There has never been a better time than now to grab one of the best electric or bass guitars from Ibanez or Fender. Musicians have never had as much choice when browsing through the high-quality instruments that get built each year.
Even the price is nice when you start shopping with Ibanez and Fender. You can find some signature-style guitars from both manufacturers for under $2,000. Although it might seem expensive to some beginners, a pro-quality instrument with excellent sustain and warmth can go for three times that amount.
Whether you’re looking to add some funk with a fun 5-string bass, or you need some extra twang to match your buddy with the steel guitar, there is no shortage of options to consider.
That fact invites another set of pressures to manage. How can you choose which guitar or bass is the best one for you?
Although no one said this process would be easy, you can find the best instrument to meet your needs with a bit of research and due diligenc
Ibanez vs. Fender: Which Guitar or Bass Is Best for You?
If you play heavy metal or grunge, an Ibanez guitar delivers an iconic sound that adds depth and mystery to your overall tone. When you have something more pop, rock, or country in your creative window, you’re better off with something from Fender. Both brands serve jazz and blues musicians well.
Although you can find some excellent guitars out there from brands like Yamaha, Epiphone, and Schecter, the two best choices for many guitarists come from Ibanez and Fender.
It’s crucial to remember that not all electric and bass guitars are created equally. You’ll need to think about whether you prefer a short scale or a more extended design when playing this instrument. If you’re looking at a bass, you might have four, five, or six strings to consider playing.
You also have the option to have active or passive pickups to complement your overall playing style.
That’s why it can take a lot of experimentation to find the best electric or bass guitar to meet your needs. Since everyone has slightly different preferences, what works for one musician might not meet someone else’s needs.
A Brief History of Ibanez Guitars
Although Ibanez Guitars’ history starts in 1957 or the late 1920s (depending on who you ask), founder Matsujiro Hoshino got his start in the musical instrument industry as a division of Hoshino Shoten, which was a Japanese bookstore chain.
The company would eventually become Hoshino Gakki.
Hoshino Gakki decided in 1935 that he wanted to start making Spanish-style acoustic guitars. That’s when he began using the Ibanez Salvador brand, honoring the famous luthier from the country named Salvador Ibanez.
The company would eventually shorten the name to just Ibanez.
It was 1957 when the modern guitar-making era for the company came into existence. Some of the brand’s earliest instruments had some crazy designs. In the 1960s, the Montclair was a six-string electric that offered four (!) pickups while delivering different customization controls with its knobs and general features.
The general public wasn’t a big fan of those early designs. That’s when Ibanez began to copy the American instruments, leading to the “Lawsuit Period” for the company. At one point, they had self-brand copies of Rickenbacker, Fender, and Gibson guitars in their catalog.
Once the litigation was settled in 1978 out of court, Hoshino Gakki continued producing some original designs that would eventually establish the brand as one of the world’s best guitar manufacturers. When Steve Vai started using the Universe and JEM models, its popularity took off.
When Hoshino Gakki introduced the RG series to enter the superstrat market in the early 1980s, the lower-priced JEM design became one of the world’s most popular instruments.
You can now find over 300 different electric guitar designs from Ibanez, along with 130 acoustic guitars and 165 bass guitars.
A Brief History of Fender Guitars
This guitar manufacturer got its start as Fender’s Radio Service in 1938. The shop was located in Fullerton, California.
Founded by Clarence “Leo” Fender in 1946, he was a qualified electronics technician who could repair most home devices during that time.
A lot of the early business that came Fender’s way included phonographs, amplifiers, and public address systems. Almost all of the designs came from the public domain releases of Western Electric at the end of the Great Depression.
It only took a few years for Fender to start exploring the idea of building guitars. The first production line in 1945 featured a Hawaiian lap steel instrument, using a patented pickup with an amp that the company sold as a set. It took less than 12 months for Leo to realize that selling new instruments was more profitable than repairing old electronics.
Fender had a partner during the 1940s who wasn’t as convinced about the profitability of instrument manufacturing. Although the repair shop in Fullerton continued operating until 1951, Fender didn’t supervise it for the final four years of its existence.
The first guitars from the Broadcasters line in the 1940s had lots of issues. Although the one-piece maple neck delivers a lot of strength, it would also bow when the weather turned hot and sticky.
