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Ibanez RG8, 8 String Electric Guitar
Review and Description
Ibanez RG8, 8 String Electric Guitar - Review and Description

Ibanez RG8
8 String Electric Guitar

A solidly made, well playing and generally good sounding 8 string electric guitar that was a trendsetter in it's day. For a few years now, most reviewers have been calling this a great entry level 8 string.

There are currently several manufacturers and a whole raft of 8 string guitar models to choose from. So the now year old RG8 is already a bit of a dinosaur. That it is still in production, should tell you something.

The upside of the RG8 having been around for a while, is that you may be able to get a good used one at a reasonable price. A great opportunity to see if you can fit into the 8 string clique, without going broke in the attempt.

Find an Ibanez RG8
8 String Electric Guitar on eBay

Ibanez RG8 ebay AUS

Ibanez RG8 ebay US

Ibanez RG8 ebay UK

Ibanez RG8

A typical White Ibanez RG8


 



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The Ibanez RG8, 8 String electric guitar, is a solidly made five-piece bolt-on neck 8 string, which I believe was part of the Ibanez brand's first foray into mass produced 8 string designs. This obviously worked well for them, as their number of 8 string models continues to increase.

Having previously owned an Ibanez (a Gibson Les Paul Recording Copy) guitar, and having met a few other Ibanez guitars in my travels, it's fair to say that Ibanez generally turn out some very well made instruments.

At this time, the general consensus is that the Ibanez RG8 has been relegated to 'Entry Level' status and is predominantly preferred by metal players.

Of course, with an 8 string, things do get a little interesting. The broader neck does tend to make it slightly harder work and the two additional baritone strings mean that the action can't be too low on the lower strings.

Right up front I will say that I'm not an 8 string officianado. Nor am I particularly into metal, which seems to be the main musical genre for 8 string guitars these days. I'm just a regular guitarist (well, almost, you know what I mean), who happens to have grabbed an 8 string off GumTree because - you guessed it - I was curious and it seemed like a good thing at the time ;-)

So this review is done from the point of view of a (sort-of) 'normal' guitarist who has ventured forth into the wonder-land of the 8 string electric axe. If you really need a review by a certified 8 string pro (as in, who gets paid to do that stuff) - run away! run away! ;-)

  About Review and Description articles, click to expand
 
  

Note:
I've seen the RG8 listing online for around AUD $500 (used) in good condition (without a case). The original list price was around or just over AUD $1,000, later coming down to around $800 as newer models came online and other manufacturers (like Artist Guitars) starting producing cheaper entry level 8 strings for just over AUD $300 (inc. shipping).

The Ibanez RG8 is still in production and can be purchased new in the USA at around AUD $670 (something like USD $350), but with another AUD $150 for shipping (and that's without a case) - why would you?


Playing the Ibanez RG8 8 String Electric Guitar

The Ibanez RG8, 8 String Electric Guitar comes in a stunning choice of colours, black and white. Kinda simplifies the whole choice thing. Fortunately, the colour shouldn't affect your playing nearly as much as the longer scale.

The lower cut-away makes accessing up to the second octave area quite workable. The longer scale gives a quite noticeable extra millimeter or two between the frets there as well. The jumbo frets make for smooth playing and facilitate tapping and sweeping.

The extra truss rod, neck width and overall length do make Ibanez RG8 a somewhat heavy guitar. The body sculpting though has very good ergonomics, which will possibly help to offset the discomfort of having a log hung around your neck. I suspect such a weight issue will be the norm for most eight string electrics.

I purchased a used RG8 that had been messed with by a novice. As a result, most things needed to be re-adjusted or even fixed (as in the case of the wiring). Once completed, this guitar behaved very predictably. You can get a very nice low action on the lighter gauge strings.

The wider fretboard will take some getting used to, although it is quite comfortable. Chords in particular are a little more challenging on an 8 string guitar. However, depending on your choice of tuning, the standard six low E to high E strings can be played as normal, and the two bass strings largely ignored for most chords. You just have to get used to not accidentally sounding those bass strings.

Obviously there is great potential to completely depart from the normal electric guitar playing style. You can for instance slap and thumb the bass strings and/or get some absolutely growly metal sounds with a little distortion and some savage picking. This guitar also seems to be made for tapping and shredding, if you're into that.

