I'm a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Iron Label by Ibanez
Ibanez is a guitar company revered by shredders and metal guitarists around the world, with a legacy going back decades. So how does one of the world’s most legendary builders of metal guitars push the envelope even further?
They dream up a series of instruments built around their most popular models, give them a cool name like Iron Label, and unleash them on the unsuspecting public.
They didn’t need to do it to impress me. I’ve been a big fan of Ibanez since I was a teenager when I got my first real guitar, which happened to have the Ibanez logo on the headstock. I know they build quality gear, so when they say they’ve made some of their meanest guitars on the planet even meaner I believe it.
But you may be asking yourself why one of the world’s foremost purveyors of extreme metal madness would feel the need to get more extreme, and why you should care. After all, nobody in their right mind was complaining that Ibanez guitars were too wimpy before the Iron Label Series debuted.
Ibanez is already one of the top metal guitar brands. Why wouldn’t you just go with a Standard or Prestige Series Ibanez, since they certainly have proven they have what it takes to get the job done in heavy metal?
Good question, and one for you to figure out for yourself. But I can point out some of the differences that set the Iron Label Series apart from the others, and maybe you can take it from there. It’s your music. Choose your guitars wisely!
This review looks at several models in the Ibanez Iron Label Series and how they stack up to more basic guitars in the Ibanez lineup. Let’s check out some gear!
The Iron Label RG
The Ibanez RG is one of the best metal guitars in the world. High-end RGs have some serious features and top-of-the-line components. For example, on the RG550 you’ll get hot Ibanez V-Series pickups, an ultra-thin Super Wizard 5-piece Maple/Walnut neck and the Ibanez Edge tremolo bridge. If you are a metal guitarist you will not be unhappy with this instrument. So what’s the Iron Label RG have that this guitar doesn’t?
In the Iron Label RGIX, we see an ash body, not the basswood body typical of the RG build. Ash is a little more resonant and woody and great for the kind of deep, dark tone you look for in metal.
It has a Nitro Wizard 3-piece Maple/Purple Heart neck. Maple necks, of course, are typical of not only the Ibanez RG but many superstrats. It adds a little clarity and crispness. Ibanez necks are known for being thin and fast, and the Nitro Wizard is on par with what you’d expect from an Ibanez shred machine. There’s also an Ebony fingerboard, as opposed to the rosewood or maple you’d find on most RGs.
It’s the DiMarzio Fusion Edge pickups set that really sets the Iron Label RG apart. These are high-output, passive ceramic pickups with more power and punch than you’d get with passive pickups.
For the bridge, you have the Ibanez Edge Zero II tremolo, The controls are a basic 3-way switch and a single volume control, along with a coil tap.
All in all, the Iron Label RGIX appears to be everything Ibanez claims. It’s extreme, hardcore and has some cool features you can't get in even the meanest of RGs. Add is some very attractive binding and cosmetics and this is a guitar that will make an impression in every possible way.
Note that the Iron Label RG is also available in 7 and 9-string models, as well as the interesting RGIB21 Baritone. Point is, if you need a note lower than low E, you don’t have trouble finding it in the Iron Label RG Series.
Hear the Ibanez Iron Label RGIX
The Iron Label S
The Ibanez S-Series Guitar is another force to be reckoned with in the metal world. This is another superstrat, but notably different from the RG. Off the bat, you’ll notice the ultra-thin S body shape, but there are other differences when you examine the specs. For example, typical features might include a mahogany body with a Super Wizard HP Maple/Walnut neck, cutting edge Ibanez pickups and the Ibanez Lo-Pro Edge Bridge.
The Iron Label SIX6 has a mahogany body with a flamed maple top. The neck is a Nitro Wizard 3 similar to that seen on the RG, again with an ebony fingerboard. Why ebony? It’s denser than rosewood, and thus has a little less warmth, but makes up for it with its projection, sharpness, and clarity.
Ebony is a great choice for a metal guitar, or any guitar really, and in many ways, I prefer it to rosewood. In my opinion, Ibanez made a great choice incorporating Ebony fingerboard on their Iron Label instruments.
For the pickups and electronics, you get is a set of passive DiMarzio Fusion Edge pickups. The bridge is a rock-solid Gibraltar Standard II.
Where the Ibanez Iron Label has the specs and looks of a bone-crushing metal machine, the Iron Label S is a bit more refined, and a more in line with what you’d expect out of an Ibanez S. The S mystique has always been more about elegance than power, and this is where the Iron Label S makes its mark as well.
If you’re looking for something a little classier, a little thinner and maybe a little more attractive you may be more inclined to choose the S over the RG. But don’t be fooled by its slim body, gorgeous top, and pretty binding: This is still one of the best Ibanez guitars for metal.
Like the RG, the S is available in both 7 and 8-string models. Ibanez has always been an innovator and the leader when it comes to 7-string, and now 8-string, guitars.
Ibanez Iron Label SIX
Ibanez RG or S? Learn More
- Ibanez RG vs S Series: What's the Difference and Which is Better?
Learn the difference between the Ibanez RG and S Series and decide which guitar is better for you and your music.
Not Your Average Ibanez
Clearly, Ibanez Iron Label guitars aren’t just typical Ibanez instruments with a different look and name. When Ibanez says they are engineered to be their most extreme metal guitars to date, they mean it. Be aware that this lineup changes almost yearly, so be sure to check out the Ibanez website for the latest info on their gear.
By this point in the article hopefully, you have made a decision as to whether or not you think these guitars can get the job for you. If so, which should you choose?
This is another decision you’ll have to make on your own, but I can tell you a few of my thoughts:
- To me, the RG is the guitar that most delivers what you’d expect from this series. It reminds me of an off-road 4x4 that has been stripped down to the essentials, painted a basic color and jacked up with some nasty-looking tires. The Iron Label RG is a powerful, no-nonsense guitar and if metal is your bag you should give it a serious look.
- The S, on the other hand, has a more refined edge to it. That’s okay, and that’s what I’d expect from an S-Series Ibanez. If you are looking for a guitar that’s a little more articulate and a little more nuanced you may choose the S over the RG. Of course, the body style may come into your decision as well.
Ibanez makes some of the best electric guitars of all time, and you should expect nothing less from the Iron Label Series. In a lot of ways this article only scratches the surface of the lineup. Like their other series, you’ll find a few different models for each style. Check them all out before making a decision.
Good luck with finding an awesome metal guitar.
Iron Label Poll
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
jim wiltsey on September 08, 2017:
I love the guitar but am disappointed in the veneer maple top...a maple top is not for looks...it's to add crispness to the mahogany and the best Metal tone there is....it wouldn't cost $5.00 more to put a 1/4 inch maple top on this guitar...but then there would be no excuse or justification for the price of the RG 8720 which is this guitar with a $5.00 top on it....disappointed...Korea does with Fernandes and others why can't Ibanez...it's probably not Mahogany ...just NATO