Ibanez Prestige, A Historical Explanation

Prestige represents the Ibanez instruments many have grown up to know & love even before they were labeled Prestige. This article references how Prestige was used for over two decades, how it evolved & how Prestige relates to those interested in Ibanez guitars today.

Simply put Prestige is a marketing moniker. One that is generally used to distinguish its better guitars & basses, separating them from the Ibanez guitars not made in Japan. Make no mistake these are dramatically better made with tighter tolerances & better parts…  the Ibanez guitars you really want to play & own. Best of all, the non-signature Prestige models are competitively priced.

Prestige indicates a certain level of quality the Ibanez player will see and feel then they pick up the guitar.

With Prestige, Ibanez provides multiple steps of hand-finishing to the neck & frets so the new guitar plays like it’s already been broken in with years of use. [see note-1 below]. This wording is a recurring theme to message that your Prestige will not be a pretty new guitar that is stiff & difficult to play. Who doesn’t want to buy a new axe – no dings, wear & tear – but with the feel as if it was broken-in by previous owners? This cornerstone of Prestige makes sense for the guitarist of any level.

Second, Prestige models are made in Japan at the Fujigen factory by their top luthiers [see note-2]. This is, of course, the same factory that built the JEM/RGs we’ve played since 1987. This brings tighter tolerance with fit & finish of the guitar. Unlike the even higher end J-Custom line with very limited production typically for Asian market, Prestige are top-shelf but mass-market guitars with cost constraints and self-controls. Prestige are meant for playing… not just collecting or showcasing ornate details. The pricing  targets the serious consumer & musical  professional instead of the vanity-art collector type & the “limited edition signature model” collector.

Third, Ibanez reminds us that Prestige instruments use the finest materials, & hardware parts (typically made in Japan & USA pickups) to compliment their fine construction. Prestige uses better bridges, better switches, wiring, etc. For example you must step up to the Prestige guitars to gain exclusive access to the Ibanez Edge tremolo (& LoPro  EdgePro varieties of the time). These are very rarely found on the Premium or Standard instruments. This is by design of course. Likewise, the best Gotoh tuners & fixed bridges are exclusive to Prestige (and j.custom). You will not find the cost/quality reduced Chinese-made bridges, hardware & parts in Prestige instruments. The high standard is applied to the guitar in it’s entirety [see note-3].

Pickups are always the real deal as well, however it’s important to note that Ibanez does not restrict DiMarzio & brand-name pickups to Prestige instruments. The slogan “Japanese craftsman meets American inspiration amounts to powerful chemistry” applies here. Ibanez will share the non-Japanese top-tier parts for other lines where they make sense overall. This is smart business and actually benefits consumers. Buying more DiMarzio pickups to use across more Ibanez models is a win-win-win.

Finally this ties into what I’d term the fourth Prestige component. This is Ibanez Pride as demonstrated in the Japanese design & construction. Ibanez is proud of its history of accomplished guitar building. The Ibanez hardware & guitar designs then built in-country are to be celebrated. Prestige has this intangible component where – in theory – Ibanez Pride adds to their desirability. The Prestige advertisements exude the belief that the highly skilled Ibanez builders are creating special instruments which bring pride to self, Ibanez & nation. It’s a positive feedback loop since the entire Prestige design, implementation & construction must live up to this expectation.

  1. note 1: At present time the fret-ends of birds eye maple fretboard Prestige models do not get the typical “Prestige” finish at Fujigen. For example the RG550 compared to the JEM777 30th models. Also note Ibanez coined the term for Prestige Artstar models (I.e. AS200, etc) getting “Artstar fret edge treatment provides tight response and smooth left-hand fingering.”
  2. note 2: In 2005-2007 Ibanez S, SA & SZ Prestige models were made in Korea, an experiment that failed.
  3. note-3: Rich Harris’ ibanezrules.com points out  EdgeZero & ZR locking tremolo bridges are made in China as are their accompanying locking nuts (2LN3YAA021 & 2LN3YAA025) w/o retainer bars.
  4. note-4: It’s vital to recognize there are different levels of “Prestige” which is a fluent marketing term. For example, Fujigen MIJ production Ibanez models such as the RG1570 and AS200 have very different levels of quality and finish. This is to be expected given their price difference. Signature models MIJ would be considered “Prestige” but the aforementioned AS200 (non-signature Prestige) is a higher quality instrument than the JEM505BK or JS1200 signature Prestige.

To summarize it is helpful to consider Prestige a marketing term first and foremost to explain the best of the guitars Ibanez offers at a certain standard players & enthusiasts have expected of Ibanez for 40 years. Prestige changes with the times & needs.  Prestige is a ticket to the big show. Some get first row seats some sit in the nose-bleeders. Without Prestige you are left sneaking in or listening from the parking lot.


