Ibanez RG vs S Series: What's the Difference and Which is Better?

Which is better, the Ibanez RG or S Series, and what's the difference anyway?
Which is better, the Ibanez RG or S Series, and what's the difference anyway?

Ibanez RG and S Series Guitars

No doubt you already know that Ibanez makes some of the best electric guitars in the world. Especially if you are into metal and heavy rock, there are few guitar brands that will get the job done for you like Ibanez.

Shredders love Ibanez guitars for their fast, flat necks. Extreme metal guitarists know Ibanez makes some of the best seven and eight-string guitars in the business. Ibanez Iron Label guitars have raised the bar even further when it comes to the ultimate tool for metal. No matter where your metal allegiance lies, there is an Ibanez for you.

There are a bunch of amazing guitars in the Ibanez lineup, but most metalheads look to either the RG Series or the S Series. At first glance they look similar, but there are some key differences that sway guitarists to one or the other.

In this article we'll take a look at the Ibanez RG Series versus the S Series and the differences between them, so you can make the right decision when it comes to your gear.

Ibanez Hardware and Electronics

There used to be a lot wider gap between RG and S-Series guitars, but in more recent years Ibanez has been using many of the same components on both.

Let's start with the hardware and electronics. Ibanez has some world-class components made in-house that you'll find on both the RG and S-Series guitars. Here's a quick glance and what you can expect from an Ibanez instrument.

Ibanez necks are some of the best in the guitar world, and that hasn't changed for decades. Their multi-piece Wizard design appears on both the RG and S Series.

In its most basic form it incorporates only maple as a tonewood, which is more than good enough when it comes to shred guitars.

However, when you look at some of the more expensive guitars in the Ibanez lineup you'll see advanced versions of the Wizard, such as the Super Wizard HP 5-piece maple/walnut neck and the Wizard 7 with a maple/wenge tonewood compliment.

Where many guitar builders reach out to external hardware producers for their tremolo systems, Ibanez has managed to build one of the top bridges in the business, namely the Edge-Zero. Like the Wizard neck, you'll see more advanced versions on more expensive guitars, but the Edge-Zero appears on both the RG and the S.

You'll also see similar pickups on both the RG and S Series. The typical pickup configuration is a pair of humbuckers with a single coil in the middle, though there are versions of both guitars with only a pair of humbuckers.

Ibanez has their own pickups which are very good, but you'll also see DiMarzio and DiMarzio-designed pickups.

Body Style and Tonewoods

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between the Ibanez RG and S Series, but once we get to tonewoods and body style everything changes. This is where you'll have to take a hard look and decide which guitar is better for you, and it helps to have an understanding of tonewoods.

Basswood is the tonewood used in Ibanez RG guitars, where S-Series instruments employ mahogany. So what's the difference?

Basswood has a deep, dark tone with a nice amount of woodiness and resonance.

Mahogany is a richer-sounding tonewood than basswood, with similar characters but even better depth and much better articulation.

Body style matters, too. Standard 6-string models of both the RG and S are 25.5-inch scale, and their top-view measurements are similar. However, the S-Series is a much thinner, sleeker guitar with a slightly arched top.

It's a balancing act, and what the S gives up in total wood mass it makes up for with increased resonance via the mahogany. Both guitars sound amazing, and it is a personal preference: The RG is a bit edgier, the S sings a little sweeter.

Most RG and S guitars feature rosewood fingerboards, though there are some models that use ebony, and there are versions of the RG with maple fretboards.

It's also worth noting that both the RG and the S feature models with different tonewood tops that will further color the sound, most often bringing out a bit more pop and high-end.

RG vs S Sound Differences

Trying to describe the sound of a great guitar with words is like trying to draw the taste of a really good steak. I've been around guitars for a long time, so when I think of mahogany and basswood I can picture their characteristics in my mind. And, of course, I already know what these guitars sound like. If you aren't quite sure you understand the difference, the best thing to do is listen to the guitars.

