Ibanez RGIR38BFE (Iron Label, 8-string)

Discussion in 'Guitar Reviews' started by pick_d, May 28, 2018.

  1. pick_d

    pick_d SS.org Regular

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    Hello.

    I'd like to share my experience and thoughts about Ibanez RGIR38BFE which is Iron Label series. I apologize in advance for my english, just in case.

    Why this guitar:
    I wanted 8-string with active pickups (H-H), without tone pot and preferably locking tuners. Famous 2228 was a bit off my desired price range and also has 2 knobs. Some Schecters were fine, but I wasn't sure I can handle 28'' scale and I wasn't sure I would like Schecter's neck profile - I never tried it. So after googling here and there, I made a decision to either try to find RGIX28FEQM or RGIR38BFE (which has matte body and also has locking tuners, unlike its RGIR28 predecessor).
    I really didn't care much where it is made - Japan or Korea or Indonesia. I had Apex 2 (7 string - made in Indonesia) for about 9 years and had no issues - according to what luthier later said, I am lucky.

    Good things:
    • Neck profile. I haven't tried 2228, but I can say that this neck feels good - not too slippy, not too thick or thin;
    • Locking tuners;
    • EMGs and their solderless wiring system (well, that's a matter of preferences though);
    • Battery compartment in the back -- unlike some models where you have to use screwdriver and as a result - waste time and wear down screw holes;
    • Body - it is solid by all means, painted well. It also has inlayed white stripes in that binding as far as I can tell.
    What about the tone and playability overall (before modifications):
    I can't say much. This is my first 8-string, one and only. EMGs sound as EMGs though.
    Sustain is cool and larger scale makes notes clear, BUT I'm not sure that even 27 is enough for low F# 8 string , not to mention when it's .090 in C#. Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't dial a good enough (for me) tone with 808s: when 1-6 strings sound perfect, 7 sounds mediocre and 8 sounds like a muddy rope inside the bucket.

    Before buying that guitar, I was sceptical about scale length - mostly because I was worried if my left hand can handle it - unlike John Petrucci I can't extend my fingers like he does (that meme hyper-extended pinky). Now I feel that 27 is probably bare minimum for ERG. I was also thinking that .080 is probably a lot, because I prefer lighter strings, not a fan of huge tension. But it turned out that .080 is actually perfect for F# and I need higher gauge for lower notes. That was surprising for me.

    With 0.009 - 0.080 Ernie Ball set (sometimes I swap 0.080 with 0.090) the tension is pretty fine for me and the notes on high strings sounded a lot like piano.

    Bad things (I noticed):
    • Poor build quality, which applies to fretwork and nut in first place.
    • Some frets were sharp and it's noticeable (however, you should apply force to cut yourself and during regular play it's very unlikely that it could cause any problems).
    • Poor fret material. I know it's cheap nickel-silver, but why the F can't Ibanez use damn stainless steel or at least better nickel-silver? When I tried to bend strings without wound, I felt friction like I'm bending the file (rasp), not the slippy string.
    • Nut wasn't glued properly - it fell off after my first attemp to change the strings. Here's the picture.
      P_20180109_171506.jpg
      Temporarily fixed it with nail lacquer (see? sometimes having GF is useful when you play guitar).
    • Mediocre quality of a fretboard finish. I'm not a woodworker, but the rosewood seemed dirty at 2-3 frets and I wasn't able to clean it with all Dunlop stuff I bought. Made it clearer though.
    • Nut wasn't at correct height. I think it was 2 or 2.5 mm higher than it supposed to be. When I made initial setup, I was able to play with decent comfort on upper frets, but when it comes down to 1-3 frets, I had a feeling that I'm training fingers using expander. So I just removed lacquer-glued nut and filed it down, then lacquer-glued it back. That made playability so much better.
    • Grounding wire was attached to the bridge absolutely ineptly. It was covering about 40% of a slot in the bridge for 1st string. So I had to be like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible when changing 1st string.
    • Some minor issues with the back of the neck.
    I've read a lot of reports about poor quality of Iron Label's, that it's not worth the price. I can tell you that most of it is probably true. Never thought that $900-$1000 will have such issues.

    So I found a luthier and we agreed at following changes:
    • New brass nut (compatible with both .080 and .090 8th string);
    • New Jescar Evo Gold frets;
    • (Mother-of-)Pearl dots;
    • Fixing fretboard geometry issues (he noticed something that I didn't notice);
    • Tesi switch (momentary) - placed instead of volume control (I don't like why they still put it 2-3cm from the pickup);
    • Volume - moved to lower position (instead of fixed on/off kill-switch).
    Luthier also showed me some dead spots (for example 22-th fret of 4-th and 5-th strings) and fretwork issues, which are clearly visible when he applied special tricky ruler or something.
    Later he said that he found sandpaper layers in place where the neck is attached to the body which was used to correct something. I didn't see it with my eyes, but I have no reason to doubt in his words.