Part II. Prestige History

Ibanez USA Prestige 1996

1987-1997 Ibanez’ Identity is Forged 

The guitars Ibanez introduced to market in 1987 was a full-on assault… on a moving target. This era saw rapidly change in terms of artistic/musical performance (how people played guitars) & manufacturing capability (expectations of guitars quality). During this time, Ibanez committed to building & shipping high quality guitars over a sustained period. Ibanez flanked the competition with technology, marketing & player endorsement.

Change typically occurs over time and the guitar market & music industry had indeed shifted. Ibanez would embracing being an alternative guitar company and stop relying on the dreaded S-word (shred). Ibanez had clearly established itself with retailers & players worldwide now Ibanez would prove itself able to adapt. Prestige was to be a driving force.

Let’s Backtrack to 1996. The Last from the USA.

1996 marked the end of a Ibanez’ half-decade experiment of offering “USA Custom” guitars made and or finished & customized in the USA. In 1996 the top-shelf Ibanez USRG Series was advertised with a “Ibanez USA Prestige” logo. It is an interesting footnote that Prestige was first used in North America on a USA-made Ibanez branded guitar. These Bunker-made guitars with tension-free necks were sold in 1994, 1995 & 1996 as the Ibanez USRG30, USRG20 & USRG10. Nice wood tops, more technology offered to players with the neck & Ibanez branding, sales & service. These were the last USA-Made Ibanez guitars available to general consumers. Going forward anything USA-modified or made would be exclusive to Ibanez endorsed artists. In the USA, the Prestige moniker would be retired for a year and return with a greater purpose & focus.At this same time (mid 1995-1997) the USRGs were being replaced by a new Ibanez “J-Custom” line (Japanese Custom) for their domestic market. Sometime in 1995 the RG1808, RG1508, RG1308, RG1302 were sold as J.Custom in Japan. These were derivative & rather bland compared to the early 90s Ibanez UCEWs & non-gravure tops (real wood) Ibanez models that shipped worldwide for decades before.

Eventually J.customs became more detailed, upscale guitars with more of a domestic (Japanese market) oriented flare. The next evolution of the “Custom shop” Ibanez with more variety (RG, S & Bass) for customers.

USA Custom becomes J-Custom

These J-Customs were assembled in the Fugijen factory and the more upscale & limited models were made on a smaller scale, not the production line. The most notable early J-Customs were the ones that eventually were test marketed in the USA in 1997 with low production totals (few dozen per model) with the guitars made in batches/runs. Ibanez literature says…

“Because the materials & techniques used in making J-Custom instruments preclude mass-production, not everyone will be able to own an Ibanez J-Custom model”

Were these side projects during slow production time? An acquiescence to tenured luthiers not feeling challenged enough on the production line? This was rumored but we’ll never fully know of course. Tying back into Prestige it’s pretty easy to consider J-Custom as the marketing term for their best guitars meant for their domestic market (less quantity & distribution). Ibanez initially slaped J-Custom on some Japan-only models that were “Prestige” worldwide. By 1997 Ibanez marketed both J-Custom & Prestige RGs in Japan. Throw it against the wall and see what sticks right?! 

What we do know is that through 1999 over two dozen J-Custom models were offered in Japan. Some mundane, some quite unique. For the USA market, in 1997 a small sampling of these J-Custom models were sold via authorized dealers. These seven models were: RG-ART1, RG-METAL1, RG-GEAR1, S5400NT, S3040PL, S3040BS, SR-8100 (bass).

There was a lot of debate on jemsite.com forums about these mystical J-Custom unicorns when released. Especially since the JEM90HAM was a functional example of a J-Custom (originally intended only for Japan for Hoshino’s 90th anniversary, neck & fretwork different than any prior JEM or JEMs to immediately follow). Perhaps Ibanez didn’t really know themselves, leading to the mixed messages about what they were intended to be and how they were built. The actual quality was a mixed bag too. These were not objectively improved over the top-end Ibanez guitars we played the prior decade. None of the USA offerings (and few of the Japanese offerings) were anything more ornate or special than the JEM10 released a year prior in bulk (810 were made).

It’s fair to say the execution of the experimental finishes & details perhaps did not match the hype & expectation of online consumers. The internet & photo sharing allowed these “for Japan” guitars to be spotted by American fanatics probably bringing market confusion where it wasn’t intended.

While it wasn’t public knowledge at the time, the luthier who setup the Fujigen Custom Shop – Makoto “Nick” Sugimoto – had diverted his attention from Ibanez to establish Sugi Guitars in 2002 (later bringing over experienced Fujigen luthiers). They’d build of course the UV77REMC which was criticized ironically for too tight tolerances in regard to the finish & tremolo & cavity clearances. Sometimes less really is more. The grass always greener? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

The Classic Alternative. 1997’s Emotional Retrospective

The 25-year retrospective (excerpt below) in the 1997 USA Ibanez catalog speaks volumes. It spells it out – frustrated, loud and clear – that Ibanez must and will embrace being “The Classic Alternative in the mainstream guitar market.

