An 8-string guitar – just those words themselves arouse curiosity. For most guitarists that’s a guitar with two strings too many. But to a fair few, it sounds like a guitar offering more room to experiment with.
The 8-string guitar actually has fairly orthodox roots, with the idea stemming from lap and pedal steel guitars. Its modern electric form was first adopted by jazz and classical guitarists. In 2013 the majority of users seem to come from the metal fraternity, and it is with this background that Ibanez have introduced the RG8. The Ibanez RG series is a very popular one, with a fantastic lineage, and this looks to be continued with their newest offering.
With more artists attracted to 8-stringed guitars by the day, the need for a well-priced version was duly recognised by Ibanez, and with its local rrp of just $849 they have produced an exotic instrument that looks like being immense value for money. Let’s look more closely.
The RG8 consists of a basswood body with a maple walnut neck and rosewood fretboard, together yielding a fairly neutral tone, but hinting towards the brighter side of things. This is a good thing for a low tuned instrument as it yields definition through distortion when those lower notes are played. The RG8 also has a hard-tail bridge and jumbo frets. The guitar has a 27 scale making it suited to the lower tunings that a lot of modern metal guitarists use.
When I first picked up the guitar for this review, it felt like a solid, well-made instrument and this was not just in consideration of its price. The fretwork is well done, the fit and finish look great, and there are no evident loose ends. It certainly scores well in terms of construction.
The RG8 proved an easy guitar to play, largely because the neck is very comfortable. I do prefer slightly fatter necks to most Ibanez necks that I have played. This one worked well, allowing easy access all across the fretboard. It was easy to feel creative while playing this guitar… the near perfect set up being a joy to play on.
I started with a clean sound as it is a good reflection of the guitar to me. The sound was clear and the three pickup switching positions allowed for a good variety of tone. I could straightaway tell that the sound was of a good standard. Then came the time for a high gain sound, in all probability what this guitar was made for. Again, better than satisfactory. In its stock configuration the RG8 provided a very tight and focused sound. A great thing, especially while playing the lowest string. There was little sign of low end looseness and I found the guitar to have an overall pleasing tone.
When it came to recording, the guitar performed really well. It was well-suited to riffs, cleans and layers, the pickup switching controls once again providing a workable variety of tones. Overall the sound was on the tighter side of things. Guitarists playing lead might want a bit more warmth from the pickups but for all other situations, the stock pickups perform well. The Ibanez website specifically mentions that the pickups are not muddy and this certainly holds true. The RG8 provided no limitations to the player and mind, and I think it would be very comfortable in any studio situation.
All in all, this seems a great guitar, and would suit practically anyone, with even the most discerning tone enthusiast being pleased with possibly just a pickup change. Distributed in NZ by MusicWorks with a retail price tag well under a grand, this guitar really is a great buy, I personally wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.