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Ibanez AF-75D/AF-75 Review – a long-term impression from someone who still plays it 6 years later

I wrote this review the first time in March of 2006. I still love my AF-75D and still play it. It has been a wonderful instrument for recording and composing. A few years ago, I changed the pickups to Seymour Duncan 59s (a matched pair)… it sounds like a $1000 instrument now… wow… I’ve slightly edited the old review here and there… mostly as original. Read on.


When I started playing guitar again (in 2005 – after a 25-year break), one of my goals was to have different sounds with different types of guitars. One distinct sound for which I was looking was the jazzy/bluesy/open-body sound. In addition, I wanted the guitar to be able to rock ‘n’ roll.

A Second-Look: Ibanez AF75/AF75D long-term review

I visited my local guitar haunts and played just about every type and example of hollow- and semi-hollow-body electrics. My budget was $300 or less. To name a few, I played all of the Ibanez Artcore AF variants, several examples of the Epiphone Dot Studio, a few of the Carlo-Robelli/Brownsville types, and even a few used Gretschs and Gibsons (out of my budget range). I settled on a snappy and beautiful example of the Ibanez AF75D. Keep in mind that I played many examples of the same kind to get a feel for quality consistency and sound consistency. The one with which I came home was $319 back then (a little more these days?), and was a stunning example. I think I’d still like to have an Epiphone Dot or ES or Swingster someday, but it was too far above my budget, and (frankly) I couldn’t find an example with both a straight neck and one with good electronics.

Quick Opinion: The Ibanez Artcore series are generally very well made. Most are made in China. The AF75D example I purchased (“Punkin”) was exceptionally well made. The price was reasonable, and the sound quality is very much nicer than anything else in its price range. The guitar is chock full of features, has great parts, and plays like a dream.

I LOVE my AF75. Given the money in hand, I would buy another to put away for when I wear this one out.

Read more about the AF75 and other awesome Ibanez Artcores here at zZounds.com! Free shipping and price matching – and more!

Playability: The neck feels pretty quick and seems to be in the ballpark of Epis/Gibsons (short “feel” to the scale). The taper is just right, the fretboard was extremely nicely dressed and fitted, and the overall weight of the guitar is nicely light. After I fitted some Fender flatwound electric guitar strings (and substituted a plain 3rd instead of wrapped), the guitar played like a dream. The action adjusted to just the right height with little effort, and the reach of the single cutaway is very good – the top few frets of the low strings are a bit of a stretch.

Features The AF75 has two closed-cover humbuckers, binding on the neck, body, f-holes, and headstock. The tuners are very much like well-made Grover tuners – very smooth and accurate. The trapeze and floating bridge combination makes for a wonderful and open sound (be careful, you must be prepared to do some measuring and intonation once you buy it – the position of the bridge is important to intonation). The three-way toggle is problem-free, and is fairly easy to reach. The individual volume and control knobs work fairly well in their purpose (they remind me of old Gibson Les Paul speed knobs). The body is laminated, but nicely shaped maple. The fit and finish overall is nearly as perfect as one could expect from a nicely-made guitar. The finish of the coloring is flawless – I really enjoy the “differentness” of the orange. The frets are medium, and are extremely well finished (I’ve played many $700+ guitars that don’t have frets as nice as these).

Sound: The sound is open, airy, and wonderful. In any genre in which I play, this guitar can fit in. It is best for music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s – or Jazz or relaxed blues. It can play rock with the best of them, but the original factory pickup output is too weak for hard rock/metal/thrash. In a loud band stage situation, the guitar can cause some feedback if placed too close to an amplifier (amazingly, this only happens in a few different melodic keys). The overall sound is crisp, clear, and refined. I’d rate the sound as something that is not as edgy as a Strat, but much mellower than a Les Paul or PRS.

One thing just to clarify the above: If you’re standing amongst screamin’ amps, you WILL get feedback on certain pitches. When I play live or record against an amp in a closed space, I put a little soft electrical tape over the F-holes and the problem goes away (without damaging Punkin).