Why a 25 year retrospective? After all Ibanez has actually been making electric guitars for over 40 years now. However, we feel it was the establishment of the Ibanez office near Philadelphia 25 years ago that best marks the beginning of the Ibanez guitar company that most of us are familiar with.

During those 25 years Ibanez has been the ‘Classic Alternative Guitar Company’, a provider of imaginative, well-made guitars and basses that offer players a real alternative to “the Big Two”. In an often-conservative music world where some might be content with just two or three guitar designs and a couple of bass models (yes, we admit we’ve also admired and done our versions of those designs), Ibanez has countered with instruments like the Artist guitars, the Iceman, the George Benson, the JEM, the RG, the S, Soundgear basses, and more recently the award winning ATK basses and Pat Metheny Models… (1997 USA Catalog)

Upon reflection it is no surprise that Ibanez re-introduced Prestige in Japan later in 1997 and a much stronger Prestige identity in the USA with the 1998 Ibanez AR2000, RG3120, S2540 guitars. The Prestige branding was established then prioritized & expanded. USA or Japanese Customs was more a vanity project. Prestige & the lower lines would allow growth & sustainability worldwide. With momentum at it’s back 5 years later Ibanez would further attempt to springboard the Prestige product line in 2003. Ibanez added new Prestige-only tremolos (the Edge Pro, ZR Tremolo & Double Edge Pro w/ L.R. Baggs Piezo) while continuing the Roland GK use for the Prestige guitars. Ibanez would also follow-up with more RGT neck-thru-body models to the ones introduced in 2002.

An important lesson learned from J-Custom and LACSD (see below) was that info gleaned from endorsed artists & Prestige players could trickle down the lineup. For example the Prestige RGT would expand down to Standard-line in 2006 with the less costly RGT42. This could, in theory, put good quality Ibanez in the hands of more guitarists worldwide.

More Prestige

You can see below how Ibanez expanded the Prestige line in following years. Keep in mind some “Prestige” features were used previously on MIJ Signature models & semi-hollow/hollow bodies even when not designated. Still some of these models were likely tweaked or revised in terms of how they were handled during production. It is fair game to consider any MIJ Signature model “Prestige” even if Ibanez hesitated to market them as such.

1995 Japan J.Custom: RG1808, RG1508, RG1308, RG1302

1996 Japan J.Custom: RG1712RV, RG1702SLK, RG1608SLB, RG1608AM

1996 USA Prestige: USRG10, USRG20, USRG30

1997 USA J.Custom: RG-ART1, RG-METAL1, RG-GEAR1, S5400NT, S3040PL, S3040BS, SR-8100.

1998 USA Prestige: AR2000, RG3120, S2540

1999 Prestige: AR2000, RG3120, S1520FB, S1520, SC1620, S2540, SR3000, SR3005, SR3006

2000 Prestige: AR2000, RG2027X, RG2020X, RG3120, S1520, S2020X, SR3000, SR3005, SR3006

2001 Prestige: AR2000, JS1000, JSM100, RG1077XL, RG3120, S1520, S2120X, BTB1005, BTB1006, SR3000, SR3005, SR3006

2001 LACS Designed – AX6CSD1, RG6CSD1, RG6CSD2, RG7CSD1, RG7CSD2, S6CSD1 (Japan only)

2002 Prestige: AR2000, AX1220, GB10, GB200, JEM7DBK, JEM7VSBL, JEM7VWH, JS1000, JSM100, PM100, PM120, RG1077XL, RG7421XL, RG2010X, RG3120, RGT3120TV, RGT3120TDB, S1220, S2120X, S1520FB, UV777BK, DWBI, DWB2, GWBI

2003 Prestige: AR2000, AS200, AX1220, GB10, GB200, PGM30WH, PM100, PM120, RG1520GK, RG1527, RG1550, , RG1550GX, RG1570, RG1620X, RGT2020, RG2077XL, RG2120X, RG2620QM, RG2570EX, RG2820CT, RGT3020QM, RGT3020FM, RG3120, RGT3120, S1620, S1620FB, S1670FM, JSM100, JEM7DBK, JEM7VSBL, JEM7VWH, JS2000, JS1000, UV777BK, BTB1000E, BTB1005E, BTB1006E, SR3000E, SR3005E

