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Ibanez vs Fender: Which Guitar or Bass is Best for You?

Updated on April 22, 2016
Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

The Ibanez S-Series S770PB is an amazing guitar, but how does it compare to Fender?
The Ibanez S-Series S770PB is an amazing guitar, but how does it compare to Fender?

Fender or Ibanez?

Fender and Ibanez are two of the most respected guitar and bass builders in the world. Anyone who has been around guitars for even a short amount of time is familiar with their names, and they are among the top brands for musicians in every genre.

Both feature a wide array of guitars for every skill level, from beginner to pro, so you can start out on an Ibanez or Fender and stick with the same company through your whole career if you wish.

One niche where these guitar giants really shine is intermediate-level guitars and basses. Surely you already know that both of these companies make outstanding instruments for professional players, but most of us are hobby players, semi-pros or working musicians who need affordable gear that won’t let us down. Most guitar players are looking for instruments that provide a lot of value for the money.

While you’ll certainly find that in Fender and Ibanez, you probably also realize that these are two very different brands, each with a decidedly different vibe. This article will help you, as a beginner and intermediate player, understand what makes these brands different, where they share similarities, and how to choose between them.

Then you can get on your way to choosing the perfect guitar or bass from one of these brands, or expand your search to one of the other top guitar companies out there.

Comparing Ibanez and Fender

Because we need a logical way to compare the two brands, I’m going to start with Fender and then see how Ibanez stacks up against them. Truthfully, this could have been done the other way around as well but Fender has seniority in the guitar world, so for the purposes of this review we’ll consider them as something like defending champs.

I’ll also be talking in general terms when it comes to specific instruments. Remember that this article is intended to help beginner and intermediate guitar players understand the basic differences between how Fender and Ibanez guitar are put together, and what to expect from each. I expect someone out there is going to be thinking they have a Strat that blows away any Ibanez as a shred machine, or that they play blues on their Ibanez S Series just fine. I'm sure you are right, but that’s not the point here.

Finally, again because I am talking so generally here, it’s important for beginners to realize that just because a guitar has a certain reputation or vibe it doesn’t mean you can’t do something else with it. Learn the basics here, then listen, compare and decide what you really like. Both of these brands have proven they have what it takes to span many different genres, so don’t feel compelled to play a certain guitar just because other players in your genre have historically done so.

With all that out of the way, let's get on to the guitars.

Fender Guitars

We can follow Fender’s heritage all the way back to the first solid-body electric guitars and the first electric bass guitars. Models such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass have been around for decades, and their popularity has only increased.

American-made Fenders are somewhat expensive instruments, but Fender also has their Standard line, as well as more advanced instruments like the Deluxe Players Strat and Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster. These are guitars and basses made in Mexico (MIM), and they cost around half of what you’d spend on an American Fender.

For beginners, there is Squier by Fender. These instruments are budget versions of classic Fender models, and they are super affordable as first guitars.

As you'd expect, there is a huge gap in construction and sound quality between Squier guitars and American-made Fenders, but they also have a lot in common. For one thing, you’ll see many of the same models in the Squier lineup as you do in the USA-Fender lineup. The difference, for course, is in the craftsmanship and quality.

Fender guitars generally rely on brighter tonewoods like Alder and Maple for their distinctive sound. These tonewoods, and Fender’s single-coil pickups, have given us the classic rip of the Stratocaster and the twang of the Tele. Other brands may cop this sound and style, but none do it better than Fender.

Whether you are talking about American-made Fenders, or the Squier by Fender series, it all comes down to the simple designs that put Fender on the map to begin with. Each of their classic instruments has a distinctive sound and, while different pickups and electronics can alter it somewhat, you shouldn’t expect these guitars to be something they are not.

The video below featuring the Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Strat can give you an idea of the classic Strat sound:

The Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Strat: Epic Strat Tone

Ibanez RG and S vs Fender Stratocaster

Ibanez has not been around as long as Fender, but they have certainly carved out their place as one of the top guitar brands in the world. Like all brands that came after, certainly Ibanez had an eye on Fender’s accomplishments as they designed their guitars. In fact, we can say that Fender is in some ways responsible for Ibanez's huge success.

Back in the 1970s, players like Eddie Van Halen were modding Fender Stratocasters with humbuckers to make them sounds thicker and hotter. These guitars eventually because known as “Super Strats” and moving into the 1980s many guitar brands started to build guitars based on the ideas of these early innovators.

Ibanez was one of the companies who expanded and improved on the Super Strat idea, building the super-est of Super Strats with their RG model guitars, and later with their S Series. These guitars featured warmer, more resonant tonewoods, hot pickups, fast necks and cutting-edge tremolos and hardware. Why mod a Strat when you can get everything you need in an Ibanez RG?

The Ibanez RG and S Series each went on to achieve legendary status, and to this day they are among the favorites of shredders and metal guitarists. Like Fender, they span the range from beginner-level guitar models to pro-level instruments.

