Many of our boutique-loving readers are quick to overlook or ignore any instruments produced by “the big guys,” but in the case of the Ibanez S Prestige, it’s time to take off those blinders. The Ibanez S5470Q reviewed here just might set the new benchmark against which all other shred minded guitars will be judged. Really.
Combining great sound, a fast playing, updated Wizard neck to die for, and stunning hot looks, this axe out-shreds boutique models that will cost you at least another $1,000. Assuming the feature set is right for your needs — boutique options do have the one advantage of letting you customize all the features, the S Prestige is a guitar at the pinnacle of performance and playability.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.7, which earns it a WIHO Award!
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
Whether you play jazz-fusion, prog rock, or a technical metal discipline, you can’t go wrong here. The S Prestige combines great tone you wouldn’t expect to hear from such a lightweight guitar with superb comfort and ridiculous tuning stability, even after hours of wild whammy bar antics.
The S Prestige instruments are made in Japan by the top Ibanez luthiers, and incorporate top notch features such as:
- ZR-2 locking tremolo system with the ZPS3 spring system with a new “snap in” arm socket.
- Super Wizard HP (High Performance) 25.5” scale length, 24-fret Prestige neck that features: KTS titanium reinforcement rods, pearl offset S Prestige inlays, five-piece maple/walnut with a rosewood fingerboard. The Super Wizard HP neck is 43mm wide at the nut, 58mm wide at the last fret, with a 430mm radius. At only 17mm thick at the first fret and 19mm thick at the twelfth, this is one lean neck!
- A super-sleek “S” style solid Mahogany, double cut-away body with quilted Maple top, decked out with cosmo black knobs and switches.
From an electronics standpoint, the S5470Q ships in a Humbucker/Single Coil/Humbucker configuration. In the bridge position resides the Hot Grinder 2, which is a hot ceramic magnet humbucker, while the middle position is occupied by a Short Tracer alnico-based single coil. The neck position is rounded out by the Alnico Hot Grinder 1, which is a hotter than average neck pickup designed to balance nicely with its big brother bridge pickup.
A standard five-way pickup selector controls the switching system and provides both full-on humbucking and single coil modes in positions 1, 3 and 5, or parallel wiring in positions 2 and 4 for that out of phase “quacky” sound.
Our evaluation model sported a drop dead, gorgeous quilt finish called “Wild Cherry Blossom,” and to ensure that stunning finish is well protected, the S5470Q ships in a nearly bulletproof hardshell case, which was involuntarily put to the test when one of our small children walked over it! Thankfully, no shots were fired.
If quilts aren’t your thing, the S5470 and S5470F offer more traditional finishes or an equally fantastic flamed Maple top (the model “F”).
The first thing we noticed when we picked up this guitar for the first time was the body mass — or rather, the lack of it. The super thin S Series design is easily its most defining feature, making for a super light and well-balanced instrument, ensuring zero back issues for any player (eat your hearts out, Les Paul guys!). Although thin at the edges, the solid mahogany body gets thicker at the mid section, which plays a big part in why you get big, solid body tone from such a lightweight guitar. Anyone who straps on this guitar marvels at the immediate comfort.
The input jack points towards the back of the guitar and is both angled and recessed, which helps to keep your cable out of the way (less “dangle” if you will). However, we did find this design a bit problematic at times when trying to remove our cable. When using cables with removable sleeves (i.e. George L’s) we oftentimes found ourselves pulling the sleeve off, as it was tough to get a good grip. Nitpicking perhaps, but that’s us… sticklers for those tiny details.
The ZR2 bridge and ZPS3 spring system is designed for both ease of use and radical whammy bar action, and it’s one of the finest double-locking systems we’ve ever used. Utilizing what Ibanez calls Zero Resistance technology, standard knife edge pivots are replaced with ball bearing based pivot joints. This feature, plus the addition of two additional springs with counter-balance adjustment (think Trem Setter on steroids) ensures the bridge consistently returns without fail to the “zero” point. We also liked the ability to adjust all aspects of the bridge — from torque adjustment of the pop-in tremolo arm to intonation to spring tension — sans any tools.
Now all of these fancy doo-dads don’t amount to a hill of beans if it doesn’t stay in tune, and stay in tune it does! We threw every dive bomb and tremolo effect this side of “Third Stone from the Sun” at it and we couldn’t even fake up a tuning issue if we tried (and we tried)! In addition to flawless performance in this area, we liked the smooth action of the bridge (thanks to the ball bearing pivot) which was setup perfectly from the factory.
The 24-fret Prestige Super Wizard HP neck (HP stands for High Performance) is, quite simply, to die for. It features a familiar D-shaped Wizard profile, but just a tad more substantial than some Wizard necks we have encountered on other Ibanez shred machines. We can say with a high degree of confidence that there are few necks as comfortable as the Super Wizard HP — especially when talking about super-sleek necks designed for fast playing, and the subtle tweaks to the HP neck profile result in real comfort and no fatigue, which are sometimes nuisances associated with fast necks. The HP neck seemingly directs your hand to the proper position as you set in motion sweep arpeggios and legato scale runs. Yes folks, this neck is “shredder worthy!”