LA Custom Shop Designed

The models above  – and still today – shows Ibanez has continually tweaked model lines to align with current market conditions. For example in 2005 naming the RG/S “Basic” line was an not the best marketing decision… an epic gaffe in fact. Basic has too many negative connotations, almost insulting the customer. Today it’s called the “Standard” line. As the Prestige line was nurtured & expanded, simultaneously J-Custom offerings iterated too. Ibanez even experimented with yet another model line for their home market in Japan. Dubbed as “L.A. Custom Shop Designed”, Ibanez released six guitars for Japan: AX6CSD1, RG6CSD1, RG6CSD2, RG7CSD1, RG7CSD2, S6CSD1.

lacsd_header

Ibanez has always been a company that listens to, and reacts to musician’s needs. In the Ibanez custom shop, we work very closely with our endorsers to find out which features work on a guitar, and which features don’t. As a company, we have to keep re-inventing the guitar for each new generation of guitar players. In this effort, we listen to ideas that we receive from our artists, combine this with real feedback from the market, and incorporate this information into our R&D program. This gives us a balanced palette of ideas to work when developing new guitars. – Rob Nishida (Artist Relation Manager / Ibanez L.A.Custom Shop 2001)

With such R&D from both artists & consumers, perhaps “feedback from the market” lead to Ibanez scaling back J-Custom and quickly shelving the LACSD guitar concept. Alternately, Ibanez bolstered the Prestige model offerings & supplemented non-Prestige models across the board retrenching on the high-end for reasons unspecified. In 2003 Ibanez made a significant Prestige marketing push and created a Prestige mini-catalog too. Prestige would represent a major push in the larger markets that would support their pricing.

Ibanez Prestige guitars and basses are crafted of premium woods by our most experienced luthiers using the perfect blend of New World technology and Old World craftsmanship. Identifiable in this catalog by the Prestige logo, Prestige models feature necks with the comfortable rounding found previously in vintage instruments broken in by years of dedicated playing. 2003 models also feature new electronics and deluxe appointments precision crafted to very high tolerances.

Prestige, meet Premium

Ibanez would dip back into the Prestige 2003 playbook soon enough. Historical sales data certainly allowed projecting for Prestige instruments at the factory level for distributors & dealers. What needed more attention was entry-level & true mass-market instruments. The worldwide pricing on Japanese goods & the Cort factory labor situation in Korea became untenable.

This lead Ibanez to partner with Fujigen to manufacture guitars in Indonesia when Cort moved there. Ibanez created the Premium line in 2011, a new moniker to reflect a quality of guitars better than prior Ibanez guitars from Korea & China. Better than what players expected from Indonesian guitars. This would provide Ibanez with attractive options at the upper, middle & lower-end of the market.

If the 2011 Catalog included a retrospective, Ibanez would have come to terms with now being an alternate to “the Big Three” USA makers. Competition never sleeps and while Ibanez pulled out of USA, sporadically trickled out J-Customs & experimented with LACSD, it was Paul Reed Smith’s turn to assault the industry.  In 2013 PRS added to their lineup fantastically playable & reasonably priced guitars made in their Stevensville Maryland, USA factory (the model aptly named the S2), a move not yet – perhaps never to be – countered by Ibanez.

The Ibanez Prestige story is eventful & exciting, ever evolving and unfolding. New Ibanez guitars & basses are introduced typically at Winter NAMM in January and Summer NAMM in July with occasional new models in between.

The Prestige story to the Ibanez old-timer is bitter sweet. Bitter in that Ibanez “Prestige quality” models once dominated their Catalogs whereas now Prestige constitutes a fraction of their offerings. Every model in the 1988 Ibanez catalog was Made in Japan, except the Roadstar 140/340. In 1989 each guitar except the EX series was Made in Japan (which would all be marketed as “Prestige”).

Sweet in that if you own and play a Prestige well the word “sweet” really comes to mind. Sweet in that Ibanez guitars were once laughed at by guitarists yet they’ve withstood the test of time as quality & desirable instruments with the Ibanez & sometimes Prestige logo. Times indeed change.

The article continues below with quotations from Ibanez print catalogs & website.  Hopefully you have a better appreciation for Ibanez Prestige guitars and where they fit in the market past & present.

Happy reading… (all TM & copyright by Ibanez)

Part III. Ibanez Prestige… In Their Own Words

Ibanez 1998 catalog with Prestige AR2000

1998 USA Catalog
1998: AR2000, RG3120, S2540

To celebrate the return of the Artist to the Ibanez line, we’ve created the AR2000 Artist Prestige model with an exquisitely figured AAA grade flame maple top and deluxe Artist neck that’s received six extra steps of hand finishing.

The RG3120’s neck, similar to the Wizard and JEM necks, gets six extra steps of hand finishing so you really get the silky comfortable feel of a neck you’ve played on for years.

This wording is a good technical explanation of Prestige & this use continues today. For example the Artist 2619, Ibanez describes a process where the “Deluxe Artist neck has received 6 extra steps of hand finishing and feels like a neck you’ve played for years“.