How do they stack up against the Fender Stratocaster? Check out the chart below for some general comparisons. Remember, these are typical attributes. Different models may vary and you should always check the specs of any specific instrument you are interested in.

Fender Stratocaster, Ibanez RG and Ibanez S General Comparison

Fender Stratocaster
Maple or Rosewood
Vintage or Modern Fender Tremolo
Ibanez RG
Double-Locking Ibanez Tremolo
Ibanez S
Double-Locking Ibanez Tremolo

Ibanez vs Fender Bass Guitars

Like their guitars, Fender Bass guitars also rely on the wood for their tone. Again, Alder and Maple are prominent, and because both the Precision Bass and Jazz Bass have passive pickups these tonewoods plays a big part in the sound. The designs are simple, and they have made their mark over the years. Like the Strat and Tele, the Fender Jazz and P Bass each has a distinctive sound that other brands have struggled to top.

If Fender basses are all about simple designs, Ibanez basses are all about power and flexibility. Ibanez bass guitars like the SR Series feature active electronics which let you sculpt our sound with EQ controls mounted right on the bass. This not only means you can control your tone on-the-fly, but that you have a wider array of sounds available than you would with a passive bass.

Of course wood is important here too, and again Ibanez typically relies on warmer woods like mahogany and basswood. In higher-end basses they employ exotic woods in the designs, which are typically not seen in Fender basses.

In summary, three words to describe each:

Fender Bass Guitars: Classic, simple and woody.

Ibanez Bass Guitars: Innovative, flexible, modern.

Which Brand to Choose?

Extending the general overview of the strengths of Ibanez and Fender respectively, here’s a look at which brand you might consider depending on your genre of interest.

Rock: The Stratocaster and Telecaster have both proven themselves as a couple of the best rock guitars in the world. If you play classic rock, country rock or even hard rock these guitars will come through for you, especially if you choose a model with a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. As you get into heavier forms of rock, you may want to start thinking about Ibanez.

Heavy Metal: Ibanez is a force in the metal world. The RG and S Series both bring the heavy sounds and fast necks metal musicians are looking for, and either is a great choice. There are also seven-string models that may appeal to extreme metal guitarists, something we don’t see in Fender’s lineup. That said, Fender has its place in metal too, particularly if you are into more classic forms of heavy metal.

Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster
Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster

Country: There is nothing better that the Fender Telecaster for that country twang. Second place may go to the bright, chicken-pickin’ tones of the mid/neck pickup positions of the Stratocaster. While you can replicate these sounds somewhat with an Ibanez, if you are into country you’re likely better off with a Fender.

Blues: The Fender Stratocaster is probably the ultimate blues guitar. However, many musicians play other forms of music besides blues, so don’t rule out Ibanez.

Jazz: Of course you can play jazz on a Stratocaster and, especially back in the early days of the Strat, many musicians have. But Ibanez has a secret weapon here, in the form of their Artcore lineup. These are hollow and semi-hollow body guitars that rival the Epiphone Dot and Gibson ES-Series. Who would have guessed one of the best metal guitar brands in the world also makes awesome jazz guitars?

Bass: In the world of extreme metal, Ibanez gets the clear edge, especially if you need a 5-string. Otherwise, both brands make outstanding basses for all genres. You need to figure out which you like best. A good place to start is to learn about the classic Precision and Jazz Bass sounds. Then, listen to some Ibanez bass guitars and decide if you need the edge and versatility, or if the classic Fender sounds are more appealing to you.

Good luck choosing your new guitar of bass, and I hope this article gave you a good overview of how Ibanez compares to Fender.

Ibanez or Fender?

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    • Allan 22 months ago

      First off, the pickups make a much larger difference in tone than the wood ever will. Saying the wood makes such a huge difference is an absolute exaggeration. Will it make a difference? Yes. Will it make as much of a difference as the pickups? Not a chance.

      Second, Ibanez actually puts thought into their guitars and tries to INNOVATE. Something Fender doesn't do because people are willing to buy their guitars even if the designs are inferior. The biggest example is how the neck connects to the body. Even on the GIO line, their cheapest models, the joint is rounded so you can actually get your hands around the neck at the higher frets. On the Fender they still use that blocky joint with the sharp corner that makes the highest 6 frets useless. They also have the strings going through the nut straight instead of at an angle on most of their instruments. This helps tuning because the string isn't catching on the nut when you tighten or loosen it. Fender is actually pretty good about this as well, but many other brands (*cough* Gibson *cough*) have the strings at some extreme angles. They also seem to understand that the body doesn't need to be thick as a brick. This makes them lighter, which in turn makes them more pleasant to play for extended periods of time.

      But in the end, all that really matters is that you feel good playing it. Just go to your guitar store and try a bunch of guitars in your budget. Being able to enjoy playing the instrument will make a much larger difference than anything else.

    • Guitar Gopher profile image

      Guitar Gopher 22 months ago

      Thanks for adding your opinion, Allan!

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