Archive for December 12th, 2013

Ibanez RS1500. Fender Strat Killer?! You decide!!

 

So what are you thinking …………?

Never gonna happen!

Quite possibly?

Could have been?

Dr. Chuck has lost his friggin’ mind to Miller 64?!!

 

Well it is time boys and girls to grab a cold one and once again dig into another RANT……

Ibanez RS1500! Strat Killer?!

Ibanez RS1500! Strat Killer?!

 

For all those that are not acquainted with the Ibanez RS1500 and all those who swear by the Fender Stratocaster,  prepare to have your mind set altered or at least enlarged. I am not looking to simply make converts to this guitar by endorsement or make you swear off your beloved time proven Fender Stratocasters. Also Ibanez does not know me from dirt as does the Hoshino Corporation that was their founding fathers. I have nothing to gain with the following story about one of the most amazing guitars I have ever played and so now the playing field is leveled.

 

Years ago either before I entered dental school, or during my initial tenure, during summer vacation I took a day trip to Manhattan ( New York City ) for those that are unitiated . Yes, I know there are other cities labeled as Manhattans, but only one is New York City, okay?!) I arrived at 48th St.,  the guitar Mecca of New York and possibly the world. Me and my friends went GAGA over the guitar and gear offerings!! years before before the most beautiful and talented Lady Gaga coined the term, gulped our breath and drooled over the amazing guitars and gear available at the time to us for only if we had oodles of money.

 

 Real wood topped guitars with minimal pickguard are a thing of beauty!

I always loved real wood topped guitars with minimal pickguard as was becoming more popular by Gibson Les Paul aficionados to leave their pickguards  at home instead of mounting them, I loved that Les Paul without a pick guard fanfare a la Dicky Betts,  yet always loved Fender Stratocasters and Fender Telecasters  as well and wondered what they might look like without a slab of plastic on the top and whether it might even be an improvement. Would they still capture the Fender Stratocaster and Fender Telecaster

“vive” sans pickguard?

 

At that time, I was dreaming about a Stratocaster with a truncated pickguard to allow the wood grain to show through or NO pickguard at all, perish the thought?  I thought that concept would be so cool!I was imagining a Fender Stratocaster with uber wood showing through and no pickguard. Didn’t exist at the time. Oh well………….

 

 Manny’s, Rudy’s and Sam Ash in New York City. A gear Mecca!!

Take a trip to NYC simply to lust over the many things in Manny’s, Rudy’s and Sam Ash that I could not afford and I happened along an Ibanez RS1500 in what I call vintage sunburst,.. howver, I did not know that at the time because the first thing that grabbed my noodle was the body that at first grasp absolutely looked Fender Stratocaster, yeah?  Strat style body, 3 Strat style single coil pick up set up most correctly meaning the neck and middle pickup wer parallel to each other but the treble pick up had that cool slant downward towards the bridge which was designed to get every fractrion of an ounce of treble bite out of the strings way back when when George and Leo designed this puppy? Then as I fantacized there was NO pickguard!!!!! Just these really cool frames to bolt and hold the pickguards in place at the proper positions while allowing the beautiful ash wood in between to show case unblocked by a big pickguard. To me at that time this was a HUGE design step forward by Fender. Then I looked at the headstock and realized it was not a Fender Stratocaster at all , but instead a very beautiful state of the art  Ibanez RS 1500.

Ibanez RS1500. Fender Strat Killer?! "Crafted In Japan".

Ibanez RS1500. Fender Strat Killer?! “Crafted in Japan”.

 

 

“Crafted in Japan” just oozes a quality vibe that makes one warm and fuzzy!

 

The Ibanez Roadstar RS1500  is made with a nice resonant Ash body with a maple neck through with  a rosewood finger board with a 25.5 scale. The neck through aspect is very similar in appearance and feel to the Carvin DC400. See my post: Carvin Guitars: Why you will soon want one!!  This means a very comfortable feel and effortless upper fret access.  So here I was ogling this beautiful instrument, wanting it very badly, and simply knowing that one day I would own one. And speaking of the headstock, THIS was the Ibanez headstock that I fell in love with. Fenderish enough to look the part, but not at all a law suit plagiarized copy by a long shot. In fact, to me the Ibanez Roadstar headstocks are the most beautiful of any that Ibanez ever offered. The current fondue fork inspired Ibanez headstock does absolutely NOTHING for me, as do the fluorescent construction paper inlays and a cut out hand grip. Hey! To each theie own; they are simply not my style. I’m a more traditional guy.  Gotta love the headstock label where it proudly proclaims in an understated way, “Crafted in Japan”. Not simply “made in Japan, but crafted in Japan. That just oozes vibe and gives one that fuzzy feeling of being the proud owner of such a fine instrument as an Ibanez RS1500.