1999 USA Catalog
1999: AR2000, RG3120, S1520FB, S1520, SC1620, S2540, SR3000, SR3005, SR3006

Prestige Guitars – How do you make an even better guitar when you’re already recognized as making some of the finest instruments in the world?

Well, one way might be to make entirely handmade instruments. But that’s not a real solution. One reason is the sheer time involved. Another is consistency: machines are actually better for some tasks if you insist on an exact level of standards and specs. The largest reason is expertise. We love seeing $30,000 handmade custom shop collector’s items as much as the next guitar fanatic. But we’re here to build guitars and basses that players play.

What makes a Prestige instrument a Prestige? First, it’s the most successful merge of the handcraft and technological worlds in the history of guitar making. Prestige guitars and basses are crafted at a separate production facility that’s staffed by our most experienced builders and equipped with the most sophisticated machinery available. Every Prestige instrument is meticulously examined and re-examined through every step in the building process and every detail, including the neck and frets, is completely finished by hand.

Next, each model is setup to the highest standard of the industry – the Ibanez standard. And because these instruments take longer to build and use only the most select of select materials, they are limited production instruments. But the most important part of what makes a Prestige a Prestige is something that can’t be measured in numbers, the actual love and pride that goes into each guitar or bass.

All this means each Prestige guitar or bass is a collector’s item. But it’s a collector’s item that is made to be played; something you will appreciate each time you take it in hand.

2000: AR2000, RG2027X, RG2020X, RG3120, S1520, S2020X, SR3000, SR3005, SR300


2001 USA Catalog

2001: AR2000, JS1000, JSM100, RG1077XL, RG3120, S1520, S2120X, BTB1005, BTB1006, SR3000, SR3005, SR3006

Prestige Instruments – Who doesn’t salivate over collector guitars? But a guitar you’re afraid to take out of the case is more of an investment than an instrument.

Ibanez Prestige instruments are an investment in your playing not just your portfolio. These exquisite instruments are slowly and carefully crafted by Ibanez master luthiers who use only the finest materials and most sophisticated technology available. Like other collectors’ instruments, Prestige guitars look and sound incredible, but they’re made to be played. These roadworthy workhorses are equally at home in a dive or a display case.

Prestige necks – As pleasing as they are to the eye, Prestige guitars and basses are even more so to the touch. Each Prestige neck receives repeated treatments of hand finishing on the neck and frets. This results in the great feel found previously only on necks rounded by years of dedicated playing.

2002: AR2000, AX1220, GB10, GB200, JEM7DBK, JEM7VSBL, JEM7VWH, JS1000, JSM100, PM100, PM120, RG1077XL, RG7421XL, RG2010X, RG3120, RGT3120TV, RGT3120TDB, S1220, S2120X, S1520FB, UV777BK, DWBI, DWB2, GWBI


2003 USA Catalog

Ibanez Prestige guitars and basses are crafted of premium woods by our most experienced luthiers using the perfect blend of New World technology and Old World craftsmanship. Identifiable in this catalog by the Prestige logo, Prestige models feature necks with the comfortable rounding found previously in vintage instruments broken in by years of dedicated playing. 2003 models also feature new electronics and deluxe appointments precision crafted to very high tolerances.

2003 Prestige mini-catalog…
http://www.ibanez.com/anniversary/page.php?cat_id=348&year=2003

Ever pick up a guitar that felt just right straight off the rack?  Sometimes it’s not accidental. With the Prestige series of guitars, the Ibanez R&D team spent some serious time figuring out the magical qualities of those guitars. It’s not just the sound, or just the feel or look – It’s a combination of those things.  And with the Prestige series, you will not only find guitars with the right combination of features, but each guitar will feel just like an old friend as soon as you pick it up.

The key element is the finishing of the neck and fingerboard. We’ve taken extra care in this area to ensure that all of the Prestige guitars have a unique final finish to give you that “broken in” feel right off the bat.

Pick up a Prestige guitar and feel it for yourself.

For Joe, the most critical feature eon any guitar is the neck treatment. Not only must the neck be built to the right specifications but the actual feel of the neck must be considered as well. As with all Prestige necks, the JS neck is built for playing ease and comfort. This is largely due to the fine, final finishing that is applied to each neck. All Prestige guitars feature hand polished frets with the corners of each fret rounded off for an ultra smooth feel. Prestige fingerboard edges are rounded just enough to make it feel like a well played-in guitar. The smooth heel allows for effortless access to the upper frets. These features combined make Prestige guitars some of the most playable guitars in the world.

How does Joe feel about the new (2003) Prestige necks? He sums it up nicely:

Joe Satriani: “Prestige necks will give you that feeling of unequalled comfort, control and playability, no matter what style of music you play. It’s all in the details. These necks feel like they were finished for your very own hands.”

