Hands-On Review:Ibanez RGD Series


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Hard-rocking 26.5"-scale guitars take drop tuning to a whole new level

Ibanez RGD Series

Ibanez may have reached hard rock bottom when it introduced its new RGD series—and  that's a good thing. Designed from the outset to be tuned down a whole  step, these long-scale axes breathe fire with finesse.

 

I tested three RGD models: the Japanese-made RGD2120Z,  a two-humbucker, one-knob job with a very cool Cobweb Silver Metallic  Finish and a three-way toggle switch; the similarly equipped RGD2127Z Prestige 7-string, with a sleek gray Invisible Shadow finish; and the value-packed RGD320,  with two 'buckers, a five-way blade switch, and Metallic Gray Sunburst  finish. All three guitars feature super-smooth locking tremolos, jumbo  frets, and plenty of attitude.

A history of precious metal

Ibanez steps into the arena with an impressive pedigree dating back  to the 1980s, when dive-bombing, extreme distortion, tapping, and  whip-fast solos ruled. By the '90s, metal's sound had gotten even  raunchier as bands adopted drop tunings, super high-gain amps, and  7-string guitars. Over the last 30-odd years, Ibanez has championed both  6- and 7-string (and even 8-string!) "super Strats" like no other  company—and kept the faith with shredders by continuing to develop  innovative instruments for players who push the limits.

 

The RGDs live up to that legacy—and more. The one design trait they all share—a  long-scale, 26.5"-scale neck—allows the guitars to be tuned down while  providing enough tension for relatively light strings. That's great, but  I also liked the longer scale because the highest frets feel less  cramped than on a normal-scale 24-fret axe. Even cooler, these guitars  are the most "bend-friendly" I've ever encountered: I was able to  stretch the strings up a perfect fourth (five half steps) with relative  ease. Think of the RGDs' long-scale necks as battering rams you can use  to smash through creative limitations.

Prestige

Guitars in the Prestige series are built by Ibanez's top Japanese  artisans with the goal of producing a line of no-compromise professional  instruments; both the 6- and 7-string examples I tested hit the  bull's-eye.

 

These are serious tools. Yeah, the roughly textured finish on the RGD2120Z makes a visual statement. But its comfortably weighted and contoured  basswood body is also up for hours of hard work. The titanium-reinforced  5-piece maple/walnut neck has a slick, flat-backed "Wizard" profile for  blazing speed. As with every other aspect of the guitar's setup, the  frets were flawlessly dressed. In fact, all three guitars came out of  their cases with dead-on intonation and low, buzz-free action: The folks  packing the instruments care about the people who play them.

 

The Edge Zero bridge is bulletproof: smooth, accurate, and well  balanced. It doesn't bounce when you let go of the whammy bar, and most  important, it stays in tune—even after some extreme dive-bombing.

 

Although the RGD2120Z carries "only" a three-way switch and a single volume knob, the  excellent V7 Custom neck and V8 Custom bridge pickups produce an array  of sonic colors. When you crank up the distortion, the guitar growls and  rips—but never sounds thin or raspy. Rolling back the volume control  produces a clean, shimmering sound that has plenty of dimension and  detail. The low notes are punchy and tight; they don't get muddy, even  when the amp is cranked to distortion.

 

The 7-string RGD2127Z Prestige shares the six-string's strengths while adding a low A (remember, it's  also designed for drop tuning). Its 5-piece maple/wenge neck provided  ample real estate for the extra string, but never felt unmanageably  wide. Electronics and hardware are similar to the RGD2120Z's;  you really have to hear how the custom pickups work with the drop  tuning to shake the room. You may need to reinforce the windows before  you play.

RGD320

Impressed as I was with the Prestige instruments, I was also knocked out by the quality of the Indonesian-made RGD320, which does its more-expensive Japanese siblings proud.

 

With its more traditional gloss finish, bound rosewood fingerboard, and check-mark inlays, the RGD320 looks dressy but not formal. Its 3-piece maple neck has a slightly  rounder Wizard II profile—a nice fit for my long fingers. The Edge III  bridge performed almost as well as Prestige models' Edge Zero. I totally  abused it and then played an in-tune open G chord. Sweet!

 

The aggressive bar-magnet humbuckers may be designed to melt ears,  but they deliver a nice array of clean and mid-gain sounds, too. The  five available pickup combinations include the traditional neck  humbucker sound (i.e., the pickup's coils in series); the same pickup  with its coils in parallel (a brighter, almost single-coil-like tone);  neck + middle (with each pickup with its own coils in series); the  jangly sound of the inside coils of the neck + bridge, wired in  parallel; and the high-octane sound of the bridge with its coils in  series. Both the volume and tone controls were effective throughout  their entire ranges; the volume knob gave me lots of leeway when  cleaning up an overdriven amp.

The lowdown

Whether you're ready to step up to a Prestige model, or you consider the RGD320 to be more in your price range, the RGDs are worth serious consideration. And while they're clearly aimed at  hard rockers, the creative possibilities afforded by their long-scale  necks and drop-tuning capabilities may inspire a few traditionalists to  take a walk on the wild side, too.

Features & Specs


RGD2120Z:

  •   • 5-piece maple/walnut neck
  •   • Wizard Prestige neck profile
  •   • 26.5" scale
  •   • Tuning: D, G, C, F, A, D
  •   • Basswood body
  •   • 24 jumbo frets
  •   • Rosewood fingerboard
  •   • Pearl dot inlay
  •   • Edge Zero bridge with ZPS3
  •   • V7 Custom (neck); V8 Custom (bridge) pickups
  •   • 3-way pickup selector; volume control
  •   • Included case

RGD2127Z:

  •   • 5-piece maple/wenge neck
  •   • Wizard-7 Prestige neck profile
  •   • 26.5" scale
  •   • Tuning: A, D, G, C, F, A, D
  •   • Basswood body
  •   • 24 jumbo frets
  •   • Rosewood fingerboard
  •   • Pearl dot inlay
  •   • Edge Zero bridge 7 with ZPS3
  •   • V77 Custom (neck); V87 Custom (bridge) pickups
  •   • 3-way pickup selector; volume control
  •   • Included case

RGD320:

  •   • 3-piece maple neck
  •   • Wizard II neck profile
  •   • 26.5" scale
  •   • Tuning: D, G, C, F, A, D
  •   • Basswood body
  •   • 24 jumbo frets
  •   • Bound rosewood fingerboard
  •   • RGD special inlay
  •   • Edge III bridge
  •   • VK1-DT (neck); VK2-DT (bridge) pickups
  •   • Controls: 5-way pickup selector; volume; tone
  •   • Case sold separately

For the best in long-scale, drop-tunable axes of doom, check out Ibanez's RGD series. Order today from Musician's Friend and get our 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.