Guitar Review: Ibanez S520ex


This week I will be reviewing the Ibanez S series 520ex. This sleek looking, mind numbing piece of weaponry is a must have for those looking for an array or tonal possibilities. With its ultra thin mahogany body the Ibanez S520 is super light weight while still maintaining a soothing warm tone. The 25.5″ scale Wizard II neck is lighting fast and very pleasing to the touch. The Wizard II is a 3pc Maple neck with a bound Rosewood Fingerboard. The jumbo frets eliminate string buzzing and give the player a better grip on the strings.

Some players may find it difficult at first to keep track of what fret you are on as the S520 does not have fret markers on the fingerboard. Do not “fret” my friends, there are fret markers on the top side of the guitar neck to keep your noodling in line. There is a 12th fret claw scratch inlay on the S520 giving it a very metal flavor.
One of the great things about this guitar is the Ibanez ZR (zero resistance) Bridge. This New Tremolo system improves on the older style tremolos giving it greater stability and string tension. The ZR bridge is very low profile giving the player more room to move the picking hand as the fine tuners are sunk down out of the way. One great thing about this tremolo is it sits on ball-bearings which provides better tuning stability. If one string breaks the other five strings stay in tune!

The Pick-ups:

The S520 comes with two Ibanez infinity pick-ups, one volume and one tone knob. In the bridge position houses the INF2 and the neck position the INF1. Although only having two humbucking pick-ups the S520 has a 5-way selector switch. The tonal possibilities are vast and beautiful. In my opinion the clean tone options on this guitar are nothing short of astounding. The unique switching system splits the pick-up functions in a different way then normal. In position one you get the solo sound of the INF2 bridge pick-up. A very bright and forceful sound with screaming harmonics and string clarity. In position two you get a coil tap crossing the top half of the bridge pick-up and the lower half of the neck pick-up. This combo lends for a warm bluesy sound. In position three you get the full effect of both bridge and neck pick-ups. I compare this to a SRV type tone with its super warm tone perfect for chordal melodies. In position four you get the INF1 pick-up (parallel connected) giving you a single coil tone without the buzz. In position five you get the INF1 pick-up in the neck position by itself perfect for all you soloing needs. The INF1 humbucker houses a ceramic magnet giving you that classic tone with excellent dynamics. The INF2 humbucker houses an alnico-5 magnet lending excellent lows enhanced mid range with a higher output for string clarity.

My thoughts:

The Ibanez S520 is an excellent guitar for every style of music. Although presented as a heavy metal guitar, The S520 is really meant for all genres. The clean tones are amazing with so many options to choose from you will definitely find the tone you are looking for. The blazing tone of the guitar while over driven will make your face melt. I usually swap out factory pick-ups right away but there is no need to on the S520, the pick-ups are perfectly matched in every way.

I am pretty rough on guitars and I have to say the ZR tremolo is by far the best I have used to date. It is really easy to fine tune and it stays that way even after the most brutal of solos. The S520 is an A+ in my book, affordable and versatile. However if you are interested in picking one up, I suggest that you are comfortable with your chord and scale positions. In low light its is easy to get lost on the fretboard. Alright, that’s my rant for the week.

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