This happened yesterday. Ibanez opened their September ’21 accounts with another iteration of the outstanding AZ model; the AZ Essential (AZES in short). Seeing an absence of the AZ in a Standard offering (Premiums & Prestiges might be a tricky affair in terms of pricing for beginners), we just know this would happen. So the AZES is an affordable AZ, retailing at USD299. Looks-wise, it retains the AZ outline that many players embrace in terms of ergonomics. In view of the instrument’s affordability in mind, the following details are not featured:
- Seymour Duncan pickups
- Gotoh locking tuners / bridge
- SS frets
- roasted maple neck
In fact, the instrument features a poplar body & jatoba fretboard. In-house pickups are used this time; Essentials single coils (n/m) & an Accord humbucker (b). There is a major departure in feel here that ardent fans need to take note of – the 9.8″ fretboard radius & the 25″ scale length. It will manifest a less snappy tone but the PRS Silver Sky experience have taught us how satisfying a 25″ scale guitar could be.
Three positive take-aways here: 1) T106 whammy bridge 2) dyna-MIX9 switch 3) Split shaft tuners. The former offers a non-intrusive design in the likes of Fender’s bent saddles but with rounded surfaces which are hand friendly. We always look forward to a pleasant playing experience, not another episode of getting the picking hand gored by protruding screws. The dyna-MIX9 on board means you can still enjoy the extra pickup configurations of the Premium & Prestige settings.
If that AZES40 (first pic on top) looks familiar, then it might have been deeply inspired by the RX40 seen here. The latter is also an affordable offering which was discontinued in the late ’90s (’98 maybe, can’t really remember) & trickled into the GIO range – the GRX40. My experiene with the RX40 (yes, I used to own one) – very similar vibes to what Squier offered back then. However, the guitar remained functional & fault free.
Ibanez is making its intention clear; the AZ models are going into other manifestations because it is slowly becoming (if it is not already) the manufacturer’s flagship model appealing to the non-metal / shred campers. It is a more sensible move as opposed to making the RG design conform to a more traditional spec.
Leaving you with this launch video clip of the AZES. Fujita’s major involvement in this was unexpected, really, considering his inclinations to the higher tiered instruments regardless of the brand name.
Pics: Ibanez / Ibanez Fandom