Ask any seasoned guitarist and they’ll tell you that the name Ibanez is synonymous with metal. This Ibanez doesn’t fit that mold at all. Some might say this is a developmental detour for Ibanez. In this Ibanez Artcore AM53 review we’ll take a look at Ibanez’s admittedly non-metal guitar for the beginner. Let’s get started.
Overview of Ibanez Artcore AM53
The AM53 is full scale at 24.75″. The body, back and neck are made of Sapele, which is a substitute for mahogany. Sapele shares many of the tonal qualities of mahogany and most ears won’t hear any difference at all.
The body is has a satin finish, which accentuates the grain of the wood. The AM53 is a semi-hollow bodied guitar meaning the electronics and bridge are mounted to a central block whilst the majority of the rest of the body is hollow. For me this is more of an aesthetic. It’ll produce a little more when completely unplugged, but nothing like an acoustic guitar. The body has “F-holes” cut to maintain the retro jazz/blues style.
The neck is made from Nato, which again is a sustainable substitute for mahogany. The consensus is that you won’t notice too much difference from mahogany. Nato is also cheaper, which contributes to the lower cost of he guitar. The neck is set in, rather than bolted to the body. The neck has a matte gloss type finish, which is smooth and easy to traverse.
The fingerboard is made from walnut with 22 medium frets atop of it. Acrylic white dot inlays mark out the key frets. At the head end of the fingerboard we find a plastic nut. It’s not a surprise to find plastic being used as the nut material for a guitar in this price range. I’d always prefer something else, but at least it appears to be cut well, which makes a difference to the way it plays.
The headstock is pretty simple affair, slightly crafted at the top. Tuning is handled by a set of standard Ibanez die-cast tuning machines. They’re not going to set the world alight, but the do their job well enough.
The guitar is produced in Indonesia, which keeps the price down. There’s a stigma around guitars produced in Indonesia, but it varies from model to model. The AM53 seems to be pretty well made. You may want to give the frets a polish, but otherwise it should play pretty well out of the box.
Of course it doesn’t hurt to have it professionally set up by your local guitar store, just to make sure everything is optimized. Now a little about the electronics. The AM53 comes equipped with two passive ceramic humbucker pickups. Both are Infinity R pickups, which as you would expect are fairly entry level.
To be honest they work pretty well with the context of the guitar. It’s not meant for high gain styles, so it doesn’t need active pickups. They’re about right economically too. If you wanted to upgrade the pickups to something more middle of the road, you’d be paying a good portion of the total price of the guitar to do so.
The pickups are controlled by a 3-way selector switch. In the first position you’re using the bridge humbucker. In the middle position you’re using both humbuckers, and in the third position you’re using the neck pickup. I don’t like the pickup housing, which seems to be prevalent in entry level guitars. Perhaps that’s just a personal preference, but I’d have preferred a little styling here.
The bridge pickup sounds great clean. With the tone turned up the tone begins to break up in a 60’s rock style. The neck pickup provides a wide range of tones from fuzzy to ultra clean. It’s a great guitar for jazz, blues, funk and classic rock styles. Blend some overdrive for a variety of tones from blues to classic rock.
There are just two control knobs, one for master tone and the other for volume, which makes it nice a simple for an entry level guitarist. The bridge is a fairly reasonably priced Gibraltar Performer all set up with a quick change tailpiece, to make string changes simple. Another important feature for a beginner.
The guitar comes with a set of .010’s attached. It’s a nice surprise that the string aren’t actually that bad. Usually guitars in this price range sport very cheap strings. You’ll probably still want to swap them for your favored brand and gauge.
The AM53 sports stylish looks and surprisingly decent pickups. They won’t set the world alight, but they are suited very well to the context of the guitar. The finish to the body and neck work well with the semi-hollow design. The matte finish to the neck makes traversing much easier.
Probably the best thing about this guitar is the price. There aren’t many semi-hollow bodied guitars available in this price range. Even less that play so well. This is a great choice for blues, jazz funk or classic rock players that are on a budget. I don’t think it’s a candidate for modding because the cost of decent pickups are likely to cost as much as the guitar. But if you’re looking for something for blues that oozes style the AM53 might be one to check out.
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