Ibanez RG370DX

Double locking tremolo Superstrat guitar made in Korea 2003, in spangly smoke green that looks better the less light there is (in a good way). This one has an Edge Pro II, a less common Ibanez trem since it was discontinued after less than two years supposedly due to problems with the licensing agreement with original inventors Floyd Rose. However restringing and guitar setup is approached in much the same way as for other double locking trems; ie it is a little more involved than Fender type vintage trems in order to get the good tuning stability.

This has a budget level locking trem, so no replaceable knife edge elements, making the condition of these key to proper operation. As the trem had been being operated mis-located due to one of the knife edges riding on the screw threads on its bridge post, rather than properly within its v-groove, they required filing to restore the correct edge on them (grinding them is too difficult without risking overheating them and diminishing whatever hardness temper they may have). One economy measure Ibanez implemented is that it doesn’t have locking bridge studs, so slop here can be a problem for bridge stability. Loctite can be be used to improve the mating fit, or they can be replaced with the locking type studs, but the fit with these was actually ok. Also the locking parts at the neck need to be checked for proper fit and function, and de-burred where necessary. With all the strings off, the frets were polished (taking out the factory sharp edges at the high end of the neck), and the board fed some lemon oil.

With properly stretched new strings on, and trem all correctly set up, it was apparent the action was set rather high on this guitar considering how low you can go with these Ibanez Wizard II necks (and we have got jumbo frets here) – probably it was previously set up this way as a consequence of the trem having been mis-seating. So it was taken down a fair bit while checking for string-fret buzz (choking on string bends shouldn’t be a problem with the board radius being 400mm, but still should be checked to ensure the string set radius actually matches). It wasn’t high at the locking nut end fortunately, however the locking elements here did need careful re-installation from being distorted after previous misalignment. The intonation was set and everything locked up. The trem arm was adjusted so it swings but stays where it’s put, and has no play.

The pickups were extremely low (probably to avoid clashing with the use of a heavy pick or digging in picking style), so the humbuckers particularly needed raising some to maximise on their output (this is a guitar designed with metal in mind after all). They were adjusted to ensure no magnetic pull on the strings, while also obtaining the best output, balance and tone, but to be honest there’s not much you can do with these budget level ceramic magnet Ibanez Powersounds; this guitar would definitely benefit from an upgrade to pickups with clearer voicing under high gain from a valve amp. (Although with distortion pedals, and when played clean they actually weren’t too bad.) As there are really ‘five’ pickups operating here, not three (the humbuckers are coil split, and the 5-way selector switch allows for combining with the single coil middle for hum canceling as well as tonal variety), all the combinations need to be verified for correct ‘Steve Vai’ connection, as well as for balance between them while the pickup heights are adjusted. With this switching schema the two humbuckers cannot be selected together, giving another reason making an upgrade to a clearer voiced higher output pickup for the bridge possibly more desirable. The single coil was able to be set relatively lower while maintaining the sound balance, allowing some room for heavy picking clearance.

As for those pickups, the stock Powersound humbuckers have now been replaced with a Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz set, along with an orange drop tone cap, and this has completely transformed the guitar. The high output JB gives far greater composure under high gain, while still cleaning up well from the guitar’s master volume. The Jazz at the neck can sound very sweet considering the 24 frets on this guitar have displaced the pickup from a more optimal positioning in this respect; and there is still plenty of good spank from it for clean funk-type sounds. Both of the pickups integrate pretty well with the remaining stock Ibby single coil when coil-split at positions 2 and 4, and for volume level when switching to 3. The JB can become quite aggressively bright under extreme high gain though, and swapping out the stock 500k pots for 250k and/or using a different value tone cap than the current 0.022uF could help in cutting down some of its more piercing quality, and would have the added benefit of giving the master tone control more usable range. Less invasively, lowering it slightly in relation to the strings by means of a few turns of a screwdriver is a quick on-the-fly workaround to mellow things out a bit without losing too much of the great harmonics it can deliver.