    After all the changes I got completely fixed guitar. It is nice to play, bending is smooth (and it doesn't feel like filing now), no dead spots etc etc. Frets are amazing, fretwork is better than on Prestige's now. Time will tell how durable Jescar Evo Gold is.
    Fretboard was filed heavily - I guess there was no other way to fix issues. Not sure if you can see it on the pics, but at the higher frets there are way less rosewood now than at the headstock. Luthier said it won't affect stability.

    Now it's completely different ergonomically. Even more, Reborn, like a Phoenix.
    That's what I expect from the guitar what I buy it. Too bad I had to spend extra money to make it the way it supposed to be in the beginning, but now I'm pretty happy with the guitar I have.

    Do I recommend buying this guitar or Iron Label at all? Well, If you can get it for a decent price AND not afraid to spend extra money - why not. Maybe I'm just unlucky and got faulty guitar and you're lucky - you'll get Iron Label with Prestige-ish level of quality for lower price.

    But for me the total cost (guitar + changes) was about $1200-1300. I could buy better guitar at this price range (however, I still might need luthiers services - can't be sure). So be careful and check before buying or face the consequences with your wallet :-D

    And also pics attached.
    P1040983.JPG P1040988.JPG P1040989.JPG P1040990.JPG P1040987.JPG P1040992.JPG
    Thanks for reading.
     
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  2. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Nice guitar and nice mods. Gold Frets are something not very usual, so thumbs up for that. I didn't quite get what the Tesi switch is for, momentary kill?

    Nevertheless, the thing you're pointing out here is not out of this world, it is ONLY a matter of GEOMETRY. If the top surface of the fingerboard was flat, it's thickness would be the same in all its length at the board's edges. As it is not flat, it can never have the same thickness at the nut and at the 24th fret. You can measure the fingerboard thickness between the 4th and 5th strings after the 24th fret and compare it with the one at the nut. You'll notice that they'll be at the same ballpark. The board's edges, however will indeed suffer a significant reduction in order to grant the desired transversal radius. This is due to the surface being cylindrical and the board's edges are not parallel to the curve's axis. GEOMETRY.

    This to say that it doesn't mean that your luthier didn't sand the fretboard, only that not as much as you think it was done. It's thickness looks pretty similar to my RG8's board thickness...
     
  3. pick_d

    pick_d SS.org Regular

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    Thanks :)

    Correct. It also acts as "dummy" to cover the hole after Volume pot has been moved to lower location - and I don't have to remove pot's cover now.

    Same (or about the same thickness) - that might be exactly the issue. To me the fretboard thickness before changes made by luthier was even (or pretty close the same) all across the fretboard - I surely remember that. It was no way near like it's on the picture now and I noticed this immediately when was receiving my guitar back.
    Before this one I always had guitars with white binding around the fretboard, so when I got RGIR38BFE - I was purely enjoying watching that fretboard THICCness. Maybe other guitars I had - they had different fretboard thickness, but I didn't see that because of binding, unlike the subject of this topic.
     
  4. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    ... maybe your luthier changed the fretboard radius?, nevertheless, the board's edge thickness at higher frets cannot be the same as the one at the lower frets in a radius fretboard. Maybe you haven't notice that. It's a matter of pure geometry and sections of cylinders (the board is not compound now is it?) and to my perception, there doesn't seams to have been done that much sanding.

    But this is all meaningless, what matters is that you're enjoying your guitar now. May she (all guitars are female gender to me) serves you well.
     
  5. pick_d

    pick_d SS.org Regular

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    Nope, I also asked him to keep it the same - he assured me he won't change it, and this guy has quite a good rep.

    Yep, that's all what matters, thank you :)
     
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  6. Exchanger

    Exchanger SS.org Regular

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    I have guitar GAS, my girlfriend has nail polish GAS, which means that if I accidentally make a dent in a guitar, she has the stuff to mask it, even the chameleon glittery things. Especially the chameleon glittery things.
     
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  7. pick_d

    pick_d SS.org Regular

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    Hey, that's what scientist call "Symbiosis"
     
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  8. auxioluck

    auxioluck Metal Teddy Bear

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    Wow, I had the EXACT same thing happen to the nut on my Iron Label 8. Fretwork is poor on it as well.