2003: AR2000, AS200, AX1220, GB10, GB200, PGM30WH, PM100, PM120, RG1520GK, RG1527, RG1550, , RG1550GX, RG1570, RG1620X, RGT2020, RG2077XL, RG2120X, RG2620QM, RG2570EX, RG2820CT, RGT3020QM, RGT3020FM, RG3120, RGT3120, S1620, S1620FB, S1670FM, JSM100, JEM7DBK, JEM7VSBL, JEM7VWH, JS2000, JS1000, UV777BK, BTB1000E, BTB1005E, BTB1006E, SR3000E, SR3005E


2004 Prestige mini-catalog

“Prestige guitars are the crystallization of expert craftsmanship and Ibanez’ desire to build the highest quality guitars for discriminating players. All Prestige guitars feature flawless Japanese craftsmanship and the great feel found previously only on vintage necks rounded by years of dedicated playing. Prestige gutiars also feature innovative hardware designed to enhance playability, sound and tuning stability.

RG Prestige: Thin, fast and flat necks combined with powerful pickups are the reasons the RG has reigned supreme as the king of the hard rock guitars for over 16 years. These Prestige versions of the famous Ibanez RG feature flawless Japanese craftsmanship and the great feel found previously only on vintage necks rounded by years of dedicated playing.”


2005 USA Catalog

“Take a look at the top of the line of each series, our Ibanez Prestige models. You’ll see even more variety and value than ever. In our so-called “standard” models, you will find a vast number of upgrades that make these instruments go far beyond what people usually think of as standard.

RG Prestige – Crafted by Ibanez’ most experienced luthiers using the finest materials and electronics available.”


2006 Ibanez USA Catalog

“For 2006 , our selection of Prestige electric guitars and basses continues to expand. Ibanez Prestige instruments are crafted of premium woods using the perfect blend of New World technology and Old World craftsmanship. 2006 Ibanez Prestige models feature super-strong 5pc necks with the comfortable, rounded Prestige feel previously found only on vintage instruments broken in by years of dedicated playing.

All 2006 Prestige guitars and basses are equipped with precision tuners by Gotoh. Prestige electronic guitars feature either U.S.A.-made pickups or the acclaimed Ibanez V7/V8 pickup combination. Prestige basses are fitted with U.S.A.-made pickups by Bartolini. And to ensure your investment is protected from the rigors of the road, all 2006 Prestige guitars and basses include a deluxe Prestige case.

RG Prestige -add comftable rounded feel of Prestige neck finishing, collector’s item looks and top-shelf electronics and hardware.

SA – Ibanez Prestige guitars do look like they belong in a collection of the finest instruments. But they’re made to brave the rowdiest roadhouses and subtle hostile jukejoint crowds with take-no-prisoners tones. Best of all, Ibanez Prestige guitars don’t have collector’s items prices – compared to other high-end pro guitars, they’re already a steal. So there’s no reason to purloin one from another collector. Our SA2120 Prestige model was designed for the serious professional guitarist who wants to cover a wide range of styles and tones with just one guitar. Which is why it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it between sets. Just in case there are any collectors in the house.”


2007 USA Catalog

“Prestige combine the right selection of rich tones, collector’s class looks, and the extreme durability and playability needed by the touring pro. These are some of the finest performance instruments we’ve ever made.

Prestige guitars and basses are the result of extensive work by our luthiers and designers in Sun Valley, California and Nagoya, Japan. By making, modifying and maintaining instruments for our esteemed group of Ibanez artists, our luthiers and designers have come to a unique understanding of the stylistic, recording and performing needs of today’s guitarists. The ideas and inspiration from that work, the imagination of our designers, and the finest materials and electronics available are what set Prestige instruments apart from anything else you can own.

5pc RG Prestige maple/walnut necks combine the easy playability and speed of a thin neck with extraordinary stability and strength.”


2008 Ibanez USA Catalog: “Made in Japan by Ibanez’ premier craftsmen.”


2009 Ibanez USA Catalog: “This year also  marks the return of all SR Prestige models to their “Made in Japan” roots. These instruments represent the top of the line in components and craftsmanship.”

“All RG Prestige models are “Made in Japan” by the finest Ibanez craftsmen and from top of the line components.


2010 Ibanez Catalog Page

2010 Ibanez USA Catalog:

“Prestige – crafted by Japan’s finest luthiers”

Prestige: Precision, Performance & Playability. Everything you’ve ever dreamed of in a guitar or bass. These are the 3 principles behind our new Ibanez Prestige line. [1] Combining high tech manufacturing techniques with old world craftsmanship, [2] true innovation in design and construction and in the incorporation of ideas and [3] suggestions from musicians from around the world are cornerstones of the Prestige production process.

Precision – High tech manufacturing techniques allow the highest levels of precision in terms of ensuring the tightest tolderances in wood work, paint and hardware design and construction. Neck Joint – All prestige models are “Made in Japan” with the finest Ibanez craftsmanship.