Essentially, an 8 string is a hybrid guitar that can happily live in it's own universe. Just watch an Animals as Leaders clip to see what I mean. There are also a heap of 8 String Guitar Lesson Videos for those in need of further inspiration

So, in a nutshell, I'm a guitarist that happens to occasionally play an 8 string - and the Ibanez RG8 plays comfortably and quite well for what it is. I happen to like the longer scale and ability to cover two full octaves on any string. It's a good guitar and I'm pleased to own one.

Hints:
• If you play bass, even just once in a while, the 8 string format will be easier to adapt to.
• Being lazy, I opted to use standard tuning, rather than the factory dropped tuning.

Note: If you are using a tool like MIDI Guitar, be aware that it will not track below the low open E (open 6th string). This tracking limitation is built in. I emailed Jam Origin about it to see if there was a workaround, but got no response.

I am planning to invest in a Roland SY-1000 and it will be interesting to see if that has similar limitations - watch this space - or not (I'm good with it, either way ;-).

Recommended Tunings (Factory tuning is just all strings dropped by 1 semitone from Standard)
String
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
Factory Tuning
F
A#
D#
G#
C#
F#
A#
D#
Standard Tuning
F#
B
E
A
D
G
B
E
Standard Gauge
.065"
.054"
.042"
.032"
.024"
.016"
.011"
.009"

I have included measurements with the Ibanez RG8 specifications below.


Ibanez RG8 Sound

This is where I'm going to be somewhat less useful (I know, that does assume that any of this has actually been useful so far or may be useful into the future - but hey, I'm an optimist on L plates ;-)

As mentioned, I purchased a pre-owned RG8 and the original Ibanez ceramic pickups had been replaced with a set of Lace pickups. In fairness, it turned out that the value of the Lace pickups was actually more than I paid for the guitar (the guitar was a princely AUD $300).

Quite obviously though, I can't comment on the sound of the original IBZ ceramic pickups, except to say that other reviewers generally find them tame to lame (low output) and somewhat lack-lustre. Many reviewers suggest a variety of upgrade options - so obviously, I got lucky.

I can say that the physical positioning of the pickups does allow for some nice harmonic cancellation and phasing when used in unison. The single passive volume and tone control are simple, effective and to my liking (I'm not a multiple volume and tone person. If you want that, you really should go active). The 3 position PU switch nicely rounds out the simplicity of the controls.

The rub is - Whenever I look at that large space between the two pickups, I can't stop myself from thinking of what I could put in there - that third pickup - ah, the temptation ;-)

Note: Another consideration worthy of attention is that the additional two bass strings will be a little more taxing on amps and speakers at high output levels - just thought I should mention that in case your rig is already getting pushed to its limits.


Lace Pickups for 8 String Guitars

Since I've got'em, I might as well provide some info on them. The RG8 I have came loaded with a Lace Aluma X-bar 4.0 (neck) and a Lace Aluma Deathbar 4.0 (bridge).

As you might have guessed from the names, the former owner of my RG8 was a wannabe metal player - and even mentioned that he was actually disappointed by these Lace pickups (and that I could also cheaply buy the original IBZ pickups, if I wanted, and if he could find them again ;-) ... Perhaps he just didn't factor in that there was also a gutsy amp required for his intended purposes.

Fortunately for me, despite their names, these Lace pickups are just really good pickups.

They have great tonality, meaning they are not over-wound and/or super-high output. They are in fact beautifully clean (if that's what you want, and I do), and quite well balanced. Perhaps overall, leaning just a little towards the bright side. This is possibly an adaptation to help compensate for those extra two or three low bass strings.

The Aluma Deathbar 4.0 and Aluma X-Bar 4.0 are listed as extended range pickups and these two are suitable for 8 and some 9 string electric guitars.The Aluma Deathbar 4.0 is suitable for Split Wiring and according to the write-up by Lace, won't have less output if operated in this manner. Lace kindly provide wiring illustrations.

Both the Aluma Deathbar 4.0 and Aluma X-Bar 4.0 are at the USD $120 price point (each), so these are certainly not cheapies.

A snippet from the Lace web site:
"Designed for Extended Range 8 AND 9 string guitars, the X-Bar 4.0 (and Deathbar 4.0) pickups have a broad, sensitive, wide band tone, with loads of warmth, clarity and headroom." - Ok, yeah, something like that ;-)

What more can I say, I like them! (and I'm not at all easy to please).