Value: This is a $499 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). The sound, quality of make, and appointments are top-notch for a bargain hollow/semi-hollow electric guitar, excellent. To get a better instrument, you’d have to go to a Gibson or a top-end Epiphone (Casino, etc.). This guitar is made in China, but you would have difficulty telling its origin from the excellent build quality. My local guitar stores now have them at $349 on the sticker. A case would be a good thing to get to protect your guitar – many different manufacturers make a case that works well with this guitar.

Wishes: Good instructions on bridge placement (for those who don’t know how to adjust and place their bridge) would be essential. Stronger output from the humbuckers would be good, and a larger center-block to help keep feedback down would be good.

27 thoughts on “Ibanez AF-75D/AF-75 Review – a long-term impression from someone who still plays it 6 years later

  1. Hi,
    I have one AF 75 Ibanez and I do like it. I have though some weird feeling about pick ups aging a little bit with some “electric” bugs (sometimes sound is fading in a very random way).
    I am thinking of upgrading it with Gibson pick ups after having it checked for this weird sound problem.
    What do you think about that ?
    Best regards,
    Michel

    • I would suggest keeping the AF75, if you have one.
      I had an Epiphone Joe Pass model , sold it at a loss, and bought the Ibanez AF75 in its’ place.
      The Epiphone Emporer II [Joe Pass Model] has a “C” beveled fingerboard. I ended up with severe pain in my left thumb and the bone on my left thumb now protrudes with pain and stiffness as a result of the “C” bevel on the underside of the fingerboard on the Emporer II.
      I traded in the Joe Pass Epiphone and bought the Ibanez AF75 which has a “D” bevel on the underside of the fingerboard. All in all, I find the Ibanez to have a better acoustic sound for an electric guitar. It is a hollowbody guitar and therefore has a much more projecting tone when played acoustically.
      With all this said, you be the judge. If it were me, I would go for the Ibanez hands down!

  2. Hi Michel! Thanks for writing!

    Your issues are probably a problem with the jack, wiring, or pots – in general, the Ibanez ACH pickups (the ones in yoiur AF) are excellent and last a long time.

    However, upgrading the pickups would give you much more output in most cases. In order to replace the pickups, the wiring, pots, jack, and switch would have to be pulled anyway – an excellent time to invest about $10 US to go ahead and upgrade the entire wiring harness. You would have an opportunity to change the sound a bit and would eliminate the odd behavior of your AF’s sound.

    In general, the AF’s pickups are awesome… I replaced mine because I wanted better pots, jack and switch, as well as more output…

    I did find another AF later on and have kept it in stock condition. Since I bought it new as well, and have kept it in top shape – it’s still sounding like new.

    I’ll be glad to do a write-up on how to upgrade the AF, if you’d like.

  3. I am a new guitar junkie. I just bought the af75 and I like it already. I want to put the best strings on “Bella”. Tell me what you think I should get on the af75. I am still learning, I don’t know if that is relevant, but I thought I would mention that. Thanks

    • I think that thicker strings, while they are harder on the fingers than thinner strings, sound best on a hollowbody guitar. The Ibanez Artcore AF series guitars sound really great with either .011-based strings, or even flatwounds such as the D’Addario Chromes.

  4. Thanks I really love the af75. I play it more and enjoy it, so I am learning more than I ever did before with my acoustic. .11 it will be,the strings on it now are very thin and I think as a beginner the thicker strings will be easier,( my finger strength is good) as well as a better sound. I plan on the Duncan’s as a reward when I get better. The blues rifts and sound made something click in my brain and the light went on so quitting like I have done before will not happen. Thanks again.