After bowing to public pressure to add a truss rod, the Stratocaster was eventually born in 1950. By using a bolt-on design, it became cheaper to mill and finish the pieces separately to create a desirable product.
After a decade of dominance, Fender would release the Jazzmaster in 1959. Although you can still pick out the trademark style, the popularity wasn’t as much as Leo hoped it would be. The Jaguar would eventually become its successor, but it remains a popular choice for surf rock and vintage bands.
If you think about playing a Fender, you’re likely picturing a Stratocaster or a Telecaster. Bass players would look at the Precision, Jazz, Mustang, or Jaguar models.
You can also find more affordable guitars under the company’s Squier line that uses variants of Fender’s most famous guitars.
Should I Choose Passive or Active Pickups for My Guitar?
When you start looking for the pickups you prefer on an electric or bass guitar, the choice is either passive or active.
If you prefer the passive option, you’ll find more choices underneath the Fender line of guitars. When you want active pickups, Ibanez will have selections for you to consider.
What’s the difference between these two choices?
If you have a passive guitar, that means there isn’t an onboard preamp that gets used to generate sound. That means 100% of the audio you get from the instrument comes from the pickups, allowing you to attenuate the volume and master tone only.
When you have active pickups on your guitar, you have an additional power source (often a 9V battery) that boosts your pickup signal. It delivers an EQ you can adjust from the instrument to boost or cut different frequencies. Most manufacturers offer control over two or three bands so that you can customize your sound.
There are a few additional comparison points to look at when comparing passive or active pickups. Although most of them involve personal preferences, you should be aware that the latter option compresses the instrument’s tone a little.
Although you’ll find passionate people on both sides of the debate between active vs. passive pickups (or Fender vs. Ibanez), there isn’t a “right” answer to declare. Whatever sound fits your needs the best is the guitar you should purchase.
What About the Tonewoods Used for Ibanez or Fender Guitars?
Although the electrical components contribute significantly to the overall sound your guitar produces, the materials used for its construction are another essential part of the creation.
Most guitar manufacturers use solid tops for their instruments, especially when producing an acoustic instrument. If you select an option from Ibanez, you’ll discover that they’re not afraid to experiment with laminates to keep prices down while improving the aesthetics of your investment.
When you look at the wood that forms your guitar’s sides and back, it’s what amplifies or eliminates different string frequencies. The right tonewoods have a massive impact on the sound of any given guitar.
That’s why the wood combination used for its construction must be carefully considered before jumping right in with a purchase.
Here’s a quick look at the most common choices you’ll find with Ibanez and Fender guitars to see if you have a preference.
■ Table of the Best Tonewoods Used for Today’s Guitars
|Rosewood:||• This popular tonewood is used in virtually all entry-level and mid-range guitars. |
• It delivers a rich, luxurious experience with bright sounds, making it the industry’s most sought-after product.
• After CITES regulations banned its use, you’ll need to look for older guitars on the second-hand market to reduce your exposure to those updated regulations.
|Mahogany:||• You can spot this reddish-brown wood due to its unique color and consistency. |
• It’s stiffer than most tonewoods, allowing it to provide warmer and rounder notes.
• You can still get something punchy out of your instrument, especially in the mid-range, but it also evolves in its character as the product ages.
|Sapele:||• This African tonewood delivers a similar look and sound to what you’ll find with mahogany. |
• The primary difference is in the lower frequencies, where it offers a louder bark and sustain.
• It’s ideal for acoustic and classical instruments, but it also excels when included with a modern bass guitar.
|Maple:||• Although you can find this tonewood in most stringed instruments, it’s not as popular in some guitars. |
• The density it provides causes your notes to decay quickly, which means the sounds tend to be loud and bright.
• It has a significant overtone presence, clear definition, and more transparency than other products.
• Quilted and flamed styles are common, but you’ll love the birdseye when you can find it.
|Koa:||• With this tonewood, you’re using the traditional material for a ukulele. |
• More manufacturers are using it for their electric and bass guitars because of the brightness it produces.
• As you play the instrument, the sounds start mellowing out a little, making it the perfect option for those who love to do some fingerpicking.
|Walnut:||• This dense wood delivers plenty of sparkle, especially in the mid-range. |
• The sounds place it somewhere between mahogany and rosewood for most guitars.
• As the instrument ages, you’ll also note that the notes start becoming softer and warmer.
