As David St Hubbins says in Spinal Tap, “It’s such a fine line between clever and stupid”.
But where on that line does the RG-9 stand? There is a kind of deranged magnificence just about the stats – 28″ scale, 24 frets, 62mm wide at the nut, 88mm wide at the end of the fretboard. Two, TWO truss rods. And of course, lest we forget. 9 Strings, because sometimes 8 is just not enough.
So will it out-Tosin the Abasi or is just a string too far. Lets have a look at it….
It has a rather neat basswood body, with a simple, well-applied, black finish (there is also a truly outrageous quilted maple version out there, but it was not available at the time of testing). Given the scale of the guitar, the body does look cut down but it is full-size and perfectly comfortable – Ibanez have always treated ergonomics seriously, and the body fits nicely against your rib cage.
Right, enough about the body – because nobody is going to be paying the body any attention at all, because this is all about the neck. You’ve read the spec? Nothing prepares you for what that actually means. The neck is vast, a surfboard, you can use it as an ironing board, a family of 4 could sleep on it, etc. It also looks…intimidating, where do you place your hands for the 3 extra bass strings, where do you put your hands at all?
But there is a lot of cleverness behind this neck. The 5 piece Bubinga/maple sandwich is a handsome thing that also disguises the extra routing for the 2nd truss rod. The basic neck shape is a compound radius modified Wizard-9, so the Ibanez speed neck heritage is there. Normally I don’t like these shred-tastic necks, they always feel too thin. Here it makes perfect sense as it is a slim neck that allows pretty much any handsize a reasonable chance of navigating the massive width of the fretboard. This is as well as it is a very flat fingerboard with a 34″ radius – chordwork is going to be tough on this one.
The neck is attached with 4 bolts and the neck-join is solid and very neatly routed. The lower horn is also nicely cut away to allow access to the high notes on the top E string
There are 24 jumbo frets mounted on a decent slab of rosewood. The basic set up was comfortable but the frets, as is often the case, could have done with an extra polish. One thing to bear in mind, this neck is unlikely to fit in your current guitar stand or hanger and some , ahem. modification may be required.
Hardware is pretty stripped down. Generic tuning pegs make a decent fist of handling the 9 strings (which range from E down to C#, the C# string has a gauge of 0.09!). The headstock is even quite attractive given the amount of metal work on it. There is a modified Gibraltar bridge with thru-body stringing. The bridge is a very handsome sturdy lump of metal and allows simple action and intonation alteration. Intonation on the RG-9 was absolutely spot on. The extra scale length does help here of course, but the bridge does handle the extra 3 strings very well. It’s a stop-tail piece of course, I think a trem for this guitar would present a bit more of a technical challenge.
Electrics are totally passive. 2 QM-9 Ceramic pickups controlled by a single volume, single tone and a 5-way selector.
The range of tones is quite clever as the 5-way switch allows some unusual tonal mixes. As well as the normal 2 humbucker variations, position 4 allows both coils of the neck humbucker in parallel (for a lower, sweeter output) and position 2 gives you a single coil from each pickup for an unexpectedly glassy effect. The general output of these pickups is lower than you’d might expect for what are big, hefty ceramic units.
So for a strikingly reasonable £689, you have a very unusual, well-built Indonesian guitar. What in the name of God’s Holy Mercy is it going to sound like…..I’ll tell you tomorrow!