  5. I recently purchased the Ibanez AF75 after owning the Joe Pass Epiphone. I like the AF75 much more than the Epiphone Emporer II. This may be due to the fact that I played classical guitar for many years and find that the Ibanez soundsbeautiful when played acoustically as well as amplified.
    My only hang up is that I find the action a little too low and would like to raise it just a bit.
    Would you be so kind as to let me know how I go about raising the action on the AF75? Thank you kindly for your expertise in this regard.
    Joe Starr

    • Hi Joe! Thanks for commenting.

      Most of the Ibanez AF Artcore guitars have a “floating bridge,” in that the bridge is not attached or glued to the top of the guitar’s body. In the case of the AF75, the bridge is a rosewood mount with a Tune-O-Matic-style adjustable bridge/saddles mounted to the top. Note that before you make any changes, its a good idea to mark where the base of the bridge is… I’ve used LOW-tack blue tape or grease pencil to mark the bridge base’s exact location – it’s pretty easy to move the bridge while one adjusts the saddles or the height of the bridge. With that said…

      There are two thumbwheels on the base of the saddle portion of the bridge. These can be rotated counter-clockwise to raise the saddles or clockwise to lower them. This will generally raise the action. You can do this to some extent for at least a quarter-inch of height… bear in mind that this won’t raise the action much at the first fret… your personal tastes may like this adjustment just as it is. If you need the strings higher at both bridge and first fret, you’ll need to replace the nut. In most cases, folks that lie to use flatwounds and a high action on their “jazz boxes” will just raise the bridge…

      Please let me know if this answers your question or helps.

  6. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your prompt reply and the procedure that you suggest to adjust the action on my AF75 guitar.
    I took a careful look at the instrument and notice two wheels on the underside of the bridge. I assume that you are referring to turning these wheels in order to adjust the action. If this is so, why would it be necessary to remove the bridge in order to make the adjustment? It appears that the wheels can be turned while the bridge remains in place on the guitar.
    Also, if I want to raise the action on the bass sting[s], is it necessary to turn both wheels?Would just turning the wheel on the bass side just a bit do the trick ?
    Jim: Thank you once again for your prompt reply and the expert advice that you gave me. Before I undertake the job of adjusting the action on the bass strings, I’ll do nothing until I hear from you.
    My sincerest thanks . Joe

    • Hi Joe,

      Indeed, the two wheels are what you’d adjust. If you only want the bass side to be higher off the frets, just adjust that one wheel. It’s pretty flexible and can be adjusted nicely to taste, so you can even lower the treble side and raise the bass side (or vice-versa if you wish).

      You don’t need to remove the bridge to adjust the wheels. Often, I will loosen the strings so that they still make reasonable contact with the saddles – thus allowing the wheels to be turned much more easily. When I’m setting up a Jazz Box or any other guitar with a floating bridge, I take my time and adjust a little, tune up, play a bit, loosen the strings, adjust a little, etc. The “sweet spot” often doesn’t come on the first adjustment.

      The reason I wrote about marking the bridge location is that once the strings are loosened, the bridge is very easy to move both laterally and at an angle from the guitar’s body. It takes a while to find just the right spot for the base of the bridge – to allow for proper intonation and sound quality… Once I’ve got a “floater” adjusted and intonated, I like to mark the bridge base’s position before I work on any part of the bridge or even the strings/nut/trapeze. It takes a while to find the sweet spot – so I like to make sure I don’t have to do it all over again…

      Cheers! Let me know if you have more questions.

  7. I’ve had an AF75 for 10 years or so. It is a very nice guitar to the hands, and I have no issues about placing the bridge.

    But, I absolutely do have an issue with the ACH pickups. I’ve been using a Valve Junior for portability and a Blues Deluxe for gigging, but neither is happy with the AF75. I also have a Yamaha AEX1500 which gives me much better sound-out (although not perfect), using Thomastik-Infeld BeBop strings (12s – or 13s if I swap out the G for an unwound one).

