Ibanez has a long history in guitar building, and while they’ve made some “Jems” over the years, they’ve also sold some more questionable models. The best Ibanez guitars share a few things in common, including amazing tone and world class playability.
But, how do you know which model to go for? Many of them look incredibly similar, and frankly, Ibanez’s naming system can be pretty confusing too.
That’s why in this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be showing you a collection of the best Ibanez guitars. During the review, we focused on tone, playability, and versatility. To make sure that everything was covered on a level playing field, we used the same Fender Twin Reverb amp for each test. Keep on reading to learn more.
- Best Ibanez Guitars: Our Top 3
- Best Ibanez Guitars: Individual Reviews
- How to Pick the Best Ibanez Guitar For You
- Final Thoughts On The Best Ibanez Guitars
Best Ibanez Guitars: Our Top 3
Our Top Pick was the Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR – this is a wonderful option that delivers a more economical version of Vai’s instrument but with the same vibe.
Guitarists looking for a great Ibanez at a bargain price should check out our Best Budget option, the Ibanez Gio GRX70QA. It features a poplar body and quilted maple top and delivers a good tone and feel for the price.
If you’re not apprehensive about costs, and you’re looking for the best Ibanez guitar, check out our Editor’s Choice, the Ibanez Prestige AZ2204NW. This fantastic guitar comes with excellent quality in every aspect, including versatility.
Best Ibanez Guitars: Individual Reviews
Tone and playability designed for a true master of the instrument.
This version of Ibanez's Steve Vai signature guitar comes with the instant appeal that JEM instruments offer, from the gorgeous vine inlay to the unmistakable "monkey grip" handle. The JEMJR delivers the playing experience and powerful tone that is now legendary in a more affordable version.
The Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR features a meranti Body and comes in a black color with a Gloss Polyurethane finish. This is a value version of Steve Vai’s JEM guitar, and we were super excited to try this out.
We started our tests on clean by playing open chords and a few licks. We loved how open and articulate Ibanez’s Quantum pickups were. On the bridge position, we got a nice bite from the humbucker that was potent but not shrill. When we added an Ibanez Tube Screamer, we got great distortion that was focused and powerful, ideal for power chords and soaring lead lines.
Moving on to the mid-pickup (a single coil Ibanez Quantum), we got that single coil bite, which was great for overdriven solos. Finally, the neck pickup (an Ibanez Quantum humbucker) gave us a rounder tone that was still muscular but with a darker character, which sounded good clean as well as distorted.
The playability on the JEMJR was also very nice, and we loved the feel of the Wizard III neck. We were able to play our fast runs and scales with ease, and really liked how the maple neck felt with its 15.7″ radius and 25.5 scale length.
One of our favorite features on this guitar was the Standard double-locking bridge, as it gave us stable tuning and intonation. With muscular tone and great playability, this instrument is a fantastic option for folks that like fast guitars that deliver in tone and feel.
Verdict: The Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR is a great guitar for styles like rock, metal, and anything else that requires fast playing and a powerful distorted tone. With nice playability and a versatile HSH configuration, this version of Steve Vai’s signature instrument provides good playability and a nice sound.
Ideal tone, playability and versatility for the beginner.
The Gio GRX70QA is one of Ibanez's more affordable electric guitars and is very popular for good reason. It delivers good tone and versatility thanks to its HSH pickup configuration and comes with a comfortable neck that beginners will certainly appreciate.
The Ibanez Gio GRX70QA featured a poplar body and quilted maple top, with a beautiful Transparent Violet Sunburst color on a Gloss Polyester finish and a superstar body.
We began our tests by dialing in some distortion via our Tube Screamer while on the Infinity R Ceramic humbucker bridge pickup. Here we got a fat distorted tone that was much more powerful than we expected on such an affordable guitar.
We played everything from heavy riffs to more mellow and overdriven licks, and really liked the forward and punchy tone we got. We then jumped to the neck position humbucker, also an Infinity R Ceramic. In this position we got a warmer distorted tone that was at its best with the tone knob rolled all the way up. We also liked how this pickup played clean – it was great for open chords, and working out a few licks before adding distortion.