Performance – Ibanez guitars have always been known for their high performance fast necks, optimized pickups and electronics and advanced bridges and hardware. With Prestige, all of these components are continually tweaked and taken to the cutting edge. Hardware – originally designed Ibanez hardware and parts from bridge and pickups to nut, built to work together precisely.

Playability – All of this means nothing without supreme playability. Years of research and testing out in the field with access all over the world heled us to develop these distinctively unique high performance neck shapes for electric guitar and bass. In the Prestige line, there is now a perfect neck shape for every type of player. The Super Wizard HP, Wizard HP and Ultra HP for the guitar and Atlas HP neck for bass. Neck Shape – Each series of Prestige features the best suited neck shape for the player’s tastes.


2011 Ibanez USA Catalog:  For the more experienced player, we have the Prestige models, which offer the ultimate in Ibanez craftsmanship down to the last detail.

For 2011 we now offer the new Premium series of guitars designed for hardworking musicians. These guitars are for players who push their guitars to the fullest every night on stage and who demand real professional quality instruments both functionally and visually.


2012 Ibanez USA Catalog:  while many Prestige models were available the Prestige designation was downplayed as Ibanez tried to bolster their new Premium line.

The S Prestige is “Made in Japan” by the finest Ibanez craftsmen and from top-of-the-line components.

RG Premium – Built with the hardworking pro in mind, the RG Premium is recognized as the ultimate workhorse guitar for the gigging player.


2014 Ibanez Prestige Site

Ibanez.com Prestige page click here

Japanese craftsmanship has always been the source of our passion and inspiration, and still is.

This is a story about Japanese-made Ibanez—known as Prestige. We are proud to say that Ibanez is now one of the top guitar brands, offering a vast variety of guitars, in various styles and in different price points. However, it did not happen overnight. We weathered many challenges in the early days, keeping up with ever-changing times, always in the face of tough competition from companies who had already had built great legacies, even back then. But it’s in the hardest of times that we find out what we’re made of. And what we have come to find is that the belief and pride in Japanese craftsmanship is the infinite source of our passion.

Our Mission: There are three principles behind our Ibanez Prestige line: Precision, Performance, and Playability. The combination of high-tech manufacturing techniques with old-world Japanese craftsmanship, true innovation in design and construction, and the incorporation of ideas and suggestions from musicians from around the world are the cornerstones of the Prestige production process.

Precision: High tech manufacturing techniques allow the highest levels of precision and ensure the tightest tolerances in wood work, paint and hardware, design and construction.

Performance: Ibanez guitars have always been known for their high performance fast necks, optimized pickups and electronics and hardware. With Prestige, all of these components are continually tweaked and taken to the cutting edge.

Playability: All of this means nothing without supreme playability. Years of research and testing out in the field with artists all over the world helped us develop distinctively unique high performance neck shapes. In the Prestige line, there is now a perfect neck shape for every type of player.

Prestige

To the uninitiated, the Prestige name may seem assigned almost randomly throughout the Ibanez range…linked to almost every style of electric guitar or bass we offer. However, there is a tie that binds these instruments. It is a special marking each and every Prestige instrument bears, proudly proclaiming: this instrument was Made in Japan, precision-crafted by some of the most skilled and advanced luthiers in the world.

Certainly, we take pride in every instrument we build, and strive to make sure each one is worthy of the Ibanez name. But for the musician who seeks the ultimate playing experience, the Made-in-Japan Prestige designation has become the benchmark of what a great high-performance guitar should be.

Where There’s a Need

Ibanez began modestly—something that makes us even more proud, knowing how hard we’ve worked to earn our place in modern guitar history. As Ibanez entered the market in the 60’s, the two most established US brands seemed to have already defined the electric guitar, leaving little room for anyone else—and Ibanez to ask, how it could make its own mark? As fate would have it, a door soon opened.

By the mid 70’s, US guitar companies ruled the market. However, their unchallenged success soon left them lethargic and gradually the quality of their instruments deteriorated. Seeing guitarists were growing more disappointed in what the big two had to offer, Ibanez seized the opportunity and quickly made a name for itself offering superior crafted versions of popular US brand guitars. This brought widespread recognition—unfortunately, what Ibanez offered in the way of quality, it lacked in originality. It wasn’t until later in the 70’s when the company started working with jazz icon, George Benson, that Ibanez began to receive its due.

(Picture of Steve Miller, with an Artist Model 2622, graces the cover of the 1977 Artist Series Catalog.)

Early on in the 80’s, new guitarists were emerging with playing styles and technical aptitude so advanced it demanded a more sophisticated instrument. Sweep picking, borrowed from jazz masters of former eras, was now accelerating the speed and intensity of rock, while the arrival of the locking tremolo gave way to dramatic dive-bombing and tremolo effects. Guitar playing was heating up faster than the small shops and builders who dabbled in these makeshift super-metal machines could move, and it was clear that a real guitar company was needed…one that could break beyond the boundaries of normal guitar building.

