Ibanez RGD320Z “The Trooper”
This was a love at first sight guitar for me. With its Imperial Stormtrooper-like looks (hence the nickname) and 26.5″ scale, allowing you to use lower tunings without using much heavier strings, I fell for it instantly. Sadly the build quality wasn’t much to write home about, and after about a year the frets started creeping out of the fretboard. I had it refretted so now it plays great, but that’s not really the type of thing I enjoy spending money on in a guitar. Upgrading a guitar is one thing, having to counter the effects of subpar craftsmanship and quality control is quite another. Still, I like it and felt it was worth it. And I couldn’t have sold it in the state it was in anyway.
Aside from the frets everything is stock, even the pickups. This is probably the first Ibby I’ve come across where I didn’t immediately hate the stock pickups. On the contrary, I like them a lot. The VK2-Down Tunz are medium output, so you can get good cleans out of them. Plus, on high gain they have this clear and balanced character to them, almost like they’re pre-EQ’d and ready to go. In fact I liked them so much I decided to get another pair to put in Frankie (see below).
D standard tuning with a custom string set: 010/013/017/028/038/048
Ibanez RG “Frankie”
This is a true Frankenstein’s monster of a guitar. The body is from a GRGR121EX and the neck is a Wizard II from an RG2EX1. It’s been equipped with a Gibraltar bridge, locking tuners and metal pickup rings. All this, along with knobs and strap buttons, are in cosmo black. The pickups are VK2-Down Tunz from an RGD. The 5-way is a Schaller Megaswitch.
It started out as just a fun project when I got hold of a cheap Gio guitar, then it sort of snowballed from there. Now it’s one of my favorite guitars and along with the RGD and SC-207 one of my three go-to guitars for metal. It plays and sounds great. I know, I could have bought a pretty decent used Ibby for the money I’ve sunk into this project. But hey — it was more fun this way! And even if it is quite similar to an existing Ibanez model (the name escapes me) this is actually a one of a kind guitar. It might not look anything special, but I have a bond to it that I wouldn’t have had with a stock guitar.
Drop C tuning using a custom string set: 010.5/013.5/018p/030/042/054.
This beauty is my main guitar for non-metal stuff. It has great stratty clean tones and a fairly chunky neck for being an Ibanez. I love the ergonomical body; it feels like it’s somewhere inbetween an RG and an S model. With the flamed maple top and white binding it also has some vague PRS character to it. A modern rock guitar, mixing the best of the old and the new. The SAT Pro II is one of the best non-locking tremolos I’ve used, right up there with the Wilkinsons. With a properly set up nut and locking tuners it can do anything a Floyd can, except for the most extreme dive-bombing madness.
Aside from the locking tuners and a fret dress it’s completely stock, though I am thinking of replacing the True-Duo humbucker. While it does sound more like a single coil when split than any splittable humbucker I’ve tried, it also retains a bit too much of that trebly, thin single coil character when in humbucking mode. So I might replace it with something a bit more meaty. I also think white pickups (and maybe knobs) would look cool on this guitar, which is why it presently has white pickup covers.
E standard tuning, 010-046 strings.
This guitar was an impulse purchase made around Christmas 2013. I had never seen a hardtail S model before, I thought it looked really cool, and the price was right. So I sprung for it even though I didn’t really need another guitar. I still haven’t made up my mind about it. Some days I like it and some days I don’t. The super thin body is very comfortable to play. Being mahogany, the guitar has pretty good tone despite its lack of mass. At the same time, the thin body combined with the thin neck makes the whole instrument feel oddly fragile. Like it might fold up like a jackknife if I happen to bump the headstock into something. I know it won’t, but I can’t shake that feeling.
It could use a fret dress, the nut is way too high (as with all new Ibbys for some reason), the pots and switch are flimsy and crackle, as does the output jack. I have decided not to invest any time or money in it until I have decided whether I want to keep it or not. The pickups are some X2N clones from Mad Dog Pickups. Yeah, I have a thing for rail humbuckers. The celtic knotwork knobs are from Q-Parts.
E standard or drop D tuning, 010-046 strings.
Ibanez RG570/760 hybrid
The neck and hardware on this one are from my first Ibanez, a 1990 MIJ RG760. The 760 desperately needed a new paint job, but it turned out it was cheaper, easier and quicker getting a used body from ebay. The body is from a 1991 RG570. Overall, this guitar has seen its better days. The bridge is heavily corroded, the body is full of dings, and it’s in dire need of a fret dress or possibly even a refret. The headstock has been cracked and glued together again on, I think, three separate occations over the years. The silkscreen Ibanez logo was almost worn off from string changes, and at some weak moment during the nineties I decided to fill it in with silver paint. Didn’t turn out that great.