A great feature on the Gio GRX70QA is the inclusion of a single-coil Infinity RS Ceramic pickup in the middle position. This gave us some fantastic bite that had an almost Strat like twang to it, which was great for funkier rhythm on cleans, and blues soloing with a bit of overdrive.
Beginners and players with smaller hands are also going to love the 12″ inch radius neck as much as we did. It gave us a familiar feeling with a typical Fender-type of scale length at 25.5″ while being faster. With 22 medium frets and a purpleheart fingerboard, we really enjoyed the feel of this neck, which is ideal for anybody picking up a guitar for the first time.
Verdict: The Ibanez Gio Ibanez Gio GRX70QA delivers good tone and nice playability for the beginner, and comes at a very affordable price. With a flexible pickup configuration that features two humbuckers and a single coil in the mid position, this Ibanez delivers powerful distorted tone as well as forward cleans, all of this with nice playability, making it a great choice for those starting out on the instrument.
Outstanding tone, feel, and features for professionals.
The Ibanez Prestige AZ2204NW is an outstanding electric guitar made for discerning guitarists that demand superior quality and are willing to pay for it. The tone, options, playability, response and overall traits of this instrument make it a stellar choice and one of the best Ibanez guitars on the market today.
The Ibanez Prestige AZ2204NW offers outstanding quality in every aspect, including versatility. It boasts a dyna-MIX9 switching system that delivers nine distinct sound combinations. Ibanez designed it in order to allow the user to use this guitar in a great variety of genres, as it can pivot between humbucker and single-coil tones with a flick of a mini toggle.
It was built with an alder body, and had a substantial rear ergonomic body contour which felt great and really added to the comfort and playability. The body of the guitar had a nice balance to it, whether we played standing up or sitting down.
We started our tests on clean with the neck pickup, a Seymour Duncan Fortuna Single-coil. We got a warm tone that had a great frequency response. We felt that this tone was great to play some modern jazz in the style of Wayne Krantz, especially with the tone knob rolled up to 8. This pickup also gave us a warm and creamy overdriven tone via our tube Screamer, with great sustain.
The middle pickup also sounded great, and we loved it on clean for funky rhythms. This was also a Seymour Duncan Fortuna Single-coil, which gave us punchy distortion with great note separation, ideal for power chords.
Although both of these pickups sounded fantastic, our favorite was the neck position pickup, a Seymour Duncan Fortuna Humbucker. It gave us scorching hot distortion that was great for metal riffing and fast solos. This pickup also delivered excellent sustain, and was just perfect with different levels of saturation, from overdrive to heavy distortion.
The playability on this Ibanez was also outstanding. We loved the feel and response of the roasted maple neck with its AZ oval “C” shape. It had a compound-radius rosewood fingerboard, too, which allowed us to play barre chords comfortably, and fast lead lines – overall, it was very versatile.
Verdict: The Ibanez Prestige AZ2204NW offers great tone and versatility, and can be used to play styles as diverse as metal and modern jazz. With a terrific tone and feel, this instrument comes with outstanding features and is a great choice for professional guitarists that seek out the best quality.
A thinner Hollowbody for depth and convenience.
This guitar features hollow body construction but provides the versatility and body thickness of a semi-Hollowbody. This makes it a great choice for jazz and blues guitarists that can also delve into rock if they wish.
The Ibanez AR520HFM came with a chambered maple and Okoume body with a carved maple top. This type of design is particularly appealing for players that like a rounder and deeper tone, perfect for blues, jazz, and even modern jazz in the vein of John Scofield.
We started our test with the bridge pickup, a Super 58 Custom humbucker. With the tone knob in the middle, we got a sharp attack tone with great detail. This pickup, just like the neck pickup, worked in tandem with a three-position voice switch that allowed us to pick between three sounds: series, parallel, and single-coil operation.
Although we liked all three of them, our favorite was the humbucker sound in series, as we felt it was the punchiest and most balanced. We also preferred this voice for distortion. It gave us a great blend of punch and finesse when we set our Tube Screamer at milder distortion levels.
