|Body And Neck:|
These days, Ibanez’s reputation in the acoustic market is as good as their status in the electric guitar market. Looking at the affordable AW54OPN, it’s easy to see why! Here, the respected Japanese brand has produced yet another budget acoustic guitar that doesn’t feel cheap – using solid wood and a few upgraded components to craft something of quality. Let’s check it out.
We start this review by taking a look at the body – and what a lovely body it is for such an affordable price. With a classic dreadnought shape, the highlight of the AW54OPN is the solid mahogany top – you don’t usually expect to see solid mahogany on ‘cheap’ guitars, so this is already a winner.
This top is matched with mahogany back and sides, although these are laminated (come on – you don’t expect an all-solid-wood acoustic for under two hundred bucks, do you?!). With the deep brown color and an open-pore finish, as well as the petite tortoiseshell pickguard, the overall aesthetics are rustic and natural, and it feels like a guitar you immediately want to pick up and play.
Joined at the 14th fret, the neck of the AW54OPN is made of solid mahogany, with a rosewood fretboard and a total of 20 frets to play around with. With their heavy metal background, you expect great playability from Ibanez and this acoustic doesn’t disappoint, with a fast satin finish on the neck and a nice low action from the box.
Unlike the its slightly more expensive sibling, the Ibanez AW54CE, this guitar features no electronics to speak of. The hardware it does come with is basic but functional, with a few little extras that add to the already high sense of value.
Firstly, there is a set of sealed chrome die-cast tuners on the headstock, along with a rosewood bridge, which are standard components. It does, however, feature Ibanez Advantage bridge pins, which help make string changes easier, and an Ivorex II nut and saddle, which helps to increase sustain. Finally, the AW54 comes fitted with D’Addario EXP strings, which are another solid addition.
We’re loving the AW54 so far and the sound matches our expectations. The materials set it above many others in the entry-level range, as it naturally offers a dark but warm and woody tone, courtesy of the mahogany build. The large dreadnought shape and open-pore finish contribute to hefty projection, which remains clear and controlled, while the sustain is surprisingly good.
It’s not as rich or nuanced as the tone you’d find on guitars in higher price ranges, which should be obvious, but it’s hard to find a major flaw in the sound.
If you’ve read this review, you’ll know we think the AW54OPN is a spectacular find for under $200. It’s fairly minimalist and remains a mass-produced guitar – so you may end up with a dud – but that’s a small risk worth taking, as it is a certain step above so many others in this price range. With cool rustic aesthetics and a deep, warm sound, it’s great for beginners as well as any rock or blues player with a penchant for mahogany.