Ibanez’s respected EW series is out to offer guitarists something a little different, using sleek shapes, quality electronics and, most notably, exotic tonewoods. These include spalted mango, bocote, olive ash, and – in the case of our review today – zebrawood. The AEW40ZW electro-acoustic sports all these traits, and – for an acoustic guitar under $500 – shows off good value. Let’s see what this bold model has to offer.
This guitar is a stunner! With a 25.5” scale length, the AEW40ZW features Ibanez’s unique EW jumbo body shape, which offers a distinctive Florentine cutaway. Even more distinctively is the use of zebrawood on the top, back and sides of the body, with its highly contrasting light and dark wavy grain capable of turning any head. This is finished in a sleek high gloss, with rosewood binding and a maple rosette. For strength and tone, Ibanez use a more traditional mahogany for the neck, which comes complete with a rosewood fretboard, 20 frets, and maple dot inlays. With its C-shaped profile and satin finish, it is a very comfortable, performance-driven guitar. Finally, note the zebrawood headstock matches the body perfectly, giving this guitar a real premium look.
The AEW40ZW is an electro-acoustic and therefore features some hardware to discuss. The guitar is fitted with an Ibanez-designed AEQ-SP2 preamp system, along with a Fishman Sonicore pickup. Controls are simple, with just master volume, bass and treble knobs, and a convenient on-board digital tuner. It also comes with Balanced XLR and 1/4” outputs for added versatility when it comes to gigging (and with the exotic look of the AEW40ZW, it’s something you’ll be happy to do!). Aside from electronics, this guitar features a rosewood bridge, chrome die-cast tuners with some smart ebony tuning buttons, and comes fitted with long-lasting D’Addario EXP coated strings. The only negatives are that, for a guitar in this price range, the nut and saddle are both plastic, and it doesn’t come with a case.
Starting with the unplugged sound and, with its jumbo body, the AEW40ZW boasts a huge deal of resonance and projection. Zebrawood is pretty similar to Indian rosewood in consistency, and is very bright and vibrant, but with enough low end to give it good balance. The AEQ-SP2 preamp picks up the natural acoustic sound well and the controls allow you to quite accurately dial in the tone you want, with the dual output giving you versatility when it comes to connecting to an amplification or recording system.
In conclusion, the AEW40ZW has a lot going for it and shows superb value for a sub-$500 guitar. It’s very comfortable and fast to play, and sounds brilliant – very much a gigging guitar. This is all on top of the premium feel and those stunning striped looks delivered by the zebrawood. Another winner from Ibanez, and proof you don’t need to break the bank to get a performance guitar with the wow factor.