Ibanez Les Paul copy Reviews
I bought these two guitars used, one at a music sale, one from classified ads.
I liked the looks (classic!) and feel of these guitars, and the price (now equivalent to 160 $ US each) is of course a lot lower than that of any 'original' Les Paul.
Well, this is actually why I'm writing all this. A lot of people including the reviewers here on this site are stating that their Ibanez Les Paul Bolt-on-neck-model would sound like (or be close to)a Gibson Les Paul. Owning and playing two of them, and having played 'real' Gibson Les Pauls, I can only state that they DO NOT SOUND AT ALL LIKE A GIBSON LES PAUL (or any other solidbody Les Paul copy made to the original specs). And that's quite understandable, since we are dealing here with two types of guitar which are totally different in their principles of construction (though not in their looks).
It helps to think of the Ibanez Les Paul Bolt-on-neck-model as a small archtop electric guitar with sustain block and very little acoustic resonance, rather comparable to a miniature 'ES-335', but with a bolt-on neck (wich makes it more percussive); or compare it to a Telecaster Thinline with RW-fretboard, good sustain and the looks of a LP-guitar.
Anyway, it has an 'acoustic-electric' feel to it, and that makes it an interesting model of its own right, IMHO. The pickups sound good, not mushy like many humbuckers do, and the overall sound is great.
You can try and get a B.B. King-like sound and feel out of one of those guitars...
Anyway, I would really like to use them more for playing my blues-inspired music live, but there'S ONE BIG PROBLEM with it, - and I'm very surprised that hardly anyone on the corresponding web pages mentions it (second reason for my posting this). The problem with these guitars is that they tend to be very microphonic, especially when you use plenty of gain (not necessarily distortion) to overdrive your tube amp. Talking about a TS9 at full 'level' with 'drive' low into a fully turned up 70's Fender. You "just can't do that on stage" with this guitar, you'll get any kind of microphonic feedback.
And that's probably due to the hollowed-out construction of these guitars. So maybe that's why no one makes a similar guitar these days, although it seems otherwise to be well-sounding and economic. First I thought it was just the pickups, so I considered giving them a pot-waxing procedure. But I'm afraid that doesn't resolve the problem. Maybe you'd have to stuff the body cavities with some resonance-dampening material. But would it still sound acoustic-electric after that?
Anyone with an idea how to handle that problem, please write back to me: <email@example.com> Thanks a lot!!!
My Ibanez Les Pauls: '76 Custom (Lawsuit headstock, black with all the bindings, gold parts) &'77 Standard Gold Top (Tulip headstock, nickel parts), both with bolt-on-neck, each with 2 original PAF-like pickups (Super 70's for the Gold Top). Made in Japan, of course.
Picture the corresponding Gibson Les Paul models, and you know pretty exactly what they look like (well, except the bolt-on-necks and the Guild-type 'tulip' headstock on one).
Construction, though, is very different from a Gibson LP: body (could be some sort of mohagony, but with a lot less weight, sandwiched from two parts plus thin layers) and, instead of the maple top a sort-of-archtop made from plywood (birch, I was told). So, there is a cavity under the pickups, and this makes it sort of a hollowbody-guitar. Do not mistake a Bolt-on-Ibanez-LP for a solid body! It is none, and it will never sound like one. Also, the neck is at a flatter angle to the body (more like the 1953 Les Pauls), and the body top is flatter than a Gibson's.
Necks are 3-piece maple with rosewood fretboard. Neck on the 'Custom' is rather flat, with flat frets, fast to play, as you'd expect on a guitar with it's looks. Neck on the Gold Top is more like 50's style Gibson-type (round and rather fat, suits my hands very well) with (what appears to be original) jumbo frets, very nice for bendings. So, these two guitars fell and play very different, while their tone is very close (see that heading).
ACTION, SETUP, PICKUPS, FINISH
Action on the two guitars (remember: they are OLD and USED !) is great though different on both guitars: low and fast on the Custom, rather high yet smooth on the gold Top, owing to the jumbo frets - which is excellent for bluesy lead guitar, especially with medium gauge strings (.11 or more).
I recommend to adjust the neck pickup very low (away from the strings) to compensate the amount of bass you get in that position, and the bridge pickup in a rather normal distance (much closer to the strings) to help compensate the difference in volume (make it as loud as the neck pickup) and get a tone that is not all too different (more middle tone). You may also want to try the tone pot on this pickup (on the neck pickup, leave it at ten!).
The finish on the 'Custom' is very well executed, while the gold on the 'Gold Top' isn't really quite convincing, compared to its Gibson reference model. The Finish on my 'Gold Top' is quite a bit chipped (i got it that way), while the 'Custom' is still a beauty. Overall quality of materials and workmanship is good, tuners could be better.
LIVE PLAYING, RELIABILITY, DURABILITY
Live playing - yes, I see no problem... IF you can handle the microphonic sound (see that heading). I'd like to try them live more often, but I can't really handle that problem at higher volumes!
Otherwise, I see no problem. Tuning stability is OK, may improve with new tuners. Finish will last. Strap buttons are OK. Yes, these are very stable guitars that won't easily fall apart or break (like Gibsons will, if ever you let one fall on its headstock).
I've been playing guitar for over 20 years, I own a couple of Strat-type guitars (copies) and one Les Paul (real) copy.
These Ibanez guitars are very affordable, look cool, play very well, are wellcrafted and reliable, and they have a good and unique sound (though not at all Les-Paul-like!), that suits my style of blues-inspired playing. If only I could cope with the microphonic sound problem... For me, it's not a must-have (like a Strat), but a very interesting alternative! Check it out, bluesplayer.
If you have an advice concerning the microphonic problem, please write to me: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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