Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ibanez - S Series - MIK vs. MIJ

The first S Series guitars (Saber) had something to prove, as did all Ibanez guitars. Many vewied them as cheap "Jap" guitars (no offence). Ibanez proved them wrong and did quite well making quality instruments for many years after that. At some point, Ibanez rose to become a "respectable" guitar manufacturer... even above average. They continued this for several years. During this time they were starting to get into major mass production. Along with that became a need to minimize production cost etc. (long story short).

As more time passed they needed to start manufacturing guitars at different locations (read costs). They tried manufacturing some of their guitars in Korea and had been fairly successful selling those instruments. Most of them were lower/inexpensive models. After that success they started to add some of their higher end models to the Korean production lines. One thing worth mentioning is that Ibanez does not build their own guitars they contract the work out to manufacturers in different countries....

In recent history, it has become harder and harder to obtain quality woods (that's another story/post)

Anyway, Fast Forward....

Note : I wrote this a while ago. Ibanez now produces guitars from Indonesia as well.

Now all S guitars are made in korea. What has changed? Alot. If you read the book, "Ibanez the Untold Story", you will see that Ibanez themselves had concerns about exporting it's manufacturing to Korea. Well.....they made that work for a while, but when they decided to include ALL of the S series guitars (including Prestige models)....they made a huge mistake. Maybe it was because sales were down and the newly ZR equipped S MIJ weren't doing well. There weren't many mainstream guitarist playing the S either. we are.

Oh just so you know...I'm not just some guy that says this because I own this one or that one.

Those three guitars illustrate almost every iteration of S made. 1990-2006...

ZR trem, Lo Pro and Original Edge

ANNJ Wizard II (Prestige 5pc.)
ANNJ Wizard I (1pc.)
Standard Neck Joint (1pc.)

All bound and the top of the line S guitars available at the time. It wasn't long after 97 that you had to buy a "Prestige S" to get what was once available as a 540....think about it. Then they moved it all to Korea. what has changed?


The Korean made S series guitar is thicker. Not only the horns, but the entire body. You can clearly see the increase in the horn size from some of the pictures posted on the forums. The thing that is difficult to see... is the thickness towards the center of the body. It is not proportional to the increased thickness of the horns. It is proportionally thicker. At least that is my experience.

The neck pocket is not routed as deep as it used to be. Even the guitars that appear to have "decent" routes are not as deep. It appears as if they are, but they are not. Why?..The thickness of the fretboard and binding has increased. This gives the illusion that it's as deep, on some examples, but in the end it's still not as deep.

Overall, this makes the guitar heavier and takes away from some of what used to make the S a thin/sleek guitar.

And, the shallow neck pocket joint (SNPJ) requires the pups and bridge to be raised higher above the body. Again, this takes away from the sleekness of the guitar.

Obiviously there are other perceived differences that I won't bother going into at this point.

More pics...

1997 S540FMTP(MIJ) Neck Pocket....

2006 S2170(MIK) "Prestige" Neck Pocket....

This is what it does to the bridge and pup height....


All Korean made S guitars are equipped with Wizard II necks, which are thicker. The difference with the S is that it also has a different curvature/profile on the back of neck when compared to a Wizard I. This is not as apparent with other series such as the RG. The RG retains a similar profile with it's Wizard II neck... I don't know why they did this?'s a little odd.

Additionally, the Wizard II has a 400mm fretboard radius as opposed to the 430mm on the Wizard I. The result is a fretboard with more curvature. This affects the height in which the action can be set. More curvature...higher action. Less curvature lower action. Even if you manage to obtain the same action height, the Wizard II will fret out with large bends (as in bending notes on the fretboard)

Plus the fretboard/binding is thicker, as I mentioned before.

Couple all of this with the additional weight and you may find that what was once similar, is no longer.


Korean manufactured S guitars always had some trem issues, until the ZR. The ZR is a pretty nice unit. It is one of the "smoothest" trems out there. IT elevated korean manufactured S guitar trems. Though, it's had it's far share of problems. The D-tuner thing never really worked out and before the thumbwheel... there were problems with the allen key spring adjustment. Additionally, the trem arm holder is still an ongoing problem. Recently there have been reports of rattling... Like rattling saddles.

The ZR is also different in that it provides a different fulcrum and pivot geometry. In simple requires more bar movement to obtain the same amount of pitch change compared to the knife edge type trem units.

In retrospect, the edge and lopro units on the MIJ guitars have only really suffered from one issue. That would be the loose trem bar syndrome. The problem is with the plastic bushings...they wear out too quickly. This is easily fixed with some teflon tape. I've also had the same problem with the ZR (trem bar too loose).
I used the same teflon tape to fix that as well.


This will be short. The IBZ pups, currently availible on the prestige only, do not compare to the IBZ pups that were offered when the guitars were made in Japan. They claim they are still MADE by Dimarzio. Honestly, I have my doubts. Pups are subjective, so I won't say much more.


The cosmo finish on the pup rings, particularly my S2170's has been crap. I wore the finish off in a month.
Conversly, the finish on my 1990 (I purchased it brand new) has held up wonderfully for 17+ years.

The volume and tone knobs are now plastic, at least on the inside. The knobs on my 90 S540LTD are SOLID metal.

The tuning keys have plastic knobs on my S2170, the S540LTLD are metal. The plastic keys look cool and match the scheme of the S2170, but... at the end of the day, I'd rather have metal over plastic (in most cases).

The locknut mounting hardware is missing the locking washer...I believe this is true of all current Ibanez guitars (MIJ included).

Here is a pic of it....

This piece...

Quality Control

Not very good. IMHO. Lack of best. The two S2170's had the following problems:

Cracked truss rod cover.

Crooked pup ring.

Crooked trem.

Loose parts flopping around in the case during shipping. (allen screw and locking pad for locknut)

No intonation setup.

No truss rod adjustment (completely loose... floppy loose)


Example....Click to enlarge.

You can't make this stuff up! lol made it this far Congratz!!!

Again, I could have said ALOT more. The new S isn't a horrible guitar by far. So don't hate me. Ibanez probably hates me now.

Fret not, 2008 will be great!!! Note : Turns out I was wrong...things have actually gotten worse. IMHO.

Be sure to check out the S Series Thread @ Jemsite....

Source : S-man @ The Guitar Matrix -

No comments: