For guitarists playing heavy metal/hard rock/shred or whatever you want to call it, the way a guitar looks is all-important in conveying the predominant attitude of gloom and doom to the like-minded audience. If you go for an audition for a job in a band playing Metallica covers, it would be ill-advised to fetch up with a Telecaster; you will get no further than getting your instrument out of its case before suffering howls of derision from the tattooed throng. No, your guitar must be either all black or all white and be free of any feature that smacks of the namby-pamby or superficial. You want starkness, severity, a guitar on which the primitive and subterranean riffs that it’s going to spend its lifetime churning out are vented with suitable demeanour. And it must have active pick-ups. Ibanez has such guitars in the shape of the ARZ series, which were introduced for players who wanted a more traditional set-neck design but with better access to the top of the fretboard than a regular single-cutaway guitar could offer. For the target market of metallers and shredders, 24-frets were deemed essential, as well as a very slightly longer scale length set at 25”.
The Ibanez ARZ300 – available conveniently in Black (BK) or White (WH) – features a Mahogany body with a sharp cutaway and a Mahogany neck with a piece of darkened Rosewood for the fingerboard. Ibanez has fitted the ARZ300 with medium rather than large frets and in keeping with this style of guitar, there are no position markers on the fretboard, only small dots on the side of the neck to indicate where you are. We also get an ART-1 bridge with an Quik Change III tailpiece which looks exactly right on this sort of instrument, with plenty of adjustment available for anybody wanting to alter action or set the guitar up with a different gauge of string.
As the ARZ300 is at the lower end of the range in terms of price, Ibanez has equipped the guitar not with the favoured EMGs, but with its own brand LZ1-N and LZ1-B active humbuckers, set in black plastic surrounds. There’s one volume and one tone control, separated by a regular looking three-way switch and you get the idea that the guitar is designed for the player first and foremost, in the way that the volume control is positioned and the generous cutaway at the neck/body join which affords maximum reach to the very end of the 24-fret board. As you would hope, the LZ1s perform to expectations, offering up the cleanest of cleans when required and morphing into aggression laden brutes when plugged into the appropriate amp channel. Clear and articulate, the pick-ups match sound to looks seamlessly. Given its affordability, it’s hard to see how the Ibanez ARZ300 cannot be a success.