The Ibanez AS200 Semi Hollow-body is a guitar that requires no introduction. It’s availability spans 40 years and yet could be the holy grail of Ibanez electric guitars. This sounds strange, but it might be the best kept secret from the guitar world & Ibanez enthusiasts.
The parallel histories of Jazz music and hollow-body electric guitars have been manifested in the Artstar. The influences of these legendary instruments are immediately apparent with bone nut, ebony fretboard, and Ibanez’s signature Super 58 custom pickups. The critical eye will appreciate the details like the smoothness of the fretboard and a skilled crimping technique generally found on instruments costing twice as much. The Artstar is a pure jazz-box that embodies the continual innovation that is Jazz. – Ibanez.com
Ibanez AS200 History
The Ibanez AS200 first appeared in 1977 as the #2630 semi-hollow body. It was part of Ibanez’ re-branded “Artist Series” which separated acoustics into a different line. In 1979 Ibanez made the wise decision to tweak & rename it AS200. By 1988 Ibanez would use “Artstar” to designate the non-solid body guitars from the solid-body Artist series. To be clear the AS200 are very much derivate of the historic Gibson ES-335 (click here for ES-335 Gibson Geek Guide).
For the AS200 Ibanez added subtle if not notable improvements including the neck pickup tri-sound (parallel & coil-split options) wiring, ’60s Slim Taper profile neck (not typically offered by Gibson in the ES-355) and ebony fretboard (featured on fewer and fewer Ibanez guitars over time). The AS200 was continually produced except for a hiatus between 2001-2013. During that time exclusive retail space was given to the derivative Ibanez JSM100 signature model. It is unclear if during this dormancy the AS200 was produced in small quantities as a spot model.
In 2014 the AS200 returned as a “new model” in VYS Vintage Yellow Sunburst. Made in Japan & designated as Prestige of course, the YVS burst was a lighter color than both the AS200AV Antique Violin sunburst and JSM VT Vintage Sunburst. The AS200 Prestige return allowed Ibanez players to finally get their new Ibanez “ES-335” without the 22% signature model upcharge.
John Scofield’s 1981 AS200 becomes the Ibanez JSM100
In 2001 Ibanez spun off the AS200 replacing it with a John Scofield signature model. The JSM100 is famously based on John’s own 1981 Ibanez AS200 and remains in production along side the AS200. Subtle changes were made for the JSM100 for tone & ergonomics. The JSM features a half bone and half brass nut which was previously used on the #2630 (but not AS200 which has a bone nut). Next the JSM went back to the larger older style AS (castle shaped) headstock used thru 1996. John also removed the tri-sound switch & placed the input jack on the edge of the body. The JSM100 neck was modeled from his ’81 guitar with the addition of a compound radious fretboard. The JSM reveals the human variation found in pre-CNC fabrication of that time, as the neck is slightly larger then the AS. The JSM100 width at nut is 43.5mm (AS200 is 43mm), with a thickness at fret-1 of 20.2mm (AS200 is 20.0) and thickness of 23.3mm at fret-12 (AS200 is 23.0). The JSM100VT Vintage Sunburst finish was probably an improvement over the Antique Violin (AV) burst & differs from the new AS200VYS Vintage Yellow Sunburst. The JSM100 ships strung with .013/.016/.022/.032/.042/.052 (the AS200 ships with standard 10s .010/.013/.017/.026/.036/.046). Finally you get that aforementioned signature model tax, the 2017 JSM100 list price is $3733 vs $3066 for the AS200.
2017 Ibanez AS200VYW Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar Specifications (Prestige, Made in Japan)
- AS200 Production years:
- 1980-1987 AV Antique Violin
- 1988 AV, NT Natural
- 1989-1991 AV, WH White
- 1992-2000 AV
- 2001-2013 Not Produced
- 2014-Present VYW Vintage Yellow Sunburst.
- Made in Japan by Fujigen
- Finish: VYW (Vintage Yellow Sunburst)
- Body: Flamed Maple top, back and sides
- Body type: Semi-hollow structure with wood block below the bridge & tailpiece.
- Body size & shape: depth: 43mm (1.69”) at tail, max depth 66.7mm (2.625″), length 18.25″, width 15.75″. Original AS shape.