We found zero issues with improperly seated frets or sharp edges, and the action was set up perfect from the factory with just enough height to allow for string bending while still proving a fast, relatively low action. Intonation was also flawless with chords and notes playing in tune at all positions.
The pickup selector is a garden-variety five-way blade switch that allows configurations similar to what you would expect from a standard Stratocaster. However, given that this guitar is an H/S/H configuration, positions 2 and 4 combine one pole from each humbucker with the middle position single coil. We liked the positioning of the blade switch, which allows for “on the fly switching” simply with a flick of the pinky.
Rounding out the electronics are single volume and tone controls that feel quite sturdy — maybe even too sturdy! They’re a bit tough to spin quickly if you are planning on doing volume swells with your pinky, but great for slower violin-like effects. Their rubber edges provide a sure grip, and in fact, these metal knobs with rubber edges are just one more subtle detail that raise this guitar to the level of other truly premium instruments.
It should be noted that some of our review staff complained that the positioning of the bridge forces the player to pick closer to the neck than they might be used to, and this can make the guitar feel a bit cramped, particularly for those of us who typically pick close to the bridge with the heel of our hand resting on the bridge. Not every player on our editorial staff felt this way, though, so suffice to say your mileage may vary in this regard.
So, we have established that this guitar plays like a dream, but how does it sound?
You would think the ultra thin body might translate to thin and wimpy sounds, and we’ve heard that with other guitars. However, when first strumming this guitar acoustically, we noticed it possesses a resonant tone full of volume and vibration with a snappy brightness on the treble strings.
Before we plug this bad boy into our favorite amps, we have a bit of a confession. Not being familiar with the Ibanez Hot Grinder or Short Tracer pickups, we assumed this guitar would someday serve as a platform for a complete pickup retrofit with our favorite DiMarzios or Duncans. Well… we all know what happens when one assumes, right?
We plugged straight into a 2010 “New” Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier set for molten modern gain via the Red channel. The ceramic Hot Grinder bridge pickup pleasantly surprised us with its full sound, vocal like qualities, and loads of bloom when the notes sustained and decayed. Ceramic pickups are not for everyone, as they can tend to sound both too hot and sterile or overly “sizzly” on the top end, but the Hot Grinder bridge model exhibited none of these issues and provided a very even sound across the tonal spectrum. Make no mistake though; this pickup is at home with hard rock and metal, and could certainly serve your fusion and prog rock needs as well. This is not to say we couldn’t coax a classic rock vibe from the guitar, but certainly not at full output. Rolling down the gain a bit we managed to get some convincing old school vibe and pleasing crunchy goodness.
Moving over to the middle position, which is occupied by the single-coil Short Tracer pickup, we were perhaps a tad less inspired, and this was the only instrument voice that left us uninspired. This particular pickup, when soloed, has a lot of rasp in the high end and is devoid of the bell- or piano-like qualities you would get from a vintage Strat pickup, but that’s not to say was unusable by any means. With light to moderate gain, we were able to achieve classic single coil “sting” on single notes, making it a great position for playing blues solos. Through our amp’s clean channel we used it to great effect while engaging in some funky percussive chording.
The alnico-based Hot Grinder neck pickup is a perfect match for its bridge counterpart and balances very well in terms of volume. We were particularly pleased with how it “sings” while under high gain and remains articulate and responsive while playing fast picked notes or legato runs. Furthermore, we never experienced any muddiness (especially on the bass strings), a characteristic that unfortunately plagues many neck pickups. Played clean, it does a great job of translating that “snappy” vibe we noted while playing it acoustically, making this position great for shimmering or percussive chord work.
Positions 2 and 4 on the blade switch provide what we call those “tweener,” or in between, positions. Both positions provide coil split sounds combining the single coil Short Tracer with either the inside coil of the neck pickup or outside coil of the bridge pickup, and we really liked the funky quack these positions provided. Played clean, you could easily cover anything from funk to faux-Strat sounds, and under high gain you get a really cool, almost trumpet-like tone when soloing!
Both the volume and tone controls provided an extremely usable taper and gradual roll-off, with a nice open vowel-like effect when rolling down the tone.
Our prog team ran the guitar through the paces in an ENGL rig and had similar experiences with this guitar. The Hot Grinder pickups delivered complex chord voicings with great note definition while playing through high-gain tones, and the neck position sang with flute-like tone on solos. The low noise of these pickups was also noted while playing funky, rhythms through the ENGL rig’s studio-silent clean voicings.
Documenation and Product Support
These days, guitars ship with very little in terms of documentation, but Ibanez includes a booklet covering maintenance and tremolo/neck adjustments. Ibanez also has a highly informative website complete with instruction manuals, tutorials, and videos.
The Ibanez S5470Q (MSRP $2399) can be had on the street for about $1,800, including a Prestige series molded plastic hard case. It’s an excellent value given the quality of the instrument.
The S Prestige guitars also include a nice multi-tool with appropriate Allan wrenches and screwdrivers.
This is a lot of guitar for quite a reasonable price. We have played guitars almost twice that price that couldn’t match the Ibanez proprietary technology such as the ZR2/ZPS3 Tremolo system or the Super Wizard HP neck, and the Hot Tracer pickups sounded especially good in this guitar.
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