Ibanez Artwood

I purchased an Ibanez Artwood series acoustic-electric guitar last Summer in Dallas when I helped my son move from his freshman dorm into an apartment for his sophomore year. After owning it for a year, I'm ready to report on it. Here's basically what happened last Summer:

I had been looking for an affordable (read: under $500) acoustic-electric guitar for gigging & home recording. I sold my vintage Alvarez that I didn't like very much ("vintage" guitars can be seriously overrated IMO but that's a post for another time) a few years ago on Ebay and got good money for it. Then I bought a super cheap Ibanez acoustic-electric for bumming around with. Well I used that guitar way more than I ever thought I would. Multiple recording projects, multiple gigs, leading worship at church, etc etc. It was a good guitar, especially for the money. I was impressed. But one of the things my oldest son was going to do in the Fall of his Sophomore year was take an acoustic guitar class, so I had already given him that Ibanez and was on the hunt for a "better" one for myself.

So I walked into Guitar Center in Dallas just kid of looking. I had not planned on purchasing a guitar that day, I but I had seen the new (at the time) Dean Exotica line of acoustic-electrics on the internet and thought they really looked stylish, so I was at GC to pick one up and try it out. I had already confirmed via phone that GC had a few in stock.

I went in, found the Deans and picked them all up. I didn't just love any of them. I wanted to like them b/c the look was awesome. But none of them had very good sustain, none of them played particularly well, none of them sounded very deep, and all of them had the same horrible on-board tuner. That was the back-breaker for sure...the tuner just sucked. There's no other word for it. It would flash & announce the string was in tune when it wasn't even close. I was very disappointed. Ah well so much for the Dean line (I still think they're absolutely beautiful guitars...maybe with a string change & a new tuner...)

So I went about playing some other acoustic-electrics. Picked up a $2000 Martin...man I just do not see what everyone loves about Martin. I have played literally dozens of them and I have yet to find one I like. I picked up some Taylors...I *do* see what everyone loves about those guitars. They all sound great & feel great to me. But I was not dropping $2500 on a guitar that day.

I picked up my "dream" guitar (for looks, anyway): a Gibson Hummingbird. I hated it. That was a sad realization. Plus that's another $2500 axe. No thanks.

I did like a few Breedloves & Seagulls. Both really good feel & sounds. They were still too pricey, tho. I really didn't want to spend over $500.

Then I picked up an Ibanez Artwood. It didn't have a price tag on it. It was the Ibanez AW30ECE in the Dark Violin Sunburst, and I liked the look okay. The 1st thing I did was play with the on-board tuner. I really wanted my next acoustic guitar to have an on-board tuner. The tuner was fine. It wasn't awe-inspiring exactly right, but it was a heck of a lot closer than some of the other ones I tried. I have a Korg pedal tuner at home that is absolutely dead-on exactly right every time...I love that thing. This tuner on the Ibanez Artwood was not *that* good, but it was a good one. So I got it tuned up. For some reason that day I tuned to drop-D...which at the time I was just starting to get into a little bit (now I'm tuning mostly Eb but again, that's another blog post).

I started playing, and I literally had an "OMG" moment. The sound. Wow. This thing sounded MAGICAL. It really was nice. It whipped every guitar I played that day except for say 3 Taylors and a Breedlove. I played for roughly 10min and loved it. Another great feature is the sanded/smooth neck. I've always preferred those to lacquered necks, but *most* acoustics have lacquered necks, so I figured I might have to settle for another one. But no...this one was sanded & it felt nice.

So I drag a GC kid over there to ask him the price. I had not been shopping Ibanez online like I had the Deans...I had no idea what it cost. I figured it wasn't going to be a Taylor-esque $2500 or anything, but I thought it'd be $700-ish like the Breedloves & Seagulls.

The GC kid comes back with a price: "on sale for $349", he says.

"What?" Did I hear that kid correctly? Uh, I'm going to need a box b/c I'm buying this right now.

I've had it a year now. I play Elixer strings on it. Everywhere I play it people tell me how great it sounds, and it has a unique look with the Dark Sunburst that I have grown to like a lot. I never did like the traditional "natural" color of most acoustics. I love the feel of the smooth non-lacquered neck, and I use the heck out of the on-board tuner. There are other features that I love and have used, that I didn't even know the guitar had when I bought it! The tuner & pre-amp uses AA batteries instead of 9-volt! That's really handy b/c you can get AA's *everywhere* for CHEAP. We always have AA's at our house for all the LCD/DVD/Wii remotes. Who usually has a 9V laying around? I mean *guitarists* do, but nobody else does. Also the guitar sports a 1/4" line out...AND AN XLR OUT! Wow! I've already used the XLR at 2 venues with older sound systems, and it kept me from having to use a direct box. One more thing...the preamp also has a "phase shift" button, that I figured I'd never use. But if I'm lying I'm dying...the very 1st time I ever tried to plug my brand new Ibanez Artwood acoustic-electric into my solid state Vox guitar amp...it sounded TERRIBLE. Beyond terrible. There was some horrible feedback. I nearly panicked. Until, of course, I pressed the phase button and it all instantly went away. Wow, that's cool.

There's one drawback I've found: it doesn't do well with tube electric guitar amps. It sounds funny & feeds back, and the phase shift doesn't help. Tube amps are getting rarer these days, and are almost exclusively for electric guitar anyway, but I thought that was interesting.

But the sound. The thing sounds AMAZING. Really, really good. a whale of a lot better than my old "vintage" Alvarez ever did, and better that most guitars, I'm not joking. I won't name names here, but I have a friend with a vintage Martin worth $5000+ and this thing kills it in sound. I also have another friend with a new Martin and mine sounds better (and has a lot more features). It really is a great guitar. I can't believe it retails for $400 (and I got mine on sale for $350!). I've been playing guitar for 25 years and this is the best acoustic guitar I've ever owned, and *one* of the top 5 guitars I've ever *played*...and its $2100 cheaper than the other 4 in my top 5.

It's a great guitar. I can't say enough about Ibanez & the Artwood series.


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