Monday, September 7, 2009

Flash Review #1 -- Ibanez Andy Timmons AT100CLSB



My girlfriend took this video of me noodling on an Ibanez AT100 at a music store in Kuala Lumpur. Which gave me an idea for a new series for The Guitar Column -- the Flash Review. (And if I had known she was recording I would have put the guitar through its tonal paces more, from clean to dirty, and everything in between. Oh well, next time..)

Here's Flash Review #1 -- The Ibanez Andy Timmons AT100CLSB:

Featuring an alder body on a maple neck, the AT100 is a joy to play.

When I picked up the guitar, the neck immediately reminded of the limited-run Loch Ness green JEM 777's of the late 80's-- a neck shape which Ibanez didn't incorporate into subsequent editions of the JEM.

The AT100's fingerboard edges are slightly rounded off for that played-for-years, broken-in feel, and the jumbo frets were substantial without being overly high or wide -- they felt a little like Dunlop 6105's.

Hardware consists of Sperzel locking tuners and a Wilkinson vintage tremelo with bent steel saddles. This Wilkinson model is a six-screw mount design but on the AT100, the middle two screws are intentionally left out.

This was a common way to get a Strat's six-screw tremelo to behave more like a two-point fulcrum edge, increasing tremelo range and more accurate return to 'zero' thus stabilizing tuning. Some folks went so far as to remove the middle four screws, leaving only the outer two.

But there was a problem with this particular instrument -- the guitar totally fretted out from the 5th to the 7th frets. There was also a considerable bow in the neck -- a sure sign that somebody had spotted the fret-out, loosened the truss-rod thinking that that would fix the problem while leaving a little dent at the truss-rod nut channel at the headstock in the process. Ouch.

Fret-outs notwithstanding, the AT100 feels and sounds like a really nice, thoughtfully souped-up Strat. The imperceptibly slight 'V' shape on the back of neck makes for a very comfortable ride, with the thin finish giving it the texture of raw, unfinished wood.

The two DiMarzio Cruiser pickups blended very well with the DiMarzio AT1 custom humbucker at the bridge. There wasn't that unpleasant tonal jump when shifting from the neck pickups single-coil'ish tones to the full-blown humbucker at the bridge -- a typical problem with guitars with the single/single/humbucker configuration.

The tonal balance of this combination of pickups is nearly perfect.

Another feature I really liked was how the first tone pot controlled the neck and middle pickups, while the second tone pot was dedicated to the bridge humbucker. This is extremely useful for tempering the bridge pickup's tone when stick-shifting between pickups, so you don't sound like you 'just picked up a different guitar' when you shift from the neck to the bridge pickup -- as how Scott Henderson aptly puts it.

The AT100 is probably the nearest thing, in terms of tone and feel, to a Fender Stratocaster in Ibanez's current line. It captures the traditional vibe surprisingly well (never mind the pointy headstock) while breezing effortlessly into more modern territory at the flick of a switch.

Couple the AT100 with a Timmons-approved Xotic BB Preamp, for absolute tone heaven!




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