Ibanez has spent decades developing and perfecting the Sabre series, and here we’re examining a new addition: the SV5470F. The S series was originally launched in the ‘80s, with a mission to give players an ergonomic, lightweight and comfortable mahogany bodied guitar, and at first glance the SV5470F Prestige ticks all the aforementioned boxes.
Design and construction
As ever, the super sleek double-cut body is the defining characteristic: the first thing that strikes you is the body depth, or lack of it. Measuring a mere 14mm at its thinnest point, there's barely any bulk at all, resulting in a very light guitar overall. The woods used for the SV's body - an off-white edge-bound mahogany body, capped with a flamed maple top and finished in a translucent natural blue - point towards Les Paul and modern Gibson designs, not that you’d know it from the visuals.
The edge-bound Wizard Prestige neck is almost a typical Ibanez compound 'D' shape, but it feels a little more substantial than some Wizard necks we've come across. It’s still very much in the modern camp though, urging your hand round at an angle perfect for launching a sweep attack along the five-piece, maple/walnut back and rosewood fingerboard. The added touch of pearloid dot markers and the three-moon design on the 12th fret is the mark of the guitar's high quality Prestige status.
Overall, the finish of the SV5470F is of a very high standard but, being picky, the finish quality doesn't quite continue on into the input-jack rout and as a result a small amount of white polishing compound has amassed; a very small niggle on an otherwise excellent finish. The recessed, angled jack-socket points towards the back of the guitar, and is best with a straight plug, although an angled plug will do the job fine in an emergency.
Hardware and electrics
Hardware-wise, Ibanez's own-brand SynchroniZR bridge with ZPS-FX spring system has a couple of extremely useful features. Firstly, it offers the ability - via a knurled thumbwheel - to adjust the vibrato's spring tension without having to wield a screwdriver. The advantage of this becomes clear when changing string gauge: we changed from a set of .009s to .010s and, as you would expect, the back of the bridge pulled up under the increased tension. A few screws of the thumbwheel and some retuning had the bridge back down flat and floating nicely again within a couple of minutes. With a double-locking floating vibrato, this would have meant a lot of extra messing about.
Secondly, you can switch between floating and non-floating settings. Non-floating offers down-bend only on the vibrato, while floating gives you full, up-and-down whammability. To switch settings, you need to remove the back plate where you'll find a second thumbwheel: neat. An extra light Duralumin (strong aluminium from what we can tell) vibrato-arm caps off the long list of specs. In use, the vibrato action is smooth and natural feeling, thanks to a ball-bearing pivot, and the whole thing maintains tuning stability well for a non-locking design, even when going for some serious abuse. The real beauty for those who like lots of palm muting is that when set for down-bend only, you're not pushing everything sharp with your hand.
The Cosmo black (and distinctly Sperzel-like) locking tuners also trim the end of the string off when you tighten them while tuning. It's a good idea, but we found we had to over-tighten the locking nuts on the top three strings to get them to cut. In fact once we'd done this we had to resort to the pliers to even loosen the top E.
As for the pickups, the Ibanez True Duo humbuckers offer a combination of one Alnico- and one ceramic-magnet coil per pickup according to Ibanez, presumably to offer the best of both tonal worlds. They're separated by a lone single-coil pickup, and when using the SV's push-pull coil-split in the up/split position (on the volume pot), you effectively have three pseudo single-coils. Pushed back down, you have full humbucking selections. The five-way switch offers the configurations you'd expect from a Fender Stratocaster, whether the coil-split is on or off.
Before we get all loud and dirty, you might expect the acoustic tone of the SV5470F to be hampered by the thin body and modern vibrato design. Good news, though: while not attaining Les Paul vibrations, the volume, depth and ring from the strings is impressive for a thin mahogany body and such a slim maple cap.
There's a real rasp to the bridge pickup when coil-split. Think halfway between a Stratocaster and a stacked single-coil, but lacking the bouncy, bell-like response of a Strat and not quite as thick sounding as a stacked single-coil. It's direct, with a cutting tone. It's the same story for the neck pickup: lots of presence, which works well for open chords and articulate phrasing. With a slightly driven clean sound the mid-range jumps out directly, rather than surrounding you like a Stratocaster does. There's not a lot of low end on hand, which is no bad thing here. With pronounced highs and mids these pickups offer direct chord phrasing and great string separation, which is perfect for cutting through a loud rock band or muddy live mix.
The humbuckers prove warm and smooth. Using a higher gain setting, the Ibanez TDB2 and TDB3 come into their own and chords seem to fall out of the guitar; you can hear every note. Through a highly overdriven Cornford Roadhouse 30, an ultramodern saturated rock sound is easily attained using the bridge humbucker. The low action of the SV feels light and fluid to play (technical rockers would feel more than at home) and fusion players will also enjoy the feel and warm smooth tones of the neck humbucker.
Going back and using the coil-split, the single-coil sounds are beginning to make sense. Plenty of players have found that when soloing on a single-coil-loaded Strat through a high-gain amp, notes past the 12th fret can lose definition and power. Well, the SV retains its definition and string clarity on every fret, making this the perfect compromise for a modern heavy rock and technical fusion guitarist.
The trade off for power is perhaps a lack of classic double-cut character - players who've grown up on Strats may want to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you're looking for something to bridge the gap between a Strat and a more heavy rock/metal-oriented guitar (without going the whole hog for a Jem), the SV5470F slots comfortably between the two.