My first experience with Ibanez’s Iron Label line of guitars wasn’t the best. The guitars seemed quite gimmicky and sort of hit-and-miss. However, Ibanez redesigned the Iron Label series this year from the bottom up and have made a full U-turn on the production of these guitars. I’ve fallen in love with quite a few of the newer models over the past year.

The Iron Label series was created to serve the metal community with boutique-like features on guitars that are fairly affordable, such as the familiarly shaped SIX6FDFM. Today, we’ll be looking at the RGIX20FESM, a guitar that boasts some neat appointments for it’s price. But how does it play?

Let’s find out!


– Basswood Body

– Spalted Maple Top

– 3pc Maple/Bubinga Nitro Wizard Neck

– Bolt-On Neck Construction

– Bound Ebony Fretboard

– 24 Jumbo Frets

– Gibraltar Standard II Bridge

– EMG 60/81 Active Pickups

– Cosmo Black Hardware

– 1xVolume/3-Way Pickup Selector/Killswitch

– 25.5” Scale

When the Iron Label series was first released, they had quite a bit of QC issues, which is really surprising, coming from Ibanez. Ibanez is known for their excellent quality across the board.In 2016, they decided to fix this and rework the Iron Label guitars.

This specimen features a Spalted Maple top and an Ebony fretboard (not something I’m used to seeing on a guitar under $1000). The finish is a really nice touch and plays with the wood choices well. I’ve never really been a fan of black painted Basswood bodies. I’ve always felt they were just boring, from an aesthetic standpoint, but the front of the guitar looks insane.

All of the hardware is a nice quality and the guitar features a really comfortable bridge, the Gibraltar Standard II.

A standout feature is the inclusion of a killswitch. Killswitches are something you don’t really see very often on production guitars. I used to be a massive Buckethead fan when I was younger and even wired an old Les Paul to have an arcade button-style killswitch. They are definitely a fun addition to a guitar to add some versatility.

Let’s talk sound.


Basswood is one of the most widely used woods on guitars and is often associated with “cheap” guitars. The truth is that many big guitarists actually love basswood, such as Misha Mansoor and Tosin Abasi, due to their super neutral and flexible sound. They are practically flat, with a slight mid range bump and are quite flexible with just about any pickup. Basswood is often considered cheap to due it’s dull appearance and large quantities of poor cuts that go into beginner guitars. The better cuts can be just as good as any other tonewood!

Check out our piece discussing whether or not Basswood sucks.

Played acoustically, this guitar sounds very neutral, but a bit bright thanks to the addition of maple.

The pickups choices make this guitar a metal workhorse. The EMG 81 offers fluid sustain and a bunch of high end cut. The tones offered are aggressive and crisp. They aren’t the best for mid-gain sounds though. Do I need to go on? We all know about this pickup. Some of us think they are great, some of us hate them. We discuss this in another article, “EMGs: Do They Suck?”.

The EMG 60 is a bit less aggressive and has a classic thickness about it. Fat lows and boosted mids make it a great pickup for clean passages and single note runs that need to stand out.

Build Quality:

 Like I said, the older Iron Labels had issues, but the newer ones have stepped it up.

After the last few models I played, I expected this one to meet the same quality expectations, and it did!

The fretwork was super clean and smooth, as was the neck joint. The bridge is super comfy and holds tuning very well with the help of the tuners. The electronics were mostly good except for a slightly scratchy volume pot.

The biggest issue I could find was quite a few scratches on the body, although this isn’t a huge deal and affects no playability.

Final Verdict:

 The Ibanez RGIX20FESM is a workhorse of a metal guitar. At $799 it’s not so expensive that I’d be afraid to gig with it, but it’s still a step above enough that I would consider it for studio use.

The visual appointments are really nice and the achievable tones are great for metal and hard rock.

The build quality is good and had no issues that affect playability at all.


If you liked this article, check out more reviews! We are also authorized Ibanez dealers and can order any model they offer in any price range for you.

This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana.



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