- Neck: 1-pc Artstar AS Mahogany set-in neck with volute
- Fretboard: Bound Ebony w/ Artstar Fret Edge Treatment w/Acrylic & Abalone block inlay. Ebony Fretboard provides tight response and smooth left-hand fingering, increased tone with excellent reproduction of nuances.
- Bone nut – provides rich tone from low to high.
- Scale: 24.7″
- Fingerboard radius: 305mm (12”)
- Neck 43mm wide at nut, 20mm thick at fret-1
- Neck 57mm wide at last fret, 22mm thick at fret-21
- Volute – Contributing to ensuring the strength of neck back volute finished with an elegant curve unique handicraft products
- The pearl headstock mark expresses the candlestick symbolizing the ARTSTAR series.
- 2 Volume, 2 Tone, 3-way pickup switch, Tri-sound for neck pickup
- Super 58 neck & bridge – with Alnico Magnet these have gained a reputation from professional musicians as a classic pickup of Ibanez Box guitars since the late 70’s. It has excellent sound emission and enough power that will not lose its presence even in the ensemble (JPN). The Super 58 pickups deliver the smooth, nuanced tones and the biting growl of blues (USA).
- Aluminum foil shield – For reduced noise, the aluminum foil shield is applied to the pots, switches, jack.
- Gold hardware
- Gotoh SG381 machine head with the original shape peg button that is easy to grip with super precision & smooth feel.
- Gotoh 510BN Bridge height adjustable with intonation for each string.
- Gotoh GE101A Tailpiece
- Sure Grip III knob that combines ease of control and high visibility. A rubber grip is attached to the top of the knob on which numbering (graduation) has been applied to prevent slippage (JPN). The Sure Grip III knobs are designed for precise control with nonslip functionality, along with smooth and classic looks (USA).
- Multi-binding so you can sense it’s detailed handcrafting on the headstock, fingerboard & body.
- D ‘Addario round wound string 010-046.
- Hard case included
- 2017 List price: $3066
- Weight 8lb4oz
Bridge & Tailpiece
The AS200 – like the Ibanez ASF180 hollow-body – features the Gotoh GE510BN Bridge, a tried & true premium quality fixed bridge. This has the standard vintage post mounts (74mm post spacing) so it’s a direct retrofit for the Gibson ABR-1 Tune-o-matic. The Gotoh is 100% rattle-free with hardened notched zinc saddles while offering more intonation adjustment than the ABR-1. Saddles are height adjustable – to match the fretboard radius – unlike the Tune-o-matic. Fixed height saddles might benefit a solid-body guitar but the Gibson ABR-1 Tune-o-matics are notably thrifty on intonation adjustment.
- Post Spacing: 74mm (2-29/32″)
- Center-to-Center String Spacing: 52mm (2-1/16″) pre-notched saddles.
- Saddle Radius: Height Adjustable.
- Bridge Width: 14mm (allow more intonation adjustment).
- Mounting Post Holes: 4.5mm.
- Mounting Posts: 30mm length x 4mm diameter
The semi-hollow AS200 has the Gotoh GE101A aluminum tailpiece directly attached to the solid portion of the body beneath it. This is where the ball end of the strings attach.
Semi-Hollow Body Greatness!
The ASF180 hands-on praises the sublime AS body shape, size & profile. It’s a timeless classic & natural fit. Everything about it feels just right from the contoured arch top to the relatively thin body (max. thickness of 2.625″). The neck, the heel/pocket, cutaway, knob placement, bridge, tuners… all just fit. It’s difficult to find one aspect of the the guitar you would want to change. Perhaps having the output jack on the side like the JSM would be useful but I’m 50:50 on wanting that. Here is where function is a mixed bag and looks go to the front jack. I can see why John wanted that for touring & possibly avoiding damage on the road where guitars with straight front output jacks require more caution with floor stands, etc.