Build Quality / Workmanship / Reliability

So - when I got the Ibanez RG8, it had already seen a world of pain. There were a collection of dings and scrapes of varying severity. Some of which have since been cleaned up. It really did look like it had fallen off the back of a truck ... hmm ... no, just kidding, I checked the serial number ;-)

So, if nothing else, these are a tough guitar and not that easy to break. Structurally the bolt-on neck was in good shape and returned to its proper curvature once a set of strings was put on it.

The output jack however gets a total fail. A stupid design and poorly implemented. I mean seriously, we've been doing this for decades now, how can a brand-name manufacturer still get something so fundamental as this, so utterly wrong?

The adjustment on the fixed bridge however is good and does allow for a very finely tuned setup.


Find EXL120-8 strings on eBay

If you purchase through eBay links on my pages, I get a tiny commission - thanks!

Strings for the Ibanez RG8

Given that my RG8 was unstrung when I purchased it, I had to trust my gut and go with what I knew. In this case staying with D'Addario strings. Not being fond of fencing wire in general on guitars, I opted for the EXL120-8 set (9|65 - 9, 11, 16, 24, 32, 42, 54, 65). Straight away buying two sets and expecting that something would probably break the first time around. Thankfully, it didn't ;-)

I have yet to restring this guitar, so for now, I'm perfectly happy with it as it is. Also at AUD $23 a set (more than double the price of a six string set), I'm definitely not in a hurry. Though I quite like the 8 string, this is not my primary guitar.


Value for Money

Any brand-name 8 string electric is going to be more expensive than a 6 string. The wider & longer neck, two truss rods, longer pickups - it all adds up. You really need to want this, have some money to burn, or be prepared to try your luck with a used instrument.

Still in production in 2020, there's sure to be an Ibanez RG8 tucked away at the back of the local music store. And being more than years old there should also be plenty of pre-owned / used instruments around as well.

As a used instrument, to try your hand at the 8 string format - the Ibanez RG8 is definitely worth taking a look at.

Also, keep in mind that there will be those guitarists who impulse buy an 8 string, say while it's 'on sale', only to later find that it's all just too much work or it's just not their thing. I suspect many of the used 8 string guitars that come up for sale fall into the 'surplus to requirements' category, rather than the 'I'm upgrading' one.

Obviously with a multitude of more recent Ibanez model options available now, and plenty of 8 string options from other brands, you might want to try before you buy in this case. I personally haven't tried a fanned frets guitar, but if I was a few decades younger, I'd be seriously looking in to it.


Repairs, Parts, Restoration

Having had to fix an Ibanez RG8, I can tell you that they are worth modding, fixing and restoring - as long as the neck is sound. With a stuffed neck, this guitar is nothing more than wall art.

In terms of spare parts, the RG8 is still sufficiently recent, that acquiring original parts should not be a problem (other than their cost of course). Having tried to track down a replacement jack nearly gave me a coronary when I saw the price tag (something like $80!) - that's just not happening. Eventually, a little customisation will see the existing dodgy Ibanez jack replaced with something that actually works properly and costs less than half as much.


Summary

I happen to consider the RG8 to be better than what I would expect from an entry level instrument. It's good/comfortable guitar to play and doesn't seem to have any nasty quirks. It is somewhat heavy. The passive electronics are pretty ordinary and the original pickups are worthy of upgrading (so factor some other pickups into your purchase cost). All up a nice guitar, but could be better.



Ibanez RG8 Specifications

 Ibanez RG8 
 Measurements

Year(s) Sold: 2012 to Current
Manufactured: Indonesia
Original MSRP* (US$): $600.00 (AUD $1000+)
Neck Radius: 400mm (15.7")
Neck Type: Bolt-on Wizard II-8 5pc Maple/Walnut neck
Scale: 686mm (27")
Truss Rods : 2 x KTS titanium rods
Body: 2012–2014: Basswood 2015–2018: Mahogany 2019–2020: Meranti
Fretboard: Jatoba
w White Dot Inlays
Frets: 24 Jumbo Frets
Bridge: Fixed Bridge - through body string mount
Finish: Black (BK) 2012–2018 / White (WH) / Walnut Flat (WNF) 2014–2016
Pick Guard: None
Machine Heads &
Control Knobs:
Black Diecast
Pickups x 2:
IBZ-8 (H)
Passive/Ceramic
Electronics: Passive
Vol, Tone, 3 Pos Sw
* Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price















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