    I’m thinking of replacing the ACHs with those Kent Armstrong P90s in the humbucker format. I play jazz & jug/blues – want a guitar sound (not like Stanley Jordan or Pat Metheney – more Herb Ellis with Oscar, or Bucky Pizzarelli). Really can’t beat the ring of single-coils. Probably upgrade the pots and caps at the same time. Anybody with experience on this combo?

    • Thank you for the reply!

      I think the ACHs are warm and vintage-y, and do much better with a little tube pedal/pre-amp in front of them. On my Bigsby model AF, the ACHs seem to fit nicely. On my original orange AF75D, I’ve put a matched set of Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers in them. I haven’t played one of the Artcores with the P90-in-a-humbucker pickups from Kent Armstrong. I have used a set of Gibson P94s (same type of pickup, just a little warmer)… they sounded much bluesier!

      The switch on all of mine were the little box switch, but were actually really good. Each time I’ve gone through an Artcore, I did upgrade the pots and put in different types of PIO caps. Very happy with that. The factory jacks tend to be pretty strong on these.

  8. I’m about to swap the stock pickups in my ibanez af55, a guitar similar to your af75 but somewhat less fancy i guess. Where I am very pleased about this guitar, except some problems I experienced with the bridge, the pickups are a little bit too shy and muddy when playing more complex chords, which results in sinking away in the mix while rehearsing or gigging. I am sure about seymour duncans, but not yet about the kind of sd’s, my favorites for now are alnico pro II’s, and maybe a phat cat in the neck, but the pearly gates are still open for consideration. My question; can you help me on this topic, I play blues, both smooth and raunchy, and indie and rock, also all sorts of rock, from rockabilly to grunge, and I want pups who can give me some punch, enough high end and thick smoothness, things I hope to find in the alnico pro II’s, am I right?

    • Ahh! The Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro II! What a great pickup. You can get Slash, Frampton, Paul, and Jeff Beck (for his neck sound) out of those. They have more bite and growl than ’59s, more punch than Gibson 490s, and more clarity than Gibson 490s as well. They have more output than the OEM Ibanez ACH1 and ACH2…

      You lose a little of the sweetness of the ACHs when you go to the Alnico II Pros, but I think it is very well worth it for the sound you’re seeking… The ACH pickups do great with a good tube pre-amp (pedal, rack, or desktop) to push their output – that’s how I use them in the studio…

      But: the blues come home to roost with those Seymour Duncan APH-1 pickups! Excellent choice!

      P.S. The original switch is pretty good in the AF75s, as is the jack. The pots are even much better than most of the tiny mini-pots used in guitars from Asia these days… If you don’t upgrade them, that’s fine… but if you pull the whole assembly (a good thing for your pickup wires), go for four CTS, CGE, or Alpha full-size pots and a nice $2 tone cap on each tone pot. I used Gibson 300kOhm pots for volume on mine and CTS 500kOhm pots for the volumes.

      If you folks would like to know how to re-wire a sealed hollow-body (with F-holes), send me some encouragement and I’ll make a description or maybe even a video!

      • Hi,

        I am the happy owner of an AF-75 and have been thinking about changing pups – and maybe also change pots. So if you have any plans on making a tutorial or video about re-wiring, you’ve got a subscriber!

        • Thank you!

          I have actually thought about that… Once you discover the secret of how to re-wire a closed hollow-body guitar, it actually ends up being a pretty neat thing to know how to do.

          I finally found an ivory-colored AF75TDG (Bigsby, gold) for sale at a guitar store used… I snatched that puppy up lightening fast. I’ve got the original ACH humbuckers in it and haven’t decided if I want to change them or not… They’re wonderful for Jazz and new age… you need something with more output for some styles of rock (or get a nice honkin’ tube head amplifier to push them to your ears).

          If I do upgrade them, I think I will make a video while I do it!

