A massive beast of a guitar by the extended range pioneers Ibanez!
Ibanez have never been shy when it comes to innovations. In 1990, they introduced Steve Vai’s ‘Universe’ – the first mass-produced 7-string guitar ever. New Metal trendsetters Korn quickly adapted to the 7-string for extra heavy, downtuned riffage and helped further establishing the 7-string in the mid 90s. The New Metal boom spread like wildfire – and the 7-string was an elementary part of it.
But what if 7 strings are not capable of delivering enough low end? In 2003, Ibanez artists Meshuggah asked the L.A. Custom shop to build them 8-string RGs and those created a serious hype. Ibanez finally released the first mass-produced 8-string guitar in 2007 – the RG2228. The impact on the modern Metal scene and guitar market kept growing, so more major guitar brands came out with their own 8-string models.
With the rising popularity of 8-strings and lower tunings, it was only a matter of time until someone would put out a mass-produced 9-string. And as always, Ibanez was leading the pack. At NAMM 2013, they introduced a prototype and one year later, the RG90 Prestige and RG9 went into production.
- 28“ neck
- Basswood body
- Maple + wenge 5P Wizard 9 Prestige neck
- Rosewood fretboard
- Invisible Shadow finish
- Bareknuckle Canine set
- Gibraltar Standard-9 bridge
When I opened up the RG90’s custom case, I was blown away by the yellow plush interior. It creates a great contrast against the flat black finish of the RG90 and just looks so fancy and boutique. My second impression was something along the lines of “Wow, this thing is gargantuan!” – but only until I picked it up. The RG90 is light as a feather! This beast most definitely weighs less than my RG2228A and M80M, I can tell you that much. Definitely something you wouldn’t expect from such a massive guitar.
The quality of the RG90 doesn’t fail to impress either, even above and beyond your usual Prestige Ibanez standards. The whole thing oozes top notch craftsmanship and the custom features that have been applied to the RG90’s body make quite the impact. For one, the neck joint is very sleak and almost comparable to the J.Custom style neck joints. The RG90 also comes with a lower horn scoop for easier high fret access. These tweaks make the RG90 feel more sleek and fast.
The Wizard 9 neck has top notch fretwork, an amazingly smooth finish and a perfect profile, which makes you feel right at home on it. Of course we’re talking about a pretty wide neck here and my relatively tiny hands are in for quite a stretch, but the neck profile makes it all feel a little more easy to get around. What’s harder for me personally is the orientation. 9 strings are a lot to wrap your head around. So if anything, the limit is your capability of figuring it all out. The RG90’s playability will make it as easy as possible for the player to get into the 9-string world.
The hardtail Gibraltar Standard-9 bridge is a solid, comfortable and easy to set up unit – an absolute workhorse of a bridge. I would love to see Ibanez using Hipshot bridges instead, but only for the sake of the aesthetics. The functionality of the Gibraltar is beyond question. The rest of the hardware and tweaked Gotoh Tuners have a high end feel to them. The Gotohs easily fit the .90 stock string that the guitar comes with from the factory and it seems like it could fit a much larger string. The string through body ferrules on the back of the body even allow you to use strings with bass string ball ends – great thinking!
The matte black “Invisible Shadow” finish feels very smooth. I’m no stranger to it, since I already own a RGD2127 with the same finish. It is a little more prone to chip than glossy finishes, but it looks so much better than the same old glossy black. However, I think an outside of the norm guitar like the RG90 deserves a more outisde of the box finish. Ibanez are playing it safe here and I understand that, but I feel like the target group for instruments like this are not only open minded for more exciting finishes, but even prefer them.
This is my first experience with Bareknuckle Pickups. As far as I’m concerned, the Canines are the 9-string equivalent of the Black Dogs. These pickups produce a very aggressive midrange and sound great with the 28″ scale neck, as long as you’re operating across the 8 “top” strings.
The lowest string is tuned to C# and its sound will polarize for sure. The factory gauge of .90 may seem pretty huge for a guitar, but I’d definitely suggest to put on a .100 string for a tighter feel and sound. When you hit the open string, it takes a while until it swings back into pitch and I was a little underwhelmed with the sustain when playing fretted notes. The tone seems to die out rather quickly. I’m wondering if a longer scale like the M80M’s 29.4″ would have helped in this regard, but maybe the obsession with low tunings is just getting to a point, where we’re losing the battle against physics?! I do feel like the lowest string won’t be utilized for chords much, but will rather be doomed to serve as an effect/open note string.
But hear for yourself in the clip below. I have to mention that I intentionally tried to stay away from tweaking the tone to hell and back to make the lowest string more audible. My approach from 6 across 7 to 8 strings is that I try to find a high gain tone that works equally well for all of them, so I applied the same logic to the 9-string.
The Ibanez RG90 is a top notch guitar with an outstanding level of quality and craftsmanship. Ibanez have knocked it out of the park with the fit and finish of this instrument. The tweaks that have been applied to the RG 90 body, the high end pickups and even the fancy case definitely put this in the high end ballpark of the guitar market. The list price of $4,399 reflects that, but I personally find that too steep – despite all the great features of the RG90. For those of you who can’t resist trying a 9-string Ibanez, yet can’t afford to pay such a premium price, there is always the cheaper RG9 for just under $1,000 street price.
I don’t see the 9-string having as much of an impact on the music scene and guitar market as the 8-string, let alone the 7-string. Sure, some people will buy it for shock value… who raises an eyebrow at an 8-string anymore?! But ultimately, I’m sure the 9-string will remain a niche instrument for players operating way outside the box. I personally don’t have much use for the extra low range, but it’s fun experimenting and I’m sure someone out there will do great things with it.