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  • Writer's pictureBarış Şahin

Ibanez SC420 Review

Ibanez SC420 Review

Ibanez's position today owes much to its surge in the mid/late 80s. Since those days, it has released many different models and series. Some of these have become iconic, continuing to be produced and sold even now. The Jem series is probably the best example of this. Of course, there are also many models that couldn't secure their place in the market, had low sales, or needed updates, leading to their production being eventually halted over time. Among this group, there are such beautiful models that no longer being produced; their failure in sales can only be attributed to improper marketing because those guitars were so good. Or is it just lack of luck?

One of the models that hasn't been in production for years and stands out among them is the SC, or "S Classic," series; it's one of the most missed models from Ibanez.

To describe the SC series, one must imagine the iconic "S" series. It features an ultra-thin body on the edges, slightly thicker in the middle (thicker than typical Ibanez S models in the middle section), with a lightweight mahogany body and typically a single-piece maple neck with rosewood fretboard, presenting an elegant and refined guitar. Although there have been some changes over time, this is the initial description. The "S Classic" can be seen as a cousin that is perhaps a bit more, so to say,  aggressive looking "S" shape, yet slightly more traditional, tonally focused, and appealing to guitarists looking at the guitar world from a slightly different perspective.

Let's detail the differences from the familiar "S" models and pros&cons of SC420.

1) Neck Profile: If you don't fancy neck profiles that are relatively thin but entirely flat on the back, then this neck profile is just right for you. It's a model-specific shape, and it truly feels like a snake.

It's not thick, but it's slim yet not too thin. It's a straight "C" type; meaning, there are no "shoulder" bumps as you would find in "D" shapes, just a smooth profile. I would liken it to the "Modern C" profile found in modern Fender Stratocasters. It's a very comfortable shape; whether standing or sitting, in upper positions or at the lowest points, it flows effortlessly. Moreover, whatever finish is used, it's as smooth and satin-like as a baby skin; there's no sticky sensation whatsoever. The fretboard radius is Gibson Les Paul-like, at 12 inches.

rear view of Ibanez SC420

Due to the angle at which the neck meets the body, it's possible to significantly lower the string height, which is a major advantage.

Neck Joint of Ibanez SC420

2) Minimal wood loss: This is one of the guitar's greatest assets. One of the biggest handicaps of Floyd Rose-type tremolos and the deep and large pools (also known as "swimming pools") carved out for pickups is undoubtedly the mass they take away from the guitar. This isn't looked upon favorably due to the potential tonal differences and sustain loss it can cause (theoretically). To achieve the most ideal result in terms of tone and sustain without experiencing any loss, this guitar's design minimizes the amount of routing/hollowing possible. If you notice, apart from a tiny round jack cavity at the back, there's no other cavity. The volume and tone pots are placed in minimal cavities carved out specifically for them. As I mentioned, the goal is clear: to achieve the maximum tone/sustain with the least amount of wood loss possible. Additionally volume and tone knobs are covered with rubbery polymer that does not slip much. Friction of pots are a bit high but thats a good thing for some. For me, i’d rather to have low friction pots.

3) Scale Length: A significant portion of Ibanez guitars offered for the shred world typically have a scale length of 25.5 inches, which is in the Fender (Strat/Tele) scale range, as you may all knew. However, these SC guitars have a scale length of 25.1 inches. Considering the 24.5 and 24.75-inch Gibsons and the 25.5-inch Stratocasters, they fall right in between. Therefore, they are not as tight as Fenders and not as loose as Les Pauls. If we think about the 25-inch scale length of PRS guitars, saying that these Ibanez guitars are an answer to PRS wouldn't be considered a huge mistake.

4) Wraparound Bridge: Unlike typical Ibanez guitars of the era, it features a fixed bridge, called the "Shortstop II". It’s rare because the more popular fixed bridge was fender or gotoh type bridges that day, actually still more common today. But rather SC420 has a bridge that we could see on the PRS Guitars; wraparound type. While some examples of this type of wraparound bridges don't allow for intonation adjustment, this quality bridge, made of chrome-plated brass, offers the possibility of intonation adjustment. Design is pretty well but the mateial is not. Hard plateing on a soft metal does not work properly to me. How i wish they could made it from steel or better from aluminium.

Warparound bridge of Ibanez SC420

5) Wood Selection: The woods used both in the body and the neck are of exceptional quality. For the neck, a tightly grained, single-piece (w/ scarf joint headstock) quartersawn maple is used, while the body features two pieces of lightweight mahogany. Despite being less routed, the guitar is extremely lightweight and resonant due to both the right wood selection and the absence of a locking tremolo.

Neck of Ibanez SC420

The rosewood fretboard used is also of high quality. It's dark in color and has a smooth grain pattern.

rosewood of Ibanez SC420

However, I must admit I have a bit of dislike in one aspect; the combination of mahogany body and maple neck isn't my favorite, I know that, and I'm somewhat troubled by it. Sometimes, I find myself thinking, "I wish it had a mahogany body and neck..."

6) Nut: A quite innovative feature for Ibanez at the time is the presence of a nut with significantly reduced friction/high lubricity, which is graphite-based and of high density.