Here are a couple of sound clips that will give you a basic idea of each. It's tough to compare guitar sounds in video clips, especially from different players and different amps, but maybe this will give you an idea.

The first clip is a Guitar World review of the Ibanez RG655 Prestige. I can especially hear the woody character of the basswood during the clean passages.

Guitar World Reviews the Ibanez RG655

S Series Sound

Here's an S-Series guitar from the Iron Label lineup with similar DiMarzio pickups. Note, the Ibanez RG Iron Label has EMGs, so the comparison seems less useful.

Once again, the sound is colored by the player and the amp, and the fact that this guitar is de-tuned, so this is just for basic reference. However, the depth and resonance of the mahogany is evident here, even in a thinner guitar.

The Ibanez Iron Label S Series

Ibanez Guitar Lines: Prestige, Premium, Iron Label and Standard

To complicate matters even more, Ibanez features four distinct lines of guitars, and there are RG and S models that fall into each.

The Standard Series includes your basic Ibanez guitars. They have great components, as you'd expect nothing less from Ibanez, but they are more budget-friendly options.

These guitars are a great choice for intermediate and working guitarists, but they are certainly good enough for advanced players.

The Premium Line is a step up from the Standard, with upgrades to components and pretty flame tops. For 2014 there were only three RG models in the Ibanez Premium Line, and no S models, and that may be because of the success of the Ibanez Prestige Line.

Ibanez Prestige guitars feature gorgeous tops and high-performance hardware and electronics. This is Ibanez's best foot forward, and it really shows. According to the Ibanez website the Prestige Line is intended to embody three principles: Precision, Performance and Playability.

Ibanez Iron Label guitars are relative newcomers to the scene, and they're built to be the ultimate metal machines. It's tough to imagine Ibanez building on their already stellar metal reputation, but they appear to have done so with their Iron Label guitars.

Ibanez RG470 Electric Guitar
Ibanez RG470 Electric Guitar

Which Ibanez is Right for You?

So what if you read through all this mumbo jumbo and you still can't decide which guitar has the best sound for you and your style? Or worse, what if you listened to the sound clips and you can't tell the difference?

For many guitar players their decision between the Ibanez RG and S Series is about sound, but for just as many it is about feel and playability. Some players love the thin bodies of S guitars, and some hate them and would never part with their RG. Some love both!

Point is, don't feel bad if your decision comes down to body style rather than sound. You need to feel comfortable with your guitar, and a thinner body may be better or worse for you. Plus, you can always have one of each.

I hope this article helped you to better understand the differences and similariest of the Ibanez RG vs S Series. They're both great guitars and you can't go wrong with either. It all comes down to your personal preference.

So, which are you going to choose?

Ibanez Guitar Poll

Which are you liking more, the RG or the S?

  • Ibanez RG all the way!
  • Ibanez S is better!
  • I still can't decide!
  • I need one of each.
See results without voting

More Ibanez Guitars

Learn more about Ibanez guitars like the RG and S. They're one of the top guitar brands in the world for good reason!

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Metal Guitar Shootout!

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Top Guitars for Shredding

  • You know Ibanez is among the best guitar brands for shredders, but find out which other amazing instruments made the cut.

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Comments 2 comments

Allan 11 months ago

Tonewood? There have been plenty of tests done and professional audio engineers can't tell the difference between different body woods when the same neck, electronics and hardware are used. I'm sorry, but there's no way you can "hear the woody character of the basswood during the clean passages", and the "depth and resonance of the mahogany" is certainly not "evident here". Please try to keep nonsense out of otherwise interesting and useful articles.

Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher 11 months ago Author

Hi Allan! Thanks for your super polite comment! I have to respectfully disagree. I can only speak for myself but I most certainly can hear a difference between tonewoods. In fact, it always surprising to me when guitarists say they can't hear the difference.

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