Ibanez RGD3121 Review

3,395 CAD at Steve’s Music

2,399 USD at Sweetwater

Many of the guitars I’ve reviewed for Guitarist 101 are priced between the low and mid tiers. Plenty of guitars were both solid and affordable. I’m taking a bit of a turn for this second review of three guitars made for metal.

When shopping for a car, one is mindful of need, budget, etc. Then again, when you see an excellent (albeit pricey) luxury/supercharged vehicle on display in the showroom, you may ask yourself: “Why not take THAT for a test drive?”

With that, I’m taking the shiny one for a spin! Let’s look at the Ibanez RGD3121 Prestige.

The Specs

The Ibanez RGD3121 features a basswood body in Polar Lights Flat finish. The neck is Ibanez’s Wizard Neck, featuring a five-piece laminate of maple and wenge, an ebony fretboard, 24 jumbo frets, and a Graphtech nut. The neck is further adorned with Gotoh locking tuners (great for quick string changes) and luminlay side markers to see fret positions on dim stages easily.

The other components found on this guitar include Ibanez’s Monorail Bridge system, which comprises six individual bridges, one for each string, rather than a one-piece bridge for all six strings. According to Ibanez, this is to help mitigate vibration transfer between strings, particularly with high-gain sounds. The RGD3121 also comes with a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers, capable of two different voicings via a mini toggle switch between the single volume and tone controls. The pickups are controlled via a three-way toggle switch. You can also find the battery compartment for the Fluence pickups behind the guitar, which fits a standard 9-volt battery.

One interesting spec is the guitar’s scale length, which is 26.5” (a full inch longer than Fender’s standard of 25.5”). Ibanez did this to accommodate players who want to play in lower tunings and heavier strings. The added length helps to add string tension to lower-tuned strings and helps with intonation on lower tunings.

As a bonus, the RGD3121 also comes with a beautiful hardshell case, a rare feature for most guitars, which usually opt for the “cheaper” branded gig bag.

Looks – 5/5

This guitar is beautiful, especially with the Polar Lights Flat finish. Depending on how the light hits it, it will turn various shades of blue, green, or purple. The lack of a pickguard also allows us to see more of that finish unobstructed.

The shape does scream super-strat with its pronounced bouts, which appear pointer and sharper than those found on a typical Strat-style body. This shape is perfect for the metal genre but may seem out of place in a blues jam.

Build Quality – 5/5

Let’s face it: if I drop this much money on an instrument, it better be built solid. Happily, this didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Ibanez has taken the QC on this seriously.

Everything is fitted perfectly, feels solid, and is ready for war. The neck was especially impressive. The laminate creates a neck that is ridiculously stable and solid. Ibanez also employed their Prestige Fret Edge Treatment on the guitar, meaning everything was smooth up and down the neck. This guitar was perfect out of the box.

Playability -4.5/5

On its own, the guitar played like a dream right away. The straight neck, low action and jumbo frets made chords and single notes a breeze (a little too easy, if you will.) For those who like to mute their heavy riffs with their right palm, the Monorail bridge’s design brought no difference in the feel; though it’s six small bridges, it feels like one piece.

Now, there will be an adjustment for those used to regular scale lengths. Because it’s longer, the frets are wider, making things a bit stretchy in the earlier positions of the fingerboard. The guitar came with a 10 to 46 set, which also felt tight in standard tuning and more “normal,” which dropped down a whole step (like I’ve done in the demonstration video). Those wanting to stay in standard tuning may want to try lighter strings to compensate.

Sound – 5/5

This guitar delivered the goods for heavy sounds. The Fishman Fluence pickups provided an excellent, balanced tone in the first voicing, with a bump in the low end on the second voicing. These pickups are also quiet, a big plus when dealing with high gain.

On clean sounds, the pickups provided warmth with added clarity that I wasn’t expecting. If you want a scooped clean sound, these are probably not the pickups for you, though the added mids will undoubtedly help you cut more in a mix than ones that are all chime and no fat.

One thing to note: if you like to record DI guitars into amp sim plugins for recordings, these pickups are hot. Very hot. They were so hot that while recording the demo video, the input control on my interface was at its lowest setting, and the guitar still provided a tremendous amount of output. This is something to keep in mind when recording with this guitar.

Value for Money – 5/5

You are getting a lot of guitar for the price. The price is easier to swallow with the many premium features included (such as the Fishman Fluence Modern pickups, Gotoh Locking Tuners, and a hardshell case). Adding these to a guitar after the fact can cost a few hundred dollars.

You are also getting a well-built guitar of the utmost quality that will last for years.

Overall Rating – 24.5/5

The minor nitpick about adjusting your playing due to the longer neck keeps this from a perfect score. But it is a nitpick at best and subjective. Overall, I didn’t feel that with the quality and features, the Ibanez RGD3121’s price was overtly ridiculous.

This guitar is not for beginners (price and scale length being the two main reasons, though for most, it will be the price). However, if you have a student taking guitar seriously and wants to headbang with the best of them, this would make for a fantastic upgrade to their current instrument.

Are there cheaper guitars? Of course! Could you take a guitar and modify it to these features? Yes, for the most part. Will you save money by doing that? I’ll say maybe, but your mileage may vary. Otherwise, you can get this one, have everything ready to go and be confident that you’ll get a solid piece of kit for your hard-earned money.

Thanks to Steve’s Music Store in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, for lending me the instrument to review!

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