7) Pickups: It features the typical two-humbucker setup common in Ibanez guitars, which isn't a bad thing. It has the V1 and V2 pickups. I usually tend to swap out pickups in my own guitars. However, I didn't feel the need to do so with my SC420 guitar. If I were to make a general and brief assessment, I could liken the V2 to the JB. It has pronounced mids, it's aggressive, but a bit lacking in clarity; it's a powerful bridge pickup. I didn't feel the need to change it. However, the V1, which I really like for the bridge, sounds muddy and closed in the neck position. There's a need for clarity there.

On the other hand, I'd like to mention a topic that's rarely discussed, probably because almost all HH Ibanez guitars, whether cheap or expensive, use a 5-way switch. It Works, buddies. In-between tones of that 5 way switch are very usable. Position 1 gives you the bridge pickup. Position 2 (inside coils-parallel) gives you typical Petrucci-ish cleans. Position 3 gives you both humbuckers in parallel. Position 4 is neck hb but Works in parallel which is the best alternative to coil split. Because a) it cleans up really well, b) it is hum cancelling, c) volume drop ise not in the level of traditional coil split, and d) feels still like a single coil. Position 5 gives you the neck pickup. That design allows you to widen your tonal pallette.

8) Headstock: Instead of Ibanez's famous "goose head" shaped headstock, it features a more traditional version with 3+3 tuning pegs added. Initially, it felt a bit strange due to lack of familiarity, but I got used to it over time. High quality Gotoh tuners are very functional. Moreover, the colored pearloid overlays of the tuning pegs add even more elegance to the overall look.

9) Frets: The frets used on the guitar aren't the typical huge jumbos favored by Ibanez. However, they're not as thin as vintage Fenders nor as low as Gibson's "fretless wonders" either. They're high but narrower compared to jumbos. In other words, they're similar to Dunlop 6105 frets, which are my favorite. I think they fall between somewhere 6105s and medium jumbos.

10) Design: At a superficial glance, it may seem like a fixed-bridge version of the familiar S design, but it's not quite the case. As I mentioned earlier, the middle of the body is slightly thicker than typical S models to gain more wood, resulting in a slightly warmer tone. The neck and body joint is of the type Ibanez calls AANJ (All Access Neck Joint), but it offers even easier and more comfortable neck access than RG/JEM models. If I recall correctly, the most comfortable access among all Ibanez family models (except J-Customs or AZs maybe), in my opinion, is found in these models. The scraped binding" you can see on the edges of the body, adds significant elegance to the guitar.

22 frets is also an important “plus” for me.

I must also mention how elegant it is that the truss rod cover is made of the same rosewood as the fretboard.

Imagine what kind of guitar would emerge when you add the pros of the Ibanez guitars of that era on top of these 10 different reasons. Behold, the instrument before you is the S Classic.

 Ibanez SC420
 Ibanez SC420
 Ibanez SC420


It fit perfectly into the role I assign them; high-gain, solid metal work. It fit because one of the guitar's greatest tonal advantages is its versatility. Thus, whether you want to play death metal, jazz/fusion, fast shred, or hard'n heavy; just swap the pickups if needed, there you go! You can push these boundaries even further, one way or another.

I believe it is all James Murphy’s fault. In the late 90s i really liked his chops with Ibanez Guitars and seeing him play his SC was absolutely wonderful. It was püre heavy freaking shreddin’ and his tone was massive when he was in Testament, Konkhra or in his solo records, especially on “Feeding the Machine”. Just listen his version of “Race with the Devil” and hear his tonal vision with his S Classic, you will understand what i meant;

Well, if you were to ask why Ibanez discontinued or stopped sales of such a great guitar, I might just comment, "I fck their decision!?" :) We surely know better than them when it comes to these matters; in other words, we know which model should continue, and which one should be discontinued or ended :)  Jokes aside, the most critical factor here could be their inability to chart a correct sales strategy at that time.

The Jem, RG, and S series especially appealed to the market of shredder guitarists with their slim necks and versatile features, and they were quite successful. We saw them frequently in hard'n heavy bands (such as Warrant, Winger, etc.), among virtuosos (like Paul Gilbert, Blue Saraceno, etc.), and even in thrash and death metal bands (like Alex Skolnick, Trey Azagthoth, Rocky George etc.). These models found their place, their chracter.

As the 90s progressed, we saw these models in the hands of rising and upcoming stars of that era as well. However, the SC series always remained limited in its reach, aside from a few nu-metal and fusion players. If only it had been properly developed within the fusion movement, emphasizing its strengths and endorsed by some famous fusion guitarists, it could have remained a successful model to this day.


It seems to me that Ibanez preferred to focus more on models that sold better. That's just their preference, what can I say. They shelved a very successful model like the SC series, just like they did with the old SVs, RVs, and Radius models...

The Ibanez SC420 is a symbol of the confluence between engineering precision and artistic expression, encapsulating Ibanez's commitment to providing musicians with instruments that do not just facilitate, but actively inspire creativity. It's a guitar model that emerges from the S Classic series, celebrated for its sleek design, ergonomic contours, and a sound versatile enough to traverse genres. With its unique body shape, designed for comfort without sacrificing tone, the SC420 balances the heritage of rock with the evolving demands of modern music. It stands as a testament to Ibanez's philosophy of pushing the boundaries of what a guitar can be, offering both seasoned players and aspiring guitarists a tool that beckons exploration and innovation. I considered myself fortunate to own it. Because of some kindo financal issues, i had to sell it but still miss it, thou. It was priced around $1000 when new in its final period.

On eBay, prices are hovering around $700-800, and you may even find them lower. If you can see one of them on used market or brick and wall store, just give a try. You may feel surprised.




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