We’ve mentioned before about how the Ibanez SA series is often overshadowed by the S and RG lineups, but it’s not deserving of such a status. This model is no exception to that statement, this time with a unique look and specs to match its understated abilities.

– SA Maple Neck
– Mahogany Body/Maple Top
– Ebony Fretboard
– Abalone Binding
– Medium Frets
– Ibanez T102 Tremolo Bridge
– DiMarzio Black Velvet Pickups
– Graph Tech Nut
– Aqua Blue Flat Finish
– 5-Way Pickup Selector
– 1x Vol, 1x Tone


The Black Velvet pickups lend themselves extremely well to the versatile 5-way pickup selector, and while it gives you a large pallet of tones, the best description for the overall tone of this instrument would be “smooth.” The pickups have great spanky and bite but they’re rounded in a way that doesn’t make them too harsh or aggressive, the Mahogany body lends itself to a thicker tone that seems to compliment the pickups well.

The humbucker holds up well under higher gain tones. It’s not something I’d want to use for any sludgy, doomy metal tracks, but anything along the lines of progressive metal, metalcore, or technical death metal it seems to react very well to. It has a thicker tone than I’m used to out of an Ibanez, very beefy and full but not quite Les Paul levels. The low end isn’t particularly tight or loose, right down the middle. While I’m not one for a looser low end from my pickups, it does help with the versatility of the instrument.

The single coils are highly impressive, a standout feature of this model. Their ability to keep clarity and nuance under significant amounts of distortion is no easy feat, but more importantly, they don’t seem to suffer from the same drop in output when switching from the bridge humbucker. Very few HSS or HSH pickup sets are so well balanced!

Build Quality:

There is no question that Ibanez has been really picking up the slack with their mid-range instruments. The Premium series has skyrocketed since its launch several years ago, and now their standard lineup is seeing very similar improvements.

One issue I can’t seem to understand is the medium-sized frets, a departure from Ibanez’s standard jumbo-sized default. While medium is perfectly acceptable and I can look past it, it just doesn’t allow you to really grab the note in quite the same way. It’s a different feel and I’m not entirely sure I like it on an Ibanez like I would on more traditional instruments.

With the incredible features for the price such as DiMarzio pickups, GraphTech nut, Ebony fretboard and gorgeous finishings, it’s typically at a sacrifice of build quality. It’s safe to say that while this instrument isn’t completely immune from that issue, there’s certainly little to be concerned about. With a few sharp fret edges and some minor inconsistencies in the finish on the back, there’s nothing here that can’t be easily forgiven considering the price tag.

Final Thoughts:

Yet again we are impressed at how Ibanez has raised the bar in the budget lineups, but more importantly, we’re happy that the SA series is getting the attention they deserve. They play phenomenally, have wide tonal spectrums, and now we see the specs being brought up to match (without the price coming up with it!)

There are certainly faults, but they largely lie in cosmetics. If you’re willing to look past the imperfections you may have just found your new favorite guitar under $1,000.



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