GEAR 2021: Ibanez's RG series of electric guitars set the template for the ultimate shred guitar. They took the S-style body shape, sharpened it, whittled down the neck into the super-quick Wizard profile and made high-output pickups and double-locking vibrato units par for the course.
A perennial highlight of the New Year is sifting through the latest updates to the RG template, and 2021 sees Ibanez apply some very cool specs and finishes to its standard RG line, arch-topped solidbody RGA models, and extra-contoured RGD electrics.
From high-end Japanese-made Prestige models such as the RG752AHM to more affordable speedsters like the RG320EXZ, there is a lot to get into. And there is plenty of choice if you are looking for a guitar that's suitably spec'd for metal.
Across the board, six-string electrics have a 25.5" scale and bolt-on necks, with extended range models such as the eight-string RG80F boasting a 27" scale. Let's take a closer look and run through some of the key features.
- NAMM 2021 is cancelled, but we'll be covering all the big January gear announcements right here on MusicRadar.
RG5320C Prestige in Deep Forest Green Metallic
The RG5320C has an African mahogany body and a bolt-on Super Wizard neck comprising a five-piece maple/wenge sandwich.
Its fretboard is bound Macassar Ebony and has a 16/9" (430mm) radius and 24 Jumbo Stainless Steel frets with Prestige fret edge treatment for a super-premium feel. Luminlay dot markers align the side of the fretboard.
There is a classic Ibanez pickup paring of a DiMarzio Air Norton in the neck and a DiMarzio The Tone Zone humbucker in the bridge, plus the all-important Lo-Pro Edge double-locking vibrato bridge.
RG5170B Prestige in Black
The RG5170B has the five-piece Super Wizard neck but affixes this to a basswood body. Again, we've got the Prestige fret edge treatment and a Lo-Pro Edge, but the hardware is gold, and we've got multi-voiced Fishman pickups in situ.
There is a Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Alnico at the neck, a Fishman Fluence Single Width Ceramic in the middle, and a Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Ceramic at the bridge, with a five-way blade selector switch, volume, tone and Fishman Fluence Voicing switch to access the pickups' vintage and modern modes.
Available in Burgundy Metallic Flat [pictured above] or Dark Tide Blue Flat, the RG5121 has a hard-tail Gibraltar Standard II bridge and a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern Humbuckers in the bridge and the neck.
It has an African Mahogany body, a Super Wizard neck, and shares the similar premium appointments as its Prestige siblings above.
RG752AHM Prestige in Royal Plum Burst
This seven-string Prestige RG752AHM has an ash body with a transparent finish, a speedy Wizard 7 maple/wenge neck, birdseye maple fingerboard with 24 jumbo frets, Lo-Pro Edge 7 tremolo bridge, and a pair of DiMarzio PAF 7 humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions.
RG652AHMFX Prestige in Royal Plum Burst
The RG652AHMFX is the six-string equivalent of the RG752AHM but swaps out the double-locking vibrato for a hard-tail Gibraltar Standard II bridge, and houses an Air Norton/The Tone Zone humbucker combo.
RG6PKAG Prestige in Natural Flat
The RG6PKAG has a mahogany body with a quite exquisite koa top. Little wonder Ibanez went for the natural finish here.
There is a slightly thinner Wizard neck (18mm at the 1st fret) and a rosewood 'board, decorated with Jescar EVO Gold frets (treated of course), plus an Edge double-locking vibrato and Gotoh tuners – both finished in gold.
Two EMG SA single-coils occupy the neck and middle positions, while a high-output EMG 81 humbucker is positioned by the bridge.
Ibanez Axion Label RG631ALF in Blue Chameleon
The Axion Label Series sees Ibanez swing for the fences a little more when it comes to concept, fit and finish. The RG631ALF has the familiar RG shape, but uses Nyatoh for the body and has a Nitro Wizard five-piece panga panga/walnut neck.
