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.
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.