Hello there, back again with another excellent guitar review for you! This time, we will look at possibly my favourite guitar of all time, the Ibanez AR300 (Korea). I can confidently bet that this will be the most exclusive, longest-term review of this gem on the internet. In this Ibanez AR300 review, I will give you many details and how I ended up owning this gem a second time. 🙂
Ibanez AR (Artist) series electric guitars were first introduced in the early ’70s. These were Ibanez’s Japanese-made guitars that got a lot of attention and gained a lot of reputation. As you may know, Ibanez started manufacturing guitars back in the day, inspired by Gibson Les Paul and SG models. Even though they had already produced very similar models to classic LP designs, the Ibanez AR series was not exactly cloned, but uniquely designed instruments.
Even today, if you research the AR series that are made in China, you will see that these guitars are classified as double-cut guitars, meaning that these would fall into the SG design category. However, they are definitely not very similar to SGs as they are to LP designs.
First Encounter with Ibanez AR300
My first encounter with Ibanez AR300 was back in 2011. I was living in London for some time and already planning to go back to my country for good. In this era, I wasn’t able to play the guitar for a long time so I wanted to have some guitars and gear ready when I went back.
While researching the UK market, I was also looking at options in Turkey as I knew the 2nd hand market better there. One of my favourite activities as a guitar nerd was to check out the SRV Music website. If you have never heard of SRV Music, they are a second-hand guitar and guitar gear shop in Kadıköy, İstanbul. It’s probably the best place where you can find 2nd hand gems easily.
One day I noticed this Ibanez AR300 and started researching this instrument. I didn’t even know when or where it was made. Eventually, I decided to buy this without even trying. I remember having paid for my first Ibanez AR300 around $400/$500.
My Ibanez AR300 arrived at my home address in Turkey, and I had to wait for a couple of months to give it a try! 🙂 In the meantime, as a guitar nerd, I started thinking about how I should modify this instrument already. After some research, I decided to upgrade the pickups with Seymour Duncan’s 35th Anniversary JB/Jazz (Zebra) set. I also got some switches to modify the electronics so I can put a blower switch kinda controls as well as a pair of Seymour Duncan humbucker covers for these pickups.
Actually, this was one of my first blog posts attempts back in 2013 before even cigilovic.com existed! I posted a short article on Covered vs Uncovered Humbucker Pickups to present how humbucker covers make a difference in sound, good old days! 🙂
Even though Seymour Duncan’s 35th Anniversary JB/Jazz (Zebra) set looked way better than the covered humbuckers, I couldn’t resist adding the covers and checking what these would sound like. On top of that, I also removed the tone pots, upgraded volume pots to CTS ones with orange capacitors and added a pair of switches acting like a kill switch and a blower switch.
It didn’t work out quite well for this guitar, but I kept the same electronics until I sold this instrument. I also changed the location of the volume pots as well as the plastic knobs to black ones!
I aimed to have a kill switch just cut off the guitar signal from the output. I also got inspired by Guthrie Govan’s blower switch and tried to imitate that effect with this little two-way switch. By adding this blower switch, I would be able to jump from any pickup or volume set to full blast, bridge humbucker. I still find this concept very useful as you can retain your volume levels and just jump back on forth to volume at 10 bridge pickup selection.
I also upgraded the bridge to a Gotoh GE103B-T-C TOM-Style Bridge as the factory bridge kept ringing due to that old-fashioned design featuring a spring to keep saddles still.
At that time, I had only a Boss Micro BR-80 portable recorder that also had some Boss amp simulations. To be honest, I immediately disliked the Super 58 pickups with this setup. Seymour Duncan’s 35th Anniversary JB/Jazz (Zebra) provided the sounds exactly I wanted. Before, I had already experienced these pickups on my Erkan Sızarlar custom electric guitar that featured a classic Ibanez RG design with an alder body. However, I always got annoyed by the overpronounced high mids.
As many of you are already aware, these pickups are usually preferred by guitarists who want to increase the gain response of their LP-style guitars. As LP design naturally produces mellow sounds, these pickups complement it very well.
I must say I played my first Ibanez AR300 (Korea, 2006) guitar exclusively from 2013 to 2018 which made it my longest-kept and most-played guitar!