    Damn, that's crazy. I was hoping mine was just a one-off situation. Guess I'm avoiding anything Iron Label or Indo going forward from Ibanez. Such a bummer.
     
  9. karjim

    karjim Set the World Afire

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    you know what? you have a better fretboard than my m80m whick looks like a coffee table from Ikea... They call this shit rosewood. About string I play with 60mm plectrums and it compensates my 74 ona 29'4 for F and 64 on 27' for drop G#.'Iron Label or whatever you wanna name Indo Ibanez will need some serious neck job. If you ever have the pleasure to test one rg 22228 or other 27 Prestige Ibanez you ll undesrtand what is a fast neck with the real Ibanez fretwork. Anyway happy NGD the most important thing is how you feel the guitar and what slaughtery you can pull it out from a speaker
     
  10. pick_d

    pick_d SS.org Regular

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    Seems so. I've had Apex2 (made in Indonesia) and it was pretty stable - 2 or 3 times adjusted truss rod and had no neck twisting whatsoever after 9 years of use.
    And it was cheaper than this one. Either I was extremely lucky before or the quality of non-prestige Ibbies is getting lower.

    Maybe because luthier removed a lot of fretboard's surface. I've had huge "dirty" black spots at 2 and 3 frets. After refretting they were gone. Now fretboard looks much better.

    I wonder if 2228's neck and fretwork is better than I have now. Luthier made it flawlessly, but the neck profile still the same.
    Will try if I ever get near 2228.
     
  11. auxioluck

    auxioluck Metal Teddy Bear

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    Sadly, I think it's the latter. And I know MaxofMetal will agree with that as well. I'm honestly about to give up on Ibanez, because the non-MIJ quality is increasingly worse and worse, and if I'm going to spend the kind of money on a guitar that's MIJ, I'm just going to go with a custom and get exactly what I want. I can attest the same as you; even the RG7321 I got 15 years ago was better put together than most of the non-Prestige Ibbys I've touched in the last 3 years.

    I think what chaps my ass the most is that Ibanez FINALLY started getting their specs right - more wood options besides basswood and (occasionally) mahogany, better pups and hardware, more scale lengths, other inlay options BESIDES DOTS....and I was so excited to try out all these new models coming out that had specs I really wanted. And I have been disappointed every time by anything that's non-Prestige.
     
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  12. pick_d

    pick_d SS.org Regular

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    That idea buggers me since when I realized how much cash I spent to get this guitar and fix its flaws. If I saved all that cash and added up a little, I could get an 8-string Kiesel with specs I wanted with almost no compromises. That would be probably another level (but who knows, people might get unlucky with Kiesel).

    For example, I'd go with ebony fretboard, but it's not really common for Ibanez. Nickel-silver frets even on pretty expensive Ibanez guitars is a shame. Absense of locking tuners on some expensive Ibanez guitars is a shame too. Volume position near the bridge pickup might be comfortable for somebody, but not for me -- but at least I can remove pot knob easily.
    So I either have to deal with compromises when picking Ibanez and get over myself or look at another brand. So many models, but so hard to find anything appropriate.

    My next one will be either used MIJ Ibanez for a really good price or some kind of custom or semi-custom.

    And while this guitar I have now is pretty much good (considering how much work luthier put in it) and I definitely enjoy playing it, it's not that I like every part of it. I can't stop thinking about stuff that could be improved here and there which might have huge impact on comfort and overall performance.
     
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  13. auxioluck

    auxioluck Metal Teddy Bear

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    We are on the exact same wavelength here. Mine plays great, but I just can't stop thinking about the opportunities that were missed - with hardware, construction, quality control...I've had mine for a year and I can already see where the adhesive under the pinstripe "binding" is starting to peel up. It was a great guitar until the first restring.....
     
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  14. pick_d

    pick_d SS.org Regular

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    Well, that's just sad. I'd expect guitar to last (and be fully functional) a lifetime or 20-30 years at least. Can't hope to achieve this goal no more with Ibanez non-prestige :)
    At least there's positive thing - it's somewhat vintage-ish now. Price x3 if you can find a buyer.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
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  15. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Looks awesome, all said and done! :yesway:
     
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  16. soldierkahn

    soldierkahn BAD MAMMA-JAMMA Contributor

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    I seriously couldnt agree with you more man. I mean, the Edge Zero 2 trem is definitely a hell of a step up from other "budget" trems theyve created, but the build quality in the guitars suffered because of it. Now we get a nicer trem and shitty build quality, as opposed to before's shitty trem and nice build quality. I got so excited seeing all the RGD's and RGA's coming out but then when I started playing some of them I was just utterly gutted. Thats why now I just dont buy anything below Prestige level.
     
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