Am I shouting to you a Bat’leth challenge in Klingon??!
I am not. (I shamedly say I have not yet earned the right to carry that curved blade of honor through ritual, adjudicated combat in the Klingon Training Academy. Plus… I’m past the Age of Ascension.)
But I digress…
Instead, the above names are way-off-the-beaten-path exotic tone woods used in making guitars. There are literally hundreds of interesting woods around the world that could form our instruments. And some… look simply a-MAAAA-zing!!
Enter my Ibanez acoustic guitar! I’ve been enamored with it for weeks now and just had to share with you my experiences with this ‘workhorse of a different color’.
How I love to ride!!
We Starts w’ th’ Parts!
Because of an INCREDIBLE deal I found on CraigsList, I now am the proud player of a member of the AEW series (though technically, when this guitar came out, it was only called the “EW” series).
The incomparable beauty of its top wood figuring pattern ignited my G.A.S. like a Molotov Cocktail torching up a Soviet tank in Finland during the great Winter War!
Look it up. It’s a pretty interesting story. 😉
Here’s the pertinent parts:
- “EW20AS ENT1201” Model
- Deep “Grand Auditorium” body style
- Quilted Natural Ash veneer top, back, and sides over laminate
- ‘Sound Expand’ inner bracing
- 12th fret pearl inlay
- Die-cast chrome tuners
- High-gloss finish
- Neck: Mahogany
- Bridge: Rosewood
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Binding: Cream
- Inlay: Mother of Pearl Infinity symbol @ 12th fret.
- Tuners : Ibanez Chrome Die-Cast
- Bridge Pins: “Advantage”
- Saddle: Ivorex II
- Nut: 1 11/16″ width, Ivorex II
- Scale length: 25 1/4″
- Fretboard Radius: 9.842
- Pickup: B-Band UST
- Electronics: AEQ-SP2 preamp with onboard tuner, EQ
- Outputs: Balanced 1/4″ and XLR
- Finish: Natural high-gloss
- Weight: 5 lbs 0 oz.
In case you’re wondering, the ‘Sound Expand‘ inner bracing that Ibanez uses in the body is an innovative design they’ve recently placed in some of their line. In short, it couples the bridge plate to the end block, which in the end achieves better resonance. This was a smart move for this guitar, since laminate top plates tend to suffer from a more ‘dead sound’.
So too, the Ivorex II saddle and nut are Ibanez’s answer to the ‘faux bone’ fad of the last decade. Are they better than plastic? Oh yea. Better than real bone? Gonna have to say “no” there.
The “Advantage” Bridge Pins are made with a different shape than usual. They don’t go as far into the body, are stopped by a little ball inside, and stay in place, supposedly, better than the usual suspects.
Don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can say they’ve given me no problems. Might be an issue though, if you ever want to swap out the pins for bone…
Whadda THEY Know About Acoustics??
The Japanese company Hoshino Gakki first got into the acoustic guitar business in 1935, when they distributed high-end Classical guitars built by a luthier named Salvador Ibáñez from Spain.
In 1939, after Salvador’s whole shop was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War (what a bummer, dude!), they bought the rights to the luthier’s name and started producing the guitars themselves, using the shortened moniker “Ibanez“.
With the advent of the “performing songwriter” and the fame associated with traveling bards singing folk music in the 60s (I’m looking at YOU, Bob!), the steel-stringed acoustics showed up in their catalogs. They were pretty much at that time not-as-well-made copies of Gibson acoustics, but they were much cheaper and sold well despite the lower quality.
Until they were sued by Gibson in ’76 and had to change their headstock & product names, that is. 😮
In they ensuing decades, Ibanez found that actually designing new, innovative & distinctive guitars, especially with a star player’s endorsement, really shot their sales higher.
Since then, they have continued to make electric and acoustic guitars with an emphasis on divergent aesthetics, rather than copying the big dogs and their toys…
Hey, Joe! Where You Going w’ That EW in Your Hand?!
The Eagles came to Detroit this past month, bringing with them their penchant for extraordinarily well-crafted songs, impeccably-rehearsed vocals, and exceedingly top-of-the-line gear to bring it all to our appreciative ears.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I see Joe Walsh bring out MY EXACT SAME GUITAR, this EW with Ash top that I’m reviewing for you right now, and play it on a couple songs!!
Wow. Was my high opinion of this acoustic superbly vindicated, or WHAT?!!
I have to mention this, because there are some snooty, pretentious players commenting in some forums online about how “sub-par” these guitars are compared to other brands and models.
What do I say to them? Dudes – Please! There’s a reason why well over 90% of the reviewers that actually own this guitar have given it 5 stars and rave about it.
And besides that… if it’s good enough for Joe… then it’s good enough for anybody!
Don’t let the naysayers or the lower price point fool you… this is definitely a guitar you should play and hear before making any value judgments.
“Are All These Your Guitars…?!”
Ibanez currently has six acoustic guitar series available. They are:
- The PF Series (Inexpensive “Performance” guitars)
- The AEW Series (“Exotic Woods”)
- The AE Series (“Acoustic-Electrics”)
- The AEG Series (“Fishman”-electronics equipped)
- The TALMAN Series (Merge of acoustic & electric guitar vibe)
- The AV Series (“Thermo-Aged”)
They also have a couple other one-off guitars endorsed by Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, designed according to their specs, if you’re an avid fan of either, or just like spending way more money for “a name”.