Year of Manufacture
As you can see from the image below, the first one I had was made in 2006 with the #SN: CP06084665. Based on Guitarinsite Ibanez’s serial number research, this guitar was made in 2006 with serial number 84665 in Cor-Tek, Incheon or Peerless Co. Ltd., Pusan, Korea (possibly).
At that time, I didn’t realise a couple of minor differences among the Ibanez AR300 based on the year of manufacture. But later on, when I had my second Ibanez AR300 (Korea, 2005), I noticed some differences in serial number format as well as the rosewood that’s used on the fretboard.
Unfortunately, I don’t have this Ibanez AR300 (Korea, 2006) anymore. Before I moved abroad, I got interested in fretless guitars and decided to get the frets removed! My initial goal was to get the frets levelled or a complete refretting job. Even though, the luthier (Hakan Seçkin, Matt Guitars. The best luthier in Turkey!) warned and asked me if I was sure. I went for it and ended up with a fretless Ibanez AR300! 🙂
As I wasn’t able to bring anything with me while moving abroad, I decided to sell this and it was gone very quickly to an American guitarist via Reverb.com.
Brave or Stupid?
Even these days, I get comments on Youtube asking me how brave (?) I was to do this fretless conversion to this beautiful and rare instrument. To be brutally honest, I find my decision pretty stupid as of today! 🙂 But I can not really stop myself from trying new stuff with my instruments.
Until I got my second Ibanez AR300 (Korea, 2005), I had bought three electric guitars already. I kept visiting Reverb.com and checking if anyone near me was selling this model. That clearly shows my regret to lose this guitar and apparently I wanted to buy another one!
Lessons learnt: Never go crazy with modifying your guitars at extreme levels and never think about selling them. If you can afford to keep multiple instruments, go for it! I guarantee you that after 5-10 years of time passed, your guitars will be a rarity and then if you really need to get rid of them, you can do it in a smarter and more profitable way!
Some eras of guitar companies and specific series can offer so much value in the future. And this is not just the price! Could anyone guess the CITES era would come? Pre-CITES era, I played so many excellent instruments that would be considered stepback models from iconic brands featuring outstanding rosewood and ebony boards with outstanding craftsmanship!
When I first started playing the electric guitar, there was this Cort hype going around and stupidly enough, I never really thought about these as I would never be able to see the future in this industry. Cort Guitars iused to make outstanding quality guitars with excellent quality tonewoods. For instance, the Cort M600 (Korea) model which I featured on my blog was an excellent instrument back in the early 2000s, featuring a different set of humbuckers and great quality tonewoods overall. Now try to find one from that era, almost impossible!
Quick check: Can you spot similarities between Cort M600 and Ibanez AR300? 🙂
Second Encounter with Ibanez AR300
It had kinda become my habit to search for these guitars on Reverb.com. Until I got it for the second time, I saw many Ibanez AR series guitars both Korean and Japanese-made versions but either they were located in Japan or not in great condition. So I couldn’t really justify the price with what I would get.
Luckily (maybe not!), right after I got my third electric guitar, Epiphone SG Custom Ebony, I found an Ibanez AR300 on Reverb.com and in Germany!
I immediately contacted the seller and bought it the next day. Even though the guitar is 17 years old, it came in mint condition. A couple of pick scratches here and there, frets had no wear and tear, and even plastic pickup covers were there!
Sadly, frets already started popping up! :/ I checked the levels with a fret rocker, but there are too many levelling issues everywhere. So this time I made a better decision and found a cool luthier in Bratislava and got this beauty refretted with Jescar stainless steel frets. I also upgraded the bridge again with a Gotoh GE103B-T-C TOM-Style Bridge as this spring ringing issue also existed on the factory bridge.
This time the serial number format was different. As you can see from the image below, the second one I had was made in 2005 with the #SN: C05110830.
Based on Guitarinsite Ibanez’s serial number research, this guitar was made in 2005 with serial number 0830 in Cor-Tek, Incheon or Daejeon, Korea.
What I noticed is that the rosewood fingerboard was a bit different from my first Ibanez AR300. As the specs were identical, I wasn’t really able to find any information regarding this difference.
It is definitely a lot darker than my 2005 AR300 and has loads of grains which doesn’t look the coolest from different angles. Did some research but couldn’t find any answers, people have various opinions on these rosewood fingerboards. These may be Indian or Brazilian rosewood, have no clue! If you have any expertise on this, let me know! 🙂
Here’s another shot from a different angle that shows how dark it is.
