I’m an acoustic guitar aficionado. Have been since high school.
Oh, sure, electrics have their place… especially when the testosterone movin’ and I want to get my “shred” on…
But the acoustic… mmm… there’s multiple worlds in there.
So I picked up another one last year (my 10th): the Ibanez AE Acoustic Guitar!
As you’ll see from the ensuing story… it wasn’t all I expected.
But the good news is it still has some strong suits, and any beginner could go a long way honing their craft on this axe!
Ibanez has a broad line of these models. Some start at under $500, like THIS ONE, and go up to near the $900 mark if you get one with bells, whistles and the “Ooooo!!” factor.
I got this one used to try out the line. It has a great looking “Transparent Violet” color that drew my eye immediately (tho’ it also came in Black and Natural colors).
When I got the guitar the action was, in a word TERRIBLE. I don’t know if it came from the factory that way and the girl I got it from was clueless (it appeared that way), or whether it underwent some major humidity & temperature fluctuations, but, man… it was NOT good.
After some set up in my studio, it was a lot better. I determined, though, that if I kept the AE I’d swap out the NUT, at the very least, to help the action. It was just too high.
The compensated saddle helped to make the Intonation pretty good. It just wasn’t comfortable to play.
I prefer cutaways, since I play high up on the neck at times for chords and licks. If that’s not important for you then there are other full-body guitars that might be a better choice for you – any cutaway IS going to take a bit of the guitar’s resonance and bottom end away, to some degree.
Time to In-SPEC-t!
For all you tweaky gearheads who want to know all de facts, Jack (you know who you are!), here is the most exhaustive list of features and parts in the AEF18 that I could find:
Preamp: Ibanez SST
Pickup: Fishman Sonicore
Body Construction: Single cutaway
Body Construction: Acoustic
Body Shape: AEF
Body Top Wood: Spruce
Body Type: Hollowbody
Body Wood: Mahogany
Bridge Pins: “Advantage” pins
Fingerboard Radius: 12.00″
Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
Fret Size: Medium
Fingerboard Inlays: Dot
Neck Joint: Dovetail
Neck Shape Series: Standard
Neck Wood: Mahogany
Number of Frets: 21
Number of Strings: 6
Nut Material: Ivorette II
Nut Width: 1.69”
Rosette: Wooden Fire Pattern
Saddle material: Ivorette II
Scale Length: 25-1/4″
String Nut: Synthetic Bone
Tuners: Chrome Die-cast
Width at Nut: 43mm
Width at Joint: 55mm
Thickness 1st Fret: 20mm
Thickness 7th Fret: 21mm
Whew! That’s a lotta numbers!!
A St(AE)l… of a Deal!
I didn’t pay much for my AE. I only bought it because I saw it used from a buyer on Craigslist and was intrigued. Mostly by the color, the cutaway, the electronics, and the fact that I’d pay under $200!
She was a local girl who had been using it to play in church, but no longer had that gig, so it was collecting dust.
I needed another acoustic guitar for an upcoming concert. I typically play in quite a few alternate tunings, so having four or five guitars at the ready, all tuned differently ahead of time, helps my shows to go smoother. I also don’t have to spend so much time tuning during the shows, so the fans appreciate that, I’m sure!
After meeting her and seeing that is was a little beat up, I offered her about $50 less due to the cosmetic let-down. She went for it, and I took home a decent acoustic for a lot less than you’d get it from any store.
After looking it over, I took it home, changed the strings, and adjusted a few things play better.
I then tested it through an amp to verify all was well there. Thankfully (since usually I test it before I give away a wad of cash!), everything sounded good.
The top faceplate not only had a lot of dings; I could also tell that the wood right from the manufacturer was not the greatest. If you’re looking for a guitar that has impressive, “Oooo! Ahhhh!” type of wood grain… pass on the AE.
“This is not the droid your looking for.” LoL
I could also tell that the neck was a little thick and not as comfortable to play any of my other acoustics.
But I still bought it. Knowing it had Fishman electronics on it, I wagered that it would sound great through a system, and, to a fair extent, I was right.
I also wanted a cutaway at the neck because I often play high.
Um, that’s high on the neck, Beavis. COME on! Lol
Sound it out
On a scale of 1 to 10, I found the sound of the AE to be about average – I’d give it a 5.
It didn’t sound bad, but neither did it in any way compare to the tone of my more expensive acoustics.
I did find that it had a much better sound plugged in, using the onboard electronics, than it did using a mic. That’s usually the opposite of what I find, but, ya know… can’t win ’em all.
I found the low end to be lacking in this AE. If you’re going to be playing this in the context of a band, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re playing out on your own, just you and a guitar though… I’d pass on this model. Not nearly enough beef.
Also, the gloss on this guitar is REEEEEALLY thick. To me, it really muffled the tone, and kept the acoustic volume much lower than the other acoustics I own. So if you are considering this model at all… I’d seriously opt for the “Natural” finish instead of the Glossy. If you know acoustic guitar tone at all, you’ll be glad you did!
Howwww Does it Feeeel… ?!
Something tells me Bob Dylan would pass on this particular guitar.
Nothing against Ibanez (I have other guitars of theirs which I love, like THIS ONE!), but I really disliked the feel of this axe. Especially the neck.
I tried it out on a solo gig of mine; a private party for the birthday of one of my best neighbors. By the end of the 2nd set I went back home and got a different guitar. I’ve never had my hand get so tired out from any other guitar.
To be fair, I didn’t give the AE a full, genuine, professional setup from my usual luthier. If I had, would it have been better? I’m gonna guess yes, so make sure that’s done if ya want this guitar to be in optimal playing condition.
Mine sure wasn’t!
The End of the Line
After less than a year with the AE, I moved on. As usual, I’d given it some months to get to know it, and gave it many opportunities to show me its best bits. In the end though, that private party I played showed its imperfections all too clearly.
Plus, I’d been noticing that every time I picked it up and played it, I put it back and got one of my other acoustics down instead.
Never a good sign, that!
So, ya know… it just didn’t thrill me,. So I traded it for a newer, much better guitar.
My main man Chris over at Music-Go-Round always gives me the best top dollar he can for my used gear, so he was happy to let me add to his inventory (“ANOTHER guitar, Teaj??!!” LOL).
I used that trade-in cash to instead get a really gorgeous hollow-body electric, the only type of guitar I’ve never owned yet.
Something tells me you’ll hear about it soon. 😉
The Quest Continues…
All guitarists are constantly searching for that “Holy Grail Tone” that will make them sound the most amazing ever. For me, this AE acoustic wasn’t anywhere close.
If you’re looking for either an acoustic that looks cosmetically superior, or one that sounds impressive when you mic it, I’d say this is not going to “rev up your motor scooters”, to quote Steely Dan. Keep lookin’.
BUT… the AE series acoustic guitars ARE great for beginners. Especially since the body is on the small side. Perfect for kids learning! CHECK HERE FOR PRICE and read how it can be a real asset for your budding student!
Even some intermediate players might find this to be just the ticket if they play it through an amp or a sound system – the electronics are a great add-on that make it sound actually better than the wood does.
Once you get your hands on it, you might find it a perfect fit. Ya never know ’til ya play it.
Now, go… make… sounds!!