The first time I laid eyes on the AFS75T Musician's Friend sent me to review, my mind was instantly filled with images of flaming metallic hot rod paint jobs, drag strips, blues bars, black leather jackets, patent leather shoes, and lots of hip shaking. It's impossible, if you've grown up playing guitar in America, not to be overcome with these visions. The hollowbody electric guitar is part of our national culture, responsible for the birth of the electric blues, rock 'n' roll, and rockabilly. Without the electric guitar, who knows where we'd be musically? The AFS75T is extremely reminiscent of both the six-string paintbrushes that early electric guitarists used to color the musical landscape, and the attitude that infected people worldwide. It has all the class and style of a '57 Chevy, especially with the deep, stunning, practically liquid lightning blue paint job adorning the model I received. I've also seen the red number and it smokes, too, which tells me getting your hands on a nice one is no accident, it's just Ibanez's typical high standards shining through.
The finish and fit, in my humble opinion, make this guitar giggable straight out of the case. Most people, myself included, will automatically change the strings (nice and easy to do even with the Bigsby-style trem, by the way) to their preference, so I'm not really counting the strings, even though they are fine. The action and intonation are delicious and the neck delivers nice, effortless playability thanks to well-set frets and a refined, well-leveled fretboard. The neck profile is practically perfect, too, especially if you're used to more modern neck shapes. Wrap your fingers around this well-dressed piece of mahogany and you'll instantly be comfortable with the slender C profile. There's just enough meat to fill up your hands without killing your need to speed.
The paint job is perfectly polished and nicely accented by the thick, vintage-style binding around the entire body, F-holes, neck, and headstock. Ibanez's efforts to make this baby shine don't stop there, though. The polished bone nut, pearl block inlays, bridge, knobs . . . heck, even the pickguard, clearly show the quality assurance guys at Ibanez are dedicated to their task.
What's under the hood?
There's some interesting guitar technology at play here. Technically this isn't your average thinline hollowbody or semi-hollowbody-not the way we're used to thinking of them. Instead of putting a big block of wood down through the middle of the body, Ibanez developed a special bracing pattern for the top that cuts down on feedback and adds sustain while retaining more authentic hollowbody sounds. Acoustically, the AFS75T is well-balanced with woody overtones and bright character courtesy of the specially braced laminated maple top and metal bridge saddles. If you think of the acoustic tone of an instrument as its sonic foundation, then we're off to a good start here.
The way this guitar is voiced-clear, with a healthy bite and midrange body-Ibanez has clearly distilled a lot of guitar knowledge into an instrument that's half the price it should be. And although the visuals scream rock, this axe sings with a lot of versatility and individuality. Don't get me wrong, with the rear pickup engaged this is a rock machine dead set on the task. The sound is gutsy, crisp, and practically begs for overdrive. But I was surprised by how much things changed when I flipped to the neck pickup and played with the tone control. Strong yet mellow tones flourish up there, and they shine through the clean channel on a decent tube amp. With a little reverb? Heaven. The point of this is that instead of planting this guitar firmly in either jazzbox or rock territory, Ibanez simply went out and made an instrument that is the best it can be, suitable for whatever you want to do with it.
The hefty old-school Ibanez trem is flat-out fun. Sturdy, retro, and smooth-movin', it harkens back to the time when vibrato used to be a much gentler affair. Not until Leo Fender came along with his new-fangled tremolo unit did vibrato become the "wham-bam, thank you, ma'am" experience that it is today. The Ibanez unit will still give up the goods but you have to spend some time with it, discovering its disposition, sweet-talking it a bit, and figuring out the way it likes to be treated. It takes a little more effort, but the results are twice as nice.
No sticker shock here
The best part of the Artcore? Its price. It brings a lot to the table for a minimum investment. For those looking to take their first trip down the quarter mile, this is your green light. Even drag strip veterans will find themselves itching to climb behind the wheel and punch the gas, and the AFS75T will punch right back.
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