When it comes to hollowbody and semi-hollowbody guitars, the first models that spring to mind are generally associated with a certain well-known American manufacturer. When one thinks Ibanez, you’d also be forgiven for immediately bringing to mind a Jem or RG. However, the Ibanez Artcore range has been knocking it out of the park for years, delivering the customary high-quality we’ve come to expect from the Japanese giant at ludicrously affordable prices.
Since their introduction back in mid-2002, the Artcore series of hollow and semi-hollowbody guitar has gained a worthy reputation for offering outstanding value for money. From the beginner guitar to seasoned professionals, they have steadily taken over as the model of choice for many. Along the way such musical luminaries as George Benson, Eric Krasno, Pat Metheny and the enigmatic John Scofield, have all adopted Ibanez as their manufacturer of choice in crafting their signature models.
More than just jazz
What makes Ibanez Artcore models so great? Well if the affordability factor didn’t sway you, then the tonal versatility and sublime playability will definitely draw you in. You can segue through smooth jazz licks, boisterous blues’ lines, and ramp things up with some raucous rock with no bother at all.
Finishes for all seasons
Not only that but they’re pretty easy on the eye too. From distressed vintage finishes to delightful pastel shades and not forgetting heavenly flamed maple on some models such as the AS73FM (Azure Blue Gradation or Green Valley Gradation), there is quite literally a model to suit anyone and everyone.
Earlier this year we drooled over the Artcore Vibrante, a sleek and stylish little number that comes in some intriguingly named finishes such as Twilight Orange, Mint Blue, Sea Foam Green and Coral Pink.
Adhering to the semi-hollowbody shape with soft double-cutaways and F-holes through the top, the Artcore Vibrante uses sapele for exceptional resonance alongside rigid support. Set-in to the body is a sleek nyatoh neck, elegantly shaped to the AS Artcore neck profile. Thanks to the neck’s stable feel you can effortless glide along its entire length with ease. A luxurious bound laurel fingerboard with understated dot position inlays affords flawless performance, gig after gig, night and night.
A pair of Infinity R humbuckers delivers a bountiful tonal platter to feast on. Buttery smooth blues licks, crisp country leads, jagged hard rock riffs, you name it and the Infinity R pickups can do it. Fuss-free control comes via a 3-way pickup selector switch, a master volume pot and a master tone pot. Simply, plug in, turn up, rock out.
Whether you’re picking up your first guitar or adding to an already enviable collection, Ibanez hit the nail on the head with the sublime Artcore Vibrante. Stable hardware kitted throughout ensures that short of the odd tune up here and there (safety first, tune up) during a gig, you can rely on this beauty to do its job and do it in style.
Artcore AS73FM Flamed Maple
Though they have been knocking out Artcore models for fun since the early ’00s, Ibanez don’t quite have the heritage of other brands when it comes to building semi-hollowbody models. Rather than letting that be a negative, they fully embrace being new kids on the block so to speak, presenting classic semi-hollowbody curves in a range of daring finishes others are too afraid to try.
A fine example of this is the AS73FM, which marries linden back and sides with glorious flamed maple in a pair of striking finishes: Azure Blue Gradation and Green Valley Gradation. Intricate binding around the body top and F-holes elevate the already stunning visual aesthetic.
Classic Elite humbuckers doff their hats to those that went before, conjuring up vintage-style tones infused with a twist. Again, tonal dexterity is the name of the game and the AS73FM can shimmy through any musical style confidently. Sure Grip III knobs ensure that even during the most frenetic of performances, you’re in complete control.
Anchoring each string securely is the ART-1 bridge and Quik Change III tailpiece, which is a partnership that gigging musicians will fall in love with. Making rapid string changes is a breeze, yet everything is steadfast and secure when you tune up and settle in. Not only will you stand out on stage sonically and visually, but you can play safe in the knowledge that your guitar will stand up to anything thrown its way.
Artcore ASV73 Vintage
And now for something…familiar. Like the feeling you get when you have a Sunday roast at the height of winter or a bowl of your favourite cereal but with hot milk (try it), the Artcore Vintage ASV73 brings the warm and fuzzy feel-good factor. If the vibrant flamed maple tops of the AS73FM isn’t quite your cup of tea, then the Vintage renditions are the way to go. The Vintage Amber Burst and Violin Sunburst finishes look beautiful, the Classic Elite humbuckers sound epic, and the stiffness of the neck pairs with the tactility of the fingerboard to create a playground that you never want to leave.
Don’t let the the price tag fool you, the Artcore Vintage ASV73 endures anything thrown its way on tour. Strong and stable in the most demanding of environments, the ART-1 bridge and Quick-Change III tailpiece uphold intonation and sustain dutifully. At the top of the neck the nut and tuning machines maintain tuning stability faithful and true. Touring artists step up and grab one of these, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one in your arsenal.
Artcore Expressionist AS93 Zebrawood
If it’s honest to goodness semi-hollowbody tones in a model that harks back to the old school in appearance, then the Artcore Expressionist AS93 Zebrawood is right up your street. Showcasing the natural grain of the all zebrawood body in all its glory lends an air of sophistication to the AS93ZW, whilst the tortoiseshell-coloured pickguard is a thoughtful touch. Thanks to the set-in three-piece nyatoh/maple neck, you can race at lightning speeds along its length. The icing on the cake comes courtesy of a bound ebony fingerboard, affording a lavish tactile touch with acrylic block inlays providing stark contrast.
For those who like to jazz, you’ll recognise the Super 58s, as favoured by those legends mentioned at the top of the article. Sweet, sweet warmth with all that saturated loveliness is great for complex chord phrases, liquid legato and ferocious fretwork. Sure Grip III knobs keep you in complete control at all times, whilst the gig-ready hardware keeps everything poised and ready for action.
Another gig-ready and studio-friendly guitar at a price that belies its exceptional abilities, just how do Ibanez do it?
If you liked that, then you might like this
For those who like to get their jazz on, check out our Five Best Jazz Guitars article for some inspiration.
We’re sure you’ve seen them already, but it’s always nice to dip back in and check out the Gretsch 2019 models.
Wondering whether or not to go for an Epiphone ES-339 or a Dot 335?, we’ve got you covered.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.