For decades, guitarists all over the world have painstakingly searched for the perfect guitar. For players with the means, these perfect guitars often take the form of Strats, Teles, and Les Pauls from the 50’s and 60’s. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t famous musicians with unlimited funds. Workaday players need a guitar that’s versatile, looks great, sounds great, feels great, and doesn’t break the bank. That’s quite a tall order. Some players search their entire life for a guitar that sits at the perfect intersection of quality, price, tone, and versatility. Luckily, for over 30 years Ibanez has put that very guitar within the reach of players with even the most limited budgets: the Ibanez Artist Series.
Still available today with a variety of finishes and cosmetic flourishes, the Ibanez Artist has a history dating back to 1974. The Artist Series moniker was originally applied to a variety of Ibanez body shapes, including the Iceman and various hollow- and semi-hollow guitars. Eventually these models were given their own designations, and the iconic double-cutaway became known simply as The Artist. Adopted by players such as Steve Miller and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, the Ibanez Artist was one of the most popular guitars of the 1970’s. In fact, Weir’s fondness for the Artist led to the creation of his own Ibanez signature model, the Bob Weir BWM1BS.
Over the years, Ibanez halted the production of the Artist guitars a number of times. Here’s the timeline according to the Ibanez Wiki page: “Due to popularity of the various Superstrat models of the late-1980s, production of Artist models halted during 1988 (although the Artfield series which contains some similar designs was introduced that year) and 1989. The Artist line was brought back for 1990 only to once more see production halted after 1992. The series was reintroduced in 1996 and has remained in continuous production since.”
Throughout its career, the Artist has been offered in a variety of configurations including a double-neck version, a brass hardware model, and various inlay and flame top versions. To this day, Ibanez offers the Artist in 5 distinct models, from the Bubinga-topped AR325 ($599) to the AR2619 Prestige, which features upgraded tonewoods and hardware ($2299). But no matter which model Artist you choose, you simply can’t go wrong.
Let’s talk hardware and construction. When it comes to quality, the Ibanez Artist is not built like other “budget” guitars. Ibanez doesn’t dump a boatload of money into marketing and endorsements the way the other big guitar makers do, so money spent on an ibanez guitar goes a lot further, and it shows. Every Ibanez Artist features a 3-piece Maple set neck, dual Tri-Tone tapped humbuckers, a Mahogany body, and a top made from a gorgeous tonewood like figured Bubinga or flamed Maple. If wood grain tops aren’t your thing, you can even find solid-color models from previous years in a variety of colors, as well as models featuring elaborate neck inlays and Abalone binding.
Cosmetic features are great, but our favorite thing about the Ibanez Artist is the variety of tones available at the flick of a switch. The Artist’s Super 58 humbuckers are equipped with a Tri-Tone switch that lets players swap between series mode, parallel mode, and tapped single coil. With an additional 3-way switch to toggle between neck and bridge pickups, the Ibanez Artist offers a total of 15 pickup combinations! Say it with me: FIFTEEN different tones. And that doesn’t even account for tone knob and volume variations. As for the tone, the Super 58 pickups rest solidly in the “classic rock” category, with plenty of low end growl, high frequency chime, and a nice midrange honk when run in coil tap mode.
With most models of the Artist retailing under $1000, it’s no surprise that the Ibanez Artist is one of Ibanez’s most popular guitars. Unfortunately, many players have been burned before by the lure of a “budget” guitar. When it comes to the Ibanez Artist, the question we receive more than any other is “sure it’s got good specs, and the price is right, but how does it play?” Our answer is a single word: AWESOME. These guitars feel incredibly solid, with perfect balance, and sustain for days. The glued-in set neck increases sustain, while feeling incredibly natural and playable. Unlike the ultra-thin Wizard III neck featured on Ibanez’s more shred-friendly guitars, Artist models feature a vintage-style 12″ fretboard radius, and a thicker C-shape neck that is comparable to 60’s-style Gibson necks.
As the guitar industry continues to grow and change, it seems like the bigger a guitar company gets, the lower their quality standards are on their inexpensive models. Not so with Ibanez! Even the least expensive beginner model Ibanez guitars arrive at our shop with proper action and intonation, with all the knobs, jacks, and switches perfectly tight, with no wiggle or play – and the Artist is no exception. We sell dozens of Artist models per year, and every single one is a perfect player right out of the box. No wonky necks or sharp fret ends, no dead spots or buzzy frets. Just a nice, clean, well-made guitar that won’t break the bank.
Versatility, tone, aesthetics, and price. No matter which way you slice it, the Ibanez Artist is the perfect guitar. Try one or buy one ASAP. You won’t be sorry.
Never played an Ibanez Artist? Stop by Guitar Hangar in Brookfield, CT today and try one out! Got a special order in mind? We are a licensed Ibanez dealer – if they make it, we can get it! Contact Guitar Hangar today to check for availability on your custom order today!
270 Federal Road
Brookfield, CT 06804