This AS200 weight is 8lb 4oz, about the weight of an RG/JEM. Two pounds more than a Gibson SG. By comparison the Ibanez ASF180 hollow weighs 6lb 11oz, AM200 semi-hollow weighs 7lb 1oz, JS1000 weighs 7lb 2oz, JS1600 weighs 7lb 6oz. The 8+ pound weight clearly makes it just as sturdy as it is comfortable. And sturdy certainly is a good description. If you play a lighter weight solid body for a while (Strat, JS, Tele, SG, etc.) when you grab to pick up the AS you will be taken by surprise. It’s not a featherweight or “acoustic” by any stretch. Standing or sitting feels right at home while playing the AS guitar. The body is not tiny… it resonates… it looks fantastic…. but for certain it is not thick nor is it clunky. This point cannot be overemphasized. The AS200 just begs you to pick it up and play it. When you do you won’t want to put it back down.
The semi-hollow AS200 has two distinct body cavities created by the wood block running down the center of the body from the neck under the bridge, tailpiece and beyond. This center block is where the bridge & tailpiece are attached. Back in the day before quality potted pickups the semi-hollow body maybe helped eliminate feedback at high volumes (vs a fully hollow body guitar).
The center body block for the AS200 and Ibanez semi-hollow guitars are 3-pieces, seemingly to add stability & prevent warping, twisting or bowing. Two thinner outer blocks and one thicker block as seen in the picture. The AS200 center block is likely 3-ply maple. For reference the older smaller semi-hollow AM200 mahogany body center block is maple/spruce/maple. The AM205 mahogany body center block is maple/mahogany/maple.
The semi-hollow body construction provides significant benefits including tonal versatility, a light/great feel and an open tone where notes ring with sound coming from the resonating body. Airy-ness or a third dimension of tone is often used to describe their sound. Solid body guitars cannot provide this, instead they can offer more sustain & possibly more feedback control at high outputs. Ibanez overemphasizes the term “Jazz” and “Jazzbox” in it’s Artstar pmotion & we all should erase that from our mind. The ES-335 creators state things rather eloquently…
From Gibson – Semi-hollowbodies offer an exceptionally warm tone, as well as pleasing overtones and a woody, resonant sound – in a word, great harmonic richness. With proper amp adjustments, they can also produce a good approximation of the bright, punchy sound of a solidbody. Concerns with unwanted feedback remain an issue, but the use of humbuckers has mitigated those troubles to a large degree. Semi-hollowbodies are lighter in weight, of course, and some players claim they offer greater versatility of sound than solidbodies.
Putting what Gibson says into words the fact is that a solid-body guitar like a LesPaul or Ibanez AR2619 would be 1.5-2.5 pounds heavier – making them far more uncomfortable to play at home or at gigs – offer slightly less tonal possibilities while offering a bit more sustain. This is why countless players own ES-355 and similar thin body semi-hollow guitars such as the AS200.
Controls & Pickups
Ibanez Super 58 neck & bridge pickups are hum-cancelling Ibanez original designs. These are made in Japan & were first made available in the late 70’s. The Super 58s feature Alnico 3 Magnets and ~7.5Kohm DC resistance. These have a little less output than the hotter Super 80 pickups (ceramic magnets, 7.9Kohm DC resistance) found on the AR solid-body & other Ibanez guitars. While listed as “neck” and “bridge” pickups these are the same except the bridge has only 2-conductor wires and neck has 4-conductor wires as required by the tri-sound switch (parallel/single/series). Note the Super 58s are not the same as the Chinese made “Super 58 Custom” pickups (w/ Alnico 5 magnets & sometimes called Custom 58) featured in non-Prestige Artstar Ibanez guitars.
- Neck Pickup 3PU12A0025 Super 58 custom humbucker neck 4 conductor (Gold)
- Bridge Pickup 3PU1H58BG Super 58 custom humbucker bridge (Gold)
What Ibanez says about these pickups is pretty much accurate. You can read more about the Super 80 pickups here in the Ibanez AR2619-VV 2014 Prestige Guitar hands on. I’m not going to spew out buzzwords like the “always glowing review ” Guitar mags & bloggers do hyping the pickups & product. Just realize these have been used for over four decades cause they sound awesome! The JSM100 uses them too.
One comment I should make on the AS200 tone is that you definitely want to make use the volume & tone knobs to dial in your sound. The versatility offered is to the player is substantial but really marginalized if you leave volume & tone on max. Each pickup gets it’s own volume/tone setting making this all the more useful. I do really wish they had the tri-sound for the bridge pickup as well (what’s the harm).
