Ibanez RG3250MZ review

A new six-string that evokes the heyday of '80s rock guitar

  • £1789
  • $2266.65
The RG3250MZ has a delightfully retro vibe.

MusicRadar Verdict

A true slice of eighties rock - this is a wonderful and fun guitar with which to escape these miserable times.


  • +

    The great finish. High-octane rock tones. Truly incredible neck.


  • -

    It's not cheap. The garish finish won't appeal to everyone.

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Ibanez can take a great deal of credit for reinvigorating the 1980s rock guitar market.

In 1986, Van Halen had parted company with original singer David Lee Roth, who immediately teamed up with another hot shot, a certain Steve Vai, to produce two albums of jaw-droppingly brilliant music.

The story of the development of Vai's then-new signature model, the JEM, has been told numerous times, but the knock-on effect was that other players wanted the same style of instrument.

Ibanez quickly realised this and within months of the introduction of the JEM777 in 1987, had also introduced the RG550, with four colour options that included both Desert Yellow and the newer Fire Alarm Red, alongside black and white.

Resetting the controls of our time machine to 2011, we welcome a trio of new Ibanez electrics - including one that heartily echoes those halcyon days.

The RG3250 is part of the Japanese-made Prestige series, but its eye-popping finish isn't its only feature to hark back to the eighties.

The mega-skinny Wizard neck is certainly something else that made the RG so fashionable back in 1987 and here it's constructed from a five-piece laminate composed of three strips of hard rock maple and a further two thinner pieces of walnut, a concept Ibanez employed on the 20th Anniversary model, the RG20th.

So thin were the necks of the early 550s that some suffered from a serious amount of neck warping, so this design, further stabilised by two titanium rods that run either side of the central truss rod, should dispel any concerns. The fingerboard offers a quite 'flat' 430mm radius, with huge frets, and the rear of the neck is almost as flat in feel.

It certainly won't be for everyone, but that was never the idea, and with its super-low action this is a rock soloist's dream.

Controlled by a five-way lever selector, volume and tone the pickups are an H/S/H/ configuration of DiMarzios - a Tone Zone unit at the bridge, a centrally-situated True Velvet single-coil and a neck-mounted Air Norton humbucker.

The influence of Vai's JEM is continued by the expansive cutaways of the basswood body and the vibrato is the modern version of the critical Edge design that took the Floyd Rose principle to even more extreme heights of upward play and in-use comfort.

It also features the innovative ZPS3 string system, which allows you to alter the stiffness of the vibrato unit via a set of removable springs that can be clipped off the block.


Considering the weight of the music that has been made with representatives of the RG series, the basic tone is brighter than you may assume, not least due to the aforementioned low action and neck dimensions.

"At higher gain settings, the RG3250MZ brings out the harmonics for all sorts of Vai-style histrionics."

Positions two and four of the five-way, which marry the inside humbucker coils of the relevant DiMarzio with the middle True Velvet, give a Strat-like tonality perfect for both those Knopfler moments and funky chords.

Add some digital delay and chorus, and you have the perfect eighties-style clean tone.

With additional amp drive, the bridge humbucker gives an extremely clear overdrive sound, nicely suiting styles based around flurries of semiquavers; higher gain settings bring out the harmonics for all manner of Vai-style histrionics.

The neck Air Norton doesn't provide similar lengths of smooth sustain at higher gains as the JEM's Evolution pickup, sounding more akin to a P-90- style pickup than anything else, but the quintet of pickup selections proves to be very versatile indeed.

The Edge-Zero vibrato stays perfectly in tune irrespective of the abuse it receives, and even though the guitar is bereft of the JEM's iconic lion's claw routing behind the bridge, it's still possible here to pull the G-string up to a full fifth without any ill effects.

The RG3250MZ is a true blast from the past and the skinny neck, awesome flourescent finish and slick performance make it an ideal metal rock machine. It costs a fair bit, but remember that this is a high-end Japanese-made instrument, and as such we're comfortable with the price point.

Simon Bradley is a guitar and especially rock guitar expert who worked for Guitarist magazine and has in the past contributed to world-leading music and guitar titles like MusicRadar (obviously), Guitarist, Guitar World and Louder. What he doesn't know about Brian May's playing and, especially, the Red Special, isn't worth knowing.