The Ibanez S520EX bowed out of the catalogues in Dec 2002. In that year, the 520 was in its `EX` incarnation which had the body covered in `leather`, an acquired taste to many, but a collectable quirkiness for the rest. A friend who bought the 2002 model is still wondering why that `skin` peeled off over time if it was meant to be there as a functional laminate in the first place- pangs of regret… However, the S520 is back this year, devoid of visual gimmicks to say the least.
If this is your first encounter with the S-series, be informed that the body is dual curved (front & rear) to give maximum playing comfort, in addition to a very intriguing construction/ tone philosophy- the centre of the body should be the most massive because it`s the crucial, tone inducing portion. Genius stuff, this bit… Moving along, this year`s 520 isn`t very different from 2004`s incarnation, still dual humbucking & 22-fretted, but gone are the distasteful stretched, `M` inlays. In fact, the fretboard is devoid of any markers, save for the `claw marks` from the 11th till the 13th fret area. Any other visual references, then it`s on the bass side of the well-bound neck. The neck is my personal favourite- Wizard II profile, but it`s a little wider here (unlike the RG321`s) & it made its difference felt.
Something new this year is the pair of Infinity covered humbuckers. They look like EMGs from afar but are totally passive. The covers here did wonders to tone because you`ll know why they are near-dud units. Other physical attributes of this guitars are very impressive to say the least, absolutely no complaints. How does it sound like then?
Absolutely very pleasant. The 5-way pickup switching option ensures that you get at least a single coil replication in the neck humbucker, a copy of the RG321`s tonal palette for you. The covered Infinities have a very (Seymour Duncan) Alnico II Pro-like vibe to it, but the midrange remains markedly protrusive at high gain settings, especially from the bridge unit. I love them! Again, the Infinities, regardless of which guitar they are in, isn`t a sparkling clean tone proponent. But the tones on board are more than decent.
A little about the floating ZR bridge: Yes, it`s the epitome of a functional floating vibrato but it adds lots of weight to the whole guitar. The ZR has an incorporated trem-setter on board which means that 1.Your guitar returns to pitch all the time after a whammy abuse 2.It remains in neutral position even if it`s devoid of strings. A very intelligent system at the helm, would definitely stop your pathetic whining if you own a non-ZR equipped guitar & your tunings go off after you whammy. Get one already!!
The S520 makes a very pleasant re-entry into the catalogues this 2005. It`s the S-series to get if you`ve been hesitating all these while. I still find the ZR vibrato bridge a demerit to the whole guitar. Besides the weight issue, the ZR string saddles don`t sit parallel when the bridge is in neutral position, they are slightly inclined & they affect palm-placement comfort, unlike the Edge Pro/ II saddles which, by default, are parallel to the vibrato bridge base. That aside, the S520 is a fantastic guitar for driven tones- rock/ fusion/ metal, you name it, definitely the guitar to get if you insist on return-to-pitch accuracy after a whammy encounter.
Have fun and I hope you've found this guide useful. If you've learned something or you have further clarifications, feel free to drop us an email. We'll love to hear from you!
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