For a complete look at their current line-up on the official Ibanez website, CLICK HERE.
Voice of a Different Color
One of the big reasons I like this guitar for my in-studio work is that it sounds different from any other acoustic I’ve ever owned.
It is sparse in high frequency content, so if you want a “warmer, darker” sound, this carries that flag. But, at the same time, it’s not muffled-sounding, which sometimes accompanies guitars that are too “warm” or have a laminate construction.
Also, the type of strings you put on it, as with any guitar, will make a big difference in the frequency content.
I prefer to use Gibson Masterbuilt Premiums on this guitar, as they bring out the top end more and off-set the darker “brown sound” with some shimmer.
Still, regardless of the string set you choose, to my ears this guitar has a real “story-telling” timbre to it that I just can’t get enough of.
If I need more starlight-kaleidoscope dancing high frequencies, then, fine, I’ll just strap on one of my other more expensive guitars. But for so many of my songs, this Ibanez beauty… enthralls my audiences splendidly!
For a great glimpse into the stellar and singular timbre of this acoustic, check out this video our friend Wade playing it over at “The Perfect Guitar” by CLICKING HERE!
Do Androids Dream of Electronic Guitars??
The SRTn electronics that come standard in this EW model are quite good. They enable you to get a much different sound from this axe than if you just mic’ed it, and of course make it louder for larger venues.
One thing that I love, love, LOVE about this guitar is that it gives me TWO output choices: a 1/4″ AND an XLR output!
Sound mixers love this because they can take a D.I. from the XLR straight into the board and work whatever magic they want with effects and such there.
I LIKE it because my 1/4″ output I can send to my on-stage rig and hear it how I want it, with the effects and EQ that I WANT.
And, if desired, the sound person can mic my cabinet or amp and have BOTH signals to mix with. Most excellent!
As I researched this guitar online, I only found three negatives mentioned:
- the overall timbre of the guitar (obviously totally subjective),
- the failure over time of some electronics parts, and
- the imprecise nature of the tuner
As for the sound of the guitar, I find it to have a very pleasant, usable tonality.
Would I use it on everything? Nope. But I don’t think I own any guitar that I’d say that about.
It has given me a further compelling and complementary “color” to use when writing songs. I consider what my lyrics are saying, choose a guitar in my arsenal based on that mood, or attitude, and voila – I get the perfect combination.
With this EW acoustic, the recording results are warm, homogeneous, transfixing when finger-picked, and ultimately greater than the sum of its parts.
I have not had any failures with the electronics myself. The EQ knobs work as expected, with no hint of noise or crackle, & the notch button definitely cuts out a swath of frequencies to help you avoid feedback.
The Phase button also helps when I’m recording the guitar with mics and the D.I. I can switch it to blend a lot better instantly. That’s a cool drool tool, fool! lol
The tuner? Well, it’s not as precise as the Peterson rack tuner I use onstage, but, then… what IS??! Unless there’s a guitar with a Peterson built in one day, you’ll never catch me using a built-in tuner. I’m just too spoiled and picky now with regard to intonation.
Still, how they’ve packaged the electronics is simple, clean and immediately user-friendly. No need for a manual here, folks. And the non-slip surface texture of the knobs?? Every guitar with any knobs should use these – I love it!
One distinctive difference of this EW guitar is that it has no pickguard. That might look a little odd to some, but I think that’s perfect for showcasing the intricate, mesmerizing figured exoticism of the Ash wood veneer.
I also don’t mind the missing guard because I usually finger pick with this guitar, mostly in alternate tunings. In fact, as soon as I saw this guitar in the ad, I knew it would be the ideal tool for finger-picked compositions that demand the entire fretboard to be worked.
Because of this, I don’t think I’ve ever used this guitar for strumming. Ever. Not that it can’t be; it would sound fine for that, I’m sure. But it’s just such a finger-picking dream that, for me, not having a pickguard is no problemo.
If it is a necessity for you, well, that’s easily remedied. I have another guitar, an Ovation Balladeer, that also came with no pickguard (read it’s story HERE), but since I strum that one A LOT, I just bought one on Amazon for around $19 that looked super stylish and matched the overall vibe of the Balladeer perfectly. Problem solved.
Just Can’t Dis ’em Exoticism!
This Ibanez acoustic guitar is almost a ‘10‘, in my book, for what you get. And many others obviously agree, if you research online. One reviewer on HarmonyCentral even said about this EW, “For the money, if there were a higher rating than ’10’, I’d give it”!
When I play it, I find it hard to believe that it’s a “cheap factory guitar”. It feels sturdy & well-made (like most Ibanez products), it’s outfitted with parts that make it sound good, though unique, and, of course, it so immediately grabs your attention visually that I absolutely guarantee that somebody in your audiences is going to mention how cool it looks.
And it’s such an unbelievable value. Compare it with other brands at the same price or even up, say, $700, and you’ll see what I mean… there’s hardly any that give you so much quality and ‘wow factor’ than this… and it’s under $400!
But, hey, prove me wrong, please. And when you do, I’ll buy THAT incredible deal and write an article on it… and mention your name!! 😉
In the meantime, give the Ibanez acoustics a chance. They will continue to have a place in my “wall of gain” and in my ongoing recordings. After all… can a choir ever have too many voices?? If you’re as excited about the EW acoustic as I am now, follow this link to your bliss:
Now, go… make… sounds!