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Ibanez AEL Series Guitars

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2 Reviews

Acoustic-electric guitars

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      19.12.2009 17:35
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      Not A Bad Guitar But There's A Lot Of Worthy Competition From Other Brands

      -Introduction-
      ~~~~~~~~~

      Ibanez have been a well known guitar and guitar effects brand for a few decades now. Their Roadstar electric guitar from the 1980's redefined the sort quality people would expect from far eastern guitars, and no mention of Ibanez would be complete without reference to their Tube Screamer guitar pedal - a firm favourite of blues and rock guitarists everywhere.

      Ibanez also do a comprehensive range of electro-acoustic (an acoustic guitar with a pick up) guitars too. Among that Ibanez's selection range is the AEL range.


      - The Guitar -

      The AEL model I've most experience with is the AEL30SE, so I'll use that for my review, however most AEL guitars share the same characteristics - with just slightly differing designs (for example there's a 12 string variation).


      - Top of the tree? -

      The AEL30SE 's Top (the piece of wood under the strings that has the sound hole in it - and is most responsible for the sound quality of the guitar) is made from Solid Spruce which is a good sign as cheaper and mid priced guitars tend to have laminated 'tops', and while laminated tops can still sound good, solid top designs resonate much better, and hence give a better sound.

      There's a lot of agreement in the guitar world that solid top guitars also 'age' better. Aging when applied to acoustic guitars is the process whereby a guitar actually sounds better after a few years of heavy use...

      Spruce is a good wood for a guitars 'top' -though in fairness many (most) manufacturers use it too, so Ibanez aren't doing anything ground breaking here.


      - The Backside; sorry I meant back and sides -lol! -

      The Neck, Back and Sides are all made from mahogany, which is a good wood for sustain, though it can give a darker sound that not everyone favours. In fairness the darker sound is offset for the most part by the Spruce top, which as I mentioned earlier, has far more influence on the guitar's tone than the back/sides/neck etc.


      - Pick up; can you hear me at the back? -

      In order for the AEL to be used on stage and be plugged into an amplifier or PA system etc, it has a built in B-Band UST pick up with a battery powered Ibanez SRTN Preamp. The controls for volume and tone are all on the side of the guitar (at the top) so are easily accessible from a playing position.

      To extend the battery life, it's best to unplug the guitar lead whenever you don't need to use the pick up. The guitar sounds a little hasher through the pick up than when played acoustically, but is still very good and very useable, with plenty of tonal variation.


      - Invest in the rest? -

      Other parts of the guitar worthy of note are the rosewood fretboard. Rosewood is an ideal wood for fretting on as it's so hardwearing - it's also very commonly used by almost all guitar makers, not just Ibanez.

      The machine heads (tuning pegs and gears) are all good quality and work faultlessly and smoothly, and the nut and saddle seemed well fitted. The action (height of the strings above the frets) is generally decent throughout the AEL range, (and when not so is usually easily set up by someone familiar with guitars) and the intonation (the ability of the guitar to be in tune with itself) was pretty good on the AEL30SE that I'm most familiar with, though the 'B' string may have been just a gnat's earlobe sharp -lol!


      - Sound -

      As I hinted above; acoustically the AEL30SE is very pleasant sounding, although just a tad on the dark side (and I don't mean the Jedi :-) for my tastes. Plugged into an amplifier the AEL30SE sounded slightly harsher, but then again it 'cut through' a little better because of that harshness, which can be dead useful on a stage full of noisy musicians -lol!!

      - Conclusion -

      Ibanez's AEL range of guitars (and especially the AEL30SE) are well finished, well made, very playable instruments. They're not particularly expensive for an upper mid quality guitar (The AEL30SE is around £299 at the time of writing this).

      On the negative side, there's loads of other guitars in the same price bracket that are equally good too (too many to list!), and there's nothing groundbreaking here in my opinion - I think it's strictly a made 'by the numbers' guitar.

      Ibanez claim the AEL range have massive projection, but in fairness most larger bodied well constructed acoustic guitars I've heard offer just as much projection...

      I like AEL30SE and I'm glad to have had one for a while but would I pay £299 for a new one when there are so many other choices on the market? Probably not -though it's decent all round guitar none the less.


      Thanks for reading my review!!

      Best wishes,
      Caveat-Emptor

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      • More +
        14.03.2008 13:40
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        It's the joy of my life.