          Jim

  9. Hi: Thank you for writing.
    I use the AF75 with the original hardware and like it very much. I do mostly
    solo guitar playing [Johnny Smith style] and use the 24″ analog speaker which gives me very good projection .
    Sorry that I can’t give you any more input than that.
    Best regards. Joe Starr

  10. Hi Jim,
    Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your advice regarding the bridge adjustment on the af75 Ibanez guitar.
    Lately, another problem cropped up on the guitar that is causing me loads of frustration.. There is a buzz on the third “G” string. The buzz begins when I start playing on the fifth fret and above.
    Is it correct to assume that if I raise the bridge ever so slightly on the treble side, this may help eliminate the buzz on the treble side which includes the third string ?I really dislike fooling around with bride adjustments because overall, the sound is great, except for that problem “G” string.
    Jim, thank you for any help that you offer in this regard. Joe

    • Well, funny you mention it, I too have some trouble with the action. I have a low action which makes playing very confortable, but sometimes, and yes, more with g string, it touches the frets making that noise. I like to play with intensity, (I come from classical school as well) and the problem is bigger the harder we play. It is always a compromise action-confort, and that would be one reason to change for the epiphone…although I just played the epiphone for some minutes, and I am not very sure yet.

    • Hi Joe!

      Terribly sorry this took so long to reply… I’m swamped, and I do care about my readers…

      A few different setup things can cause buzzing when you start working up the fretboard towards the bridge…
      The easiest solution is often to bring bridge up, as you said. Generally, bringing up the treble side (as you indicated) will often do the trick. I like to turn a quarter turn, test, if not fixed, do another quarter turn and so on. Generally, I’ll keep it one quarter turn to one half turn higher than what it takes to end the buzz in most picking or plucking playing.

      There are more advanced tune-ups you can do to your guitar if the bridge changes don’t help your g-string buzz. Note that this isn’t a comprehensive guide, but you might find nuggets here that might help. Please remember, this is very high-level advice – there are lots of guides to guitar set-up that are more experienced than my writings, and more in-depth by more experienced technicians… You can use YouTube for some guides, or go over to Stew Mac has lots of good guides and videos, opens new window).

      1) The string buzzes above a certain fret, but stops buzzing at a certain higher fret: This can happen when a given fret wire (or set of fret wires) is taller than other fret wires on the neck. If this is the case, most often, the best fix is a good guitar technician. For those who are inclined to tinker or feel OK about working the more advanced aspects of their guitars, you can level the given frets with a flat-plane fret file, fret leveler, or other technique. Another issue might be if one or more of the frets are too high, but because they are rising up out of the fretboard (“popping up” or warped, or the fret board is so dried out that it has shrunk). In this case, the frets can be re-seated with a fret pressing caul, fret hammering caul or other fret seating tools.
      2) The string buzzes after a certain fret and buzzes all the way up the neck towards the bridge until the last few frets or so: In some cases, the neck profile might be off. In this case, the neck might be bowed upward. In this case, the neck profile might be adjusted to provide a more level fretting surface. Sight down the fretboard and see if it is curved up towards the middle or down towards the middle. Consult your guitar’s setup guide or a professional guide for changing the neck profile (often with a truss rod adjustment).
      3) A given string buzzes, but its neighbors don’t buzz at all: Sometimes, this is due to a nut issue. String nuts are simple yet complex beasts: they can be fixed sometimes with a little abrasive cord or super-fine grit adjustments (for strings that are too high). Yet other times, the nut must be re-worked or replaced. Even nice expensive guitars get out of the factory with nut problems sometimes. Nut issues are very difficult to fix sometimes, so I’ll leave those opinions to those who work string nuts on a daily basis… Know this: nuts are like cloth for clothing: you can remove too much very easily and make the nut unusable. Always proceed very gently and very slowly and a little at a time when working on a nut.

      A lot more adjustments can be made to end string buzz, including changing string gauges, so this isn’t a comprehensive guide by any means.

      I hope it helps, and thank you so much for reading!