(Picture of Dave Murray of Iron Maiden with a 1983 RS1000)

Ibanez was cautiously eyeing the metal scene and the challenges it posed for guitar builders, but without a readily available solution, wasn’t convinced it could actually break in. Then, things began to fall into place. Built around collaboration between American musicians and skilled Japanese artisans, a vision took form that ultimately drove Ibanez into becoming the most innovative major guitar company in the world.

The Neck That Changed Everything

There were several keys to transforming a normal guitar into a super-metal guitar, but the two that warranted the most attention were the neck, and the locking tremolo system. Until then, most guitars had fat, round, chunky necks. This was fine for standard blues-based rock players of the 70s, but for the new rapidly evolving 80’s breed of virtuosos, it was useless. Requests for a thinner, faster neck continued to mount, but this was no easy task. Anyone could make a neck that was thinner and faster—the challenge came in making one that was stable and didn’t twist, crack, or falter during abuse suffered under “normal” shredding conditions.

(Picture of Passion and Warfare album cover featuring Steve Vai with the multicolor Universe 7-string.)

Ibanez rapidly earned a reputation for listening to what guitarists wanted, and most importantly, for taking chances others wouldn’t. This drew attention from many of the most adventurous and technically proficient players of the time: among them, a rising star whose own reputation was quickly becoming legend: Steve Vai. At the time, almost every guitar company was courting Vai for an endorsement. However, Vai’s vision went far beyond a quick endorsement. Like his playing—his vision was one of true genius and unparalleled musical depth.

The JEM, as Vai had dubbed it, was wrought with non-production-friendly features, but none more daunting than its ultra-thin 25.5” scale neck. It was a production nightmare waiting to happen that was only was “green-lit” after lengthy debate among production teams. It was this neck that would serve as the archetype for the Wizard neck, which quickly followed after. Alongside the JEM neck, the Wizard has long been recognized as the ultimate high-performance guitar neck and a critical part of why Ibanez Prestige guitars are so widely acclaimed.

Beyond The Neck

A mindset was developing that drove the brand to push itself beyond being “average.” Everything was fair game for finer inspection and improvement, and almost nothing was too far out to try. Several classic ergonomic body styles were created during this renaissance: the slim-line S, the teardrop-profile R, and the sleekly contoured SR bass. The Edge locking tremolo system, widely acknowledged as the most advanced and reliable locking tremolo system ever made, was also designed and built during this period.

(Picture of The Edge tremolo leaflet (1986))

This bold attitude was the byproduct of years of self-discipline and a deep personal pride in zero-tolerance hand craftsmanship that earned Japan a reputation for having the highest manufacturing standards in the world. Japan’s manufacturing was the envy of every modern mechanized nation—and now, Ibanez was capitalizing on this advantage, building instruments that literally defied limitation. Today, those rigid standards still apply and the impeccable qualities derived from following them are a hallmark of the Ibanez brand.

A Legacy of Our Own

Ibanez guitars are in the hands of some of the most daring, innovative, and talented musicians on the planet. We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside these players, developing new instruments for the world. Through their insight and our own passion and skill, Ibanez not only succeeded in creating several modern classics—it set a seductive standard for guitar building that remains the holy grail for players everywhere, looking to venture beyond the norm.

(Picture of 1986 Ibanez catalog – the RG page featuring Paul Gilbert)

This site is a pale depiction of the actual experience of holding and playing a Prestige instrument. So we encourage you to seek out this experience and delve into the world of Ibanez Prestige. See for yourself why we call it Prestige.


2017 Ibanez Product Delineation

j.custom Ibanez j.custom guitars are manufactured by an elite group of highly skilled luthiers trained to produce instruments of uncompromised quality. The j.custom designation represents every advance in design and technology Ibanez has developed over the decades: the best woods, neck, fret treatments, perfect pickup combos and reliable hardware. Each masterfully crafted to the highest standards to ensure unparalleled sound, maximum playability and exquisite beauty.

Prestige | Precision, Performance, and Playability There are three principles behind our new Ibanez Prestige line: Precision, Performance, and Playability. The combination of high-tech manufacturing techniques with old-world Japanese craftsmanship, true innovation in design and construction, and the incorporation of ideas and suggestions from musicians from around the world are the cornerstones of the Prestige production process.

Premium | Designed to Inspire “Designed to Inspire”, all Ibanez Premium series are manufactured with select tone woods, high-profile electronics, hardware and dedicated skills of craftsmanship and care in details for your musical journey. The richness of sound, stunning appearance and unrivalled playability of the Ibanez Premium series will open the gate of your reservoir of inspiration.

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