Ibanez’s original “S” Series model, introduced in 1986 and still produced by the company, is a shredder’s ax to the core. Recently, however, Ibanez expanded the line to include stripped-down, nononsense versions that reflect the more reserved tastes of today’s players. The SZ320MH is one such example, offering a three-piece set-in mahogany neck, a mahogany body stained dark red and an affordable price that won’t strain the budget of first-time buyers.
Whereas previous “S” Series guitars featured razorthin edges along the body, with most of the “meat” remaining in the center, the SZ320MH is decidedly chunkier, yet it retains a slim, comfortable profile. The strings are anchored through the body, which gives the guitar lively response and brings a little extra sparkle out of the mahogany’s characteristically dark tone. The fully adjustable Gibraltar III bridge is a vast improvement over traditional “Tune-O-Matic” bridge design, providing a smooth surface to rest your picking hand across when palm muting. The SZ320MH’s electronics are similarly functional and elegant. Two Seymour Duncan–designed Ibanez humbuckers enhance the warm and cool mahogany tones, providing just the right balance of bite for clarity and depth for heft, with overall tone falling into territory between a Les Paul and an SG. Controls consist of a volume knob for each pickup and a master tone control. This may not be the most versatile configuration on the market, but when a guitar delivers pure, raw tone like the SZ320MH, you really don’t want too much circuitry getting in the way.
Featuring a 25.1-inch scale, the guitar offers a good balance between the comfort of a traditional Gibson scale and the brilliant tones of a Fender scale, and its 22 medium frets have that “just right” feel as well. Simple abalone dot inlays adorn the smooth rosewood fretboard—nothing too fancy or flashy here, but they get the job done in style.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a “meat ’n’ potatoes” ax that delivers no-nonsense tones, solid construction and comfortable playability for a reasonable price, the Ibanez SZ320MH is the full-meal deal. It may not be the trendiest model out there, but rest assured that guitarists will still be playing their SZ320’s long after the next dozen trends have come and gone.