Spending huge sums of money on a guitar unfortunately doesn't guarantee a great instrument, especially when it comes to acoustic guitars. I have played for example, some very average hand made top end guitars and some fantastic low end mass produced ones. But I could also swap that around and say I've also experienced mouth wateringly great expensive ones and some very bland cheapies. My point being that we should judge an instrument on its merits not on its price tag. I'm probably the worst at being a guitar snob and the higher the cost of an instrument, the more I would expect from it. But this Ibanez AW65ECE-LG comes in as a low to mid-priced instrument and it confirms my theory that you do not have to pay a fortune to get a good usable instrument that would earn its keep at home, in the studio or on stage.
This Ibanez AW65ECE-LG is part of the company's long-established Artwood range of acoustics that covers a wide variety of body sizes, finishes and specs. Our guitar is a Dreadnought that has a cutaway for access to the dusty end. A cutaway on an acoustic is obviously a common sight nowadays, and generally for me is a welcome addition. The top is solid cedar and the neck, back and sides are mahogany. The combination of the mahogany and the dreadnought body size gives that deep warm but clear sound that really projects when you dig in. The finish is described by Ibanez as 'Natural Low Gloss' which translates to a satin finish that shows off the grain of the wood. It has a nice workmanlike feel to it and strangely I suspect the more beaten up it gets, the cooler it will look. Some guitars can look so ornate that you cry at the slightest mark they pick up, and all played guitars pick up marks, but I think the more you play this guitar, the better it will look. The presence of a solid top (as opposed to a laminate) suggests it will get tonally better, too, the more it is played.
The comfortable C shape neck has a rosewood board with nice string spacing and the intonation in all positions seems good. I would say the neck size is bigger rather than slimmer, a little bit like a nice neck on a Les Paul, but neck sizes are subjective. Nothing leaps out at me as feeling strange, it's just nicely familiar, strung with D'Addario strings and with an action that is medium to low with no dead spots. All exactly how things should be for most players. The neck joins the body with a dovetail joint, and you will find a strap button placed sensibly in that area.
The onboard electronics are a Fishman Sonicore Pick Up and an Ibanez AEQ210TF pre-amp that has an inbuilt tuner display. I like the simple layout on this pre-amp. You have three pots that give you the guitar volume, treble and bass. Nice and easy. They work too. The sound into the desk with this system was very good with the treble and bass pots giving you all the adjustment you should need. There is also a small push button for your tuner display and one for your phase cancellation, to kill onstage feedback . It was all simple to use, worked well and sounded good enough to do anything you ask of it, be it in the studio or onstage.
If you want a guitar that won't break the bank, but sounds and plays great, then this Ibanez is worth a look. It's probably not for the purists who will happily pay thousands for their Martins, Collins, Lowdens, Fyldes etc but for the player on a budget, you could easily record this guitar, mix it in the track and tell everybody it's from one of the top professional brands and no one would question it.