Among all the most popular and prominent guitars that came out of the glam-metal era that dominated the 1980s, the Ibanez Roadstar is easily one of the best sounding, most well-built, and longest-lasting guitars that you will still see from time to time today. There are several reasons for this.
The Ibanez Roadstar is roughly similar to the Fender Stratocaster, and belongs to a wider category of guitars known as “Superstrats.” Originally put into production in 1983, these guitars were rather unpopular at the time, only to become more popular for their quality parts and great sound some years later.
The Roadstar II features a slim neck (as most Ibanez do), but not as thin as many other 80s era guitars that were built specifically for shredding. The robust parts such as the bridge and tuners, as well as the solid electronics and quality wood and build make the guitar quite a long-lasting one.
The Roadstar II sports one single-coil neck pickup and a humbucker by the bridge, giving you a variety in sound that many guitars simply don’t offer. You can select the humbucker for a thicker, heavier, fuller sound, or the single-coil for a shriekier, more shred-based one. You can even combine the two sounds and find a happy middle ground.
The guitar comes in many different models, though, and many have their own pickup setups. Some Roadstar models have just a single humbucker without a single coil, and some have two humbuckers. The more humbuckers, the thicker, rounder, and chunkier your guitar’s sound will be.
The guitar’s thin neck makes it pretty good for shredding, but it’s got some shortcomings in the area too. Notably, it doesn’t have 24 frets, and the shape doesn’t allow for extremely easy access to the highest frets of the guitar.
The first model in the Ibanez Roadstar series was actually not a Roadstar at all, but a Roadster. The Roadster was first introduced in 1979, but after a lackluster performance was rebranded and replaced as Ibanez introduced the Roadstar II. However, these guitars didn’t perform very well either, as most consumers were looking into getting guitars that were specifically built for playing glam metal.
This meant that the neck was too thick for many shredders, as well as the humbuckers being a bit too full and round of a sound for many would-be metal guitarists.
Ibanez didn’t quit on the guitar though and released a deluxe edition called the Roadstar II Deluxe. This was the same guitar, but with higher quality parts. This meant better hardware, electronics, and wood, and made for an even longer-lasting, higher quality guitar.
So, we know that the Roadstar went from being the Roadster to the Roadstar II, to the Roadstar II deluxe, but what has it become today? Well, in 1987, Ibanez stopped marketing guitars under the Roadstar name. Shortly after, they continued making the guitar, and others like it, but now market it as the “RG series,” “R series,” or “S series.”
Eventually, the RG series would become more in line with other Ibanez shredders, gaining 24 frets and trending more in the direction of their shapes. The Saber and Radius models would more properly carry on the tradition of the original Roadstar II.
Differences from Modern Ibanezes
One of the main differences between the Roadstar series of guitars and most modern Ibanezes is the shape. The Roadstar aimed to copy the shape of the Fender Stratocaster, as the Strat’s comfortable shape and iconic sound had been a staple since the very beginning of rock music.
This guitar is extremely unique because it has that shape and some of that sound (due to the humbucker pickup on the bridge), but still retains some of that Ibanez uniqueness, especially when it comes to the thinness of the neck.
Many of Ibanez’s modern guitars feature double humbuckers or double humbuckers with a single coil in the middle, or double single coils with a humbucker on the bridge. Very few feature the same pickup setup that the Roadstar series has.
Another quite notable difference this guitar has from many of its modern counterparts made by Ibanez is the number of frets. While 24 is usual on Ibanez guitars (as they are often built for fast and furious shredding), the Roadstar has only 21. This limits the maximum highest pitch of the guitar by about 3 half steps.
The guitar’s shape is also different from most Ibanez guitars. Usually, Ibanez guitars will have a deep cut in them to allow easy access to the highest parts of the neck. This guitar, although it has a deep cut, is not as deep as many other Ibanez models.
Of course, there are Ibanez guitars of all shapes, but it is unique to this brand to have such easy access to the highest frets, and this guitar is one of those built by the company that does not follow suit.
Buying second hand
The Roadstar is a great guitar to buy second-hand because of its lack of popularity when it was originally sold. This means that you can find the guitar, which is quite high quality, long-lasting, and built with solid parts, for relatively cheap, especially when comparing it to other vintage guitars.
It’s hard to capture that vintage sound nowadays as the parts being used in guitars are simply different than they were in the 1980s. Since the Roadstar can often be found in guitar stores or on Reverb for around $300-$500, you won’t find that vintage sound for such a bargain anywhere else.
The Roadstar II, although considered a failure when it originally launched, has actually stood the test of time quite well. Its unique mix of utilities and sound makes it a great guitar for anyone, and its vintage sound is quite hard to come by, especially at the price point at which you can get this guitar.
It sounds great, lasts long, and plays fantastically too. I’d recommend it for anyone looking to add another axe to their collection.
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