Hello there and welcome back to another cool guitar review article for you! This time we will be looking at one of the most legendary guitar designs ever, the Ibanez RG550! In this Ibanez RG550 review article, I will provide a short history of the Ibanez RG guitars and also a demo video of my Ibanez RG550 Purple Neon.
For those who have never heard of the Ibanez brand, here’s a quick introduction. Ibanez is a Japanese guitar brand owned by the Hoshino Gakki company in Nagoya, Japan. Formerly known as Hoshino Shoten actually started as a bookstore also selling sheet music back in 1908 in Japan!
They quickly started selling musical instruments under the Hoshino Gakki company and also importing guitars made by a Spanish luthier Salvador Ibanez. In 1957, they decided to use Ibanez as the brand name, thus becoming one of the biggest musical instrument companies in the world.
Just like many other huge guitar brands at the early stages, Ibanez also didn’t have a factory of their own in the beginning and acted as a guitar trading company. Fender was also in the same situation until the company was sold to CBS as well as Gibson had a similar relationship with its parent company Chicago Musical Instruments.
Interestingly, this was true for Ibanez until a much more recent era. Around the mid-60s, the Fujigen factory which was manufacturing guitars for Ibanez had grown rapidly and in 1965, the company built a new factory in Matsumoto.
During the 60s’, it was one of the first guitar and musical instrument companies that made a massive impact in the USA and Europe with its clone guitars (which is called the lawsuit era). They eventually created guitar designs that are considered classics today.
Short History of Ibanez RG Guitars
As Gibson brought suit against Ibanez due to their clone guitars, Hoshino Gakki did not really want to fight against it as the company could be in the same situation not just with Gibson but also with other guitar manufacturers. This era was the triggering moment for Ibanez to take a look at the company’s long-term ambition in the guitar business.
Through the 70s, Ibanez worked with various artists who featured Ibanez’s original designs such as Paul Stanley, Steve Miller, George Benson and Bob Weir. However, moving forward with the 80s shredders era, they still had issues with their brand identity. Actually, what Ibanez wanted was someone like Eddie Van Halen and what he did for the Kramer brand.
Ibanez had already worked with legendary guitar players such as Lee Ritenour, Joe Pass, Steve Lukather and Alan Holdsworth, but the company was missing a rockstar image that could boost the brand’s identity.
After having long discussions and meetings, they decided to go to Steve Vai! Vai was already getting a lot of attention when he joined Frank Zappa at the age of 20 years old. Later, he replaced Yngwie Malmsteen in Alcatrazz and also released his debut album. Around 1985, he joined David Lee Roth’s band, taking giant steps into the rock music scene already.
Vai was already cooperating with other guitar brands such as Kramer and Yamaha, but his customisation needs were usually neglected and he ended up with pretty much the same standard models that these companies manufactured with some tweaks for him.
Ibanez eventually managed to contact Steve Vai and got his attention and their cooperation which changed the guitar designs profoundly just started! Legendary luthier, Mace Bailey at Ibanez made prototypes for Steve Vai based on his input and came up with the JEM design, which would later give birth to the legendary RG series.
When JEM design was first introduced to the masses in the NAMM show, it completely blew away the audience and got praised as the ultimate alternative guitar design to actually buying a custom-made guitar.
Due to excellent sales figures, Ibanez also came up with RG550, a JEM design but without the edgy aesthetics of the original Vai design.
Since then RG design guitars have been released with additional variations throughout the years. As you can understand, one can easily trace RG’s roots back to these modern and edgy guitar designs that rocked the world.
And as a matter of fact, the Ibanez RG series is now considered one of the most distinct and unique guitar designs of all time and is praised as a classic series. Just like your Stratocasters, Les Pauls or Teles.
A Short History: Ibanez JEM & RG by 5 Watt World
If you want to know more about all these cool details and the history of Ibanez RG guitars, I definitely suggest you check out the “A Short History: Ibanez JEM & RG” video by 5 Watt World. There are so many cool things you can learn from this channel!
As I mentioned in the history section, Ibanez RG models have been around for quite some time with many variations. Even though the RG series is considered a classic model in the guitar world, they have been also modernised further with more progressive features that help adapt the design to the modern guitarists.
Fortunately, Ibanez releases their legendary RG models from time to time! I believe they decided to reissue the original RG series back in 2018 under Genesis Collection.
Ibanez RG550 is the guitar that I used to dream about when I was a very young guitar player. Unfortunately, I was never able to buy one. But now while almost approaching my 40s, I’m able to collect and hold more guitars in my collection!
From the very first moment, I noticed this release, I wanted to get myself one and finally received my order from Thomann! Since then, I spent my savings on different guitars and pieces of equipment, however, I finally got ready for it and went for it.
I preferred the Purple Neon colour option as the other colours which are Desert Sun Yellow and Road Flare Red too in your face in my opinion.
Before I share my thoughts on Ibanez RG550 Genesis Collection, let’s have a quick look at the tech specs below.
Ibanez RG550 Tech Specs
|Body Type||Double cutaway RG - Solid body|
|Neck joint||Bolt-on (4 bolts)|
|Knob style||Plastic knobs (black)|
|Neck type||Super Wizard|
|Neck material||5pc Maple/Walnut neck|
|Scale length||648mm (25.5 inches)|
|Fingerboard inlays||Black dot inlay|
|Frets||24 / Jumbo frets|
|Nut||Locking nut (43mm)|
|Bridge pickup||Ibanez V8 (Passive/Alnico)|
|Middle pickup||Ibanez S1 (Passive/Alnico)|
|Neck pickup||Ibanez V7 (Passive/Ceramic)|
|Controls||1 volume, 1 tone, 5-way pickup selector|
|Colour options||Desert Sun Yellow, Road Flare Red, Purple Neon|
Ibanez RG550 Review
As you can see from the tech specs, Ibanez RG550 is a true reproduction of the original RG series that was released in the late 80s. It features one of the most distinct guitar body designs, Ibanez RG!