        Few people know that I am a rock star. Don't feel bad or uninformed about that, my wife doesn't even know it and she's heard me. I say 'I rock' and she says I'm something that rhymes with 'rock'. After 23 years plucking you've got to be good haven't you?

        My head says yes but my audience votes with their feet. Sadly, since the age of 17, I haven't really got better. For this, I used to blame my instrument. It wasn't very good. Recently though, I have been more blessed and actually have a guitar I'm proud of. And then I play it and it all goes horribly wrong, but that, alas, is down to my ineptitude and I will have to live with it.

        The guitar was a present from my beloved. This was the stuff of sacrifice to be fair. She can't stand the squeaky noises it makes as I slide my fingers expertly up the neck. Cool - sounds like slightly gynaecological porn. Anyway, I am banished to the garage to sing badly to a vague tune. Sacrifice it truly was. It would be on a par with me buying her a megaphone and a period for her birthday. My own suffering would be on a biblical scale.

        The upshot is that I love my guitar. It would be my 'Desert island Disc'. I want to be buried with it. And that is genuinely for sentimental reasons.

        In general
        -------------
        I'm not a guitar buff. Some guitary folk talk about guitars in terms of 'bass tones' and 'rough bottom ends'. Oh wait, that's shepherds. They know about 'nuances' and detail. I don't and I suspect neither do you so I won't go on much about the sound. It's frankly a bit of a dull subject.

        Ibanez are a well known brand in the guitar world. It's not up there with Fender or Gibson, more the middle range. But, they do have a positive reputation and some well known models.
        The AEL range is their 'Acoustic Electric' range. In other words, they are, and look, like normal acoustic guitars but they have a pick-up inside the sound-box (the hollow bit) so you can plug them into an amp and annoy people wherever they hide.

        My guitar
        ------------
        My guitar is a gorgeous red (see pic). A warm cherry colour with mother-of-pearl inlay around the hole. This is matched on the head (the bit the strings attach to at the top) with white ivory nuts (If you turn my nuts, you affect the sound I make hahahahahahahaha). The bodywork is in maple and the neck is mahogany. All-in-all, it looked beautiful in the shop and I knew I wanted it straight away.

        The sound
        --------------

        Unplugged

        To non-guitarists, I suspect all guitars sort of sound the same. When you are a guitarist you know as soon as you hit it that it is good or bad. You can just hear it. To me, this Ibanez sounded angelic. Remember, I have little pedigree with good guitars and I've always played whatever my dad had in the house. The first time I strummed this it was like have some scales lifted and I thought I was actually a good guitarist. Everything I did sounded a million times better than had gone before.

        The action (height of the strings above the fret board), was low and I found playing it to be so easy. The strings resonated tunefully and the volume of the soundbox was full and boomy and yet plucking could be done as delicately as you like.

        I have no ear, take the above with a pinch of salt but I loved it. Oh, and I do have an ear by the way.

        Plugged in
        --------------
        The Ibanez uses a Fishman Sonicore Pickup with Ibanez AEQ-SST Shape ShifterTM Preamp with Onboard Tuner. Nope, I don't know what it means either. Fishman Pickups are well known and much respected though. The top end of the body houses a compartment for the pre-amps battery and the electronics are modified by a basic equaliser with slide controls and a 'bass boost' type button.

        The cable to the amp, as is normal, sticks into the socket on the bottom edge.

        Beyond that it is hard to comment. It all works well but the actual sound is due to the amp more than the guitar and I'll save that for another day. Suffice to say that I love playing it loud and I rock.

        The conclusion
        --------------------
        Ok, so I love my guitar and it is something very precious to me but is it actually, in the cold light of day, any good. Well, I have played a few guitars in my time and this is certainly up there with the better ones. But I don't do detail and I know that there will be the experts out there who would pull it apart with ease. Most of us aren't such experts and want something that will make them look cool and sound half decent and this certainly does it for me. I will get a new guitar one day, but I'll never get rid of this one. I cart it to school every week to play in assembly so kids hero-worship me and my head gets bigger. I have dropped it, bashed it and generally abused it. It has chips and scratches galore but to me this makes it all the more loveable.

        The details are here :

        http://www.ibanez.com/acoustic/guitar.aspx?m=AEL20ETRS

        Thanks for reading.
        May also be on other review sites

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