Both the Ibanez RG and Saber are hot-rodded shred guitars released in 1987, that each quickly became iconic in their own right. They both have fast necks, versatile tone, are used by famous shredders….. I think it may be easier to write a list of similarities than differences…

However, this is a case of the shreddy Steve Vai “Crossroads” devil being in the details. There are some rather significant items that one should be aware of when considering these models!

It’s important to keep in mind that in the 30-year history of modern Ibanez, they have released a LOT of guitars. There are some RGs spec’d more like Sabers, some Sabers designed more like RGs, and some variants of each that take them even further apart!

So we’re going to be focusing on the primary categorical differences between these two Ibanez archetypes.

RG vs. Saber: which is for you?

The Body


  • More pronounced cutaway for fret access
  • Flat top with a forearm contour
  • Usually basswood


  • Normally 22 frets
  • Slightly larger body, but much thinner, with a carved top
  • Mahogany body

Despite being a heavier wood, Sabres are much lighter due to just how thin the body is. This is really saying something, as an RG isn’t exactly heavy to begin with! This makes the S very comfortable, but also forces the use of a plastic mount on the body for the switch (because the body is so thin!), which can be a turn off for some people.

One of the reasons RGs became so popular was that 24 frets are standard on them. Shredders really, really like the full two octave per string range, so this is an important feature (as opposed to most Sabers).

Lead players also like the RG because of the deep cutaway that allows access to these frets. The Saber’s cutaway isn’t uncomfortable, but definitely doesn’t allow the ultimate fret access that an RG’s does.

The RG is a comfortable guitar, but it is a flat top with a forearm contour, which renders its look rather aggressive, and the body rather familiar. The pointy horns don’t hurt on that front either. The S-series is left with an overall funkier look, and unique ergonomic experience due to the top.

The Tone

Despite the thin body, the mahogany body on Sabers really does retain its warm character and sweet sustain. RGs tend to be a bit more clinical: with tight bass response and pristine cleans.

Obviously pickups have a large effect on this, but it is interesting that the first (and most recognizable) RGs were HSH and Sabers were HSS, which further fits the aggressive vs. vintage vibe.

It’s worth noting that the 22 frets on the Saber make a huge difference to neck pickup tone. The reason Stratocasters are 21 or 22 frets is because the neck pickup (particularly singles) sound absolutely perfect when placed…. Right where the 24th fret goes on 24 fret guitars.

This gives a very sweet and organic tone that many players love. There’s nothing bad about 24 fret neck pickups, but there is a difference, and it’s one that should be kept in mind.

Popular Variant Models


  • RGA: Mahogany body, arched top, and many hardtail options
  • RGD: 26.5” baritone scale and aggressive body bevels
  • RGT: Neck-Thru design


  • SA: Flat back/carved top bodies with vintage non-locking tremolos
  • SV: 24-fret models with vintage non-locking variants of the Edge Zero trem, and pickups specifically designed for splitting.
  • SZ: Thicker body with set-in neck and shorter scale lengths and hardtail bridges, similar to Les Pauls.

These are the most well-known variants of each model, and as you can see at face value: the RGs seem to be more metal oriented and the Sabers seem to offer a lot of vintage options!

RGDs are hugely popular among metal players, as the scale length helps maintain clarity when downtuning, the shape is very aggressive, and 6 and 7 string, hardtail and trem, and rare color models are readily available.

The RGAs quickly became famous in prog metal communities for their thick and well balanced tone, as well as their stripped down no-nonsense approach, and RGTs (while a rather shortlived model) have amazing sustain and beautiful finishes.

SAs feel a bit well, less like an S, due to the flat back, and for a long time were the only guitars featuring non locking tremolos in Ibanez’s lineup. SVs are a real hidden treasure, due to their full 2-octave per string range, fantastically stable and easy to set up take on a non-locking trem, and beautiful tops.

The SZ (and SZR) line is a really great option for players wanting juicy Les Paul tone with Ibanez’s quality and features. The shorter scale lengths and neck construction on these make for really fat tone, and are very easy to play.


As you can see… there are more than enough options for everyone! I wish it were easy to categorize people and decide which guitar was best for which guitarist, but like anything it will be personal preference at the end of the day.

I’d say Sabers are for players after very light and more ergonomic guitars that perhaps lean towards more vintage (or at minimum looser and thicker) tones. Especially beloved by fusion players and people with quirky aesthetic preferences.

Whereas RGs are more geared towards modern metal and even pop players with their very tight and refined tones and aggressive-yet-Stratty look, and are a great high performance “everything guitar.”

Once again, there are HSS RGs with vintage trems, HH Sabers with flame tops, thick and meaty mahogany RGs, and many more other models floating around: so you can mix and match options to an extent if you’re flexible!

There also aren’t any explicit “rules” when it comes to music and gear. You can always play brutal extreme death metal on an 8 string Saber, or jazz on a JEM, and many people have! These are suggestions to help you find what is optimal for you!

Do you like the RG or Saber? Maybe both? We are authorized Ibanez dealers and can get you a great deal on any of their models. Or read some more articles

This article was written by Kyle Karich, our editor located in Florida.

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