe with embossed logo's. Oh, and forget about the (non-matching!) strap -- it has metal parts and you should keep them away from the finish. The special picks are a nice touch, but personally I won't even be opening the accessories anyway.
Overall, this is one great guitar. After a minor setup it plays great, sounds as good if not better than expected, looks amazing, and it has all those features we love about the original RG550 including the superb Edge bridge, maple fretboard which keeps this axe real snappy sounding (and it looks good, too), of course there's the neon finishes which really are stunning in person, and the whole thing is built very well indeed. Depending on which country you live in, it may or may not be worth every penny / cent / etc. Unfortunately it's not so well priced in the UK, but thanks to Rich Harris I got myself one straight from the USA for a great price that I was more than happy to pay. I should also mention that Rich is an absolute pleasure to do business with, he really knows how to take care of his customers, is great when it comes to communication, and as soon as I can afford to buy more guitars I'll be going straight back to IbanezRules.com. Thanks, Rich!
Oh, I have to give this guitar a rating? Well, that'd be easy. It will have to be a very solid 9/10. Sure, the frets could be improved, case could be better, there are some extremely minor issues here and there but the rest of the guitar easily makes up for any shortcomings. If you are waiting for the arrival of your RG550, trust me, it's really worth holding out for, and when it's finally in your hands and set up to your liking I can almost guarantee you'll be happy with your purchase and the fact that this guitar is a great collectors item you will be lucky to own. Just watch those retinas -- your eyesight may not be what it was 20 years ago.
Are you buying one? Don't forget to register your RG 20th! http://www.RG20th.com