      Jim

  11. Hi,
    very good review, thanks for sharing. I have one too and I am reluctant to sell it and buy an epiphone emperor II. I like much more the touch of the epiphone, although I am not sure about the sound. I play fingerstyle and with pick, mostly in a classic jazz way (joe pass, montgomery, also latin). I have read that Joe Starr made the opposite change, it kind of got me even more confuse…How would you compare these two guitars?
    Thank in advance.

    • Hi Jao! Thank you for reading.

      I love my hollowbodies and semi-hollowbodies. They’re as different as people, so sometimes comparing them isn’t easy to do. When you compare manufacturers and models, it is almost always an orange-apple comparison.

      An Emperor, like a Swingster or Joe Pass, is a nice jazz box with the appeal of the Epiphone neck and electronics. They’re really great, and I enjoy playing them. The pickups are a good part of the sound of these, as is the neck attachment and joint. It’s a tough call when comparing to the thick-bodied, larger AF-75. The AF-75 is warmer and boomier in lots of ways, but also has more vintage-y pickups and electronics. The Epis have much stronger humbuckers, a better switch and jack, and are heavier in their wood components.

      When I’m ready to make a recording with one of my hollow-body or semi-hollow-body guitars, I always go for the sound first, the playability second. If I were restricted to one guitar, I would personally go for the sound. I know I’m different than others in this respect, but my focus is recording.

      • Thanks for the quick answer, Jim. It seems I’ll have to keep both 🙂 I just got lots of offers for the Ibanez, although my announcement had a price about 75% the price of a new one! I will resist selling it.
        Thanks again,
        Joao

        • Hi Joao,

          Good idea! Both have lots of things to value… The resale value on the Ibanezs is not what it should be. I have my two AF-75s (an orange as in this article, and a TG in ivory). I’d rather keep them than to sell them for so very little. Besides, I ALWAYS miss them if I sell them and end up looking for another. 🙂

  12. Just as a note on my own article:

    With that said, I’d be glad to write a little about some of the things I observe when playing out and recording with these instruments. I hope something here sparks an idea with you and helps 🙂

    At the top level, there are at least three major types of non-solid-bodied guitars and basses.
    * True hollowbody – something built somewhat like an open acoustic. There’s a back and sides, and the top is glued to the edges of the sides. No substantial center block is present. The guitar may have F-holes, but may not. These guitars, in general, have a much more mellow and woody tone than the other to major types of hollowed bodies. The Ibanez AF-75D is a true hollowbody. The Emperor, such as the Emperor Swingster is also a hollowbody. The differences in the sound are central around body open-ness, electronics, neck placement (and attachment).
    * Semi-hollowbody – An instrument that is built with a center block, generally running from neck insert point to the end pin, with a back glued to sides and the center block, and a top glued to sides and the center block. These guitars are generally brighter sounding and heavier than true hollowbodies. Often, these guitars are also crunchier when overdriven or distorted. The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton, as well as their Gibson ES-335-type cousins are semi-hollowbodies. They’re less jazzy-sounding, but still do a great job of jazzy sound if the electronics, strings, and amplification are just so.
    * Something I call “hollowed body” – An instrument made from a big piece of wood (sometimes glued pieces to assemble a big plank), then lots of wood is carved out to be big chambers, then a top is applied to the body. Again, these might or might not have F-holes. These are even brighter and have even more sustain than their cousins. My Gibson Midtown Custom and Standard bass are “hollowed body” instruments.
    (How’s that for compressing a book into three tiny paragraphs of generalizations :-)?)

  13. I recently purchased the Ibanez LGB30. I plan on returning it for a used Ibanez af75 vintage sunburst that I found for a killer price. The af75 is the 2003 version and to me is built better and more solid than both the newer af75s as well as the LGB30. The LGB30 has a low quality cheap feel to it. The look of it is outstanding but the feel and workmanship has a low budget quality it. The 2003 model af75 feels more on the the level of my two vintage Ibanez arch tops from the 70s, well built and solid with good resonance.

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