Ibanez describes the RG series as 'the most recognizable and distinctive guitar' in its range and it has appeared in a dizzying array of versions since its inception. For 2013, Ibanez has updated the RGs with new finishes and options. But does the magic remain? Tom Quayle conjures-up a verdict…
We've reviewed Ibanez's Premium guitars before in GI and have been consistently impressed with the output from the Indonesian factory where these instruments are produced. The latest 2013 Premium RGs are basically visual updates to the existing range, allowing Ibanez to refresh the line without adding too many new features into this already well-respected design. The RG970 QMZ sits at the top of the range and is designed to give Ibanez J-Custom style looks and finish quality at a price that suits the more budget-minded player. In this regard Ibanez has been very successful with the range and the RG970 is no exception, sporting quality hardware, finish and design that, whilst notquiteup there with the Japanese made guitars, gets very close indeed. And at a very tempting price.
The RG970 features a solid basswood body with a quilted maple top and masked off binding. The top is a veneer, as should be expected at this price, but don't let that put you off as the quilting is beautiful and very 3D. The masked off basswood 'binding' looks the part and, at a distance, gives the impression of a high-end scraped binding finish, adding to the aesthetic quality of the guitar.
The neck is a Wizard 5-piece maple and walnut with a rosewood fretboard, maple binding and offset dot markers for a custom, high-end look. The neck also features a matching quilted maple headstock and beautiful fretwork with hand rolled and polished fret ends to match the J-Custom range of Japanese instruments.
The hardware matches the visual quality with an Edge-Zero II bridge and locking nut, plus a trio of DiMarzio IBZ pickups in H-S-H configuration. A five-way switch and volume/tone controls finish the design and whilst it doesn't break any new ground for Ibanez, this is certainly a very good looking guitar that gives the impression of a much higher price tag than it actually commands. Something worth remembering with the Premium range is that they all ship with a great hard case, something few other manufacturers offer for this sort of price.
Taking the RG970 out of the case, it's immediately obvious that this is a quality instrument. The general build quality and finishing is pretty much perfect with no flaws or corners cut in paintwork, sanding, or construction. The fretwork is particularly impressive, with the rolled fret ends being a real highlight, lending an almost boutique look and feel to the neck, enhanced by the quality neck binding and attention to detail on the inlays, both of which are perfectly executed. The Wizard neck profile is thicker than the Wizard II but still slick enough for super fast playing if required and the lightly oiled finish aids technical playing and feels very comfortable for extended sessions and chordal playing. The neck features a modern 16"/400mm radius and combined with the jumbo fret size, makes for a technically minded guitar that the shredders will love.
Plugged in, the RG970 reveals itself as a versatile instrument thanks to the five-way switch and quality pickups. The DiMarzio IBZs are a significant step up from the CAP-VM pickups featured in the lower end Premium RGs, offering a greater level of clarity and bite for both humbucker and single coil tones. When you spend this sort of money on a guitar, it's usually the pickups that are the first item you think about upgrading but these IBZs should see you through most tonal situations with no issues at all and produce a quality clean and driven tone in all positions. The bridge humbucker is particularly adept at high gain lead and rhythm, offering high output sounds without the muddiness associated with more budget pickups. Single coil clean and crunch tones are also impressive in positions two and four, offering authentic Strat-like sounds, making the RG970 a versatile guitar indeed.
Ibanez seems to have hit a winning run with its Premium range of guitars. Producing the line in Indonesia but retaining the quality of the Japanese made guitars has worked well and the RG970 feels like a much more expensive guitar than its price tag would suggest. Combined with the quality and good looking case, the Premium RG's become a no brainer for anyone seeking a good looking, great playing and tonally versatile modern guitar. Nice one Ibanez.