The one I got weighs 3.8kg and I think this is pretty OK for an Ibanez RG body guitar.
Superb Neck with Some Flaws
The neck is Ibanez’s Super Wizard neck which is extremely comfortable and built for shredding. As you can imagine, back in the 80s, shred guitar was a thing and Ibanez RG550 was made to handle any shredders’ needs. This Super Wizard neck consists of 5 pieces of maple/walnut to provide better stability.
You have also high-quality, made-in-Japan Gotoh tuners, and jumbo frets with supposedly feature Ibanez Prestige fret edge treatment.
The reason I say supposedly is that I also purchase the Ibanez RG565 Laser Blue and I think the fret edge treatment is not the same for these almost identical guitars coming from the same Genesis Collection. I can feel the sharp edges a bit more on my RG550 than on the RG565.
While RG565 coming from the same collection has a flawless fret job, RG550 has some fret sprouts. This is actually at a very minimal phase, but it’s still concerning as you would not expect this on a Japanese-made Ibanez.
RG550 features a classic H/S/H pickup configuration. Even though you may think this is a pretty generic feature, Ibanez JEM and RG models were the pioneers in this pickup configuration with a 5-way pickup selector.
This sought-after design actually offers a vast array, of in-between guitar tones (especially 2nd and 4th positions) that are unique to Ibanez RG design.
Pickups are classic Ibanez V8 (Passive/Alnico) on the bridge, Ibanez V7 (Passive/Ceramic) on the neck and Ibanez S1 (Passive/Alnico) in the middle positions.
There are many comments on the internet claiming that these pickups sound flat, but I think they are an excellent fit for this guitar. I think you can achieve any guitar tones with these pickups and the switching configurations. I don’t think I will consider a pickup upgrade in the future and definitely keep my Ibanez RG550 in the original configuration.
The Original Ibanez Edge Tremolo
The tremolo is also an outstanding Ibanez Edge model tremolo. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of floating bridges, but it gives you so many options with regard to the amount of expressive control over your instrument.
One thing I noticed about the Ibanez Edge tremolo is that the tremolo bar holder piece tends to turn easily which makes you feel like the tremolo bar comes extremely loose all of a sudden but then it grabs the walls again and becomes sturdy.
When I researched this issue, I found out that the hex screw head in the back of the guitar should be tightened accordingly. Again this is different on my Ibanez RG565.
On my Ibanez RG565, the tremolo bar is extremely tight so you can not really grab and bring it to the position you want without changing the pitch.
I understand these are personal preferences and may be different for each player, but I would expect consistency among the same Genesis Collection instruments. There are a couple of inconsistencies I was able to spot between the two models. Don’t forget to check out this very insightful article below!
Check out my Ibanez RG550 vs Ibanez RG565 – The Costliest Article! here
Apart from these little issues and inconsistencies I was able to spot, Ibanez RG550 is a true gem and an extremely beautiful instrument. As with any RG-style guitar, it is so much easier to play. It almost feels like you are cheating!
Don’t get me wrong, these little details are very important if your expectations have been set by the idea that you are buying a Japanese-made Ibanez. However, I think we should take this series as a pretty generic, classic model that may also come with some flaws. To be brutally honest, the price tag of these guitars is too good to be true!
RG550 retails for around €899 at Thomann which is crazy! Made in Japan, authentic, outstanding, and a pioneer in guitar design history is now a classic Ibanez RG at this price.
You can not miss that opportunity! Check out all the Ibanez RG models under Genesis Collection here
Ibanez RG550 Review & Sound Demo (no talking)
In order to provide you with some of the endless sonic possibilities Ibanez RG550 offers, I prepared a demo video, no-talking style!
I used my Ibanez RG550 Purple Neon, ENGL E570 all-tube preamp, ENGL Cabloader and Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini going direct into my RME Babyface PRO interface, recorded in Reaper with some room and chamber reverbs by Lexicon!
Note that, I am using the factory strings by D’Addario. I think these are one of the worst guitar strings ever! I used them for a long time when I was young, but no more! They immediately start getting corroded. I would definitely restring this guitar for long-term use.
As you can hear from the video, Ibanez RG550 can deliver a huge array of guitar tones thanks to the edgy design with the unique H/S/H pickup combination and 5-way switch. These in-between positions are very unique and I think they are known as classic Ibanez RG tones.
One of the problems with this instrument is that the neck pickup sounds a bit too loud in comparison to other pickups. I mean, for sure I adjusted the heights accordingly, but even though the neck pickup height is pretty low, it immediately jumps at you when you switch to the neck position.
Although this is not the best situation, I must say the neck pickup sounds amazing! So creamy and fluid takes the gain so well and sings!
Also, don’t forget to check out the costliest article on cigilovic.com in which I compare RG550 and RG565 against each other with so many details here.
Check out my Ibanez RG550 vs Ibanez RG565 – The Costliest Article! here
Update: As I mentioned in the comparison article, I decided to return RG550 back to Thomann due to sharp fret ends. I think the amount of sharpness was at an acceptable level, however, I did not feel comfortable holding a brand-new instrument with this issue.
I hope you find this Ibanez RG550 review article honest and insightful! 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