If there is one thing metal music is good at, it is allowing different artists to express themselves in a unique way. Sometimes these emerging styles are subtle, but sometimes they definitely aren’t. James ‘Munky’ Shaffer has definitely brought something new to the game in form of a really heavy tone that has inspired many guitarists of today. The type of tone we are talking about doesn’t necessarily have to do with the pedals or amps he is using. Instead, it is a combination of both gear, instruments and his own take one what metal should sound like. One of the guitars he used to find that niche tone was Ibanez RG8. Today we are going to take a closer look at this beast and talk about what it has to offer.
Going beyond the standard six strings has become a pretty popular trend these days. Those who are more conservative in their ways are wondering why would anyone ever need more than six strings, while those who use them tend to be quite dependent on those additional notes. As you could probably figure out from its name, Ibanez RG8 is an eight string guitar. That is plenty of additional real estate to work with, no matter what your requirements are. However, if we take the cool factor out of the equation, an eight string build isn’t easy to build properly. Whether or not RG8 is good enough for the job is by far the most important question. That is something we are just about to dig into.
In terms of body shape and aesthetics, you are looking at a standard Ibanez Super Strat design which they have become famous for. Much like any metal guitar designed to specifically for this genre of music, Ibanez went with a mahogany body. This way the sustain is better while the hardness of the wood also helps with note definition. When you have thick eight string to deal with, you will definitely want as much definition as you can get. Speaking of which, Ibanez chose the proven Wizard II neck design for this build. It is a five layer piece made of maple and walnut. More importantly, Ibanez has made this Wizard II neck in a 27″ scale. Here’s the thing with guitars that have more than standard six strings. Every additional strings adds more tension to the neck. Making the neck stiffer won’t quite cut it, at least not if you intend for that guitar to last. The only solution is to extend the scale to compensate for the extra stress. That is exactly what Ibanez has done.
In terms of electronics, you are looking at a set of their IBZ-8 humbuckers in a standard HH configuration. These are passive units, which is probably for the best. In this price range, you will be lucky to find a decent eight string guitar to begin with. On top of that, having two relatively hot passive humbuckers means that your levels of expression will be supported every step of the way. Controlling these has been simplified as well. There is one tone knob and a one volume knob to work with, in addition to the pickup select switch. If you like to roll off your volume, you can definitely do that as the electronic supporting IBZ-8 humbuckers in this guitar feels rather solid.
Hardware wise, this guitar is a standard Ibanez. There is no tremolo bridge because that would be too silly for a build like this. Instead, you get their basic but solid fixed bridge and a set of decent tuners. Despite the heavy gauge of strings, these will hold a key pretty reliably.
The very first thing we were looking for in terms of performance is how well this guitar sits in your hands. Dealing with a heavy eight string can be pretty intimidating, but if it is balanced correctly, it plays just like any other standard guitar. Fortunately for us, that was the case with Ibanez RG8. The neck, although wide, was actually pretty fast even at the lower frets. Hardware kept up with our abuse even when we went hard on those low strings. From our limited time with this guitar, it definitely showed a good amount of reliability in every relevant way.
Moving on to the sound, we were pleasantly surprised with the way those IBZ-8 pickups responded to input. As expected, they just eat any distortion you throw at them. With that said, we wouldn’t go as far as to say that you could compare them with an active set in terms of heat. However, hot output isn’t always a good thing. We also have to factor in the price in the equation. For this type of money, Ibanez RG8 delivers an experience that is way better than we thought it would be. Usually you have to spend quite a bit of money to get that savage low end from an eight string. This guitar did it on a budget.
This is where James Shaffer comes in. The fact that he could use Ibanez RG8 means that this guitar is absolutely ready to join the workforce. If we had to pick one component that could do with an upgrade, we would maybe pick those tuners. As good as they are, a decent set of locking machines would do this guitar more justice.
At the end of the day, Ibanez did what they do best. RG8 is essentially an epitome of a fairly affordable eight string guitar that is sound in terms of build quality, all while offering that no-nonsense performance we all like. If you are into heavier genres of metal and you want that borderline bass guitar thump, RG8 will get the job done. It isn’t a refined piece of artwork that happens to have eight strings, but rather a proper workhorse with enough force behind it to drive even the most ridiculous riffs. That’s what we appreciate the most about it.