Ibanez Mods or any Superstrat Type

 

Super Strats are quite complex guitars with their locking nuts and Floyd Rose (or other) bridge types. Top end versions from manufacturers like Ibanez etc. are superb instruments with great playability and sound but they have a price to match. However, its not too expensive to have a lesser model upgraded and setup to match the best.

Most electric guitarists think of upgrades in terms of pickups and perhaps other hardware but the biggest benefits come from playability upgrades as you will see below.

On the subject of pickups, many superstrats, such as the Ibanez RG1570 have pickups with little warmth or tonal range. They seem to be aimed at very high gain sounds. Most superstrats can actually get far more tonal range with inexpensive pickup changes. Just putting a nice vintage Kent Armstrong single coil in the middle position of an HSH (humbucker, single coil, humbucker) can do wonders as it plays a major part on three pickup positions. On the other end of the scale, a set of DiMarzio Evolutions installed produces top pro sounds from even a modest superstrat.

No criticism of Ibanez isimpled here as they produce consistently high quality guitars at great prices. In fact Ibanez lower end guitars are so good that they can be upgraded as below to match very expensive guitars in terms of sound and playability.

Below are s ome pictures of a fully fixed Ibanez RG1570 with discussion of the process.

This guitar came with fret buzzes everywhere and a neck that bowed back very slightly under the first 3 frets when it was setup with a low action. A pro setup would have resolved all these problemswell enough but a bit more work produced stunning results.


IBANEZ RG MODS
Ibanez Superstrat RG1570
   
Perfectly aligned Ibanez Floyd Rose trem bridge wih Eddie Van Halen mod. Produces perfect tuning stability.

Floyd Rose or vintage strat type Trem blocking is very effective. In this case the bridge sits perfectly level and upwards movement is prevented. Dive-bombing etc. now works with wonderfully stable tuning and the trem returns firmly to this position. The Ibanez Floyd Rose trems are superb.

String bending is much easier because the trem will not move forward no matter how hard you bend the strings. It makes string changing much easier too.

The overall sound usually seems a little warmer as the sustain block is tightly pressed against the tonewood insert. This is a very subjective assessment of course, my impression is that there is some improvement in sustain too. Of course a good fret dressing and crowning make a major difference to sustain too.


 

Ibanez RG to JEM upgrade. Very low action plays perfectly without choking on bends or buzzing. These Ibanez necks need careful optimisation but have the potention to be fret monsters.

Polished scalloping frets 21 - 24, nice polished frets and a super low action.

The very high 1.4mm Ibanez frets can feel lumpy and Ibanez Jems usually have lower frets than this. The lowered frets here give a Gibson Jumbo Fret feel to the guitar although at 1.20mm they are a little higher than this. Smooth as silk! The original Ibanez frets were very well profiled.

Just what the customer wanted.

   
Ibanez guitars generally come out of the factories witha rather hard feel in the hand. This one has been carefully modified to produce a vintage feel on a new guitar. Instant vintage Ibanez

This was a very new guitar and a little "worn in " effect revolutionised it's feel. This is quite a subtle effect but as is quite quick to do I usually include this, in more extensive work, as a little freebie (as long as this is what the customer wants). Typical new Ibanez guitars feel very straight, square and new - not a criticism of Ibanez in anyway as this effect cannot easily be done by machine. Putting a skilled worker onto each Ibanez guitar to do this would put the price up significantly.

I have a couple of guitars with the effect for people to try - they soon get the idea.


These pics show how well this guitar responded to careful fret levelling. The owner wanted a very low action. You can just see the 70 on the feeler gauge. This is 0.7mm as its a metric gauge (28 thousands of an inch) .

Details of the fret levelling process stages are shown at the end of this page. Excellent quality Ibanez fretwire - very well fitted too.

    se. The Ibanez neck originally had a few fret problems and was not perfectly straight but an accuret fret dress and complex neck relief patter produced a stunning level of playability. Ibanez guits don't play better than this one.


A couple of views of the Ibanez neck. Starting with a neck with a number of problems, the end result was very pleasing. At this price the original neck from Ibanez was good value, its just that the customer wanted ultra high playability so the slightest problem was magnified.
Low action! Beautifully profile Ibanez frets. Ibanez fretwire is excepionally high quality and should have a very long life. Nice guitar neck, shimmed to get a bit of back angle between the neck and the body. Helps to maintain perfect Floyd Rose placement.  The Ibanez RG range supplies very good quality materials at a competitive prive. However, the fingerboards are not the finest rosewood and need careful attention to get the feel of top class rosewood.

Dimarzio Evolutions installed. They don't fit well at all being much deeper than the Ibanez originals. Time for a very sharp set of chisels, paint plus electrical screening. The Ibanez RG1570 proved to have a body made of very nice wood that carved easily - a sure sign that Ibanez DON'T hide rubbish wood under a nice coat of paint. Well done again Ibanez.

 

A Full set of Dimarzio Evolutions installed in the Ibanez. A far more detailed and flexible sound than the originals.

This is quite an expensive option but less expensive pickup changes can give similar effects.

 

 

The full process! This looks a lot of expensive work but once its all dismantled and on with workbench work progresses quickly ... less time = less cost.

  1. Dismantle Ibanez, removing neck and neck hardware
  2. Lower frets to 1.40mm from 1.20mm,
  3. Level frets 1-3 to accommodate truss rod reverse relief problem under these frets.
  4. Re-profile and level (fine)
  5. Optimise action by levelling for an increased relief under strings 4-6 (about 0.02mm)
  6. Fine re-profile and level
  7. Polish re-profiling
  8. Ultra Fine level and polish fret crowns - optimise action under frets 15-24.
  9. Scallop frets 21-24 - polish scalloping
  10. Carry out "worn in "effect - works wonders on new guitars.
  11. Apply satin finish effect to back of neck (stops sweaty hands sticking)
  12. Re-finish fingerboard to match darkened scalloped wood.
  13. Remove Floyd Rose mechanism
  14. Make tonewood insert to block trem upwards motion. Glue in place
  15. Remove existing pickups
  16. Increase depth of neck pickup rebate to accept deeper Dimarzio Evolution
  17. Wire as Jem Evolutions
  18. Setup pickups
  19. Service electrics and machine heads
  20. Refit Floyd Rose system and setup springs
  21. Refit neck hardware - lowering Floyd Rose Locking Nut by 0.005"
  22. Refit neck, supply strings & re-string
  23. Full action setup: truss rod, string heights, intonation, Floyd Rose spring tension etc. Adjusted for lowest action. Action in this case top string: 0.7mm at 12 fret, 0.8mm at 24th fret Bass string 1.2mm at 12 fret, 1.4mm. (0.7mm is 28 thousands of an inch for the less metric amongst us)

Guitars (Ibanez less than many I find) vary and its not always possible to get a guitar to play at this very low action level with no buzzes and no bend choking. Not all players require such a low action either!