The Ibanez AF105-NT will be the guitar reviewed today. It is part of the Artcore Custom line and features many fancy appointments such as flamed maple top, back and sides, flamed maple pickguard, 5-piece maple/bubinga 22 fret neck, abalone inlay, with rosewood tailpiece and control knobs. The pickups are both Super 58 models. Included with the guitar are the ART-1 (tuneomatic type) and a traditional wood bridge either of which sit on top of a wood base. You can easily interchange either one. The reviewed guitar was set up with the wood bridge and .012-.054 flatwound strings for jazz styles of playing. The finish and fretwork was flawless and the frets are a larger modern size. All 4 of the control pots had a nice smooth, silky feel to them and had a nice range of control.
The test amp was a blackface Vibrolux Reverb clone using Mercury Magnetics transformers, Sozo caps, carbon comp resistors, Mojo Musical Supply pine cabinet and 2 Weber 10F150 speakers. Current production Tung Sol 12AX7’s, 5881’s and Philips 12AT7’s were used and the GZ34 was an N.O.S. General Electric/Mullard. The amp was hand built by me here at 300Guitars.
After plugging into the Vibrato channel the controls were set with the Bright switch on, Volume-4, Treble-6, Bass-4, Reverb-2 and Vibrato effects off. The AF105-NT had a really nice clear sound with plenty of “body” and the right balance of wood-tone. The flatwound strings and wood bridge really put this combination of amp and guitar perfectly into a jazz setting. I did not have any trouble controlling the guitars body feeding back which is an issue with archtop guitars. By moving a little further from the amp and turning the Bass down just a hair feedback was very much subdued and under control. The Super 58 neck pickup with the guitars’ tone control turned down had that smokey Joe Pass jazz sound typical of archtop guitars but it really retained a lot of clarity and did not turn to mud or sound congested. Both pickups together with each tone control turned up gave a Grant Green type of tone and if you turned down the tone controls a bit you hear a similar tone to Russell Malone. The bridge pickup alone sounded great as well and you could get some older rock and roll tones with the amp turned up a bit. When the wood bridge was changed to the ART-1 the guitar had a more metallic edge to it but did not sound tinny or harsh at all. You just get increased sustain and a little more edge even with the flatwound strings.
Setting up the guitar was a breeze and the neck was very responsive to truss rod adjustments. I could get the neck to be absolutely straight and have no buzzing or fretting out the entire length of the neck including where the neck joins the body which can be a problem area for some archtop guitars. The modern size frets felt great to play on and you could actually bend the higher gauge flatwound strings. The neck shape was comfortable and it felt somehow “proper” to play meaning that it made the guitar feel much more expensive than it is. All of the abalone inlay work looked very clean and added to the overall aesthetic look of the guitar. A contributing factor to the comfort is the 16″ body and 24-3/4″ scale length which is a welcome attribute to smaller sized players.
Overall this is a great bang for the buck guitar and many jazz players often purchase them for situations where they do not want to bring their very expensive and often very sensitive guitars but want great tone and playability. In live situations the Af105-NT sounded and felt great for playing jazz and blues both standing and seated.
Included with the guitar is a harshell case. It is a molded type case and will protect the guitar reasonably well to and from gigs. List price is $999.00 and is available from authorized Ibanez dealers and Musician’s Friend online. Photo credit: Ibanez.