Review of Ibanez Roadcore RC320 Guitar -
Thought you you could predict what the shred-kings at Ibanez
would come up with next? So did we. And we were wrong! Michael
Casswell takes a long look at the first of an entirely new
generation of Ibanez electrics - the Roadcores.
We have a bit of an exclusive here at GI, and I guess I am one
of a select bunch to actually get to play the new Roadcore series
of guitars from Ibanez. Three of these guitars were loaned to us to
compare: a red one, a black one and a lovely sunburst coloured one.
I say compare because the sunburst one is a hand-finished custom
shop version straight from the Ibanez custom shop in Los Angeles.
There have been a few of these custom shop versions made whilst
Ibanez have been finalising the specification of the finished
product, and these are not going to be generally available. They
will, however, be finding their ways into the hands of some of the
company's top endorsers, we understand! What will be available for
the rest of us, will be the production versions - the red and black
ones we have here on review. These guitars will be called the
Roadcore RC320 and it's my job to tell you how they fare against
the custom shop version, and how they fare as a brand new guitar on
to the market.
The first thing to say is how much confidence this shows on
Ibanez's part. Most guitar companies would run a mile at the
prospect of a reviewer drawing any comparisons at all between a
handmade US-built prototype and the final, affordable, production
model. Not Ibanez, nor its UK distributor, Headstock. In fact the
comparison was their idea!
Maybe we should talk about them visually first of all. I think
it's great that Ibanez is going to be putting out a guitar that is
so radically different from its Jem and RG style guitars, which
have become classics. It will certainly broaden their appeal and
bridge the gap to a more mainstream market. Coming up with a
classic guitar design must be one of the hardest jobs around. In
the end, it's all down to personal taste, so I'm going to leave
that aspect for you to decide. All I will say is that it certainly
performs well, with an offset twin cutaway body giving a strong
retro appearance, a comfortable C-profile bolt on neck maple neck
with a rosewood fingerboard and a nice substantial feel.
As a functional guitar, the Roadcore certainly also has some
nice tones in there! Comparing the production guitars to the Custom
shop version, nothing leapt out at me as being compromised, which
is pretty amazing considering what must be a significant price
difference. I say 'must be' because the custom model doesn't
actually have a price because it isn't being sold. Still, you get
my point, I'm sure! The new Ibanez 'Coretone' pickups all
sounded remarkably similar and nicely voiced. The playability was
also very similar on all three guitars, and I didn't spot any
production flaws that said one guitar is cheaper than another.
Amazing! The body is mahogany, and will come in a variety of
colours, as well as the suggested possibility of a Bigsby tremolo
equipped version, which should lead to hours of fun with a tuner!
On the versions we have here, the strings go over the Ibanez 'Tight
Tune' bridge and through the body, which adds to the resonance.
I jammed a first take jam over an unfamiliar backing track, so
you could hear all three guitars, and I tried to make a point of
switching to each of the three pick up options, which are the basic
front, back, middle settings. It sounded like the middle option
gave a blend of the inside coils of each humbucker with slightly
more snap or hollowness to the sound, which was nice. The guitar
could easily handle different styles of playing and the mahogany
body does give a nice warmth to the tone. The controls couldn't be
simpler, with just a three way switch and a master volume and tone
The clincher with these two guitars was the price and the superb
production quality. No wonder Ibanez was confident! Yes, it's
always nice to have a handmade guitar with a prestigious label, but
blindfolded there is next to no difference between these
instruments and when you see the asking price of the
Indonesian-made production models, all you can do is shake your
head and ask 'how?'
In the past year or so, Ibanez has really begun to broaden its
appeal as a brand. Without losing the manic shredders, you have
started to see Ibanez in the hands of bands like You Me At Six, The
Blackout, fiN, Your Demise, Young Guns and 65 Days of Static.
That's a very different market for Ibanez and it's pretty clear
that is where these Roadcores are aimed.
A big thank you to the powers that be, for letting me try these
guitars before it's even official that they exist. Ibanez deserves
to do well with them and it's good to see a company not sitting on
its laurels and playing it safe. Especially when the result is a
fine, professional guitar at such a great price!
Check out the full review inc. video of the Ibanez Roadcore
RC320 guitar by Michael Casswell featured in Issue 14 of Guitar