Ibanez RS1500 Strat Killer?!

Ibanez RS1500 Strat Killer?! Showing a beautiful maple neck through Ash body

 

Was I disappointed it was not Fender who presented this most beautiful guitar. Not at all, and also just a tiny bit surprised. When I worked briefly at Sam Ash in the mid 1970’s before being fired by da bastid Mel Fieldz which will be a subject of a future rant, Ibanez was in the depth of producing their law suit guitars and were constructing instruments of surpring quality with more care than Gibson.  At that time in the midst of their dreadful “Norlin years” when Gibson was taken over by unmusical bean counters,  these interloper rogues almost put the, (can you believe it??!) premier producer of electric guitars; Gibson, out of business!! Coincidentally, Fender had just been taken over by CBS and was also facing their quality doldrums as well. This topic of the Gibson/Fender “dark years” will be the topic of another rant so keep tuning in boys and girls!!

 

After I realized that this was not a Fender guitar and accepted that it was yet another undeniably excellent offering by the relatively new Ibanez company, I lusted over it for the next umpteen years until I finally after searching the internet and Ebay  a few short years ago came across one. Not perfect, but close. You guys know how I feel about “pristine”,… but as I said,this one was close, and so as rare as they were, I went for it with a vengeance. I simpy WANTED this guitar and nothing was going to stop me,…errr,.. that is , as long as I didn’t run out of money,…

 

This was before the recession hit and ruined everything for sellers. Anyway, they were going for around $1200.00 before Obama was elected. I sniped for $899.00 and was feeling really proud myself as I won the auction, maybe because the listing ended at 3 A:M

(who stays up that late on a weeknight except Mr. Snipe Program, anyway?) or maybe because it had some minor body damage. Who knows? In any case, for that period in time I scored well and I will at this point ride the present economy out rather than sell at a loss as this guitar is amazing and you will soon find out why!

 

So what sets this guitar apart from the rest of the Fender Stratocaster inspired instruments, so much so that I call it; “Ibanez RS1500/Fender Strat Killer?!! To me above and beyond the excellent quality, the neck through design and the lack of a pickguard that allows the beauty of the ash wood to show through, the most important feature was the very unique wiring harness that allowed infinite tonal tweaking on the Fender Stratocaster kind of theme. And so following I will explain this unique set up which by the way does NOT rely on any active circuitry but is instead totally passive.

 

First as a base line, let us basically explain the Fender set up. http://www.fender.com/news/the-stratocaster-pickup-selector-switch/Fender has a master volume control, two tone controls, and a 5 position slide pickup selector switch. Position 1 is the treble pick up only, position 2 is the treble and middle pick up, position 3 is the middle pick up, position 4 is the middle and neck pick up, and finally position 5 is the neck pickup only. The middle pick up is reverse wired and so when you are in positions 2 and 4 you are fully out of phase. Position 2 is the bridge pickup/middle pickup combination, and Position 4 is the middle pickup/neck pickup combination. These 2 and 4 or “in between” settings give that classic Fender spank or “quack” as some put it. Very cool tones or very bad tones depending on your point of view. They are sometimes referred to as “Knopfleresque” tones because Dire Straits Mark Knofler has his signature tone based on these settings. I love the sound personally, however I really wished the settings were adjustable from slight quack to full quack. I think that would make for some interesting variable flavors within the realm of Knopfleresquedom, yes? That Fender Strat five position switch is pretty much all or none though.

 

As a side note, as originally designed, the Fender slide switch only had three positions, bridge, middle, neck. Apparently it was accidentally discovered that if you carefully balance the springiness of the switch to setting in between which later became designated as 2 and 4, you could get these really unique tones that Fender really never had in mind in the first place. Players would then open up the guitars and hot rod the switch by filing a notch in those 2 and 4 areas to grab the switch and hold it in place. Eventually Fender caught on and by popular demand started to make the 5 position switch standard. This sort of serendipity reminds me of how on the Hammond B3, the manufacturer initially considered the classic “key click” as an annoying unwanted defect, now so beloved by Hammond players that Hammond organ emulators strive to duplicate this “defect” in the quest of authentic Hammond B3 tone,….

 And so I digress. So let’s get back to topic okay? Manoman, give this guy a couple of Miler 64’s and he jumps ship all over the place!!!  Sheesh!!!

