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Ibanez's AZS series has the retro-modern look down to a T

Ibanez AZS Series
(Image credit: Ibanez)

GEAR 2021: Ibanez has unveiled the AZS series, which sees the Japanese titan taking a little inspiration from the Telecaster and running with it for a fresh, contemporary electric guitar design. 

The new AZS DNA can be found on Josh Smith's new signature model, the FLATV1, albeit with a non-contoured slab body, and on the new signature LB1 electric for Lari Basilio.

Ibanez has used variations on a loose T-style format before, perhaps most notably on a signature guitar for Noodles from the Offspring, and on metal-friendly electrics such as the FR800. While the AZS series shape is in some ways more traditional, it is a very different guitar. 

There is no slab top for a start. There is a forearm contour for comfort, with deep belly cuts on the rear and a sculpted low-profile heel where a roasted maple neck joins the body with a four-bolt joint. 

The neck and fingerboard are carved from S-TECH roasted maple and seat 22 jumbo stainless steel frets with Ibanez's Prestige edge treatment. Very nice. And then there's the pickup switching... But we'll get to that. Let's take a closer look at them, starting with Smith's FLATV1, which offers a slightly more traditional proposition.

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Ibanez Josh Smith FLATV1

Ibanez Josh Smith FLATV1

Ibanez Josh Smith FLATV1 (Image credit: Ibanez)

A purveyor of bluesy rock, jazz and all-sorts, Josh Smith has gone for a slab-style ash body, with a bolt-on S-TECH roasted maple V-profile neck and fingerboard, with 22 medium frets with the all-important Prestige edge treatment. 

It features a three-saddle Gotoh F1803 string-through-body bridge. Now, this is not your grandaddy's barrel-saddle Tele bridge. Here, Ibanez and Gotoh have collaborated on an "In-Tune" saddle system which is pre-intonated with slots on titanium saddles.

The pickups are custom-wound to sound "bright and fat" but offer a familiar setup with Alnico single-coils in the neck and bridge positions, and a three-way pickup selector, volume and tone controls. 

Note the curved control plate: this is new to the AZS series and, Ibanez says, offers easier access to the controls. Also, those control knobs are extra-knurled... Good to know, right?

AZS2209H

While the AZS2209H shares the same curved control plate as Smith's signature model, has a solid ash body and the same Gotoh/Ibanez bridge system, the contoured body, Oval C profile neck and jumbo stainless steel frets ensures that it will have a very different feel.

Offered in Tri Fade Burst and Prussian Blue Metallic, the AZS2209H comes equipped with a Seymour Duncan Magic Touch-mini humbucker in the neck position and a Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro Custom single-coil in the bridge. Controls come via a three-way pickup selector, volume and tone, plus dyna-MIX5 switching system with Alter Switch that allows you to access five core sounds.

It has a bone nut, black dot inlays on the fingerboard, and like Lari Basilio's LB1 it has Gotoh Magnum Lock machine heads with adjustable posts. 

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Ibanez AZS Series

(Image credit: Ibanez)
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Ibanez AZS Series

(Image credit: Ibanez)

AZS2200

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Ibanez AZS Series

Ibanez AZS2200F Sunset Burst (Image credit: Ibanez)
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Ibanez AZS Series

Ibanez AZS2200Q in Royal Blue Sapphire (Image credit: Ibanez)
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Ibanez AZS Series

(Image credit: Ibanez)

AZS2200 is largely spec'd as per the AZS2209H but dispenses with the control plate, instead direct-mounting the controls onto the body. 

Here you also have the choice of builds. There is a Black model with a solid alder body. There is a Sunset Burst model that pairs solid alder with a flame maple top. And then you have a Royal Blue Sapphire model that tops an alder body with quilted maple.

All three feature a Gotoh T1802 tremolo bridge. Other nice touches that are found across the series include Luminlay side dot markers, a steel pickup plate to give it some twang, and a hardshell case is included in the deal. All are made in Japan.

The AZS2009H models have a street price of £1,919 / $1,999. The AZS2000F is priced £2,419 / $2,499 while the AZS2000Q should retail for £/$2,599. Hey, those maple tops do not come cheap. 

See Ibanez for more details.