The Macassar ebony fretboard has 24 Jumbo Sub Zero frets, with Luminlay side dots markers to assist you in low-light situations.
It has a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern Humbuckers and a 3-way pickup selector, with volume, tone and a toggle switch for choosing pickup voicings.
RG80F in Iron Pewter
The finish is called Iron Pewter but that might well be a good way of describing the tone. This eight-string is voiced for djent and other progressive forms of metal, and has a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers, a Meranti body, and a Wizard II five-piece maple/walnut neck.
The F108 bridge and tuners are finished in gold.
RG320EXZ in Black Flat
The RG320EXZ has a Meranti body and a Wizard III maple neck with a bound Jatoba fretboard.
A pair of passive Quantum humbuckers in the neck and bridge should provide plenty of crisp, articulate crunch – while a Edge-Zero II w/ZPS3Fe bridge is a nice, low-profile unit that is ideal for fretting harmonics and divebombing them with the whammy bar.
Ibanez RGA42HPQM in Blue Iceberg Gradation
Blue Iceberg Gradation is quite the finish, and the effect is reprised on the rear of the RGA42HPQM. Fundamentally, we've got a nyatoh body with a quilted maple top, a Wizard III roasted maple neck with a Jatoba fingerboard, and an F106 bridge.
Pickups-wise, there are two passive DiMarzio Fusion Edge humbuckers, with a 3-way pickup selector, coil-tap switch and volume and tone controls.
RGA742FM in Transparent Gray Flat
The RGA742FM is 2021's seven-string RGA option and it comes with an Wizard II-7 three-piece maple neck, a flamed maple top and Meranti body.
It has two Quantum-7 humbuckers, a five-way pickup selector, volume and tone controls, and an F107 hard-tail bridge.
A top-line Japanese Prestige seven-string, the RGDR4427FX has the RGD's signature bevelled body showing some of the natural ash body underneat the Richlite top. It has a Wizard-7 five-piece maple/wenge neck that's reinforced with KTS Titanium Rods, a bound Macassar ebony fingerboard, 24 jumbo frets, and a pair of DiMarzio Fusion Edge 7 humbuckers.
Its Ibanez Mono-Rail bridge is arranged of seven independent saddles to help enhance sustain and intonation, and as Ibanez puts it, "cross-talk between strings."
Elsewhere, there are locking Gotoh MG-T tuners and, why of course, Luminlay side dot markers
RGD61ALA Axion Label in Midnight Tropical Rainforest
Midnight Tropical Rainforest, an exotic finish for an exotic Axion Label guitar. Like the other Axion model above, we've got a Nitro Wizard neck.
It also has a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern Humbuckers, but with a very different control circuit. Here you have the Fishman voicings controlled via the volume pot, with a switch on-hand for tapping the coils, and a three-way switch for pickup selection. When you factor in the voice switching, the coil-tap and the three-way selector, that's a lot of tone options – you might never have touched the tone knob anyway.
RGD71ALPA Axion Label in Charcoal Burst Black Stained Flat
Another Axion Label model, another eye-popping finish. This seven-string has a Nitro Wizard-7 panga panga and walnut neck, with a layered ash and nyatoh body that's topped by poplar burl.
It has two Bare Knuckle Aftermath-7 humbuckers, with a volume, three-way pickup selector and coil-tap switch.
That Macassar ebony fingerboard looks sweet, and is topped by 24 jumbo Sub Zero treated frets. Once more, we have the Ibanez Mono-rail bridge.
RGD7521PB in Deep Seafloor Fade Flat
The Ibanez RGD7521PB has a new-school look but shoots for some more old-school voicings with its DiMarzio PAF 7 humbuckers. Again, we've got a control circuit that eschews a tone knob in favour of a coil-tap function and a three-way selector to help navigate you towards those 'tweener tones.
It could be very interesting for progressive styles where you want to retain those open dynamics.
Prices and release dates are TBC. Head on over to Ibanez for full specs and more pictures.