Looking for a guitar for high gain styles that won’t break the bank? In this Ibanez RG421 review we’ll discover that this affordable metal machine is more versatile that you might think. We’ll find out if the RG241 justifies it’s place in the market. Let’s get started.
Overview of Ibanez RG421
The RG421 is a full scale (25.5″) guitar with a maple neck and a Meranti body. Meranti is a cheap but tough wood. It’s fair to say it’s used for it’s cost rather than it’s tonal properties. It’s not going to be as good tonally as mahogany or alder for example. The body contains contoured cuts so that the guitar rests against your body comfortably.
The body is finished quite nicely in gloss. The neck is the Wizzard III style with a satin finish. This makes it flat and fast to play. The neck is bolted to the body, which does detract from the resonance slightly. Although the body is made from cheap wood, the guitar is light and reasonably well balanced.
There’s a little bit of neck dive, which is where the headstock dips towards the floor when the neck is unsupported. I don’t think it’s enough to affect your playing position though. The fingerboard is made from Jatoba, which shares many tonal characteristics with Rosewood, but it’s a little lighter in color. Pre 2018 models feature a Rosewood fingerboard.
There are 24 jumbo frets, so plenty of room to maneuver and great for beginners. There’s a fixed bridge with 6 screw saddles for easy intonation adjustments. The bridge is string through, so you feed the strings through the back of the guitar. No real complaints about the bridge. It won’t light the world on fire, but it’s good enough.
At the heastock end you’ll find a black plastic nut. If you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know my feelings on plastic nuts. This is a $299 guitar, so we should expect cost cutting measures. You can always get the nut swapped out at your local guitar shop.
The RG421 has Ibanez’s standard die-cast tuning machines, which do their job well. The guitar seems to hold it’s tune pretty well. The Ibanez headstock is always a plus for me. It looks evil!
The noise is handled by two Quantum H ceramic humbucking pickups. Although they’re ceramic pickups they certainly pack a punch. There’s an interesting pickup configuration that opens up many tonal possibilities.
The 5-way selector blade allows you to select from 5 difference pickup configurations:
- 1 – Bridge humbucker only. This is good for full clean tones and of course for serious high gain
- 2 – Split single coil. Inner coils of the two humbuckers. Produces a strat sound with punchy high ends
- 3 – Both humbuckers. Thick and powerful tone. Good for classic crunch
- 4 – Neck humbucker in parallel. Uses the neck humbucker as two single coils. Good for funk
- 5 – Neck humbucker. You’ll need to boost the top end here to stop the tone breaking up when overdriven
Although Ibanez are synonymous with metal and shredding, it’s nice that there are some other tonal possibilities achievable with the RG421. There are two further control knobs. One controls the master tone and the other the master volume. The pickups and controls are finished in black.
The RG421 seems to have decent natural sustain, as you’d expect from a metal guitar. It comes with a set of .010 light strings. They’re not bad but as always you might want to swap them out for your favored brand and gauge.
In terms of finish the guitar is made in Indonesia. This is purely about keeping costs down so that they can keep the price competitive. The finish on the guitar is remarkably good. No sharp frets and no discernible blemishes.
It’s quite difficult to find a guitar that’s good for high gain styles, which is also affordable. I guess it’s because most people want a strat, tele or Les Paul style guitar when they’re first starting out. Then as they learn they figure out which style they want to play.
But if you want to play metal right off the bat, then you’re forced to pay a little more. The RG421 is definitely suitable for beginners and would even suit an intermediate guitarist. You could use this guitar if you’re just starting to gig or perhaps as a backup guitar.
If you’re into metal and into Ibanez guitars you’ll recognize the hall mark features of guitars for high gain styles. I was very surprised at the versatility of the RG421, perhaps due to the interesting pickup configuration. Here are some of the best bits:
- Fast & Comfortable Neck
- Great Value Guitar For High Gain Styles
- Versatile Pickup Configuration
Largely the drawbacks of the RG421 are due to the need to keep costs low. Here are some of the worst offenders:
- Plastic Nut
- Neck Pickup Breakup
- Poor Tone Wood Choice
The RG421 is a good option for a beginner who is interested in playing high gain styles. It may suit intermediate guitarists, but I’d be inclined to go for the S521 if you have an extra $100. However the RG421 makes a favorable impression due to it’s pickup configuration, which provides a degree of tonal flexibility. There’s no doubt that this guitar is squarely aimed at those into higher gain styles.
If you’re a beginner looking for something that’s not aimed at high gain styles, take a look at my post about beginners electric guitars. I hope you’ve found this post useful. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page.
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