Before I provide some comments and a brief sound test video of my Ibanez AR300, let’s quickly have a look at the tech specs below.
Ibanez AR300 Tech Specs
|Body Type||Double cutaway - Solid body|
|Body||Mahogany w/ flamed maple top w/ cream binding|
|Bridge||Full Tune III fixed|
|Tailpiece||Quik Change III|
|Knob style||Speed knobs (gold)|
|Neck material||3-piece maple|
|Scale length||628mm (24-3/4 inch)|
|Fingerboard material||Rosewood w/ cream binding|
|Fingerboard inlays||Abalone & acrylic split block|
|Frets||22 / large|
|Nut||Cream plastic (43mm)|
|Machine heads||Ibanez die-cast|
|Pickup configuration||Double humbucker|
|Bridge pickup||Ibanez Super 58 Custom|
|Neck pickup||Ibanez Super 58 Custom|
|Controls||2 volume, 2 tones, 3 way pickup selector|
Ibanez AR300 Review
As you can see, it is almost a traditional LP-style design apart from the neck being a 3-piece maple and the body design being a double cutaway. As it features a mahogany body, I must say it’s a pretty heavy guitar compared to a Stratocaster or an SG. But this also helps generate rich and fat natural wood tones that translate into a really solid guitar sound thanks to its Super 58 Custom pickups.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, when I first tried this guitar back in 2013 with my Boss Micro BR-80 amp simulations, I wasn’t really impressed with the pickups. But now I have much better gear to test it. In my initial testing, I used my ENGL E570 all-tube preamp and I was immediately blown away!
Pickups sound so nice, sweet and balanced across all registers with this setup and I must say I don’t even think about upgrading pickups soon. Both clean and lead channels on my ENGL E570 react so well and I enjoy the dynamics of these pickups.
Here’s a quick story about Ibanez AR300! In 2013, I was a loyal member of a Turkish guitar forum and we would occasionally arrange meetings in different cities. That time, we met in my hometown Izmir and luckily, one of the members of the forum was working for the biggest musical instruments dealer in Izmir, Turkey. He kindly allowed us to meet in their huge guitar store. Due to a public holiday, around 20 people were able to fit in that store!
This company is the official dealer of Gibson and PRS dealer, so you can imagine how many high-end guitars we were surrounded by. I also wanted to bring my Ibanez AR300 with me so my friends could try it out. Surprisingly, Ibanez AR300 was one of their favourite instruments in the store and most players couldn’t stop playing it! 🙂
They kept saying this was one of the best-sounding and easiest-to-play instruments around! That’s how good and comfortable Ibanez AR300 is and that’s why I call it the “Ultimate Gem“!
Ibanez AR300 Sound Demo (no talking)
Here’s a quick sound test video of my Ibanez AR300. Just to summarize; the frets have been replaced with jumbo Jescar stainless steel frets and the bridge has been upgraded to Gotoh GE103B-T-C TOM-Style Bridge. The rest of the components and parts are all factory ones.
I have used my ENGL E570 all-tube preamp, ENGL Cabloader going directly into RME Babyface PRO then into Reaper. I also used Valhalla Vintage Reverb.
Where to buy Ibanez AR300?
As you can already understand, this guitar was discontinued a long time ago. Today, you can still buy equivalent Chinese-made ones, and actually, there are really cool-looking ones.
I’m sure these will be close to how an Ibanez AR300 Korean-made guitar feels like playing, however, due to conditions in guitar manufacturing post-CITES and cost-reducing actions by the guitar companies, these would feature an okoume body with a jatoba fretboard. See? Almost a golden age of extremely high-value instruments is long gone!
As I said, your best bet is to keep searching on Reverb.com. Just go there, sign up if you haven’t all ready and set up search notifications by following that search.
I still see some Japanese-made ones, and I’m sure they are way better than Korean-made ones. But be prepared to pay a lot more for these. Good luck!
I hope you enjoyed this long article! I can confidently bet that you will not be able to find a similar article on the internet that covers a bedroom guitarist’s relationship with a specific instrument! 🙂 That’s why you should sign up with my newsletter below and allow me to send notifications, so you can always get notified of new content like this asap!
Thanks for visiting my blog and supporting me so far! I will hopefully see you in the next review here!
Osman Cenan Çiğil – cigilovic.com