SOME SAY THAT first impressions are everything, and that they influence your opinions and expectations forever after. Considering that our first impression of Ibanez's S Series guitars was a memorable one indeed-watching jazz übershredder Frank Gambale flaunt a gaudy yellow Saber in the late '80s-it should come as no surprise that we were completely beguiled when we laid eyes on the company's elegant new S2170FWNTF.
The S2170 is a standout member of the Ibanez A-Team-the Prestige Series-featuring some of the finest attributes the company has to offer. You'll surely find yourself gazing for a while at that intriguing burled poplar top, which adorns the slim yet sleek mahogany body that all S series guitars possess. The body's "natural flat" finish (indicated by the NTF at the end of the guitar's name) only adds to its appeal, as does the guitar's overall cosmetic simplicity: a mere two knobs for global volume and tone, one five-way pickup selector, and an elegant bound rosewood fretboard garnished by a lone Prestige inlay at the 12th fret. The headstock maintains the less-is-more aesthetic, topping the guitar with a rosewood truss rod cover and a subtle Ibanez Prestige logo that emanates a royal character underneath those classy-looking Gotoh Precision tuners.
Don't be fooled by the S2170's slenderness; once you handle the guitar, you'll be quickly reminded that it does in fact possess a mahogany body. Still, it balances nicely on a player's lap. On its own, the buttery Wizard II prestige neck is nearly worth the guitar's full retail price--the rounded contours of this five-piece maple/Bubinga composite just melt into your fretting hand--and it only takes a lick or two to start gushing over the 22 jumbo frets and ultra-flat radius, which foster an atmosphere of bending nirvana. Whammy junkies will fully appreciate both the smoothness and the consistent tuning afforded by the roller bearings in the revolutionary Ibanez-designed ZR (zero resistance) bridge, not to mention its handful of tweakable features like the arm torque adjuster, which lets you easily adjust the whammy bar's height.
Most important, and most astonishing, are the array of tones that the S2170 can produce. We were able to switch from thickly compressed, high-gain fusion lines to clean, delay-drenched ambient tones with only minimal EQ adjustments to the patches on our M-Audio Black Box. American-made DiMarzio/IBC pickups are the ace in the 2170's pocket; designed by pickup mastermind Steve Blucher, they project a warm, vintage-style rock 'n' roll tone at a medium output. Think Gibson PAFs, but overwound for hotter mids.
IS IT FOR YOU?
The S2170FWNTF is a versatile instrument capable of creating many sonic textures. Aesthetics notwithstanding, this guitar can be counted on to deliver on those days when you need the right ax for that midday session with Paul Rodgers, followed by the quick rehearsal with the Metallica tribute band that precedes your gig as sole guitarist backing up the Temptations.