The 420DZ appears to be a development of the older RGX420S model, which featured a more traditional six-a-side headstock and forearm body contour.
Rather like the Ibanez Sabre guitars introduced in the late eighties, the 420DZ departs from slab-based body construction and features a rounded profile as the body thickness gives way from 44mm at the centre to 39mm at the outer edge.
This example is striking in its flat blue finish – reminiscent of a more muted take on Fender’s Lake Placid Blue. However, there is a mean, Ibanez RG-like vibe that hints at powerful rock performance and the guitar should provide a platform for anything from cerebral fusion licks to brutal metal riffing.
Twenty-four jumbo frets and a slim neck – a whisker under 19mm deep at the fifth fret – provide further fuel for the shred-hungry. Black hardware and the utilitarian appearance of the instrument contribute to the vibe, while the volume and tone pots and two-way toggle switch are countersunk for a lower profile, streamlined feel.
The 420DZ features sealed, unbranded tuners with standard keys. However, the one thing that sets this guitar apart dramatically from its more traditionally wired siblings is the addition of a five-way blade pickup selector and a direct switch. When engaged, the direct switch bypasses the neck pickup and volume and tone pots, and gives you the bridge humbucker on full throttle.
This should prove to be eminently useful for kicking in a high-octane sound for big lead lines and riffs with the minimum of fuss. With the direct switch disengaged, the five-way selector opens up a wide variety of tones. Position one activates both coils of the neck pickup in regular humbucking mode, position two both coils in parallel, position three all four coils from the twin humbuckers, position four the front coil from each pickup and position five the regular bridge humbucking setting. Got that? This system admittedly takes a little getting used to but it should prove invaluable when amped up.
The vibrato is a Floyd Rose licensed unit that is based on the classic specification, with the addition of a threaded arm. A nylon washer is situated below the collar to allow an effective balance between mobility and tension. Another useful touch is the height adjustable locking nut, which makes it much easier for the player to achieve the optimum set-up without the need for professional assistance.
The inherent versatility of the 420DZ's switching system is immediately apparent when we flick through a selection of tones; it became increasingly clear that the ace up this guitar's sleeve is the direct switch. We were able to set up a really Strat-like funky clean pickup mix with position four, and then engage the direct switch to bring in an aggressive humbucking bridge tone as and when required.
Back off the guitar's volume and toggle the direct sound in and out and you have instant Tom Morello-style killswitch sounds. Interestingly, the direct switch also highlights the difference between the basic bridge pickup tone when the volume and tone controls are bypassed and when they are in the circuit.
Even with the tone controls running wide open, with the direct switch engaged there is a noticeable increase in bite and aggression: another subtle tonal shift from an incredibly versatile guitar.