Right as the 1990s came, we were witnesses to one of the most drastic changes in music, especially when it comes to rock and metal.
The flashy lightning speed era of guitar playing was kind of coming to an end, and more of the riff-based music started emerging. While the 80s saw some artists going down to E flat or even D standard tunings, it just wasn’t enough for this particular generation of metal lovers.
The revolution brought in even lower tunings and, most importantly, extended range guitars. This new movement got labeled as “alternative metal” and “nu-metal” and Korn was one of the most important bands of this fresh subgenre.
Of course, a huge part of the band’s sound and style was the guitar duo of Brian “Head” Welch and James “Munky” Shaffer and their use of the deeper ends of the sonic spectrum.
To be more precise, 7 string guitars that were tuned way down to A standard. Here we will be getting into some details of Munky’s well-known 7-string Ibanez K7, used by both of the Korn’s axemen. So let’s dig in and find out more about this game-changing instrument.
K7 guitars were introduced in 2001 and were manufactured all the way to 2006. After Brian Welch’s departure from the band, Ibanez brought int the new APEX series as the successor of this model.
The K7 is essentially a modified version of the very successful RG series, with some features that were instructed by Munky and Head. Here, we will be reviewing the K7 and some of its main characteristics.
Let us start right off with the main specs and features of this instrument. The body of K7 is made of mahogany, while the neck has two versions – either a 5-piece maple with Bubinga or a 5-piece maple with wenge.
The neck is a bolt-on with the rosewood, featuring 24 jumbo frets. The scale length is 25 1/2″ (648 millimeters), which falls into the standard for 7-strings. The type of the neck is named after the model, K7 or K7 Prestige, with a pretty flat radius of 430 mm, which is around 17″.
When it comes to the pickups, it’s armed with two humbuckers, DiMarzio PAF 7, on both neck and bridge positions. These are controlled with a standard 3-way selector switch and just one volume knob. What needs to be noted here is that the K7 does not have a tone control knob on any of the versions.
The thing that’s kind of interesting is the implementation of the U-Bar on some of the versions, specifically the modification of the Lo-Pro Edge 7. This is actually an alternative to the standard tremolo arm, giving players the option to loosen the strings using their palm, allowing them to palm mute and dive deep down low at the same time.
The U-Bar was used by Korn’s Munky, but the most common version you’d see out there was with the traditional tremolo arm. No matter the tremolo bridge versions, all K7 guitars feature fine tuners and a locking nut.
The guitar came in two different finishes. One was Blade Gray, the model used by Brian “Head” Welch, and the other one Firespeak Blue, used by James “Munky” Shaffer.
Not only is it well built, but it has some nice touches when it comes to the design, including the binding on the neck. Right on the 12th fret, you can also find the “K-7” logo, extending partially on to the neighboring frets.
While not that flashy, it’s still a pretty looking guitar, relying more on simplicity and elegance rather than on some unusual designs and colors. There are no worries about this – you will still look pretty damn metal holding one in your hands up on the stage.
Although this is a pretty simple and straightforward instrument when it comes to the controls, this is an extended range guitar that can work well even outside the down-tuned heavy chug riffing.
With its 7 strings, 24 jumbo frets, comfortably neck, easily accessible higher frets, and an extremely flat fretboard radius, it can come in handy for lead players as well. Although you need to bear in mind that the lack of a tone control does kind of make it a less versatile instrument and this might be a let-down for some picky players.
The signature DiMarzio PAF 7 is simply a 7-string version of the standard low output (220 mV to be more precise) PAF humbucker introduced way back in the old days.
The main goal here was to keep the same consistent tone while still picking up the low 7th string frequencies and keeping them in balance with the rest of the spectrum.
These signature humbuckers work well everywhere from clean to heavily distorted, sounding really tight and giving players good control over dynamics.
What some might consider as kind of strange is the scale length of 25 1/2″, with the main argument that it’s not wide enough for a 7-string.
Especially if it’s tuned down to A standard, one step lower than usual and a common tuning for the guys from Korn. However, it does work pretty well and strings don’t feel like rubber at all.
Knowing that there are even some extended range guitar going as low as 25″, this should not be an issue.
To put it simply, Ibanez K7 is not a flashy guitar when it comes to controls and features, yet it’s still pretty effective. Aside from the great sound, the quality of K7 is rounded up with the very comfortable K7 Prestige neck and ergonomic design of the body.
It checks all the boxes and can be a quite useful instrument in both lead and rhythm situations for any of the countless metal subgenres.
As mentioned above, the lack of tone control might be a downside, but knowing that this guitar is intended for heavier stuff, there’s barely any potential user who will miss this knob.
After all, if Korn’s Munky was fine it, then there’s no reason for anyone else not to be.