• Since it has a dark appearance and rich aesthetics, it’s a preferred choice for many luthiers.
|Micarta:||• Although this product is a brand name for composite materials with resin, the manufacturing process creates a resilient material that works well in several applications. |
• Since it’s significantly cheaper to use than natural tonewoods, it’s often found in entry-level guitars. The durability it offers is perfect for beginners.
|Cedar:||• You won’t find this tonewood coming up often unless you’re playing a classical guitar. |
• It produces plenty of character without any brightness or attack.
• Since the wood has less stiffness to it, there tends to be reduced clarity.
• If you do lots of fingerpicking, you’ll get a high-quality tone that can get amplified to meet your needs.
What Are the Best Exotic Tonewoods Found on Guitars?
If you want something exotic for your new electric or bass guitar, Ibanez is the manufacturer that you’ll want to consider. This brand goes places with this material that no other mainstream company dares to try.
Here are some of the best examples of what is available. Please keep in mind that the instruments with the following tonewoods are often offered in fixed quantities, which means their availability could be limited.
- Wenge. This beautiful tonewood delivers a rich darkness with curved striping that makes it feel like walnut on its first impression. You’ll notice brighter tones and plenty of sustain, making it the perfect choice for a bass guitar.
- Zebrawood. The contrasting striping between light and dark allows this tonewood to deliver an incredible first impression. You’ll discover darker overtones with a full sound waiting for each strum, especially when incorporated into an electric guitar. All it needs after the finishing process is a little lacquer to deliver stunning results.
- Spanish Cedar. Although the most common place for this tonewood is on a classical guitar neck, it can also serve as a mahogany replacement. The weight and tone help it deliver incredible results within the mid-range.
- Lacewood. This exotic tonewood gets its name from the pattern it offers. You’ll find that it sounds close to alder at first, offering more of a treble response with chord clarity instead of offering overtones to the mix.
- Padauk. When you see a brand-new instrument made from this tonewood, it’ll look orange. As the waxy wood ages, the open grains tend to turn brown as the materials oxidize. It’s strongly considered a viable replacement for rosewood in all instruments.
- Bubinga. If you want an instrument with incredible sustain, you’ll need a guitar made from this tonewood. It offers a rounded grain that looks similar to oak or pine, which is why you sometimes see it as a laminate. It’s popular for electric and bass guitars because of its stiffness.
What Is the Best Ibanez Guitar to Play?
The first electric guitar I reach for when I want to play almost anything is the Ibanez Genesis Collection RG550. I tend to play more grunge and metal than something closer to rock or pop, which is why the 24 jumbo frets stand out. The instrument also offers two humbuckers, a single coil, and a locking tremolo for the pickups.
Although the locking nuts aren’t ideal if you have a lot of tuning changes to manage, I just address my needs with a capo for most gigs. I love the broad tonal palette that it produces, and the visual styling is arguably the best in the industry today.
The neck on this guitar is incredibly thin to ensure that you’ve got speed and placement. It feels light across the shoulder, responsive at first touch, and legendary in the sound it offers.
You really can’t go wrong when this guitar is in your collection.
What Is the Best Fender Guitar to Play?
When I want to play a Fender guitar, my first choice is the Vintera 1960s Telecaster. It uses two Tele single-coil pickups for a vintage sound that you can’t find anywhere else.
I love how the pau ferro fingerboard feels underneath my fingers as I rip through a challenging sequence. It feels soft and responsive, allowing for faster transitions. The tonal character is quite interesting, and the modified version offers a few tweaks that create lots of choices for your overall playing style.
The best feature is the S-1 switch on the guitar’s volume knob. It allows you to invert the phase so that more usable tones become accessible.
A Final Thought on the Ibanez vs. Fender Debate
Although passionate defenders are with both brands, I find myself using Ibanez and Fender guitars for specific purposes.
When I want sounds that deliver something bright and snappy, I’m almost always turning to one of my Fender instruments. The electric guitars provide lots of support in the mid-range, while the bass I’ve got thunders out with lots of character.
If I want something melancholy or filled with character, the Ibanez guitars are what I rely upon to deliver results.
It all depends on what you hope to accomplish with your composition. After weighing the history, manufacturing, and components of each instrument, you’ll discover that the “right” answer is the one that meets your needs the best.