At higher levels, we got a great tone to play rock, especially with the tone knob all the way up.
Moving on to the neck pickup, we got a darker jazz sound when played clean, which is something so many players (including us) love. This pickup is also a Super 58 Humbucker and sounded best with the tri-tone switch placed in parallel. With some distortion, we got a nice modern jazz tone ala Kurt Rosenwinkell, which can also work in blues and even rock.
The Ibanez AR520HFM felt comfortable in the hands, and we liked the feel of its 3-piece maple neck. It had a slim profile and smooth heel that allowed us to play comfortably for extended periods, plus a Gibson type feel with a 24.75″ scale length and 22 medium frets.
This is a phenomenal guitar in its own right, but if you’re expecting a fast playing shredder based on the brand name, we’d suggest looking for a different model.
Verdict: The Ibanez AR520HFM delivers the feel and tone of a semi-Hollowbody guitar as well as a comfortable playing experience. This guitar is also quite versatile, as you get three types of sounds on both of its humbucker pickups, allowing you to play blues, jazz, and rock convincingly.
A fantastic headless guitar with three single coils.
Ibanez built this guitar to the Japanese virtuoso's specs, whose priorities were excellent single coil tone, superior playability, and a fast neck. With a striking and unique design and a beautiful Vintage White Matte color, this guitar sounds and plays as well as it looks.
The Ibanez Ichika Signature ICHI10 is a headless guitar that features a lightweight nyatoh body as well as three R-1 single coil pickups in a SSS configuration.
We started by testing out the bridge pickups, which gave us a crisp and forward tone. Although a headless guitar is an unorthodox choice to play country music, we loved how our chicken pickin’ licks sounded here, with a nice twang and great balance. With distortion provided via our Ibanez Tube Screamer, the bridge pickup gave us a penetrating tone, great for single lines to cut through the busiest of mixes.
We also got tone from the middle pickup, although we preferred position four, especially in clean. Here we got our favorite sound for clean comping, especially for more percussive and funkier types of accompaniment, a la Cory Wong.
The neck pickup gave us a rounder and mellower tone that still had a good amount of single coil bite to it. On clean, it delivered a nice balance on the frequencies and sounded good with extended voicings. With a bit of overdrive, we got a darker tone that can work for playing jazz with a more modern tone.
As for playability, we really liked how the ICHI10 felt. We particularly liked the Wizard C profile neck, which is, of course, widely regarded as one of the fastest, most comfortable necks on the market. It had a compound radius that went from 17 to 19 mm, and 24 Jescar EVO gold frets.
This is a fantastic guitar that delivers great tone and playability, but headless guitars aren’t for everybody, and if you’re more of a traditionalist, there’s a good chance you won’t like the look and feel of this guitar.
Verdict: The Ibanez Ichika Signature ICHI10 delivers a variety of quality single-coil tones, with an innovative switching system for maximum tonal versatility. This guitar is a good choice for fast players that seek great playability and with a penetrating tone.
Sleek design and great comfort for the modern player.
This guitar comes in a highly stylized super strat body with a clear focus on fast players. With a striking Blue Lagoon Burst color on a Satin Polyurethane finish, this Ibanez is a good choice for guitarists that play rock, metal or other types of genres that require high gain distortion.
The Ibanez RGA42FM is a modern solid-body electric guitar specially made for guitarists seeking speed. It featured a mahogany body topped with figured maple and a contoured shape that felt great in the hands.
One of the most striking things about this guitar was how effortless it was for us to play on its Wizard III neck. We went through a series of riffs, licks, solos and extended chord voicings, and found that it delivered an exceptional playing experience.
With our Ibanez Tube Screamer on board, we set out to test the bridge and neck pickups, both Quantum Ceramic humbuckers. Starting on the bridge position, we got a hot output from this pickup, with an aggressive tone that was great for rock, blues, and metal.
On the other hand, the neck humbucker also gave us a hot output, but with a rounder tone. With a darker yet still forward quality, the neck pickup nicely complemented what we got at the bridge pickup. Although we liked how both pickups sounded while distorted, we felt that the clean sounds were a bit muddy on the neck and shrill on the bridge.