 

Fender Strat flavor that would make Mark Knopfler smile!

 

For further study:

http://fattoneguitars.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/how-mark-knopfler-got-his-groove/

 

Alrighty then! First glance of the knob layout of the Ibanez RS 1500 doesn’t grab you like it is something out of the ordinary. Not at all.  Without the 5 position selector switch of a Fender Stratocaster, it actually looks limited compared to what you would expect to dig up totally on a Fender Strat. The set up actually resembles something that you might find on a Gibson Les Paul even more than a Fender Strat. For starters there is a volume control for both neck and bridge. Turns them BOTH up or down simultaneously. There is also another volume control that is strictly for the middle pick up and also a master tone control. Finally, there is a toggle switch that pretty much acts like it would on a Gibson Les Paul. Okay, for starters, let us turn the middle pick up all the way down and the volume for the neck/bridge pickups all the way up. Flick the toggle towards the bridge pick up and you have,.. the bridge pick up. Flick the toggle to the neck pick up only, and well,.. you have the neck pick up only. Flick it to the middle and you have both neck and bridge pickups. So far no great surprise, very Gibson Les Paul like, and straight forward.

Ibanez RS1500.Fender Strat Killer?! Controls deignation

Ibanez RS1500. Fender Strat killer?! Controls designation

 

With the above pickup designations  explained, here is where the magic starts. Remember I said the middle pick up has its own volume. This is key as the middle pickup is reverse wired like on the Fender Strat. Now let us turn the  neck/bridge pickup volume down and turn the middle pick up volume while placing the toggle in the middle. Guess what? You get the middle pickup but it is silent!!!  So where am  I going with all this stuff? Well remember I said the middle pickup is reverse wired. Let us go back to the original setting where the neck/bridge pickups are engaged, for instance with their volume control dimed. Now you incrementally bring up the middle pick up. As you do, a really cool thing happens. You start to dial in some out of phase Fender Strat “quack” so characteristic of the Fender Stratocaster. Now this is not a Fender Strat like on or off scenario but rather gradations as you turn that middle volume knob anywhere from full off to full on. Boys and girls, there is a whole lot of out of tone flavors going on in between the extremes from slight quack to max quack. VERY, very cool indeed.

 

Let’s take this further. Again, turn the middle pick up off and flick the toggle to the treble position. Full straight forward treble pickup. Now start to bleed in that middle pick up and you start to again bring on the out of phase quack from subtle to full bore or anything in between. Now repeat this scenario starting with the neck pick up only and start to bleeding the middle from just a touch of quack to again full bore. I think that now you are getting the picture. These settings not only mimic the static one flavor only out of phase positions 2 and 4 on your beloved Fender Stratocaster, they actually expand upon 2 and 4 with infinite variability of intensity of the, if you will; “effect”. This wiring scenario of the Ibanex RS 1500 is HUGE! You can spend hours with this passive circuit tweaking and twisting to arrive at “your” sound!! I just love it.  You can also try diming the middle pick up and then bringing the neck/bridge combo incrementally up resulting in ever more killer tones! And so the middle pick up on the Ibanez RS1500 with volume turned off is in stealth mode just wating to attack a Gibson Les Paul like tone stack in any pick up combination with Fender Strat “quack’!!

The best of both worlds! The only thing that might make this better is to have coil tapping humbuckers at all positions or at lest neck and bridge. As it is one could spend eons experimenting with tone, imagine adding in a sense three more accessible pickups?!!! Well, as it hasn’t been done yet at least to my knowledge, it is time once again to put down the Miller 64 http://www.miller64.com/

Miller 64 and guitars

Breakfast of Champions

and get back to the business at hand.

 

So now you see that the Fender Stratocaster wiring is kind of “black & white”, in comparison to  the “NBC peacock” of living color by comparison to the Ibanez RS1500.

 

The seldom seen Ibanez RS1500 is my favorite of the Ibanez Roadster series. Extremely well built, gorgeous, and tonally versatile to the extreme in a Fender Strat flavor that would make Mark Knopfler smile! For more images and information on the Ibanez RS1500 and others of the most beautiful Ibanez Roadstar line click on the following links:

https://www.google.com/search?q=ibanez+roadstar+rs+1500&rlz=1C2EODB_enUS563US563&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ezWqUrjAEO_hsAT16YLwBg&ved=0CCwQsAQ&biw=1680&bih=948

 

 

http://www.ibanezcollectors.com/discus/messages/14/4052.html

 

Now you know why I pose the eternal question; Ibanez RS1500.  Fender Strat Killer? You decide!!

 

 

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