The JSM100VT omission of the AS200 tri-sound switch highlights a frustrating aspect of “Signature models”. Since John doesn’t use the tri-sound switch JSM buyers get less tonal options with the higher price signature model guitar. That’s rather annoying and you have to wonder if it impacts sales. Frankly it’s the main reason (the pretty common VT vintage sunburst color a secondary reason) I’ve avoided landing a JSM100 over the years.
Neck. Fretboard & Other Features
Please refer to the Ibanez ASF180 Hollow-body guitar hands-on report for more specifics on the AS200 neck, size & fretboard. The only difference is the inlays which are solid block on the ASF180 and two-tone block on the AS200. Interestingly along the years the
Impeccable Fit & Finish
Ever hear the phrase “this feels like a boutique guitar” thrown about? Well quite often that’s wishful thinking or total BS. In the case of the AS200, and it’s Fujigen Artstar & Artist siblings, the term really applies. The feel, fit & finish of the AS200 might be as good as it really gets. Sure you could decorate the guitar more, add a splashier top, make the figured wood pop more, add ornate inlays, etc. but you cant really improve it’s tone woods, construction & build quality. As such these are expensive guitars when purchased brand new at retail. However relative to its quality, the AS200 is relatively low cost vs a Gibson ES-335 or Ibanez signature model guitar. The cost of a product doesn’t always align with quality so it’s useful to mention that the AS200 is made by the best of the best workers at Fujigen.
Ibanez sells to a vast worldwide audience that ranges from total newb to intricately fussy super enthusiast. Many new players are introduced to the guitar by means of the affordable Ibanez Jumpstart electric & Jampack acoustic kits. But less is not more to Ibanez.
The 2018 Ibanez catalog shows fourteen (14) models with “max body thickness 2 5/8” including a new 2018 cheap new JSM10VYS model that totally apes the AS200 including the color. Ibanez took the AS200VYS, copied/made it cheaply in China & called it the JSM10VYS signature model. Lacking the courage to sell it as an AS20, Ibanez attached an endorser even though the specs don’t match what the endorser uses. The new cheap “signature model” lacks the side output jack and adds the tri-sound switch” that John didn’t want on his real signature model.
This is Ibanez in a nutshell.
Nowadays I see Ibanez as an accomplished guitarist maybe stuck in a rut who uses throwaway notes instead of a tasteful bend or vibrato. Sure they have a stable of Signature artists & their models – with great artist relationships – but time seems to be disconnecting Ibanez from players who reside outside the Ibanez fanatics or “this price is OK” bubble.
The 2018 AZ introduction video says Ibanez spent “four years” creating a new solid-body guitar that “covers “everything from A to Z“. That is great, if not super slooooooow but it seems like during that four years Ibanez has overlooked what is staring them right in the face. Like really promoting the awesome guitars they had during those 4 years (and not using endorser models). Here is one of the finest guitars Ibanez has created (I’m talking about the AS200), four decades into production, with a total absence of promotion & product awareness. Ibanez seems content manufacturing lots & lots & lots of cheap copies made in China or Indonesia instead. More is more.
Perhaps Ibanez just hopes guitars like the AS200 sells themselves by people placing special orders from websites after viewing a PDF catalog or generic product photos. Perhaps they don’t care to sell any more than they do based on cost & availability of Fujigen who really knows. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have new shiny objects to attract a guitarist’s attention – at various price points – but that shouldn’t diminish giving these classics the steady attention they deserve (like other companies do). At some point you would imagine wanting to keep the Jumpstart customer excited about the brand and eventually have them buy & play Ibanez guitars like the AS200 over the Gibson ES-335. Ibanez giving more TLC to their MIJ non-signature models would probably ensure the next Ibanez generation has access to the new Made in Japan Ibanez guitars. Maybe not.
To be honest, if you don’t own a Gibson ES-335, the first pricey Ibanez you should buy is the AS200. Even if you don’t think you have interest in the ES-335. The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway as this is posted. In this context, the AS200 is a medalist for top-3 Ibanez guitars created. You could seriously argue it being gold or silver. It’s an Ibanez guitar that cannot come more highly recommended. Play one!
- Gibson’s Guitar Geek’s Guide to Gibson ES Models
- GoogleTrends “Ibanez AS200” vs “Gibson ES335” search
- Ibanez.com AS200 Product Page
- Ibanez.com JSM100 Product Page