For these reasons, I rarely play it. It’s a wreck. As of this writing it’s equipped with Entwistle HVX humbuckers, which are nice, but I would like to restore it to its original config. Sadly I don’t have the pickups anymore, but I’m keeping an eye out. This is a guitar I’m keeping for sentimental reasons more than anything else.
E standard tuning, 010-046 strings.
Update: I got rid of it. I realized I’m never going to spend the time and money required to bring this guitar back to its former glory, so I sold it to a guy who collects old MIJ Ibbys. From what I’ve seen it came to a good home.
I ended up trading my LTD SC-207 (see below) for a 2014 Ibanez RG7421. While the LTD was technically a fancier guitar — especially with my little mods — this one feels far less alien to me. In fact it’s a really nice instrument, though kind of bland-looking. I’ve been wary of Indonesian Ibbys after the problems I had with my RGD but if this one’s anything to go by the RGD was probably a dud. After some fret buffing, new strings and adjustments of neck relief and action, it plays beautifully. I really love the Wizard II necks, probably my favorite Ibanez neck profile. The pickups are kind of meh though, so those will need to be replaced eventually. Locking tuners is a must as well.
Standard 7 string tuning, 010-060 strings.
ESP LTD SC-207
This was my first and so far only seven string guitar. I have to say I’m not a fan of the ESP aesthetic — their guitars look a little too eighties for my taste, what with the hockey club headstocks and Jackson-style bodies. But what this guitar lacks in the looks department, it more than makes up for with great playability and a surprising level of quality and craftsmanship for a mid-budget instrument. Lovely D profile neck with impressive upper fret access! The tune-o-matic bridge took a lot of getting used to and still feels slightly alien — never been into Gibsons — but it works.
Customizations include all-black hardware (chrome looks cheap on black guitars IMO), locking tuners, Graph Tech nut, and an Activator 2 onboard preamp for adding some much needed oomph to the wimpy stock pickups. While I would have gladly replaced the pickups, only a few manufacturers make 7 string soapbar-style humbuckers — EMG, Seymour Duncan and Lundgren, to my knowledge. I hate EMG’s, and SD’s and Lundgrens are cost-prohibitive. I’m not going to spend more money on pickups than what the entire guitar is worth. So the Activator preamp felt like the saner choice, though it is noisier than I would prefer.
Standard 7 string tuning, using 010-060 strings.
Update: traded it for the RG7421 above. I could never really learn to get along with the tune-o-matic so it ended up a wall decoration.
Squier Standard Stratocaster
This is a 2001 MIC Squier strat in Shoreline Gold that I got hold of for cheap. When I got it, it was a mess. The fret edges were sticking out the sides of the fretboard and it wasn’t possible to get the action down to a playable level without buzzing and dead notes all over the neck. After a proper setup (which included a new nut, a fret dress, filing down fret edges, shimming the neck and sanding down the back of the neck to a matte finish) it plays like a dream. I’m not a vintage guitar guy by any stretch of the imagination, but properly set up strats are really nice instruments. Also, I’ve come across Fenders five times the price of this lowly Squier that didn’t play or sound half as good.
I have replaced the original off-white pickguard with a pearloid one (along with a matching back plate), added chrome knobs, roller string trees, Wilkinson pickups and locking tuners, plus a Wilkinson tremolo. Annoyingly, the Squier bridge post spacing doesn’t quite fit the trem, so right now the whole bridge is slightly misaligned. I’m going to have the old posts and inserts removed and plugged and new ones fitted as soon as I can afford it.
E standard tuning, 010-046 strings.
Bjärton La Rita
This one I actually found in a dumpster probably 15 years ago or more. Someone had thrown it out because one of the plastic keys on the tuners was broken. I bought a new set of tuners and strings and boom — a really nice and playable classical guitar. Admittedly my finger picking sucks and I play this thing maybe twice a year, but I like it and it’s nice to have.
This is a lowest of the low, entry level steel string acoustic that I bought in (I think) 2006. I didn’t have a lot of money and I just needed an acoustic for a few demo songs I was working on. Before that, I don’t think I had owned an acoustic since the late nineties. Never been much of an acoustic player, really.
Surprisingly, it plays and intonates reasonably well, stays in tune and works well enough for what I use acoustic guitars for. I.e. doubling clean electric guitars or strummed parts within a mix. Sure, it would be nice to have a better acoustic but honestly, I couldn’t motivate the expense. And for some reason, I’ve grown quite attached to this old bullshit instrument. It has a lot of dings. My daughter puked all over it when she was still a baby, it took me several days to clean it up. How’s that for sentimental value?