Ibanez introduces $299 AZ Essentials series, designed in collaboration with Tomo Fujita

Ibanez has expanded its AZ lineup of electric guitars with the all-new AZ Essentials series – a family of Strat-inspired six-strings designed in conjunction with Japanese funk guru Tomo Fujita.

Arriving in the form of the triple single coil-equipped AZES31 and HSS-loaded AZES40, Ibanez’s latest offerings aim to bring tone, versatility and playability to beginner and intermediate players.

Fujita, known for tutoring John Mayer during the blues guitar ace’s formative years at Berklee, as well as his own funk-fueled escapades with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, said of the new models, “We [wanted to] create a quality instrument that would serve the player as they grow as guitarists. 

“[We wanted to] focus on what makes guitar playing fun,” he explained, “so that beginners can concentrate on the guitar playing itself.”

It’s safe to say that the brand certainly hasn’t over-shot its own high expectations for the axes, with these affordable models – which start at $299 – coming supercharged with a slew of Ibanez’s celebrated electronic and functional appointments.

Read on for a thorough breakdown of the latest AZ family from Ibanez.

Ibanez AZES31 – $299

The first point of call is the AZES31 model, which sports an unapologetic Strat-style aesthetic blueprint, including a three-ply pickguard, familiar control knob cabs and a choice of either Vermilion or Ivory finishes.

Build-wise, it features a poplar body, bolt-on maple neck and 22-fret, 10”-radius jatoba fretboard with white dot inlays, as well as a hardtail F106 bridge with comfort round steel saddles and Ibanez split shaft machine heads.

Three single-coils – Essentials Passive/Ceramic neck, middle and bridge pickups – make the cut, and are controlled by the brand’s super-versatile dyna-MIX wiring circuit that, when engaged, can be used to join pickups in series.

The dyna-MIX’s Alter Switch is paired with a regular five-way pickup selector, both of which work to offer up eight individual pickup combinations. Highlights from this sonic catalog include neck and middle in-series, and neck and bridge paired together.

Finishing touches include a mono-unit output jack, constructed from a single piece of material to prevent unwanted movement, and an all-access neck joint.

Ibanez AZES40 – $349

The aforementioned axes are joined on the roster by the AZES40 – an ever-so-slightly souped-up version of the SSS-configured guitars.

Available in either Purist Blue, Mint Green or Black, the AZES40 features an almost-identical spec sheet, though features a tremolo system – the T106 with comfort round saddles – as well as an Accord Passive/Ceramic humbucker bridge pickup.

Aside from that, it’s business as usual, meaning a poplar body, maple neck, jatoba fretboard and split shaft Ibanez machine heads make their way on to the spec sheet, as does the dyna-MIX switching system.

Of course, the tweaked configuration lends itself to even more unique tonal assortments, key among which include a neck and outer-bridge-coil combo, as well as an inner-bridge-coil only variation.

To find out more, head over to Ibanez.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.