We did like Ibanez’s choice of a fixed bridge for this guitar – it gave us good tuning stability throughout our tests.
Verdict: The Ibanez RGA42FM features a fast neck that is comfortable and responsive, and is a good choice for guitarists seeking speed. With a good distorted tone on two high output humbuckers, this guitar is a good option for guitarists that play rock and metal.
An 8-string guitar with powerful humbuckers
This instrument is a good choice for those that want to go well beyond the traditional six-string electric guitar. A great option for metal, fusion, and just about any genre that involves an extended frequency range, this Standard RG8 delivers a unique playing experience and sound.
The Ibanez RG Standard RG8 is an 8-string solid body electric guitar that featured a meranti body, with a 5-piece Maple/Walnut neck. We were really excited to try out this guitar as we had not played an 8-string in a while.
One of the coolest things about the Standard RG8 is that it came drop tuned from the factory (1D#, 2A#, 3F#, 4C#, 5G#, 6D#, 7A#, and 8F). We left it right where it was and started our tests. From the beginning, we were taken aback by the extended frequencies we got, particularly with the low F on 8th string.
We loved the nature of this instrument, not only the extended range but also the fact that the possibilities on the RG8 were huge. It was a treat to be able to experiment with chords and lines that much lower in the register, as it inspired us to come up with new songwriting and riff ideas.
This guitar was at its best when paired with a good distortion pedal. We tested it with our Tube Screamer and got a fat tone on both IBZ-8 humbucker pickups. The sound we got was powerful, with clear articulation and nice sustain, and we loved the extended scales we were able to play.
And once we got past the fact that we were playing a much bigger neck with a nut width of 2.165″, we started to find our rhythm and liked the Wizard II-8 neck on the larger 27-inch scale. Still, this is a good instrument for guitarists that want to transition from a regular 6-string to an 8-string, but do expect a learning curve.
Verdict: The Ibanez RG Standard RG8 is an 8-string solid-body guitar that provides a comfortable playing experience and a punchy distorted tone. We found it to be a good guitar for guitarists looking into their first 8-string, but not so good for those that already have experience with these instruments.
How to Pick the Best Ibanez Guitar For You
Choosing the best Ibanez guitar for you is a very personal process that depends on your priorities and preferences. There are several important factors to consider, and we listed the most crucial ones below.
The sound and tone of an electric guitar are determined by various factors, including the type of pickups, body type, wood, and electronics. It is important that you ask yourself what styles you want to play. If you are interested in metal, an Ibanez solid body with high-output pickups is your best bet. On the other hand, if you want to play jazz, a semi-hollow or hollow-body instrument will be a good choice.
Playability is another vital aspect of your best Ibanez guitar. Factors such as the neck shape, fret size, and overall ergonomics affect how comfortable the guitar feels in your hands. Test out different guitars to find one that feels comfortable to play for extended periods.
For instance, metal players, or players with small hands should seek out a fast-playing and thinner neck. On the other hand, jazz guitarists typically prefer thicker necks with great response.
Price is a very important consideration, as guitars can vary drastically with their cost. Define a budget based on your financial situation and needs, and then you can narrow your options. Ideally, try to strike a balance between quality and affordability to ensure you’re getting the most for your money.
Final Thoughts On The Best Ibanez Guitars
Like choosing any other brand of guitar, choosing the best Ibanez for you really does rely mostly on personal preference, as well as the style of music you play, and of course, your budget. In this roundup we set out to give you a wide selection to give a head start in picking your favorite.
To recap, Our Top Pick was the Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR. This is a more affordable version of Vai’s famous guitar and delivers good tone and playability.
Guitarists looking for a great Ibanez at an affordable price should look into our Best Budget option, the Ibanez Gio GRX70QA. With a poplar body and quilted maple top, this economical guitar delivers a good tone and feel.
If price is not an issue at all, and you’re looking for the best Ibanez guitar, check our Editor’s Choice, the Ibanez Prestige AZ2204NW. This amazing guitar comes with superior quality in every element, including tone and playability.