While the budget to mid-price acoustic guitar market is dominated by traditional looking dreadnought models, there's always room for something a bit different.
The EW20ASENT is one of three latest additions to Ibanez's Exotic Wood Series, and is among the first to be included in the UK range.
Body size and many of the specifications mirror the current AEL models, but Ibanez has produced a bold, radical new look and some intriguing construction details that really set these electros apart.
We'll be concentrating on the unique and less obvious features, but just know that it's a pretty cleanly and carefully built instrument inside and out. There are some minor cosmetic flaws, but it scores admirably in most areas.
Inside we find the innovative and so-called 'Sound Expand' construction. It's essentially a support platform that couples the bridge plate to the end block.
The extra rigidity this affords the top allows for some very light and relatively sparse X-bracing, and should allow the soundboard to vibrate more freely. Breedlove uses something comparable.
Ibanez has also redesigned several vital yet subtler elements of the guitar. It uses its own Ivorex II material (an ultra hard, durable high-pressure laminate plastic) for the nut and saddle - both of which have been radically re-shaped to help improve intonation.
The bridge pins are also specially designed so they can't be pushed in too far, and so the string's ball end sits in the correct position. Even the strap buttons have especially wide flanges to keep your strap secure, while the own-brand tuners feature ergonomic buttons and are solid and smooth.
The pickup used here is a modified B-Band UST that uses a split construction to help cancel out feedback. Ibanez's SRT preamp controls are simple, clear and user-friendly.
The grippy rubberised texture and the big flattened side-mount knobs allow easy, non-slip one-finger adjustment. This guitar has a great neck too. Its dimensions and profile (straightforward 'C') offer no surprises, so it feels immediately welcoming. String spacing could be a fraction more generous.
The fingerboard feels slightly squeaky, but is otherwise smoothly finished, while the frets have all been carefully attended to.
Alignment and all other technical issues regarding the neck are surprisingly precise for an acoustic of this standard.
Ironically, intonation up in that easy access cutaway area isn't totally spot-on, but it's as tuneful as many, and perfectly workable.
You might understandably expect an all-laminate guitar with this kind of gloss finish to sound a bit tight and thin, but the internal construction has definitely helped generate some extra resonance.
It's hard to pinpoint it exactly, but there's a satisfying degree of depth and internal reverberation to the sound.
It's still a bit scooped in the mid-range and light in the treble registers, but the overall balance is never harsh or edgy. Not exactly a bold, earthy or woody tone, but its smooth response is easy enough on the ear.
There's good clarity for fingerpicking and it is a fairly even-toned strummer if you don't hit it too hard. The pickup sound is, predictably, a workable compromise, but the system delivers a well-balanced output, and a smooth-sounding guitar like this will always amplify up well.
The 'shape' control allows you to vary the tonal contour for frequencies not controlled by the EQ section, for that classic scooped electro sound.
Generally reassuring quality. Effective innovations. A great player.
Innate acoustic tone is relatively lightweight.
Flashy guitars around this price would normally have the 'style over content' alarm bells ringing, but there's little technically awry with the EW20ASENT. Ibanez is a conscientious, innovative builder and there's no doubt this guitar delivers value for money on that score, with or without the figured ash.
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.
3-Band EQ Phase Shape Volume
2 x AA Batteries
Built-in Chromatic Tuner
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