What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Affordable Jazz Guitars #5

by Doc Dosco

Affordable Jazz Guitars: Ibanez

Today's column is a review on 2 Korean Ibanez sunburst guitars that I have. Both are appropriate for jazz. The first is the Artstar AF-120. This is a 16" full body guitar with a laminate spruce top and maple sides and back. The second is the Artstar AS-120, a 335 style guitar with maple top, sides and back.

The AF 120 is not the guitar of my dreams, but it is a solidly built dual pick-up jazz guitar that has some good points. I am not crazy about the sound, however the fault probably lies in the pick-ups. I have read several reviews where the pick-ups were swapped for better ones, and the sound improved substantially. I find the guitar a bit dark and dull sounding as it is now, however I plan to change the neck pick-up and I have hopes that will improve the sound quality. However the guitar plays extremely well. The action is low and the neck roomy. It feels wonderful (which is why I plan to save it rather than put it up for sale). I took off the pick guard which was flimsy and unattractive. It looks better without it anyway. All in all, this guitar has possibilities. It can also serve as a dual or triple purpose guitar in that one can play jazz, blues or even rockabilly style without re-stringing the guitar, so it is versatile in that aspect.

I have a scratch track from a studio session where I used this guitar and you can be the judge of the sound. We had to EQ the guitar and add effects to get it to sound passable.


I don't have any clips of the AS-120 at present. I keep this as a back-up guitar in case any fusion style gigs might come along. This is a Gibson 335 style guitar and this baby rocks. It does, however, has a few weak points also. The tuners are fine on the AF-120, but total crap on AS-120. Every time I do a 'pull' the guitar goes out of tune. It really needs some good locking tuners. The pick-ups are not as dull sounding on this model as the other Ibanez I own. They may be the same kind of Ibanez pick-ups, but in a guitar with a maple top, these are plenty bright. If I really want to get this guitar in giging form, I will have to swap the tuners, and perhaps the front pick-up. But, the feel is wonderful and action on the guitar is superb. The neck is perfect, a bit wider than the standard 1 11/16 and I have the action really low, so this guitar plays like butter.

I can't find these listed on the Ibanez website. I believe they have morphed into the AS103 and the AF105. However there are lots of new and used ones still available from dealers and on Ebay.

I bought both of mine new mine new for under $700 without cases. I got a gig bags for them. I went new because I wanted to make sure I could get warranty work done if the neck wasn't right. Both guitars are recent vintage, made within the last 3 years.

The AF-120 and the AS-120 guitars sell new (as I mentioned) for under $700, and can be had used for about $500.

The current Ibanez models similar to the AF-120 and AS-120 are:


There are a lot of reviews on Harmony Central. Most of them seem quite positive.


In closing, all I can say is these are work-horse guitars, well built and very playable. As usual with Korean guitars, the hardware is inferior. However if you don't mind doing some switching and swapping, you can get a very serviceable guitar out of Ibanez.

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc endorses Heritage Guitars and is featured artist on their website. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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