REVIEWS

IBANEZ AZ2209H | REVIEW

Published 4 months ago on December 24, 2023

By Guitar Interactive Magazine

Ibanez AZ2209H

MSRP: (UK) £1899 / (US) $1999

With a balanced-sounding ash body, boasting comfortable, shallow rear and larger forearm contours—Seymour Duncan pickups and a dyna-MIX5 switching system—the Ibanez Prestige AZS2209H could very well be the instrument for you if you're looking for top-shelf tone in a guitar that's made for today's player. Here's Nick Jennison to tell us more.

Ibanez is enjoying a quiet renaissance of late, beginning with its critically acclaimed AZ series of guitars in 2018. With the introduction of roasted maple necks and stainless steel frets across the range, along with a move away from the classic "RG" outline, the AZs marked a distinct shift away from 80s shred and 2000s metal and towards a more modern vibe. With signature artists like Polyphia and CHON embracing the AZ platform, it's clear that Ibanez have got the formula right.

That's not to say that it's all modern all of the time with the AZ line though. Taking inspiration from classic early '50s single cuts, the AZS2209H boasts all of the cutting edge accoutrements of the AZ range, but with a more traditional look and tonal palate.

Built on the familiar "Tele" platform, the AZS2209H has all of the hallmarks of this "guitarchetype": a three-saddle ashtray bridge, a 25.5" scale bolt-on neck, a single-coil bridge pickup with a large baseplate… you get the picture. That said, there are a number of ergonomic and functional "tweaks" that make this guitar a lot of fun to play. Instead of the traditional slab body, the AZS shape has comfort cuts for both the forearm and the ribcage, along with a deeply scalloped lower horn and carved away neck join for much better upper fret access. The neck is roasted maple with a super-fast satin finish and a comfy "modern C" shape, capped off with 22 tall stainless steel frets.

In terms of function, the AZS2209H features a Gotoh F1803 short ashtray bridge, along with three custom-designed saddles that sit in individual grooves to prevent that irritating side slippage that plagues many three saddle designs. At the headstock end, we have 6 Gotoh height-adjustable locking tuners that not only speed up string changes, but also serve to improve tuning stability and keep consistent downforce on the oil-impregnated bone nut from string to string.

In terms of electronics, Ibanez has chosen a curved control plate for better ergonomics, and while this might divide opinion on the aesthetic front, it definitely helps with speedy pickup changes and those classic "Tele tricks" like swelling the volume and tone knob. The three-way pickup selector and "Dyna-mix" switch give a total of five tones that includes three takes on the "both pickups" sound. There's a bridge and split neck pickup mode for authentic country twang, a  bridge and full humbucker mode for a more "rock" take (think Keef), and lastly the bridge and neck pickups in series for that pseudo-humbucker tone you get with a 4-way switch mod on a traditional Tele. All the positions sound absolutely killer, but I'm left wondering why Ibanez chose to complicate the switching with a three-way blade switch and a mini-toggle instead of just using a 5-way super switch.

The pickups on this guitar are a Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro bridge single-coil (complete with that all-important steel bridge plate) and the frankly stunning "Magic Touch" mini-humbucker in the neck position. The latter is the star of the show in my opinion, with an incredible lively, juicy midrange that's a joy to play with gain, but still more than enough high and low-end extension for cleaner styles. The Alnico II Pro is a perfect complement to this sound, with super authentic twang and bark that's ideal for country, classic rock, blues, soul and just about other "traditional" style you can think of.

The Ibanez AZS2209H is a perfect example of "classic tones with modern features" done right. Listen with your eyes closed and you'd swear it was a traditional Tele, but unlike the classic instruments it draws on, this is a guitar that works with you instead of fighting back. If you want those classic tones, but don't like wrestling with a slab of wood that pokes you in the ribs, frets out on big bends and requires you to dislocate your shoulder to get in a good picking position, the AZS2209 is for you.

For more information, please visit:

ibanez.com

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